Trust the Clouds Will Part

During our latest trip to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, my husband James, our friends, and I enjoyed several hikes. The first two days were clear and perfect. No matter where we went, we had good visibility and conditions (even though they were a bit chilly for this Florida girl).

The last two days were a complete reversal. We woke to cloudy, drizzly skies. The forecast kept changing, and we weren’t sure if the sun would come out or not. Regardless, we took two slippery waterfall hikes. (When in doubt, hike anyway.) The views were absolutely worth the effort!

By late afternoon, though, the clouds still hung heavy and low. We had one planned hike left, but Roan Mountain required the longest drive yet and had the highest elevation.

Since it was our last day, we took the chance. As we neared the parking area, we caught glimpses of blue sky through the clouds. For a few minutes, the misty clouds cleared, revealing breathtaking mountains and deep blue afternoon skies. Moments later, the clouds rolled back in, but we swung on our hiking backpacks and started the climb anyway, hopeful the clouds would continue to give way.

When we reached the first outlook, they did. Waiting there were several photographers, and one practically bounced out of his skin for joy. “I’ve been waiting here all afternoon,” he said. “It’s been nothing but clouds. But now, would you look at that view!”

We agreed. It was stunning and totally worth the risk.

When Clouds Don’t Part

Sometimes in life, we take a chance, and the clouds still stubbornly hug the sky. Okay, you know I’m not talking about weather anymore, right?

We put ourselves “out there,” only to be disappointed. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve submitted a book proposal or made a pitch, only to receive a rejection or silence that speaks louder than words. All the effort that went into crafting the proposal to specific submission requirements feels like a waste of time and energy.

Maybe you’ve trained months to make the team, only to miss the cut. Maybe you’ve studied hard for entrance exams or standardized testing, only to miss the mark by one point. Maybe you’ve carefully groomed yourself for a promotion or new position, only to have someone else pass you by.

Seriously, we’ve all been there and felt our hopes deflate like a hot air balloon. But does that mean we should stop pressing on, taking risks, and giving opportunity every chance we can?

Absolutely not.

What We Can’t See Behind the Clouds

Maybe the skies of your current situation seem extra gray, but just because we can’t see the sun shining doesn’t mean it isn’t. God’s Word makes clear He has a plan for His children, a plan designed to give us “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

On that hike up Roan Mountain, we went through a thick forest, which felt spooky in the late afternoon. Only the faintest hints of light sprinkled through the woods, and I found myself walking extra fast to get through the forest.

Waiting for me on the other side was a clearing, and just beyond, a view that stole my breath. The clouds had parted again, revealing a spectacular mountain vista. Even more stunning was the sunset we savored on the return hike.

We would have missed the majesty of clouds parting for a sunset if we hadn’t taken the risk to hike the mountain. That said, my encouragement to you (and myself) today is simple:

Take the risk. Hike whatever mountain you’re facing. And trust that soon, the clouds will part.

No matter what, the adventure is worthwhile.

~ Kristen

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review

Each year about this time, I start thinking about a daily devotional book to supplement my Scripture reading. Some of my favorites in the past have included Charles Stanley’s Every Day in His Presence and Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. When people ask me for recommendations, I sometimes hesitate because while I enjoy the ones I read, they might not be the best fit for everyone.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to Lindsay A. Franklin’s Adored, a daily devotional intentionally designed for young women (middle or high school age). The short selections for each day touch on issues relevant to today’s teens and offer biblical perspective on common struggles and questions, including:

  • Why should I attend church?
  • How can God’s promises help me weather life’s storms?
  • Does God care when I feel like an outsider and like I don’t belong?
  • How do I deal with bullying?
  • How can I invite God’s guidance into my life?
  • Is it possible to truly know God?
  • Why did God create me this way?

Throughout the daily challenges runs the thread of the reader being God’s adored daughter, someone who is precious in His sight. For young women today who constantly feel the world’s pressuring messages, telling them they’re not “good enough,” this devotional offers the much-needed grounding truth that they are unconditionally loved by and valuable to God.

Each daily reading begins with Scripture and ends with space to jot down notes, thoughts, or a prayer. Though not designed to be an exclusive daily reading, this devotional offers an excellent jump-start to a young woman’s daily quiet time. (Speaking from personal experience, I often need something to help focus my mind where it needs to be before diving deeper into God’s Word.)

