Both my brothers are avid hunters, and although I am 110% for sportsmanship, I’ve never been hunting (unless you count shopping for good deals). As a result, I enjoy hearing my brothers’ stories.
Recently, one of them was telling me about a time he went turkey hunting, and there were so many turkeys he couldn’t focus on one to take the shot. Turkeys are ADHD creatures by nature, and they can’t stand still. Dozens of them together are like the blurry results of an overdue vision appointment.
I couldn’t help but think that we Christians can have the same problem in our spiritual lives.
Too many turkeys, too much calling for our attention, keep us from being effective in our calling.
How can we get anything done when we’re not focused on purpose-driven work?
Calling Out the Turkeys in Our Lives
First, I think we have to identify what our turkeys are. Each of us has unique challenges based on our work and responsibility, but my guess is that we also have a few in common.
Social media: Access to our social networks is literally a hand’s reach away. The notifications and lit-up screens snatch our attention from where it needs to be.
Comparison: Nothing wrecks our focus so instantly as the comparison game. When we start comparing ourselves to someone else, we derail our progress and lose a productive mindset.
Over-commitment: When we say “yes” to more things than our schedules can handle, we become ineffective and exhausted.
What other turkey-time-stealers would you add to this list?
Re-Focusing Our Sights on What Matters
Calling out the turkeys that steal our time and focus is step one. Step two is much harder, because it requires acting on the information. We have to renew our minds daily, or even several times a day, if we’re going to fix our aim where it needs to be.
Scripture gives us a guide for evaluating the claims on our attention. Let’s put those turkeys to this test:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Philippians 4:8 NKJV
True, Noble, Just, Pure, Lovely, Praiseworthy. That list is a pretty good litmus test to see if our focus is purpose-driven or simply distracted.
What turkeys are wrecking your focus, and what steps can you take to get your attention back where it needs to be?
Have you seen the Amazon Prime series called Tiny House World? James and I started watching recently and are basically hooked.
The episodes are short and follow a script: A couple, family, or single person is looking to downsize or diminish their footprint by going tiny. The episodes cover international settings from Ireland to the UK to Australia, and the featured individuals have three options from which to choose.
Most of the time, they don’t pick the one we would, which is both aggravating but also not the point. The point is that they discover they can do more with less.
Even “Tiny” Can Miss What Matters
The tiny house movement certainly has its appeal. The incentive for these people is to be more environmentally friendly, rekindle family time in a smaller space, or enable themselves to travel more. While those are all great reasons to try an alternate lifestyle, the tiny movement can easily become as self-absorbed as the materialism that is its opposite.
Although there is no tiny-house movement in Scripture, Jesus clearly teaches several principles about what we should do with our “stuff” in the parable of the rich fool. It’s so short, I’m including it here:
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:16-21 NKJV
Regardless of where we live or what lifestyles we choose, are we “rich toward God”? Do we remember that everything we have comes from Him and act accordingly? That’s the bottom line.
Takeaways for Any-Size Situations
At some point, you’ve probably heard that even middle-class Americans are “rich” in the global arena. That news may not make you feel great if your credit card bill is higher than you’d like or your car is threatening to go on a permanent holiday, but essentially, this reality means we are all able to give something.
Whether our proverbial barns are threatening to overflow or we’re simply meeting the month’s budget, Jesus’ words are a one-size-fits-all challenge.
What do we value most? Are we sharing those things or keeping them to ourselves? That one thing could even be our time. Do we use it to bless others?
Are we content with what we have, or are we always looking for more?
Are we giving of our gifts and resources, or are we self-absorbed with our own pursuits and pleasures?
We have to be careful not to point fingers at those “richer” than ourselves and expect them to carry the heavy load. For the record, I know some people who are very blessed financially and are also incredibly generous. The key to remember is that we’re not responsible for how others handle their “stuff.” We’re responsible for how we steward what God has given us.
Ultimately, God cares about our hearts, not the size of our houses.
There’s another story in the Bible that reveals that the condition of our heart, not the size of what we own or have to give, is what the Lord prizes. In the parable of the widow’s mite (Luke 21), Jesus tells the story of a woman who gave to the temple all she had, which was next to nothing. Her gift demonstrated great faith that God would provide for her needs. Again, the issue is not how much we have or how much we give, but rather the attitude with which we view our possessions.
