Stay Focused

Bear in mind then, that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.

― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”

― Bruce Lee

The two words set my nerve on edge: Below Expectations. I am working a short-term job which requires me to maintain validity. They judge this by randomly inserting tests in with actual work to make sure that I am responding in a consistent manner. For the last week I had been “Exceeding Expectations” and making incentive pay for my hard work. In one shift I had dropped to the danger zone, and I had no idea why because I cannot see what I have done wrong and my supervisor is not allowed to tell me. They can only offer suggestions. If I drop too low, I can be dropped from the job and possibly not invited to further job offers. I reminded God that He had provided this job and I needed wisdom to be able to continue.

 Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?

Jeremiah 32:27

Jeremiah was the verse for Monday and reminded me that not even a computer system or validity questions were too hard for God. I continued working, but the two words “Below Expectations” were always just to the left, mocking me. I clocked out early with a headache.

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

I had to confess that I was wavering in my faith a little, especially since the two words would not go away, no matter how carefully I worked. I had lost my confidence. I prayed again and kept working.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

I could see no purpose in this mental torture, but I kept on working. There was still no change in the two words. I clocked out a little early, weary of the mental strain of trying to meet some hidden goal.

 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

The next night I picked back up with those two words still lit up in orange: Below Expectations. I began to work and occasionally the system would show me that I had answered correctly, but the words refused to change. Then, I noticed that the system had not notified me of a chat message from my supervisor. It was a word of encouragement. I responded that I appreciated it.

 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Psalm 91:4

A little while later I received a phone call from the supervisor. He said that he had no idea why the system kept showing “Below Expectations.” From His perspective, I was doing excellent work. He could see everything I had done from His side of the system, while all I could see were the two words “Below Expectations.” His encouragement got me back on track and a day later I was back on “Exceeds Expectations.”

In life, sometimes all we ever see about us are evidence that we don’t meet up to the world’s standards. The truth is it’s not the world’s standards we have to meet; it is God’s standards. He knew we could never meet them, so He sent His only Son to bridge the gap for us. The enemy uses comparison and discouragement to try and distract us from doing what God has called us to do. God doesn’t require perfection, only a willing heart. He’s not looking for someone who talks a good talk; He is looking for someone who holds fast to Him.

So, when the world tries to distract you by throwing comparisons in your face, remember to stay focused on God and hold fast.

When the Bucket Meets the Road

October was a long month in some ways and way too short in others. I wrote 4 novellas, so every day I went to my first job, and then my second job, and then I came home to write a couple thousand words. I was happy to see November and was down to correcting the last two novellas to send to the publisher.

Driving home in the dark, suddenly there appeared a bucket in the road. Not your average bucket, but a heavy duty one. I couldn’t swerve or stop because of traffic; I had to hit it straight on. I figured it would hit and bounce, maybe ding my already dinged car, but no. It had staying power. It scraped and screamed on the asphalt and refused to break loose or break up, so I finally pulled over. I couldn’t see it and the side of that particular highway was not safe due to high traffic. Since all of my tires seemed fine, I waited for all the traffic to pass and then eased onto the road and drove to the parking lot of an empty building down the hill.

I finally found the offending bucket wedged under the front of my car and managed to pull it loose and toss it to the side. Saying a quick prayer, I got back in the car and headed home, thankful not to see any warning lights on the dash. I made it home without any further ado and went inside to finish what I had started.

It occurred to me that the incident is a lot like life. We are rolling along taking care of business when suddenly life throws a bucket at us. Whether it is a unexpected bill, an illness, a death, or just a bad day, it throws a kink in our plan and slows us down. We want to pull off the road and quit, but we still have to get home, so we have to deal with the problem and carry on.

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

1 Peter 5:7-8

First, the Bible says to cast our cares on God. We weren’t meant to carry them around. God wants us to trust Him with our problems. The devil is trying to trip us up and throws whatever he can at us, even a bucket in the road, but God is on the throne and better equipped to deal with the obstacles at hand. God allows the obstacles and uses them to help us grow in faith and in character.

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Genesis 5:20

The enemy and even people will make plans against us, but they cannot over throw the will of God. He has a plan even when it seems like nothing is going right. Joseph had to be sold into slavery in order for him to end up in the right place to save his people from starvation. We may not always know the purpose of the bucket in the road, but we do know God.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

God can use even a bucket in the road to teach us something, or even protect us from something that we can’t see. There might have been a potential wreck further down the road, or it might have just been a warning to slow down. Regardless, God can use it for our good if we let him.

So, when the bucket meets the road and you can’t avoid it, know that God will be there by your side. You need only to ask for His help and carry on. It’ll work itself out eventually. Stop stress eating because of poll results and getting angry over social media posts, God will work the bucket out however He sees fit. It’s out of our hands and that’s probably a good thing because we would have tried to save Joseph from being sold into slavery and look where that would have led.

All Things

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:11

In the movie Signs, an Episcopal priest has left the church following the death of his wife in a car accident. Her last words are an odd message that doesn’t make sense at the time. His son has severe asthma, his daughter is obsessed with leaving glasses of water all over the house, and his younger brother has returned after a failed professional baseball career. It sounds like his life has been cursed with bad luck; however, later in the film we see that all those negatives eventually save the lives of the entire family.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Like the priest in the movie, we all have trouble sometimes reconciling the concept of a loving God with some of the trials we face, but we have to remember that the verse does not say all things are good. It says God words all things together for our good. Sometimes what we think of as bad things are a means to our good.

For example, I spent a good bit of time complaining about having developed dry eyes as well as having a truck load of dental work suddenly needing done. Besides the money issue, my body reacts to the numbing shots by getting the shakes, and the dry eyes required using prescription eye drops. God worked out the money issue by sending an anonymous angel to pay for two dental crowns and providing a coupon from the drug company to make the eye drops affordable ($20 for 3 month supply). Yet, I was still complaining about having the issues at all until I realized they were actually a blessing in disguise.

First, the dry eyes required using steroid drops and another prescription twice a day, so I was constantly rinsing my eyes with medication. Second, the numbing shots have epinephrine, which has another effect besides the shaking: it tends to clear out my sinuses. Add to that the fact that we have had more rain than usual this year, and it adds up to the best allergy season I have ever been through, which also kept my immune system stronger. On top of that, my local honey provider had a “bumper crop” this past year, so I had access to honey which also helped strengthen my immunity and ward off sinusitis and sinus infections. Given the current state of things that was definitely a blessing.

Sometimes we are put in places or seasons of difficulty, and all we want is to get out of it. I am including myself in this group. Yet, maybe we should focus on what we have been given and asking God to use the difficult situation to be a blessing in some way. In the book of Judges, Gideon finds himself in a difficult situation, and God gives him what many would call strange instructions.

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers.

Judges 7:16

When Gideon was faced with a battle that seemed insurmountable, God whittled his army down to 300 and told him to give each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp. With those three things, God won the battle for Israel. The sudden sounds and appearance of light sent the enemy into confusion so that they ran and actually killed each other. God took three household items and turned them into a way to take down the enemy.

What do you have in your hands right now? It may seem small and insignificant but God can use it for good. It will probably require some effort on your part; the army of 300 still had to show up with items in their hands and use them as instructed. Then God did amazing things; He worked it all for good to those who were called to His purpose. Right now I have a half-numb jaw, an abandoned house across the street, and a computer. I think I feel a mystery coming on; it’s probably better than what is on television.