A Giveaway for You

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to show a special teenage girl some love than give her something she’ll actually use to help build her relationship with God in the new year? There’s even space in the front of the book for you to personalize the gift.

Today, I’m excited to share a special giveaway opportunity. You can enter to win a copy of Adored! Here’s how:

  • Simply leave a comment below.
  • Share my Facebook post from my author page and tag me.
  • Share the Tweet below.
  • You can do one or all of the above!

I’ll announce the winner at the end of next week’s post, which by the way, you won’t want to miss! My friend and blogger Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com will be sharing tips on how to speak the truth in love.

Take time this week to let a teenager know how much you care and how much God adores her or him.

~ Kristen

Special thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency for making this book giveaway possible!

 

Tweetables

Adored: Book Giveaway & Review – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Book Giveaway! Adored by Lindsay A. Franklin – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Our Maker’s Metronome

Click, click, click. Beep, beep, beep. That metronome used to drive me crazy as a beginning piano student. If you play piano (or some other instrument), maybe that little device was the bane of your early musical years, too.

Of course, my teacher had my best interests at heart, and thanks to her persistence and the nagging of that metronome, my timing improved. All along, I knew its steady beat was right, but I still resented it.

Am I that way with God’s timing? Are you? We might say we believe His ways are best, but truthfully, we’d rather speed up the tempo. However, when we rush ahead of God, we miss His perfect plan. Two Old Testament characters learned this lesson the hard way.

King Saul forgot his place.

As Israel’s king, Saul enjoyed many privileges and responsibilities. Offering burnt sacrifices was not one of them.

During the second year of his reign, he faced a critical test. Israel’s enemies, the Philistines, gathered to attack. Their numbers were “like the sand on the seashore in multitude” (I Samuel 13:5 ESV). In response, the men of Israel fled and hid themselves.

Although the text doesn’t contain the message, King Saul must have sent for the High Priest Samuel to come sacrifice to the Lord and intercede on their behalf. In reply, Samuel sent word he would be there in seven days (I Sam. 13:8).

Can you imagine the tension building inside Saul? His forces were scattered, and he couldn’t do anything to rally them until Samuel appeared. His panic grew as more men disappeared with each new dawn. At this rate, he wouldn’t have an army left to face the Philistines.

Finally, the day arrived, but Samuel did not. Too impatient to wait any longer, Saul offered the sacrifice himself.

Guess what? The Bible says that “as soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering,” Samuel arrived (I Sam. 13:10 ESV). Saul armed himself with excuses, but the bottom line was that he had disobeyed God. As a result, Samuel declared that God would not establish Saul’s kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Do we try to take things that don’t belong to us—or perhaps aren’t God’s design for us right now? Losing our place in a musical piece might leave us embarrassed, but getting out of sync with God’s plan can only bring regret.

Abram and Sarai rushed ahead of God’s plan.

In Scripture, God made a covenant, an unbreakable promise, with a man named Abram.

  • In Genesis 12, God promised to make him “a great nation” (vs. 2) and give the land to his offspring (vs. 7).
  • In Genesis 13, God told him that his descendants would be like “the dust of the earth,” meaning that no one could count them (vs. 16).
  • In Genesis 15, God declared that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (vs. 5).

There was only one problem. Abram and his wife Sarai were old and childless.

Perhaps at first, Abram believed God without question. But ten years passed from the initial promise when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4). Maybe he needed to “help God along.”

He wife suggested he have a child with her handmaid. The result of that union was a boy named Ishmael, but he was not to be the son of promise. Instead, God told Abram and Sarai they would have a son named Isaac (Genesis 17:19-21). He changed their names to Abraham and Sarah to underscore His promise that they would be parents of not just one son, but of many nations (Genesis 17:4, 16).

God’s promise came to pass, though not on their timetable. Twenty-five years after the promise in Genesis 12, Sarah bore Isaac to Abraham, now 100 years old (Genesis 21:5).

Although God always keeps His word, we often grow impatient. We think our timing is better—only to complicate our circumstances.

God’s promises endure.

Is there something you’ve been praying about for some time? Does God seem to be saying no or not yet?