At the end of the day, the size of our home doesn’t matter. How we live does. Let’s live abundantly, give cheerfully, and love others generously.
The last few Saturdays have brought the faintest hint of fall in Florida, just enough to encourage my husband James and me to get back on our bikes and explore new off-road trails. Several months have passed since the last time I went mountain-biking, but I was feeling pretty confident I could handle easy “green” trails. (I use the term “mountain-biking” loosely, because there are no mountains in Florida.)
Croom Wildlife Management Area offers over sixty miles of trails and a few more advanced “blue” ones James wanted to try. We geared up, checked the air in our tires, and started out.
Only a few minutes in, I was starting to feel on edge. Compared to the trails we bike in the Tampa area, the elevation gain here was much more noticeable, and the trails seemed even more narrow. I struggled to get the speed I needed while still feeling in control of my bike.
James took the lead, and although he kept shouting tips at me, his skill level is light years more advanced than mine. What seemed like a gradual downhill to him felt like speeding off the side of a mountain to me.
However, I held things together until I rounded a tight downhill bend in a section of the blue, more difficult, trail.
“Peddle hard!” James shouted ahead of me. “Hill!”
I gave it my best, but my best wasn’t enough. I didn’t have enough momentum to get to the top and watched in terror as my bike started sliding backwards.
James jumped off his bike and grabbed my handlebars to slow my fall, but I landed in a heap of bushes with my bike on top of me, more scared than hurt.
After that shake-up, we came to a sign with two arrows. Next to one was the word “easy,” and next to the other was the word “hard.” I waited at the junction while James tackled the hard section and felt rather bummed that all I could clearly handle was “easy.”
That’s when I remembered there is a time for everything. A baby doesn’t go straight to walking. He crawls first. A girl doesn’t go from biking the smooth Suncoast Trail to off-road biking without a few falls.
Sometimes, we have to be content with easy tasks before we can dare to achieve harder things.
For an over-achiever and recovering perfectionist, that reality isn’t an easy pill to swallow. I like being challenged. I like cresting the hill toward success. I have to remind myself that some situations require me to choose the easy path, and that’s not a bad thing. It just prepares me for one day advancing where I want to be.
Be content with small beginnings
There’s a phrase in the book of Zechariah that offers encouragement on this topic. The context is the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and the people are feeling discouraged. The rebuilding efforts appear as “nothing” compared to its “former glory” (Haggai 2:3 NKJV).
However, the prophet Zechariah poses a rhetorical question to the people: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10a NKJV). In order to rebuild, they had to start somewhere. They had to start small.
I like what the Pulpit Commentary says: “Small as the present work was, it was a pledge of the full completion, and was therefore not to be despised. “
Whether we’re rebuilding or simply starting from scratch, we have to take baby steps. The first few steps might seem embarrassingly easy, yet we have to climb them first before we can get where we want to be.
Embrace the easy tasks and build from there
Despising “easy” tasks will only keep us from reaching our goals. We should never quit because we’re not ready for the advanced levels we want to achieve but welcome the practice needed to reach them.
The bottom line is that it’s okay–it’s necessary– to choose the easy trail until we’re ready for the harder one. The practice might seem unglamorous, but it’s the training we need to grow.
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During a recent trip to the Florida Keys, my husband James taught me how to use a tickle stick and net to catch lobster. If you’ve never lobstered before, here’s how it works. You snorkel until you spot two long antennas peeking out of a hole in the ocean’s hard bottom. Then, you insert the tickle stick into the hole to annoy the lobster enough to expose itself. While distracting the lobster with the tickle stick, you swoop in behind it with the net. Lobsters swim backwards, so poking the lobster with the stick usually sends it directly into the net.
Although the tickle stick is dangerous only to lobsters, the experience reminded me how the Devil will often use temptations to get our focus away from where it should be. When we’re distracted, we’re often unaware of the impending danger that even little wrong choices can present.
For illustration, let’s compare the wise lobster to the foolish one and see some parallels for our own decision-making.
Wise Lobsters Don’t Wait Around.
