Category Archives: everyday trials

A Question of Modern Christianity

I have found a soulmate in Søren Kierkegaard, a Christian thinker who lived in the mid-19th century. When I think of the time in which he lived, before electricity, before automation, before modern transportation, I am tempted to think it was a simpler time, easier to focus on living for Christ, not to be distracted by so many of the worldly passions that consume us today. In reading his later works, Purity of the Heart is Doing One Thing, and Works of Love, written in 1838 and 1840 respectively, I find this isn’t so.

What I find is that the distractions may be different, but it is the human condition to think that the distractions, the busyness, the Doing For God,  that all these things can be enough in the relationship with God. Kierkegaard points out that these things we are so busy doing, unless they further ours or another’s relationship with God,  are really just “fighting for something earthly” and not furthering our relationship with God at all.

How radical would it be if each of us considered each day to filter our activities in light of our relationship to God? To cut out the expedient, the wasteful, the comfortable, and embrace the long-suffering, purposeful, uncomfortable existence, and give it all to Christ?

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

What are trials for, anyway?

I heard an interesting thought on the radio yesterday, and it set me to thinking. The author stated that we all experience trials, even Christians. What would the Christian life be worth if it meant no trials, heartache, or defeats? Wouldn’t it be a life that everyone would want? Wouldn’t that cheapen conversion because release from trials would be the appealing factor, not salvation in Christ? It has been my experience that my life was relatively rosy until I gave my life to Christ, and that’s when the trials really began.

I have wondered about that, and here’s my take: before we know Christ, we are oblivious to the wiles of Satan, and he can lead us where he wills, most often quite painlessly. He doesn’t really have to hurt us, because we are his anyway. After Christ enters our lives, the Battle for All Time begins. We are no longer his, so he must throw everything he has in his arsenal to try to get us to curse God and abandon faith in Him.

If you’ve read the book of Job, you know that Satan must ask permission from God to throw us into a tailspin (see Job 1). God sets parameters for Satan. He is not allowed to take his life. You think, now isn’t that wonderful? Then you read on and realize that if all those things happened to you, you would have wished he’d let Satan take your life. Such sorrow, such great loss. Even Job’s friends blamed him, and his wife told him to curse God and die (Nice. She must have been the original Contentious Woman). The difficulty is in understanding that everything happened with God’s permission.

Wow. That’s heavy. How could God sit back and watch such cruelty?

In my own life, I am not the person I was before Christ, before trials. I’ve had many, and with each one,  I’ve questioned less, depended on Him more, and received a stronger faith in the bargain. How is this possible, when trials can be so devastating?

The answer comes in Luke 22: 31,32. Jesus is speaking with His disciples at the Last Supper. He tells them that,”Satan has asked to sift you all as wheat, but I am praying that when you turn back, you will strengthen your brothers.

There are two things you can take away from this. First, God did not spare his own Son, so that we might be saved. Two, in times of trial, we should remember that God is always with us, always on our side, and in fact, Jesus is always praying for us. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” That’s an awesome thought.

So when those trials come, and they will, remember that though the cost is great, God saw this coming. He is on your side. He will get you through.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The Winter of Our Discontent

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This winter has been a winter for the record books. For the past 30 years, we really haven’t had very many cold winters in our area. That’s not to say we haven’t had snow; I have a photo book to prove we’ve had some real beauties. There has been a new normal for our temperature range. Al Gore and possibly two scientists have attributed it to Global Warming, others to Climate Change. All I have noticed in my little corner of the universe is that winter for the past 30 years has been much warmer than it used to be, and summers a lot hotter.

Until this summer. We barely reached 100 degrees, staying mostly in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. Compared to the previous summer, where most of July felt like living in a blast furnace, this past summer was delightful. For once, my garden was not incinerated by August, and I had the best canning season ever. Autumn arrived, and as the cool winds began to blow, I kept saying we were due for a good sock-em-in kind of winter.

Well, it came. Children across the country have spent many days out of school for snow and ice. It has been very cold as well. At our lowest, we were -4 degrees in my hometown, and I live in a southern state. Four days later we were a balmy 70 degrees. And so the weather has been all winter long. Bitter, bone-chilling spells of snow or ice, followed by unseasonal warm days.

