Strong Finish

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.

Henry David Thoreau

Ever taken a 30-day challenge? Did it feel like it was three months long? I am involved in two challenges for the month of July that involve different aspects of writing. My first challenge is to finish a revision of my current novel in progress, and the second is to finish setting up my website. I want to end the month strong. I want the satisfaction that comes with completing something, knowing I have done my best.

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men

Colossians 3:23

The Christian life is made up of seasons with unique challenges and blessings. We move from season to season like a runner completing segments of a race. It is a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance. But, we don’t run this race alone. We have a great cloud of witnesses, past and present, who run alongside us toward the prize.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

As we run the race, we need to remember whose name is on our jersey. As Christians we carry Christ’s name, and we shouldn’t do anything that brings Him shame or disgrace. No one is perfect, and we all fall short. God knows our hearts and our weaknesses as human beings, and He is full of grace and mercy when we come to Him.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Like, Paul, I don’t count myself as having apprehended, but I keep trying to move forward by the grace of God. One day we will all cross the finish line, and everyone who finishes gets a crown because Jesus has already won it for us.

So, to finish strong we just need to focus on the next leg of the race and on the author and finisher of our faith. Let’s help each other run the race so that we can hear God say:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Matthew 25:23

Stuck in the Middle

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Frederick Douglass

You know that excitement you get when you begin a new project? What about the sense of satisfaction when you finish one? Do you ever hear anyone say, “I’m so excited about working fifty rows of  K1 P1 ribbing?

For the non-knitters, K1 P1ribbing is knitter-speak for knit one stitch and pearl one stitch until you lose your mind. The stitch pattern makes a lovely edge for sweaters and hats, but it can be a little boring. It also takes a little attention to detail because you constantly switch the yarn from the back to the front to the back again. If you are just knitting a row, you don’t really have to think about it as your hands use muscle memory to just do it. The ribbing takes a little work.

Writing books is very similar. You are excited about the idea in your mind and start creating the character and their world. You look forward to finishing it and getting it published. In between the two lies the ribbing, aka figuring out how to get your protagonist from point A to point Z without losing your reader or your mind. It takes a little work.

Our spiritual lives are not really that different. When we first come to know Christ, we are excited and eager to dive into the Word and live the Christian life. It’s a great time. Then, we are also thinking about what it will be like when we get to Heaven and everything is complete and whole in Christ’s presence. In the meantime, life happens and we get distracted by daily tasks and demands on our time. Keeping our enthusiasm during the daily grind is difficult sometimes. It takes a little work.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

Christians are a work in progress. We have been saved, but God is still working on us. The key word is work. It requires a struggle, but nothing good ever comes easy. The good news is that it’s not all up to us. God is working on us, and God will finish what he starts.

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Philippians 1:6

There is no greater example of this than the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It takes time for the transformation to occur, and when the butterfly is ready to emerge from the cocoon, it has to struggle. The thing about the struggle is that it makes the butterflies wings strong so that when it is finally free, it can fly.

When you find yourself struggling in your daily walk, remember that God is not finished with you yet. Struggle means you are growing spiritual wings so that you can fly. Meanwhile, you can’t speed through the process like Adam Sandler’s character in Click. His remote control allowed him to fast forward through the parts of life he didn’t like, but in the end he realized that he’d fast forwarded through his life and missed a lot of great little moments. So, learn to slow down so that you can enjoy the little moments because that’s where life is really lived: in the middle.

Just Start

Part 1 of a Work in Progress (WIP)

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” he asked. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

My to-do list has lists at the moment. Sitting on my desk are ideas for four non-fiction pieces, an idea for a short work of fiction to use as a giveaway, and my blog post idea turned into a blog post series idea. Not to mention, today I began work on a website for my writing which has a to-do list of its ow,n along with sub-lists of lists. My head is spinning like the little blue circle on my computer that show up when I’ve asked it to compute more than it can compute. What’s a writer to do?

Just start!

That was the command Anne Lamott gave to her writing students in the book Bird by Bird. They wanted to know how to be published authors, and she said you have to start writing first. The thought of writing a novel, the thought of having my own website, the thought of spiritual growth and revival all sound great in theory. It is the working it out that slows us down. My first question is where do I start?

Just start!

The king in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland had it right when he said start at the beginning. You have to start where you are. No matter what path lies in front of you, start from where you are and take a step forward. One of the things I learned about anxiety is that action is one of the greatest weapons against it. If you sit and think about something, you will begin to imagine all the worst case scenarios and begin a negative spiral downward until you are frozen in place. However, if you just take action, you are literally and figuratively one step ahead. It frees you to keep moving.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

If you are moving, then you are making progress, which fuels you to keep moving. Our spiritual walk is just that, a daily walk. We have to get out of bed every morning and decide to walk. We have to start from where we are: sinners saved by grace. Then, we move forward a step at a time through whatever the day holds, whatever life’s journey holds. But, we don’t walk alone.

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

Isaiah 43:2

We have a guide and a companion who goes alongside us. So, there is no need to fear what might lie ahead. Our job is to take it one step at a time. With Christ as our Shepherd and Leader, we can’t get lost, although we might go down a rabbit hole or two. Just like Alice we get to the same place at the journey’s end, home sweet home. In the meantime… what is it you need to do?

Just start! Take it one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. It’s all a work in progress, including me.

Coming next week: Part 2 of Work in Progress… Stuck in the Middle

Free Indeed

“For truth is truth to the end of reckoning.” 

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

John 8:32, 36

We often joke at the yarn shop that the biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I will remember that.” So, we don’t write it down and by the next day we are struggling to remember exactly what we said we would not forget. While that may be the biggest lie we tell ourselves, it is probably not the biggest lie we believe

In the Bible study Get Out of Your Head, Jennie Allen says that the lies we tell ourselves fit in one of three categories:

  1. I am helpless.
  2. I am unlovable.
  3. I am worthless.

The enemy will use these lies to try and make us utterly useless to the cause of Christ. We get so caught up in listening to the lies that we become frozen, unable to move forward. In order to break free from this bondage, we must recognize Athe origin of these lies.

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44

The enemy is a liar. He has been at work on the earth a long time, and he knows just how to punch our buttons. It is usually so subtle that we often don’t realize what is happening. If we want to be free we need to recognize his tactics; however, there is something even more important: knowing the truth.

When federal agents are train in how to identify counterfeit bills, they don’t study fakes. They study the real thing. The biggest key to being spiritually free is not to study the enemy or his lies; it is to study truth so that we can identify the lies when we hear them.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

When you start hearing that little voice in your head, counter it with the truth:

  • When it says, you are helpless, say:
    • For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
  • When it says you are unlovable, say:
    • “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10
  • When it says you are worthless, say:
    • But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:4-8

Jesus Christ is the Truth, so when we know the Truth, He will set us free. However, we have to choose to accept the truth and make it a part of our everyday lives or we are still living in bondage to those lies. The best defense is to have an arsenal of weapons, so get in the Word and write verses on sticky notes or index cards and keep them at the ready. When the enemy attacks, follow Jesus’ example when he was tempted and point him back to the Word of God because what God says is all that matters

What lie is the enemy telling you? More importantly, what does God say?