Not every lobster falls for the tickle stick distraction. Some of them, usually the seasoned veterans, immediately swim away once you get them out of their hole. They’ve either seen enough of their buddies get taken or escaped nets in the past to know that the tickle stick may be pretty and shiny, but it spells D-A-N-G-E-R.
In the Bible, Joseph also had the good sense to run away from pretty and “shiny” temptations. When his master’s wife threw herself at him, Joseph didn’t stop to admire her curves or painted face. He just ran.
In fact, he was in such a hurry to escape that the Bible says “he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Genesis 39:12b NKJV).
Joseph wasn’t about to get caught in Mrs. Potiphar’s net. During an earlier temptation, Joseph had reprimanded her with these words: “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he [Potiphar] kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9 NKJV)
If something shiny is dangling before you today, step away from it. You might be avoiding imminent danger or at least gaining some much-needed perspective. Always stop and ask the question: Would God be pleased with this choice? If not, swim away like the wise lobster.
Foolish Lobsters Are Too Curious.
Based on my lobstering experience, wise lobsters seem to be the minority. The reason is simple: That tickle stick is too darn distracting. It’s metal, shiny, and swinging right in front of their beady eyes. Of course, they want to know what it is.
When Satan tries to distract us from living for God or making wise choices, he often employs a similar tactic. He swings something that looks too-good-to-be-true in front of our faces. After all, isn’t that what he did with Eve in the garden? He appealed to all three “lusts” that I John 2:16 warns about: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (NKJV).
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6 NKJV, parentheses added).
Satan snared her with a classic “tickle stick” approach, so Eve never saw the net coming.
Don’t Get Taken.
James and I netted ten “keepers” and celebrated with surf and turf for dinner with family. We thoroughly enjoyed our catch this year.
Unlike lobster, Satan’s snares produce nothing that brings true enjoyment. No amount of butter can make them better.
The way not to get taken is to run from temptation. Where should we run? Scripture provides the answer:
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10 NKJV).
“Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14 NKJV).
Lord, may we always run to you and pursue the good paths of peace. Help us stay close to you so that we can easily spot temptations that would lead us away from your plan for us.
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Hello, friends. Has anyone else felt like she can’t catch a break? The last month has had its share of challenges for me, and I know I’m not alone. Today, I want to share some of my go-to Scriptures that speak encouragement to my heart. I hope these verses will be balm on any other soul that is feeling discouraged or dry.
The promises are in no particular order. I encourage you to look them up in your own Bible (I used the New King James version), and consider the rich contexts as well.
#1: Perfect Peace – Isaiah 26:3
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
#2: Hope in God – Psalm 42:11
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
#3: A Very Present Help – Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
#4: I Will Lift Up My Eyes – Psalm 121:1-2
I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
#5: I Shall Not Want – Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
#6: Take Refuge – Psalm 91:4
He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
#7: The Lifter of My Head – Psalm 3:3
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
#8: A Spirit of Power – 2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
#9: Is There Anything Too Hard? – Jeremiah 32:27
“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?”
#10: Mount Up with Wings as Eagles – Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
#11: He Heard Me – Psalm 34:4
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
#12: Power to the Weak – Isaiah 40:29
He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
#13: Come to Me – Matthew 11:28-30
“Come toMe, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon youand learn from Me, for I am gentle andlowly in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
#14: Hope and a Future – Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
#15 – His Compassions Fail Not – Lamentations 3:22-24
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
#16 – Be of Good Cheer – John 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, thatin Me you may have peace.In the world youwill have tribulation; but be of good cheer,I have overcome the world.”
#17 – The Peace of God – Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
#18 – Grace to Help – Hebrews 4:15-16
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
#19 – He Cares for You – I Peter 5:7
… casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
#20 – The Love of God – Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Dear Lord, thank you for your promises which are new every morning. Thank you for your faithful love for us. Even when we can’t see the purpose in the circumstances, we can look to You, knowing You control all things and supremely care for us.
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Last time, we looked at five check-points from I Corinthians 13 to help us evaluate if we are loving our spouse, significant other, and other loved ones well. Today, let’s round out the list with five more points. Can we truthfully fill our names in the blank? More than likely, we all have some areas needing God’s refining work.