The prevailing comment is, “I am so done with winter!” People are tired of the snow shovels, the snow blowers, the mess of snow clothes cluttering our living spaces. They are tired of not knowing how to drive in the snow, and coming to that realization in a 12-hour traffic jam.They are tired of cancelled flights, cancelled appointments, missed rendezvous. I am reminded of a commercial which stated, “We’re sick of it. Sick of it. We’re all sick of it.”The weather has been upsetting a lot of people this winter, and frankly, they will not be sorry to see it end.

There was a time that I too fumed about the weather, but my mind has changed in the maturity of life. I have come to the understanding that the weather will be whatever God sees fit to send us, and there isn’t a lot we can do about it. Griping about it only puts me in a funk, and is a useless waste of my time.

What would happen if, instead of complaining about the vagaries of the weather, we decided to simply embrace whatever comes, enjoying the sheer majesty and power of God’s display? I’m not saying to enjoy getting your town blown off the map by severe weather, but to stop the day-to-day whining about the weather that we all contribute to in conversation?

It may even change the outlook of our days.

Now, just let me put my snow shovel away. The sun is coming out.

Habits and Christ

Today our pastor spoke about habits that may be interfering with our walk with Christ. This is a serious matter. He said that 40 percent of our lives are taken up with habits. That means that nearly half of our lives are spent doing things automatically, without thinking. This should cause each of us to examine ourselves to see if there is any habit that could be in the way of true fellowship with Christ.

There are many habits that could interfere with one’s walk with Christ. Some of the obvious ones are alcoholism/substance abuse, and sexual addictions. These addictions are particularly troubling because they are sins against the body, which is the living temple of the Holy Spirit. If this is a problem for you, seek help. There are many organizations to help cope with these addictions.

There are other sins against the body that may be more acceptable in society, but just as damaging to a godly life. The first that comes to mind is food addiction. This does not have to be overeating to the extent of becoming obese. Any time we have an unhealthy relationship with food, we can self—medicate with it instead of turning to God as the source of what it is that we are searching for through food. It would be better to let Him fill us up with good things.

Another that comes to mind is not keeping our bodies physically fit. I know, this seems lame, but I have been a witness to the life-long consequences of not staying active. My own dear mother hated exercise. She loved food and yo-yo dieted her whole adult life. It became a source of pride to her that she passed her days reading and enjoying her time in her chair by the fire. At the end of her life she was morbidly obese and struggled even to walk. Her out-of-control diabetes took her life in the form of heart disease and kidney failure. I determined not to follow that lifestyle and end up dying that way. My dad, on the other hand, has been a model of restraint in eating and has exercised all his life. He is 85 and cuts and splits wood daily with a friend who is 92! When his friend cut back on getting in wood because he was experiencing vertigo, my dad thought he was becoming stiff, so he went out and got a membership at the Y to do flexibility exercises! He has many friends and is actively serving in his church. My point is this: I know that we won’t die one minute before God has planned for us, but shouldn’t we live as healthily as we can, in honor of the miraculous gift of creation that He has given us in our human bodies? How much more joy in the Lord can be had when one is not suffering the unhealthy consequences being sedentary?

Another thing that would get in the way of communion with Christ would be busyness/workaholism. This has become an item of American pride, and it is evident among the people I know. How many times have you heard, “I’ve been so busy, I just didn’t have the time.” This is not how we are to live, with each day crammed so full we don’t have time for family and friends, or even our Lord. I will be the first to admit: I am guilty of this. I love to stay busy, but I admit it cuts into relationship—building. When we read the Bible through last year as a church, I have to admit that I missed a lot by using the “catch me up” button. This year I am trying to do better so I won’t get so far behind. I am using an email reminder that comes in the morning from YouVersion online that is helping me stay on track. Also, I will try not to use busyness as an excuse to get out of social events. ( I have always hated that excuse from others, and I have been guilty of it myself.) I want to slow down and savor relationships with family and friends, as well as deepen my relationship with my Lord.

So, what habit is holding you back from a close relationship with Jesus? I would suggest that the first step is to ask God to make you aware of what it is that is holding you back. Next, hand it over to God, admitting that you are powerless alone to defeat this habit. Look to God to help you change the routine that is causing you to sin, replacing it with something that draws you away from your unhealthy habit. Lastly, choose something or someone that will help you stay accountable to your goal.

