Tag Archives: challenge

Take the Next Step

Norm Tour de Cure Ride

Norman – Tour de Cure Ride/American Diabetes Assoc.

Philippians 3:12 – “But I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Full passage: Philippians 3:12-16)

When I first met my husband, Norman, he was a runner. He loved running in the early morning hours while most of the city slept. But then, he underwent spinal cord surgery and needed to find another way to stay fit, so he started biking.

Learning the new sport tried his patience. When he first started, he still rode in the mornings, but he only covered a short distance. It didn’t take him a long time to develop his legs and stamina. He started riding to the beach. He began to challenge himself, striving for a quicker time. He set a personal goal to improve his ride each week.

Today, it’s easy for him to ride fifty or sixty miles. He rides in marathons and charity events. I admire that about him.

Our son, who inherited Norman’s love of fitness, was not a natural runner. Norman shared pointers on breathing, form, and technique. Finally, our son improved his run time because he refused to give up.

He told me, “When Dad said I needed to focus on one step at a time, I felt set free.” He said that he stopped worrying about completing the mile, or the time it would take. When he began to think about the next step, he was able to let go of the step he’d just taken and concentrate on the step in front of him.

His insight made me reflect on living with chronic pain and illness. Some days, there’s a mental struggle to get up and face another day of limitations. On the extremely difficult days, I’ve learned to shift my focus to God (Philippians 4:6-7). When I do, I find it easier to complete my work by handling one task at a time (II Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13). Instead of becoming overwhelmed by sadness, fear, and frustration, my concentration is fixed on the next step. I am more likely to have joy and peace in my heart after I have finished a job, even if it is the smallest item on my to-do-list.

Sooner or later, all of us will face a challenge (John 16:33; James 1:2-4; I Peter 4:12). Maybe you are in the midst of a difficult situation right now or coming out of a trial you weren’t sure you would survive. Maybe you are like a lot of us and fear that a faith-testing problem is on the horizon. The only certainty we have is that life often throws the unexpected our way.

We have to remind ourselves not to quit, cave in, or give up, but to take the next step, to press forward and keep going, because we know that God will help us and see us through (Psalm 34:19; Hebrews 13:5-6).

I pray that you will stay encouraged. Keep your eyes on the Lord and take that next step, no matter how difficult the path seems. God has promised to take care of you and He will never fail you (Joshua 1:5,9).

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Struggling Against the Wind

Stormy Sea

Scripture Passage: Matthew 14:22-33
Key Verse: Matthew 14:27(ESV) – “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Interviews with lifeguards fascinate me. I find it amazing that most of them say one of the most dangerous aspects of their job is reaching out to a drowning victim. The lifeguard has seconds to calm the victim and start the rescue. It’s puzzling to think panic and fear might be a victim’s first response, especially when the victim risks pulling the lifeguard under water.

The victim, who is full of fear, fails to realize that the lifeguard knows what’s best. He keeps struggling in the water and fighting against the very person there to help.

I think about a lifeguard after I finish reading today’s scripture passage. Most of the messages I hear always concentrate on Peter’s walk on the water. But I stop and think about the disciples who remain inside the boat.

Jesus tells the disciples to go to the other side. When they attempt to follow Jesus’ instructions, they are met with resistance in the form of a strong wind. When Jesus approaches the boat, the disciples can’t recognize Him because of their fear.

Isn’t this the same thing that happens to us?

How many times do we struggle to complete a task? Reach a goal? Follow a dream? What do we do when we face an unexpected problem? What happens when we invest too much time, energy, and effort to quit and turn back? Do we try everything we can think of to finish?

A sudden difficulty could affect our health, our finances, our relationships, or our jobs. No matter what it is, we don’t expect our lives to fall apart just as we make it halfway to our goal.

We are frustrated because we know this sudden and unexpected challenge has the potential to destroy what we have been working towards. Our focus is so intent on getting the job done that we panic or experience fear when help arrives.

Why do we resist Jesus when He sends help? Is it because we are so focused on how we think things should be done? Do we panic at the thought of doing things differently? Have we failed to recognize our lifeline? Are we distraught because help arrives and looks nothing like we imagined?

What is Jesus speaking to you today? Where is He calling you to serve? What is He asking you to do? Will you summon the courage to stop being so rigid about your vision? Will you say, “Yes, Lord,” without telling Him how you expect Him to work in your life?

Going back to our scripture passage, we see that as soon as Jesus steps into the boat, the winds die down. The struggle ceases. They reach the other side.

The disciples are in the same circumstance – in a boat, surrounded by water. The shift is in their focus. They recognize that Jesus is with them.

Likewise, as soon as we welcome the Lord into our circumstances, our focus should also shift to Him, and we must trust Him to complete the work He started in us.