#6: I ______ am not self-seeking.
Do you take an interest in what interests your spouse? One of the best ways to show your SO that you care is to actively engage with his interests instead of demanding your preferences. For example, James enjoys watching cross-country biking. I honestly didn’t know that was a “thing” before we met, but guess who now knows the top racers by name? Yep, I do. Go ‘Merica and Kate Courtney!
When we seek others’ interests above our own, we cultivate the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote these words:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).
Although Paul was referring to unity in the church body here, I think the mindset of humility has far-reaching applications for our relationships. We can love well when we put others’ well being and preferences above our own.
#7: I ______ am not easily angered.
There is never a reason to raise our voice to someone we care about unless perhaps his personal safety is in danger. “Watch out for that falling tree!” Yes, that would merit screaming. However, our common speech should “always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV).
Realistically, the people we love will anger us at times. We live in a fallen world, and anger is an emotion we experience. However, how we respond to that anger is up to us. If your SO makes you angry, express that you’re feeling angry and ask to talk after you’ve been able to work through your emotions. Responding in the heat of the moment will only hurt, not help, the problem.
#8: I ______ do not keep records of wrongs.
I once heard the story of a newly-wed asking for guidance from an older woman. The young bride complained, “My husband makes me so angry sometimes. How many times do I have to forgive him?”
The older woman said, “I decided my husband could do ten hurtful things, and after that, I would have a right to be angry.”
“What was on your list?” The young woman asked eagerly.
“I never wrote them down,” the wise woman replied. “But whenever he did something hurtful, I told myself that was one of the things on the list I needed to forgive.”
Such wise advice! Relationships aren’t sparring matches. Don’t try to count your love’s faults. Prayerfully examine your own. (See Matthew 7:3.)
#9: I ______ do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.
A relationship that delights in evil is headed to the gutter. That seems like a no-brainer, but how do we rejoice with the truth?
When we face discouragement in our relationships (and we will), we should tune our thinking as Philippians 4:8 instructs.
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 (NKJV).
Let’s rejoice in the beautiful parts of our relationships and entrust the areas that need work to God in prayer.
#10: I ______ always protect, trust, hope, and persevere.
When James and I took our marriage vows, we pledged to have and to hold, for better and for worse. Daily, we must guard our marriage by making it a priority. We must trust, hope, and persevere even when rain clouds darken the sky.
I admit that we’re still in the newly-wed stage. However, the other day James reminded me that we will always get to choose our attitudes toward our marriage. Our marriage will be what we make it. By God’s grace, I’m trusting for a beautiful, though imperfect, story.
Love Never Fails
You may have noticed I left off verse 12 from out checklist, the verse that begins, “Love never fails.” There is only one Love that never fails, and that Love is Jesus Christ Himself. He is our Model and our Example.
In our earthly relationships, we are going to fail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to love well. As a runner, I’ve always appreciated Paul’s metaphor of life as a race. I think it applies to relationships as well.
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,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).
Regardless of any past mistakes, let’s press forward and love well the people God has placed in our lives.
I hope this check-up list is helpful to you! Maybe you can use it as a dialogue starter between you and your SO. If so, click on the image to download the PDF of the full checklist.
May we all keep short accounts with those we love so we can be quick to root out and keep out any stumbling blocks to our relationships (1 John 2:10).
10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship and Free Download- @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)
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This month, James and I will celebrate our five-month anniversary! Each month, we’ve started the habit of doing a check-up on our relationship. It’s nothing formal, just a moment to pause and ask each other if we’re driving the other crazy yet. I’m glad to report that we haven’t!
In all seriousness, though, I appreciate this check-up, because it invites honesty, transparency, and a chance to make misunderstandings right early before something becomes a larger issue.
Did you know that I Corinthians 13 provides a check-up list of its own? If you replace the word “love” with your name, you have a basic check list of the behaviors you need to practice in order to love well.
Right, that’s easier said than done. But let’s give it a try and see how we do.
#1: I ______ am patient and kind.
Fill your name in the blank. I’ll go first. I, Kristen, am patient and kind.
Well, I typically am kind, but patient, not so much. Perhaps that’s why I’m thankful patience is one of James’ strengths. He helps bring my anxious heart back to center and reminds me that sometimes, God just asks us to wait. And that’s okay.