It won’t be easy, but it will most definitely be worth it.

“Come, let us reason together”, says the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall become as wool.”Isaiah 1:18

Stuck in the mud

My readers will know that we once had a beaver pond that is now empty of beavers. Someone with the railroad came and trapped them so that if we should have another Isabel, that volume of water won’t wash out the railroad again. Today I was mowing on the shore of the now abandoned and mostly drained beaver pond, and I got the zero-turn stuck.

I didn’t mean to get it stuck; in fact I never intend to get the mower stuck. Not behind the house after 3 days of rain; not down in the bottom, once with the tractor and once with the mower; not under the fence, twice – the second time it was the tractor, and it was so stuck my husband had to unhook the mower deck before we could begin to get it out;  not in the ditch in the neighborhood where I slid into the ditch as I mowed and then wallowed there until I went and got my daughter and the other tractor to help pull it out.

I like to look at the activity in the pond often, but I’ve been bitten by a copperhead before, so I like to keep the grass short down there so I can take pictures. Image

The grass had grown quite long because I hadn’t been down much lately, so I wanted to clean it up a little. I was so focused on mowing the deep grass that I didn’t realize until it was too late that where I was mowing was not the shore any longer, but in fact was the bottom of the pond which had been 6 months ago under 4 feet of water. 

You can imagine. I went back up to the shed looking for something to shove under the wheels for traction. The biggest thing I could find was an old crumbly piece of plywood, so I took that back down and it was worse than paper. I went back up and got some boards, but they were minimally helpful. My husband had the Kabota tractor at one of our rental houses, so that wasn’t available to pull it out. The other Ford tractor is so big, I can’t even push in the clutch. A) I have to put all my weight on it standing up, and B) I am too short. Since the hill is bumpy and very steep down to the pond, I didn’t want to risk the tractor getting away from me going down the hill and ending up 5 feet in the mud. The other option I had was to use the only vehicle left, the Lexus GX450.

I considered my options. The Lexus is my husband’s car, and it’s pretty sweet. It has 4-wheel drive. There wasn’t much room at the bottom near the pond to turn around to get in position to tow the mower out of the mud. I might be able to back down to retrieve it. (That last thought was briefly considered, and then the complete ridiculousness of it struck me and I discarded it.) I could leave the mower there until my husband came home at 9:30. Too dark, he wouldn’t be able to get it out and it was supposed to rain. I pictured rising waters carrying the mower away down stream.

I wondered what I would do for a towing strap because the long one was in the backhoe, which was also at the rental house. The Lexus doesn’t have a hitch either, so I wondered how/where I would attach one if I had one. I found a short one, maybe ten feet long,  in the back of the car and found a special towing place under the back left bumper. I hopped in and crawled down the curving steep and bumpy path. 

When I got to the bottom I realized that the Lexus was bigger than the area in which to turn around. There was a sawn log in front, an overgrown gate to my right, and lots of thick grass to my left, My husband had cut up some trees there, but I had no idea where they were in all that stuff. 

I turned the SUV around, but it was not a 3-pt., picture-perfect turnaround. More like inching back and forth in tiny little increments for about 20 times. Finally, I backed up to connect the tow strap. Too short. By about 18 inches.

Again, I considered my options. I could back up another foot and I would have the back wheels on iffy ground. The Lexus has 4-wheel drive. My husband could also find both the mower and the Lexus stuck down there when he came home at 9:30. Or I could leave the mower down there. (Rising waters and all).

I decided to back up closer and try again. I believe in praying about everything, and I desperately wanted to get this out so I wouldn’t have to get my husband to do it for me. I was buoyed by the fact that I had pulled the mower out before, twice. Ok, the most recent time was 4 months ago, but that is beside the point. 

I hooked up the tow strap and hopped in the Lexus to try again. I breathed one last little “Help, please?” and slowly accelerated.

Eureka! It came out so easily I had to hop out to make sure It hadn’t come unhooked! Just for good measure, I pulled it out another 5 feet so I’d have plenty of room to turn the mower around. 

So, when my husband comes home, I think I’ll just let him read this blog. Then I won’t have to listen to him sniggering at me.

Right now, I remember I have some thanking to do.

“6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Phillippians 4:6