Thought for Today: “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will toward pursuing it.” ~Steven Pressfield.

The Way of the Ant

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“Go to the ant…consider its ways and be wise.” (Proverbs 6:6 NIV)

Not too long ago, I read over some old journal entries. One of them was from a few years back. I wrote it after spending time outdoors with my son. That day, we had worked on homeschool lessons while enjoying a pleasant and sunny afternoon. We took a break and ate banana-nut bread.

Joshua dropped a small piece of bread on the ground. Not long after he dropped it, he pointed to the line of ants around the bread. Each ant crawled over the bread and left with a tiny crumb. The ants continued to get pieces of the bread, carrying them away their ant hill, and repeating the process all over again. There was one line going to the bread and one line going away from the bread. Back and forth they went. Until, finally, the bread was gone.

Joshua and I had amused ourselves as we watched those ants working slowly and methodically.

Thinking about those ants reminded me of the many times when I have been forced to schedule my day in sections. Sometimes in hours, others in minutes. Like the ant, I move painstakingly slow, often wondering if I will be able to cross at least one thing off my “to do” list. Even though my rheumatologist had already warned me about the hazards of my “Type A” personality, I still had trouble breaking the habit of organizing my days, setting goals, and working hard (stressing) to get each thing done.

I have to constantly remind myself that God remains faithful. He has given each one of us everything we need to make it through each day, each task, and each challenge – even when we have to make it five minutes at a time.

There are still times when I have to break my day down into increments of activity and rest. The moment I open my eyes, I know whether or not I will have to fight to get things done, or whether my day is going to be easier to manage. On those fighting days, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed if I think past my morning shower! I’ve learned that as long as I focus on one thing at a time, and then stop to rest, I can accomplish so much more! At the end of the day, I become excited when I realize all the things I got done – those very things that I feared would be left undone.

So no matter what challenge you may face today, look to God to be your strength. He will give you the wisdom you need to make it through. Don’t beat yourself up over the things you can’t get done, celebrate the things that you can accomplish.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the example of the ant. Help us to break our tasks into manageable pieces. Help us to organize our day and maximize the times when we have the most energy. Help us to understand that we really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Amen.

Seedtime and Harvest

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“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by preserving produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15 NIV)

 

This is the time of year when I begin to anticipate the warm days of summer. When we lived in Tennessee, my father and my uncle used a portion of our large yard for their garden. During the months leading up to the actual planting, they talked about seeds, soil, equipment, weather, and schedules.

Our children were small then and loved to watch “Pop-pop” and “Uncle George” working in the garden. Sometimes, the children were allowed to help. First, they helped clear the fallen tree limbs, stray rocks, or anything else that would hinder the tiller. Next, they watched as
Pop-pop mowed the yard and gardening area. Finally, it was time for Uncle George to till the soil.

Pop-pop and Uncle George never had an audience when they put down the
fertilizer. The kids always found a reason to stay indoors.

Finally, it would be time to sow the seeds or plant the seedlings. The kids understood that it would take a while for the plants to become ready for harvest, but that didn’t keep them from checking the garden every day. Rain or shine, they made the trek down to the garden.
They anticipated and watched for their favorite vegetable.

Pop-pop and Uncle George did all the hard work, but my children thought that they were also helping by being diligent in their watch.

As spring turned into summer and then fall, the crops would come in.  It was more of a game for the kids to harvest their favorites. I never had to try to get them to eat their vegetables. They believed that they had worked hard for the produce, and they wanted to enjoy their “labor.”

Sometimes I reflect back on those simple days of summer and find inspiration as I think about my children’s anticipation. It helps me renew my desire to keep my faith and trust in God stirred up on a daily basis.

I have to remind myself to look to God to help me accomplish everything that He is calling me to do. If I don’t give up and if I keep pressing forward, I will be able to perform my daily tasks and attain an even larger goal.

Regardless of the physical challenges or limitations that we face, we have to remember that we can set goals. We can have dreams. We can stretch ourselves. We can impact the lives of others.

It may take us longer. We may have to get creative in order to get things done. We may need frequent rest breaks. However, if we persevere, we will be able to see the fruits from our hard work.

It takes planning, just like my dad and uncle planned. All we have to do is look at the larger task, break it down into manageable increments and take each day as it comes. Of course, the schedule must be flexible, allowing time for the unexpected. We can’t beat ourselves up when we have set backs and delays because of our health. We must find a way to keep a good attitude and keep our focus on God.

He knows of every road block we’ll encounter, and He will give us the strength, wisdom, patience, and courage to persist.

Prayer: Father, thank You for seed-time and harvest, for the gardens in our lives. Help us to endure, to press forward, while keeping our focus on You. Don’t let fear keep us from trying to reach our dreams. Give us the wisdom to take each day as it comes.