There’s an interesting connection between both these virtues and our relationship with the Lord. Consider these verses:
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7 NKJV, emphasis added).
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV, emphasis added)
When we are resting in the Lord and keeping Him as our center, we can be more patient with our spouse or in any other circumstance. Moreover, when we live in the light of God’s ultimate kindness and forgiveness, we more often remember to extend grace to those around us.
#2: I ______ do not envy.
Ouch. This one is hard for most relationships. If you don’t have a relationship, you might envy your friends who do. If you’re in a relationship, you might envy someone else’s. After all, according to social media, they’re perfect and have life all together.
The truth is, they probably don’t, and we don’t either. So let’s remind ourselves not to waste our energy envying. A synonym for envy is covetousness, and the Apostle Paul warns against this sin for one fundamental reason.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
We can be satisfied with our current relationship or situation, because when we have God’s presence in our lives, we have what we truly need.
#3: I ______ do not boast.
Do you often find yourself bragging about your accomplishments to your SO? If so, boasting might be a problem.
Although there’s nothing wrong in taking ownership for a job well done, Scripture only commends “boasting” when we redirect the glory back to God. For example, Paul “boasts” in his weakness so that Christ’s strength can be magnified in his life (2 Corinthians 12:9). In that same letter to the Corinthians, he also provides the guidelines for when boasting is appropriate:
But “he who glories, let him glory in theLord.”For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17-18 NKJV)
When we find ourselves craving affirmation, we need to be careful. God’s approval should be our primary concern (Galatians 1:10).
#4: I ______ am not proud.
The opposite of pride is humility, and both are attitudes expressed through our actions. Even if you don’t think this sin is your problem, ask yourself: How was my attitude about going the extra mile when my spouse forgot to do something? Did I mumble about giving more than my share in the relationship? Remember, pride looks out for “I,” but humility looks out for “U.”
Marriage has definitely revealed to me areas in my life where selfishness is present. Usually, pride rears its ugly head in “pressure-cooker” moments, such as when I’m tired, not feeling 100%, or had a tough day at work.
However, making excuses is not the solution. God’s grace is.
“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b NKJV)
That verse tells me God is more interested in my character than my comfort, but He won’t abandon me when I choose attitudes that please Him. He’ll give more grace as He prunes my pride.
#5: I ______ do not dishonor others.
Word to the wise: Never ever embarrass or belittle your SO in front of others. However, dishonor can also be a private matter as well. Do your words build up or tear down?
Our tongues hold such potential and also such danger. The Apostle James warns that the tongue is “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NKJV). Eek! “Deadly poison” should not describe how we talk to anyone, let alone the people we love.
Next week, we’ll look at five more check-ups for our relationships, based on this passage. Plus, I’ll offer a download that puts them all in one place, a great resource to share with the one(s) we love and start a conversation about how we’re doing.
You have a dream, right? So do I. We probably have more than one, maybe even dozens. If your dream isn’t brand new and you’ve started taking steps to pursue it, you’ve likely discovered that the path to fulfillment is something like the field of poppies that Dorothy had to cross to reach the Emerald City in TheWizard of Oz.
Those poppies sure look pretty, but [spoiler], the wicked witch has poisoned them to keep Dorothy from reaching her goal. Hopefully none of us are picking our way through a field of poison poppies today, but if you’re like me, you might be buying some Band-Aids.
Case in point
My husband and I both love the outdoors, but the primary difference between us is that he was born with natural ability and I have to work for every ounce of strength and skill I have. One sport he introduced me to is surfing, and last year, I shared my preliminary experience with you. Since then, I’ve improved … a little.
Understand that my goal with this sport is not lofty. I don’t want to metal in a sporting event or even qualify to participate in one. I simply want to get upright long enough to enjoy the wave and then get off without injuring myself.
The size of our goal doesn’t matter as much as how willing we are to stick with it. In that regard, surfing and dreams in general have a few common qualities.
To succeed, you will fall.
Falling off a surfboard provides a physical sensation that equates well to the pain of failure. You don’t just fall off a surfboard and land gently in the water. Your board might nose dive, catapulting you over it. You might get sucked under the water and feel like you’re drowning.