God’s Word provides the encouragement we need to persevere. As we spend time in the Bible, we can identify unchanging truths and apply them to our circumstances.

Let’s look at one of them from Abraham’s story. This man had his share of doubts, but the Lord told him: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward (Genesis 15:1b NKJV).

I wonder if these words were God’s way of reminding Abraham that greater even than the child of promise was His own presence in Abraham’s life.

Try placing your name in that verse. Say it out loud.

Do not be afraid, ______________. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.

The Lord is our shield and our reward—even while we’re waiting, even if God ultimately says no or reshapes our request.

God’s timing is always perfect.

We would never tell a metronome that it’s timing is wrong and ours is right. We’re aware, sometimes painfully so, that it’s on tempo and we’re not.

If we wouldn’t argue with a mechanized device, why do we argue with God? How often do we tell Him that He needs to answer our prayers … for a friend, a relationship, a growth spurt, a scholarship … NOW?

Even though we may think our timing makes sense, the truth is we can’t see or understand God’s schedule. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah speaks to this very truth:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

Let’s stop resenting His timing and learn to conform to it. Our unchanging God has planned the perfect rhythm for our lives, and when we follow it, we can enjoy His best.

~ Kristen

This post first appeared in the Girlz 4 Christ Fall Issue. To read more great content for teens girls, subscribe at girlz4christ.org.

Tweetable

Our Maker’s Metronome: God’s timing is always perfect – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Live Wholeheartedly

I love how God connects friends over the years and over the miles. More than a decade ago, I met Lyndsey when she married my older brother’s best friend (a great friend to my whole family). Today, they have a beautiful family of their own and live out west, but I keep up with them over social media.

Lyndsey also works with the Wholly Loved team and invited me to guest blog on their site. I’m so excited she did! This ministry reaches Christian women spanning all walks of life. Their website says:

We’re a group of moms, wives, and professionals who love encouraging women to discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ.

Today, I’m honored to be part of the Wholly Loved blog and encourage my sisters in Christ to do just that. Below is the beginning of my post. Click over to Wholly Loved to read the complete challenge.

***

Whole.

The word indicates completion, even perfection. A whole carton of eggs is one where none are missing or cracked. A whole loaf of bread hasn’t yet been sliced.

Although these things might be perfect and complete, they aren’t usable or enjoyable until we crack and slice. We must first cook the eggs before we can savor them. Slicing must come before slathering butter or jam on a fresh piece of bread.

Afterward, the carton and loaf are no longer perfectly complete, but they’re serving their purpose more fully than they were originally.

Life is a little like that carton and loaf. God has given us gifts and abilities. Maybe we’ve practiced them, polished them, but we hesitate to make the first cut—to share them.

What if we fail? What if no one listens? What if no one appreciates our efforts?

I have bad news and good news. Some people won’t listen or appreciate—or even begin to understand when we seek to live out the purpose God has for us. But they don’t matter (well, not much).

What matters is living obediently to God’s calling.

Please click here to visit Wholly Loved and read the complete post. I’d love to hear your comments!

~ Kristen

 

Tweetable

Live wholeheartedly in obedience to God’s call – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet) 

Faith that Moves

 

The follow post first appeared in the spring issue of Girlz 4 Christ magazine. I felt burdened to write it after moving at the end of last year and hope it will be a blessing to you, in whatever stage or place you find yourself. For more encouragement and inspiration on godly topics for teen girls, visit Girlz 4 Christ online.


Moving. I can’t decide what I like least about it: getting the boxes, packing, or unpacking.

Getting the boxes (if you’re thrifty like me) can involve borderline dumpster diving or soliciting the local grocery store. I felt like a puppy begging for food when I asked the clerk if she had any empty boxes. She threw me a bone and said I could check the empty pallet out back.

Since I’m a recovering perfectionist, packing boxes also poses a problem and takes forever. When I reach the unpacking stage, I empty the brown cartons with much less tenderness. They litter the hallway like landmines until I find scissors to break them down. Even once the dust settles, then begins the process of meeting neighbors, making new friends, and relearning the grocery layout.

Yes, I recently moved, and some of you can relate. Whether you’re moving with your family, into a dorm, or into your own place, relocating can be a stressful time. How do we respond to the changes when we prefer our comfort zones?

