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

Stay the Course

“‘Go back?’ he thought. ‘No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!’ So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo Baggins sets off on an adventure with Gandalf and group of dwarves. At first he is unwilling to join the quest, but at the last minute he throws things in a bag and runs off to catch up with the group. It’s not long into the trip before he is thrown into the uncomfortable by being forced to ride a pony. It’s his first hint that the journey will be full of twists and turns, not all of them pleasant, but he keeps moving forward.

I find myself in the same boat, so to speak. I start a new knitting project so excited, picking out colors and making plans. Even casting on brings joy, but part way through the pattern we hit a snag or have problems understanding the pattern, and suddenly we want to throw the project in our bag for another day or forget it altogether.

Every April our Ladies Group does a Bible study, and this year we are studying Promises of God from Love God Greatly. The first week’s topic was God is with you. As we were discussing the lessons, a commentary mentioned that the devil uses discouragement as a favorite tool for making Christians ineffective. It keeps us from doing what God has called us to do. We also discussed that sometimes you just have to do it afraid, knowing God will be with you. Another comment was that we need to stay the course no matter what is happening because God is with us. The study suggested praying God’s words back to Him in order to combat fear and discouragement. The main verse for the week was:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

This week I put that suggestion to use and I felt the power of standing on God’s Word. Today, I began a short-term extra job to help raise funds for a newer car. Fridays are the one day that I can work an 8-hour shift, so I was discouraged when I woke up to a sinus migraine. The headache began to worsen after an hour of working, so I took a break. I came back and had to do a training set. The headache was no better, so I informed my leader that I was taking medicine and a break and would hopefully be back later. The headache finally died down to a dull ache, so I went back to work around 2:30.

Within an hour, my validity dropped and I had to do a training session and pass a training set in order to continue working. At one point, I considered just signing out for the day. In the middle of the training, my practice set was only 50% valid and I got very discouraged. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be doing the job. I read Isaiah 41:10 back to God and reminded Him that He had put this job in place and I needed to pass in order to keep working, so I needed wisdom to answer the questions. I passed. Even then I considered quitting for the day while I was ahead despite the fact that there were 2 hours left on my shift and I had lost a couple of hours with the headache. Just then the phrase stay the course caught my eye. I knew I had to keep going. Like Bilbo I had to keep going forward.

God said not to be afraid because he would be with us, strengthen us, help us and uphold us, but He never said it would all be easy. It takes rough roads sometimes to remind us who is in control and where our help comes from:

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Psalms 121:1-2

When the journey is full of twists, turns, potholes, and even an occasional detour, we know we can stay the course because God is with us. Don’t let the devil use discouragement or fear to stop you. Pray God’s Word back to Him and feel the power of the Almighty begin to work. Then just like Bilbo keep going forward and stay the course. Even greater adventures still await.

Hopeful: It’s an Attitude

It’s the little things that can make your day, but it is also the little things that can wreck your day…if you let it. My hope Bible study this week seems to be on attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I can get an attitude, but it’s not always the right one. The scriptures this week give an example of how we should respond to life given the hope that we have.

Day 15

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

1John 3:2-3

We should purify ourselves. If we are Christians, we are purified by the blood of Christ on the cross, but we still live in a fallen world. We are faced with situations on a daily basis that can send us down the wrong path. So the first key word is PURITY.

Day 16

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:8

The next key word is SOBER. Sober is more than just not drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Have you ever heard the phrase “sober as a judge”? To be sober is to be calm, temperate, and earnest. Noone wants to come before a judge who is either silly or prone to outbursts. We want someone who is calm and serious so that they can judge the situation fairly. From the looks of social media, I think all of us could do with a little sobering up.

Day 17

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

Titus 2:13

LOOKING is the word that jumped out at me from this verse. When you have hope, you are expecting something. In this case, we are expecting the appearing of Christ and the renewal of the entire world. Let’s not let evil in the world take away our hope. Let’s keep our focus on Christ, and share our hope with the world.

Day 18

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelations 21:4

The key word here is NO. There will be nothing bad in Heaven, so we have a hope for a better future. Therefore, we should remember that this world is temporary, but eternity awaits full of good things for those who believe.

Day 19

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

MIDST is the keyword here. I almost chose mighty, but we know God is mighty. What we need to remember is that He is in the midst; He is in us through the Holy Spirit’s presence. We are not alone.

Day 20

Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Romans 12:12

There are actually three key words here: REJOICING, PATIENT, CONTINUING. There are several scriptures that tell us to rejoice. If nothing else, we can rejoice in our salvation, but I think if you try you can think of many more things worthy of rejoicing over. Patient is not an easy one, but if you are rejoicing, it is easier to be patient in times of trial. Continuing means we don’t stop; we keep going. As we keep going forward for Christ, we continue to pray. Keeping in constant communion with God helps to keep our battery charged and our hopes high. All three keywords also represent actions as well as attitude. What can we do today that will bring out these attitudes?

Day 21

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou 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 25:21

The keyword is FAITHFUL. God just wants us to do the best we can with what we have for His service, no matter how small. If we do that, then we have JOY.

Our attitude is in direct relation to our focus. When we keep our focus on Christ, then we have hope. When we have hope, our attitude changes for the better. So, let’s try for a hopeful attitude because the world is in need of hope today more than ever before. #MyHopeNotebook