However, the more you fall, the wiser you become. As you practice, you will keep falling, but experience will teach you that even when you feel like you’re going to drown, you should wait a few moments before surfacing, or your board might land on your head. Yes, ouch.
Pursuing dreams is similar. You might get rejected, turned down, booed, told “that’s impossible,” or any number of scenarios. If you don’t quit the first time, the second time, or the hundredth time you fall, you will eventually meet success or at least approach your goal more intelligently.
To succeed, you will scrape your knee.
Be prepared. Pride and self-interests often take a back seat when pursuing goals.
The last time we walked to the beach with surf boards in tow, I had one wish: Please, please let me not get hurt today. You see, last year, I took a hefty chunk of skin off my left knee that required a bigger Band-Aid than even the lifeguard could provide.
For the first hour, I was getting the hang of things. I welcomed smaller waves and kept getting up on the board for some decent rides. The only problem was that since my waves weren’t deep, I was riding them into much more shallow waters. All it took was one wrong fall, and I scraped the skin off my other knee.
So now they match. Kind of. I jokingly tell James that thanks to this sport, I will have prematurely ugly knees.
The bigger the dream, the bigger the fight
Yes, our dreams sometimes leave us feeling scraped up. As Pete Wilson shares in his book What Keeps You Up at Night, “The bigger the dream, the bigger the fight you’ll face. In fact, the people throughout history who have been the most directly in the center of God’s will for their lives are the same people who have gone through the toughest trials.”
Wilson gives the example of Joseph, one of my favorite Bible characters. Talk about someone whose dream presented obstacles! He went from daddy’s favorite to a slave and a prisoner before God elevated him to Pharaoh’s right hand man. His life experience left more than scraped knees. But through all the setbacks and disappointments in his life, Joseph sought to honor God through his circumstances, and God remained with him.
Several times in Scripture, we find this idea of God being present with Joseph through every low point in his life (emphasis added below).
“The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (Genesis 39:2 NKJV)
“But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21 NKJV)
“The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.” (Genesis 39:23 NKJV)
“And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with himand delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.” (Acts 7:9-10 NKJV)
You know what these verses tell me? When we seek to honor God through our dreams, God is with us, too.
Surfing is but a picture.
Surfing is a personal dare I have yet to master, but it paints such a good picture for the obstacles we often face when going for the dreams God has placed on our hearts.
The bottom line is that we can’t give up on them, because God doesn’t give up on us. We have to keep buying the Band-Aids. One day, when we do succeed, all those falls will have been worthwhile as we feel God’s pleasure. Well done!
Please welcome author Jessica Lippe to the blog today! I’ve had the privilege of contributing to Jessica’s Christian e-zine for teenage girls, Girlz 4 Christ, and when she shared that she’d written a travel book for Christians, I wanted to learn more! As she told me, age doesn’t matter in travel, so whether you’re a young adult or young at heart, you can be encouraged by this book. Enjoy this interview and check out Uncommon Adventures, now available.
What prompted you to write this book, and why do you think it’s timely for Christians today?
Jessica: I’ve met other Christian travelers, but they seem to be few and far between. When Jesus told us to “go into all the world,” he certainly meant for at least some of us to take that literally. I think it can be hard for us to take on this commission due to lack resources to make it happen as well as lack of Christian community on the road. Uncommon Adventures isn’t the end-all solution to this, but I wanted to encourage more Christians to explore and point travelers to resources that can help fulfill their physical and spiritual needs.
What sets this guidebook apart for Christians?
Jessica: A lot of Christians struggle with their relationship with God during their vacation and other travels. While quick prayers for traveling mercies are common, being out of our element and busy with new things for some reason causes us to forget about the One who made this beautiful world to explore. I felt it was important to start out each chapter with a devotional piece.
My hope is that these devos create reminders and show that every element of travel is indeed spiritual. While we save up for a trip, we can remember that our treasure is where our heart also is. Each new restaurant or picnic we enjoy can be a reminder of the Last Supper. Whether we travel by train, plane, or automobile, we can be thankful that it was better than Balaam’s mode of transportation!
Share a little about your personal travel experience and how it inspired you to write this book.