Thousands of years ago, God asked a man named Abram to move. His example shows how our faith can help us survive packing tape and uncertainty.

Faith obeys

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 ESV)

As far as I can tell, God didn’t give Abram any advanced notice he would be moving. The previous chapter, Genesis 11, records his family’s genealogy and their one move to a place called Haran, where they all settled together (verse 31).

The word settled makes me imagine a community playground for the cousins, family cookouts by the campfire, and all the comforts of home.

Now, God called Abram to uproot his immediate family and leave behind his relatives. Doing so meant he would likely never see them again.

Has God asked you to make a hard choice? Sometimes, just “growing up” and moving out can bring mixed emotions. (Other times, both parents and teens can’t wait for the process to start!)

Often, we’re reluctant to give up the familiar, but when God calls us to go somewhere or do something, we can know He has our best interests at heart.

And so, Abram went. He packed up everything, even though he didn’t have an address to give the moving truck.

Faith obeys, even when it can’t see beyond the very next step.

Faith starts over

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:4)

Moving at any age is hard, but can we even imagine what starting from scratch at seventy-five would have felt like?

Granted, life expectancies were longer in Abram’s day. His father, Terah, died at 205 years of age (Genesis 11:32). However, in many ways, life was harder. People traveled in caravans but not the mini-van kind. Horses and camels, not cars, provided much slower transportation.

When we think of moving, our biggest concerns are making friends at a new school, learning to live with roommates, or figuring out which aisle of the neighborhood Publix stocks Edy’s® cookie dough ice cream. (Yes, it’s my favorite.)

Abram had to worry about finding pasture for his livestock, digging a well, protecting his company from marauders, and keeping the peace among his traveling group. Turns out, his nephew Lot’s herdsmen didn’t like Abram’s, but that’s another story (Genesis 13:7).

When God asks us to “start over,” how can we make the best of the situation?

  • Focus on what we’ve gained, not on what we’ve lost. Practice contentment in “whatever situation” we find ourselves, like the Apostle Paul did (Philippians 4:11).
  • Put the “interests of others” above our own (Philippians 2:4). When we look for ways to bless others, we find ourselves blessed in return. No place feels more like home than one graced with hospitality.
  • Remember that God stays by our sides during times of change. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (I Thessalonians 5:24).

Faith trusts

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

If you’re going through a transition, move or otherwise, the future can feel uncertain, even scary. More than ever, we need to cling to God’s promises.

That’s what Abram did, and God promised him some things that seemed impossible! After all, his wife Sarai was barren (Genesis 11:30), and though seventy-five wasn’t the end of the road for him, he wasn’t a spring chicken.

But Abram believed God would do what He said (Romans 4:3). Yes, at times his faith wavered and he made some poor choices, but he continued to trust God to accomplish what He had promised.

And guess what? God did.

What promises help strengthen your faith? Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Joshua 1:9
  • Psalm 32:8
  • Psalm 84:11
  • Psalm 138:8
  • Psalm 139:9-10

I challenge you to look them up … And please share some of your own in the comments below!  Your favorite promise might just be what someone else needs to hear.

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Faith that Moves – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

When you can’t see the next step – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

3 Freeing Truths to Fight Busyness

If you’ve been joining me here for a while, you might remember my keyword for 2017: Simplicity.

How’s that going for me? I’ll admit: not the way I’d planned. Truth is that I’m busier than ever. In fact, each month adds something new to my never-ending list. Maybe you can relate.

How do we fight against the bully of busyness? I wish I could outline three steps to a simpler life, but I’m on this journey with you. However, here are some freeing truths I’m discovering that may help us keep life in perspective.

#1: My best doesn’t have to be perfect.

Oh, trust me, I want it to be. I finished my first content edit for The Revisionary this weekend and even after pressing “send” on the email to my editor, I found myself worrying I missed something.

Then, I stopped and laughed. I’m sure I did! But if there’s an omitted Oxford comma, or if I could have substituted a few more synonyms for my ‘weasel’ words, the world won’t end.

God doesn’t ask for perfect. He asks for obedience. One of my favorite verses is Micah 6:8, which speaks this liberating truth so well.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

Sure, do your best, but trust God for the results.

#2: Interruptions are opportunities.

Ouch. This one is really hard. I’m a planner, and if something isn’t on my calendar, it probably isn’t going to happen.

