Inconveniences, Insults, and Other Annoyances

“Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son–a headache, an insult, a long line at the check-out, someone’s rudeness or failure to say thank you, misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption. As Amy Carmichael said, ‘See in it a chance to die,’ meaning a chance to leave self behind…” (Elisabeth Elliot)

If I had my way, my life would run smoothly and everything would go my way and everything I want would happen instantly and my days would be filled with comfort . . . and I would never grow or learn anything. I’d be stuck in a rut and eventually would find dissatisfaction even with the good parts of my life.

All those interruptions and insults are grating to be sure, but they are also God’s means of shaping and sculpting me. If the end goal is Christlikeness, then these means are definitely worth it. If I truly understood what it meant to be conformed into the likeness of God’s own Son, then I would rejoice in all these things and think the price a small one to pay. I’d probably see my life very differently and have way different priorities.

At the end of the day, that’s what matters most — me looking more like Jesus. That’s it. It’s me looking like Jesus and pointing to Jesus in my daily life so that others are attracted to Him and want what He offers.

Excelling Vs. Enriching

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of ‘getting to know you’ questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went ‘WOW. That’s amazing!’ And I said, ‘Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.’

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: ‘I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.’

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could ‘Win’ at them” (Kurt Vonnegut).

That concept flies in the face of 99% of the current culture. We’re supposed to narrow down our hobbies and pursuits to find what we’re really good at so we can focus on that and excelling at one thing instead of being mediocre at many things. Yet in the meantime, we lose out on all those things we weren’t as good at.

It’s important to find something you excel at, but it’s also important to do things and try new things and experience things as a means of enriching your life, even if you’re terrible at them. Whether it’s music or art or dance or writing, you can accept the fact that you’re no prodigy and simply learn to have fun and enjoy the process of bringing something new into the world, regardless of whether it’s a masterpiece or not. It’s really about you becoming a more rounded, interesting individual with lots of varied experiences.

Plus, you may find something you really may grow into being an expert at, but you won’t know until you start somewhere. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth it for the trying and the experience.

All Those Translations

There are so many translations. So. Many. How do you know which one is the right one?

I can’t necessarily speak to which one is the definitive absolute best, but I can share which ones I use regularly. And I do use more than one. I like to mix them up because I realize that none of them are perfect.

I tend to gravitate toward the ESV most of the time. It’s literal and readable. It retains the poetry of the original languages but is still very much understandable by the average reader.The NASB is also a good literal translation.

I also like the CSB and the NIV (the 1984 version). Both are good renderings that won’t steer you wrong in matters of faith. When I want a different take on a passage, I’ll turn to The Message or the NLT (New Living Translation).

One of my favorite apps is called YouVersion. It contains 67 different English translations of the Bible, as well as translations in just about any other language you can think of . . . and then some. That allows you to compare verses or passages between translations to find the one that helps you understand God’s word best.

And that’s the important thing. Read God’s word. Even if that means you use your grandmother’s old KJV, read the Bible. Just read it.

Making a Life Vs. Making a Living

I read this recently, and it spoke volumes to me about so many things, some of which are not giving up on your dreams at any age and using your days wisely. Here’s the story in full:

“An 87 Year Old College Student Named Rose The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned round to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked.

I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age. “I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me. After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. We became instant friends.

Every day for the next three months, we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went. She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.”

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability.

The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.” She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.

When you finish reading this, please send this peaceful word of advice to your friends and family, they’ll really enjoy it! These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE. REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL. We make a Living by what we get, We make a Life by what we give.”

Precious Promises

When was the last time you read from the book of Nahum? When was the last time you heard a sermon or some other kind of teaching from Nahum? If we’re honest, I’m not sure many of us could find it without cheating and looking in the table of contents in the front of the Bible.

But isn’t it interesting how many of God’s most endearing and enduring promises come out of those obscure little books of the Bible? Well, technically, they’re not obscure but we tend to focus on the New Testament and the Psalms more than the minor prophets. We do so at our own peril because we miss out on so much that God can teach us.

Some of it isn’t so easy to read. A lot of it is God pleading with His people to return to Him. Much of it is God forewarning those same people what will happen if they remain in their stubborn sinful ways. But nestled throughout are God’s precious promises for those who choose to follow Him and let Him lead.

It’s amazing how those promises seem to always come at the times when we need them most. God has a way of tailoring them to our need of the moment. I’ve known God to use a social media post or a sermon or a verse quoted in a book to speak to me where I was and help me through difficult times.

That’s what it means for God’s Word to be living and active. It never stops speaking to us in our need. God’s promises are always faithful and always true.

My Urgency and God’s Timing

“‘I must keep praying’ ‘I feel like just giving up!’ How often has this thought passed through our minds (both yours and mine) in recent months? If I am honest, then I must admit it’s been quite often. I find myself so often in hopeless situations where I know full well that only God can deliver me but God doesn’t seem to have the same urgency as I do. Impatience and unbelief are at least a root of all my problems, and pride isn’t far behind, along with frustration (the fruit of my sin). Deep down I know that the Lord is working in my life and that I would be better off if I waited patiently for His time and His way of deliverance, but there seems to be a constant conflict between wanting to honor my God by doing His will and at the same time worrying myself sick over things which may never happen” (Apples of Gold).

I’ve noticed that at the heart of all my anxiety is the feeling that what I desire — what I desperately want down in my heart of hearts — must happen NOW or it will never happen. In my state of worry, I can’t see beyond the immediate tyranny of the urgent to fathom that God is bidding me to wait until either I am ready or the gift is ready. If I’m honest, my anxiety is me really confessing that I don’t believe that God is trustworthy or that He has my best interests in mind.

Every time I pray, it’s a kind of realignment of my priorities and my perspective into God’s way of seeing things. It’s me once again confessing my own inadequacy and my deep need for God to do what only God can. Plus, you can never go wrong praying the Lord’s prayer if you have nothing else.

My Radnor Ritual

I’m getting in as much of Radnor Lake State Park as I can these days. Who knows how much longer I’ll be able to hike after work before it starts getting dark too early to walk? Plus, I always like to take advantage of days when the temps are milder and it feels closer to fall.

I did my usual amount of hiking and sightseeing and sweating. I found that one of the landmark trees that I always look for had fallen over at some point and was lying on the ground. That made me a bit sad, but overall, it was a refreshing retreat from the concrete jungle into nature.

Sure, there are other parks in the Nashville area, but none of them feel as though you are escaping into another world as much as Radnor does. It almost feels at times like I’m slipping into Middle Earth or into the woods of Narnia. Also, there’s plenty of wildlife to keep me company as I hike and sweat.

There’s nothing better than exercise, vitamin D, and nature.

Another Peanut Update

This is a fairly typical occurrence, especially in the later evenings. Peanut is all about a comfortable spot to nap in, and that spot more often than not is my lap. And I’m not complaining. She’s a very calming presence.

I don’t get how people don’t like cats. Maybe those people expect cats to act just like dogs and to be as overtly affectionate and friendly as dogs to everyone they meet all the time. Maybe they’ve run across a few cats that were aloof or just downright ornery. Or maybe they just haven’t met Peanut yet.

All I know is that my little Peanut is just as affectionate as any dog. She just happens to like having alone time periodically. That usually involves her “hiding” somewhere for a period of time. Most of the time, it’s easy to spot the lump under the bed covers or under the rug in the kitchen. I imagine that she thinks that if she can’t see me, I can’t see her.

Still, I cherish the times when she’s in my lap, or as I like to call them, quality therapy sessions. I can feel my blood pressure getting lower and me getting calmer and more relaxed. And she still loves her some belly rubs.