Travel, writing, and my life with Christ have always been clumped together. Growing up, most of my travel was day and camping trips with my family and my church. As a teenager, I got involved with traveling around the Northwest with my church’s youth choir, and went on my first international mission trip with that same youth group. My first job was at a Christian camp I went to as a kid. Although I don’t keep an everyday diary, I started journaling daily on trips like these. Those journals turned out to be a great references when I started writing for devotionals and magazines at age 17.
After spending a few years working at Christian camps across the United States, I wanted to expand my passion for travel. Starting with a goal to spend three months exploring Europe, I’ve learned ways to travel effectively. After returning from my first trip to Europe and Asia and wanting to learn how to travel more, some of what I learned ended up being written down into a book!
Do you think travel can help grow your relationship with God? If so, how?
Absolutely! In reality, ALL of our life experiences can help grow our relationship with God. But I think travel is a particularly unique way to deepen this relationship. Of course, the exact outcome depends on the specifics of your trip as well as the ways God wants to work in you at this time. I worked full-time in camp ministry for several years, and still help regularly. Christian camps are a worldwide travel opportunity because they foster an environment to worship and hear from God. But I’ve also heard from God while staring at Niagara Falls on a solo trip. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures broadens your understanding of what God has created. If you’re open to it, even a walk around your neighborhood is a form of travel that can help bring you closer to God.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer a reader who wants to travel but doesn’t think he can?
When someone tells me they can’t travel, I immediately ask why not. Oftentimes, they tell me excuses that amount to the fact that they’re afraid. One chapter from Uncommon Adventures specifically addresses the common fears people have about travel, and other fears and excuses are busted throughout the book.
A big excuse to not travel is money. This one makes me snicker because it’s often said by people who earn multiple times my salary. I’ve worked in ministry outside of church throughout my adult life, a career field famous for being well underpaid. Saving for travel is difficult, but because it’s a priority in my life, I’m willing to make the sacrifices to get there. For example, my home may only be 300 square feet, but that’s not important since I get to travel in Ireland, the United Kingdom, The Bahamas, and the United States this year. It’s not all sacrifices, though. Sometimes it just takes creativity. Two chapters of Uncommon Adventures focus on saving, and I post tons of budget ideas on my website, JessicaLippe.com.
Jessica Lippe is a writer and adventurer. Her wanderlust has resulted with her living across the United States, including Oregon, Nebraska, and Ohio. She has journeyed through twenty-eight states, eleven countries, and four continents. Jessica’s favorite accomplished travel goal was backpacking across Europe. Visit her website at JessicaLippe.com
Uncommon Adventures: An Interview with Author Jessica Lippe – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)
When my husband and I joined a gym together, he introduced me to the box jump. In theory, it’s simple, a metal platform that you jump on with both feet at the same time. You can move to higher levels as you advance in ability. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
In theory, publishing is simple too. You have a great idea. You write it down on paper. You publish it, and it becomes a New York Times’ best seller.
And you laugh. Of course, publishing doesn’t work that way. Mastering the box jump isn’t so easy either. In fact, it has many parallels with the writing life.
Mental Hurdle: Fear
When I first step up to the box jump, all I can envision is catching my foot on the bottom and losing my front teeth. So, I stretch, procrastinate, and then finally step toward it. Deep breath. Swing arms. Grit teeth. And … freeze.
James gently reminds me, “It’s all in your head, you know.”
Mostly, he’s right. There are my physical limitations, but what’s really holding me back is my fear of getting hurt.
We writers have our share of fears, don’t we? Sometimes, we call them “writer’s block” where try as we might, we can’t find the next word of our project. We stress that we’ll never be able to finish, and our paralysis freezes up the wheels of our imaginations.
Other times, we face the fear of rejection from agents and editors. Although refusals are a realistic part of the writer’s life, that doesn’t mean they sting any less. Perhaps even more unnerving is the day we do publish something, and we fear no one will read it or like it.
However, as Scripture reminds us, fear is not supposed to be our focus. 2 Timothy 1:7 states:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (NKJV).
Although this truth doesn’t discount our very real fears, it does redirect our attention to think on what is true and what we can do through the power of Christ.