But then I get a phone call or a text message. Or my neighbor stops me during my run to frantically ask if I’ve seen her missing dog. (See last week’s post to become more intentional in loving our neighbors.)

These are opportunities, or perhaps reminders from God, that life isn’t about me and my agenda.

Even though I can’t unpack the busyness out of my schedule, I can press pause and allow God room to work.

#3: God’s best is different than expected, and that’s okay. It’s better.

Has your life ever taken a U-turn? Maybe you thought you had the future figured out, and all of a sudden, your dreams deflate. Life hands you lemons.

Many of us think that if we just work hard enough or wait long enough, we can blow the air back into our balloons and squeeze lemonade out of the lemons. But what we often fail to see is that the “mess” is God’s plan. Even though we may not recognize it at first, there’s beauty and design right here, right now.

In her book I Don’t Wait Anymore, Grace Thornton shares why we shouldn’t wait for our pre-planned lives to materialize but instead embrace the life God’s given us today.

“And because I know it’s Him [God], I trust that whatever happens isn’t ruining my story—it’s actually writing the story He wants me to write. And that’s the one that’s filled with the most joy” (108).

Joy. Right where you are. Right where I am. Don’t waste the present because it’s not perfect. (There’s that word again.)

Finding Simplicity in the Busyness

Simplicity is still my theme this year and something I treasure. Sunsets and Saturday pizza with my family are the types of things I like best.

However, I can’t avoid the busyness of life. There are people to love, tasks to do, deadlines to meet, and commitments to keep. No matter how I try to free up my calendar, more “stuff” fills the white space.

Since I can’t escape a full schedule, I pray God will give me the grace to handle my heaping plate with joy.

How do you fight the bully of busyness? Do you have a favorite Scripture that keeps life in perspective for you? Please share as a comment below.

Kristen

 

Tweetables

How do you fight the bully of busyness? – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

3 Freeing Truths to Fight Busyness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Street Stewardship: Our Calling and God’s Commission

As some of you know, I moved at the end of last year. After the mad rush to pack, clean, shuffle, and then repeat, I’ve settled into a cozy little place. And a bit of complacency.

  • Do I really need to paint that room? Nope.
  • Can I live without a pull-down attic access? Yep.
  • Gutters? Maybe this summer.

There’s nothing wrong with catching a break from home improvement projects. There is, however, a problem with complacency in other aspects of stewardship.

Yes, stewardship. A home is a blessing, a burden, and an opportunity all wrapped in one. I’m not only responsible for my home itself but also for what surrounds it.

And I’m not talking about the fence that I may or may not get around to adding.

Beyond the survey flags and sidewalks are people. We call them our neighbors. But how many of us know them? How many of us care about them?

The Second Commandment

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22: 37-40

Jesus’ words to the lawyer in Matthew 22 aren’t just a metaphor for selfless living. They’re a mission for loving the people next door.

You mean the sweet ones, like the little girl and grandmother? Oh, the noisy ones, too? Yes, all of them.

My Bible study group is going through a five-week course on leading small groups in our homes, with the purpose of developing relationships with the people on our streets.

One of the resources we’re using is The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak. Through a simple exercise, the book opened my eyes to how many of us, myself included, have supported missionaries around the world but failed to take the great commission to our neighborhoods.

The exercise goes like this: Draw a grid, three squares high and three squares wide. Put your house address in the middle. Can you add the names of your eight closest neighbors to the surrounding boxes? Beyond that, do you know anything about them, beyond their names?

Not going to lie. I filled two squares, and six empty ones stared back at me. I’ve been in my house not even three months, but that’s still lame.

Who’s the man in the wheelchair with all the dogs? Why does he look so sad? Why does the lady down the street sit outside with an elderly gentleman? What are their names, their stories?

I don’t know, but I need to step outside my comfort zone and find out.

Conflicts

On this site, I focus on God’s calling—on my life and yours—and how we can think truthfully and live daringly to fulfill it. I talk a lot about books, simply because writing is one area I feel God’s hand on my life, and like many of you, I enjoy discovering quality books by other authors.

But what good is sharing books if we don’t put words into action?

We can’t fulfill our calling if we miss God’s commission. We can’t get so busy with our work that we forget the reason we’re doing it.

