Swimming Upstream

Swimming Upstream May Be Hard, But It’s Not Impossible

I recently said these words when talking to a friend about the challenges a kid faces today when they want to follow Christ while living in the world. It’s like swimming upstream. And although swimming upstream is hard, it’s not impossible—oh, and that metaphor isn’t just for kids.

We all know some days it is hard. Today is one of those days. I never want to be a whiner. Never. I do it sometimes, probably more than I should, and about little things, things that don’t matter—like long lines at Wal Mart and when someone “borrows” my iPod cable without returning it. But all in all, I don’t want to complain because I know it dishonors God, I know it can keep people from seeing God, and I know that I have a pretty easy life compared to a zillion other people.

Yet even when I know with my head that my life is pretty good, and that testing and trials grow my faith, the truth is the trials still hurt. Friends hurt us; our friends hurt. We feel helpless to help them. Things are out of our control. Good people are wronged. People we love die. Or walk away from God. Or disappoint us. Or we, them. Then there’s illness and cancer and the economy and loneliness. And on those days, when you want to turn back, you want to quit swimming, what do you do?

Well this is what I think. You keep swimming. Upstream. You may need to rest a bit. You may need to call in reinforcements, but you don’t give up. You don’t turn around. You don’t follow the tide. You keep swimming. You keep following God. You keep on trusting His precepts and His path. It may hurt. It may burn. Tears may fill your eyes and you may find it hard to breathe. You may, with every fiber of your being, want to quit. But you don’t.

You find your strength in His strength and His power made perfect in your weakness. You count it all joy, and you remember that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character, hope. And hope doesn’t put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-4, ESV)

And so you keep swimming, upstream, against the current–because it’s worth it, or more to the point, because He’s worth it, and there’s a whole world swimming past you in the opposite direction that needs to know that it’s possible to keep swimming, and to know the Hope and the Difference that can be theirs if they follow Him, too.

How do you know God likes salad?

Because He put so much lettuce in the Bible!!! Bahahahaha. . . .oh well. . .

A few years back, the year our youngest son was graduating from high school, I was fortunate to have had the privilege of giving the graduate’s charge at our church’s service that Sunday. I remember bringing a head of lettuce and pealing back the leaves one at a time as we talked about the “lettuces” in the book of Hebrews.

Truth is there are enough leaves of lettuce in the Bible to make a salad of ginormous proportion. But today, I’ve been drawn back to the espcially tasty bites in Hebrews, especially chapter 10.

For example:

Hebrews 4:14 . . .let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 6:1 Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity. . .
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near to God with a sincere faith. . .
Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we professed, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds
Hebrews 10:25a Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but. . .
Hebrews 10:25b let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching

And just like a salad is rarely complete with just lettuce, the writer of Hebrews adds a little something to the mix beginning in verse 35:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”

And then here comes the kicker, I LOVE this part, L-O-V-E it.

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

We won’t shrink back, we won’t give up, we won’t give in, we won’t turn away. We will follow, we will love, we will give and forgive and help and serve and share and tell until He who is promised returns. And until that time, “lettuce” do these things with the confidence, peace, joy, grace, strength, energy, passion and commitment that comes only from Him.

Tackling Drills 101

It’s no secret there are several things I like alot:  Oreos, a good word picture and football.  Alone, each has its merits, but combine them and you get a fun new blog post and a satisfied chocolate craving.  Lately, it seems like everywhere I go people are tackling problems in their homes, jobs and relationships without much success.   I don’t know whether it’s just winter blues, the cycles of life or not enough Oreos on the shelves of the average home, but I know that we don’t have to let things drag us down. In fact, it can absolutely work the other way around–We can be the ones doing the tackling, instead of the ones getting sacked.  I remember learning a few facts about the fundamentals of tackling  when our son was starting out in football. I thought then, as I do now, that there was a lot I could learn from the basics of tackling.  Here are 3 beginning steps for tackling tough problems that have helped me gain some victory:

1–Start with a good base.  Start by standing firm in Christ. I learned I needed a good stance, firm footing and a strong foundation. I needed to take a stand on the truth of what God’s Word says. I began by memorizing and meditating on His Word and planting myself on what He has promised.

2—Stay Low. In football, staying low gives you the leverage to bring down your opponent. In battling life’s situations, I am continuing to learn to stay low through prayer and humility. No matter what I’m up against, whether it’s something I can control or not, it’s not as big as the God who gives me the power to overcome.

3—Keep your head up and look at what you are tackling. In a game, it’s easy to get off target, and miss the tackle, wind up injured  just like it’s easy to get off target, miss the real issue completely and wind up hurt and confused.  It doesn’t take much to get distracted and  find yourself lost in play.  Remember what it is you need to tackle, and keep after it. In my life, whether I’ve been up against a sin issue, managing my emotions,or  the consequences of poor decisions (mine or someone else’s) I have had to learn to keep my focus and to not let myself get distracted. I have had to keep the voice of my Coach in my head and follow the plan He has set out for me. (See tackling points 1 & 2).

I’m always amazed when I see a great tackle. I love to watch a player get up, flex a little, maybe chest bump a team mate or two, excited over the personal victory. I know it takes humility, strength, skill and wisdom to tackle well and tackle consistantly.  Applying these simple football techniques to my spiritual life has not only given me alot more personal victory, it has kept me from being injured both spiritually and emotionally. And strong individual players make for a stronger team.

It’s not just the season we are in or lack of Oreos that keeps us from victory, often we just need to brush up on the basics. God tells us there will always be things in our lives that need to be tackled, and by picking up the play book we gain the strength, skill, power and wisdom that comes from Him, to tackle whatever comes our way.