Closing Thought

Of all the homes I could have purchased (and tried to purchase), God led me to this one.

The reason has to be more than my own comfort and convenience. Who knows what hurting life I can reach? Who knows which lonely soul needs a friend? And who knows what blessing my neighbors will be to me if I just take the time to know them?

God, open my eyes to see—really see—the world just beyond my driveway and give me a heart to love my neighbors as myself.

Let’s start by praying for our neighbors. My Bible study is doing “prayer walks” in our neighborhoods where we simply pray for the people on our streets and opportunities for “open doors.” (It’s funny how often we use that expression but never in terms of our neighbors.)

Will you join me?

~ Kristen

 

Tweetables

Street Stewardship: Our Calling & God’s Commission – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

We can’t fulfill our calling if we miss God’s commission. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

 

Trust and Obey

fcwc-quoteMy grandmother’s favorite hymn was “Trust and Obey.” As a little girl, I liked the hymn just because she did. Now that she’s gone, its beautiful simplicity and her memory endear it even more to me.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus.

Sometimes, however, that faith gets tried with fire.

As a missionary wife and mother, my grandmother experienced death threats against her husband, buried her firstborn son in South America, and before her own home-going much later in life, suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s.

Trust and obey?

Last week, author and teacher Dr. Dennis E. Hensley or “Doc Hensley” served as keynote speaker at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference where he challenged writers to pursue their call, regardless of the doubts they have or “giants” they might face. He shared from God’s Word in Deuteronomy where God clearly mapped out the battle plan for Israel to conquer the Promised Land. God told Israel to go and take it, but the people focused so much on the impossible-looking details of the task that they refused. In consequence, all but Joshua and Caleb died in the wilderness and missed out on God’s best blessings.

“We don’t need to know God’s plan,” Doc Hensley said. “We just have to obey his orders.”

How God orchestrates his end-goal is for him to decide. We just have to take the next step and then the next one after that, in child-like obedience.

What “orders” has God given you today? Are you willing to obey them, regardless if the details look possible? 

Trust and obey.

Kristen

 

Tweetable

Trust God and obey his orders. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

The Path of Resistance

resistanceLast week, I went biking on a particularly windy day. Starting down the trail, my dirt bike raced along without much effort on my part.

The return home, however, was not such a breeze. With head down, I peddled hard into the wind and made much slower progress. My thighs started to burn.

Resistance brings pressure, sweat, and sometimes pain; I’m not just talking about the kind that comes from biking into the wind.

Life presents us with resistance. In school, we have to work hard and figure out teacher expectations to earn good grades. In our jobs, we might have to deal with unpleasant customers, co-worker conflicts, or project deadlines. Good relationships also don’t come naturally but require honesty and patience to resolve differences.

We writers know all about resistance. Editors may return our queries with polite or critical rejections. We may have a deadline looming, and suddenly, our fingers feel frozen on the keyboard.

Chances are, most of us complain about resistance.

However, let’s take a different approach. If teachers handed out A’s like candy, we would never discover our weaknesses or learn from our mistakes and improve. If editors drew smiley faces on every writer’s proposal, the market would be flooded with half-developed plots and weak characters (books no one wants to read).

Resistance makes us better, stronger. We can’t grow without it.

The need for endurance

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul explained the need for a character trait that knows how to handle resistance. This quality is endurance.  In I Corinthians 9:24-27, he compared the Christian life to an athlete who can win a race only if he exercises self-control and disciplines his body. Resistance training helps the athlete succeed when the race counts.

The truth is, however, that none of us enjoys push-backs and disappointment. To appreciate them, we have to look beyond the moment.

20170130_073655One way to help keep the goal in mind is to remember past finish lines crossed. I’m a visual person, so you’ll see pictures of physical dares I’ve met around my house (usually in the form of adventures with my brother). Recently, I’ve also started keeping a gratitude journal. These entries remind me that God has always been faithful in tough spots in the past, and He’s not going to quit on me (even when I’m tempted to quit on myself).

Starting is easy. Finishing is hard work. But it’s worth it.

The prize before us

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it (I Corinthians 9:24).

As I biked home, I turned my gaze upward. In the sky, birds glided and swooped. The same wind that fought against me allowed them to soar.

When you’re faced with resistance, whether in your spiritual walk or personal life, press on. Set your eyes on the prize. (Make sure you have one picked out before you start!)

The prize I’m running for is to hear my Savior Jesus Christ tell me well done one day:

  • Well done for loving the people in your life, even when they’re hard to love.
  • Well done for being faithful where I place you, even when you’d rather be somewhere else.
  • Well done for listening for my voice, even when I seem silent.
  • Well done for writing the words and stories I’ve given you to tell, even if you never know what impact (if any) they will have.

One day, I pray I’ll hear words like these. Until that day, I say amen to what Paul said in Philippians 3:14.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

What prize do you have in sight? What well done do you want to hear? 

Today, embrace the resistance. One day, the wind that buffets you may give you wings.

Kristen

 

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Ordinary People, Abundant Power

super-power-1Have you noticed a common thread among superheroes? They have lowly origins, rise to unlikely greatness, and often have Achilles’-heel-like weaknesses.

Think about it. Spiderman was a whimpy teenager until a spider bit him. Captain America couldn’t even meet the enlistment requirements. Superman was superhuman unless kryptonite came into the picture.

Does anyone remember I-Man? My brothers liked this movie from the 80s, so I watched it many times in my childhood. I-Man breathed extraterrestrial space dust that made him virtually unstoppable. But if he were left in the dark, his cells would die, and well, so would he.

He also had a penchant for stealing all the cream for his coffee. I may be guilty of this habit myself.

We cheer for these big-screen heroes because many started like us: ordinary people. However, we don’t have to inhale space dust to have super power.

Today, we’re going to hear more from Ashley, Hannah, and Victoria on how we can tap into our Source of strength and find some supersized encouragement for our daily lives.

Tap into God’s Power

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God (2 Corinthians 3:5 NKJV).

Hannah: God does not want to make it hard for us to receive Him and the “power” He offers freely to us. We can easily tap into this “power”; we must start by trusting in God, believing that His Son, Jesus, died and rose again, and have faith in our God. Once you become a Christian, God will offer His everlasting help to you. God’s power will become more evident to you if you give an effort to grow closer to Him by prayer and time in His Word; if we truly want to know God’s power, we will want to get to know Him first.

Ashley: We should get our power from God. We simply need to admit that we need God to help us, and He’ll be there for us.

For reflection: What fears or foes are you facing? Have you asked God for His help? 

Don’t Go Solo 

Victoria: No matter where I am at with the Lord, I can never achieve perfection. I need to constantly be growing in my faith with Him.

Hannah: God has the ability to strengthen me when I feel weak. If I have true fear for God, then that’s all that really matters. My relationship with God is ten times more beautiful than I am, and that’s exactly how I want my life to be, because a relationship with God is the most stunning thing about a person; at least, it should be.

For reflection: Do you try to “fix” your problems alone? Don’t. Seek the Lord, and surround yourself with friends and family who can walk this journey with you. 

Be Encouraged Today 

I asked these young ladies what they would tell someone who’s struggling to believe God is powerful enough to handle any difficulty. Here’s what they had to say.

Ashley: I would tell them that God is bigger. God is bigger than anything and everything he could be going through. I know it may be hard to trust God because we can’t physically see Him, but He will get us through all our struggles (I Peter 5:7).

Victoria: I would share with him the fact that the God who made everything thought that the world needed one of him too. We must always remember that God provides and the fact that one door closes so another can open.

Hannah: I have come to the realization that God doesn’t explain exactly how or why He does what He does or lets things happen how they happen. He lets difficulties occur to test our belief in Him and His power to work things out. God wants us to trust Him completely, and we can’t do that unless we learn how to. So when you feel as though God doesn’t have enough power to heal your broken heart, fix your sadness, or change your doubt to belief, just remember that God has enough power to raise people from the dead, make the blind see, the lame walk, the sinners believe, and He holds you in the same hands that He created the world with. God’s power is impossible to totally comprehend, but that does not make it impossible.

Parting Thought

Thank you, young ladies, for your example of faith and words of encouragement!

I love that last part Hannah shared: God’s power is impossible to totally comprehend, but that does not make it impossible.

We may all be rather ordinary, but God’s power knows no limits. Nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37).

That’s pretty super. Don’t you agree?

~ Kristen

 

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