THE UNEASY CHRISTIAN WALK

 

Recently we had a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  It was a great time, despite the record heat all over the Southeast.  We played miniature golf, we went to the campground pool, we went to Pirate’s Voyage dinner and show, we went to a museum of cars from “yesteryear” (that is another word for “when Grammy was young!”).  And, we went to Radical Ropes Adventure Park, a ropes course that had multiple levels of ropes, zip lines, etc.  It was an awesome facility. 

myrtle-beach-radical-ropes-course
Radical Ropes Adventure Park, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

All of the members in our son’s family had done ropes courses before and this one looked like a great deal of fun.  But, our daughter’s son, who was traveling with us and was the youngest in the group, had not been on a ropes course and he was not at all sure about this venture.   He was, shall we say, a reluctant participant!

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-reluctant-participant
The reluctant participant, at the beginning.

The personnel were detailed in getting the participants suited up with harnesses and hooks and clamps, helmets and gloves, and all were enthusiastic about the endeavor, except for the youngest grandson.  He was not so sure, even when the practice run was just inches above the ground, there was an instructor at his shoulder, and his Aunt was going to go on the course with him.

myrtle-beach-practice-for-ropes-course
Practice at ground level.

 

After significant encouragement, he persevered and participated while letting us know that he was not excited about it at all.  The adults in the group knew that this would be a growing experience for him – he would be safe with all the safety equipment and with multiple family members surrounding him, he would be on the lowest course so no fall would prove injurious even if the safety equipment failed, and he had a built in cheering section standing under the course and documenting his efforts so his parents could see his prowess!

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-practice-with-eyebrows-raised
On learning line, at ground level, with “angry eyebrows”.

 

The first couple of obstacles were met with scowls and an expression that said “I don’t like this but I’ll do it because you want me to!”  

However, after recognizing that he could accomplish these tasks, even though they were hard and it took struggle, a transformation occurred in his expression and his enthusiasm.  He still had to work hard to walk the line and overcome the barriers that were strategically placed, but his eyebrows were no longer “angry eyebrows” and there was a smile on his face that said “I’m doing it – look at me! I am going to conquer this thing!” 

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-working-heard-but-now-smiling
Working hard but with a smile on his face!

At the end, he was tired, but he had the grin of satisfaction glued to his face.  He had done something that he had been afraid of – he conquered his fear and had more self-confidence as a result.  He persevered and completed the hard task.

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-tired-bear
One tired bear who accomplished the goals set before him.

Perseverance.  It seems as though that is a theme for recent blogs on The Ruminant Scribe, but I believe the Lord is leading in that way for some reason.  [Most likely it is because I need the lessons that I write, much more than the readers do!] 

 

The Lord said that we would have persecutions and problems, difficulties and trials throughout our Christian lives as His disciples.   Some even say that if you are not experiencing persecution because of your faith, perhaps your faith is hidden from the world!  Bring it out in the open and the persecution will come!

 

Jesus promised persecution to those who believe in His name.

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.   Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

John 15:18-20

 

Persecution of the righteous is foretold in Jesus “Sermon on the Mount”:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

 

In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul is encouraging the Ephesian believers to remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, even though he is in prison in chains because of his preaching about Jesus, he exhorts the people to persevere and to pray for all the saints, including him.  Notice that Paul provides a description of the weapons we have at our disposal through the Holy Spirit so that we can persevere and withstand the trials that will come our way.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:16-20

 

I certainly am not equating the ropes course at Myrtle Beach to anything that “the evil one” would send our way [although possibly our young grandson felt this way at the beginning!].   We did not expect him to tackle the highest ropes course the first time he ever tried to do such an event.  

 

While undertaking the lowest course was something that was way beyond his comfort zone, it was also something that we had confidence he could handle.  He had his own personal cheering section for support, and it was a growing experience for him.  In short, it was a building block in his self-confidence for tasks far more important than just an adventure ropes course.  [In this picture he was waiting for his Aunt to cross the obstacle – notice his crossed legs, a position telegraphing “I’ve got this!”]

myrtle-beach-ropes-course-waiting-for-aunt-to-catch-up
Air of confidence as he stands on the platform between obstacles, with legs crossed indicating “at ease” rather than “terrified”.

 

The same is true in our spiritual life.  The Church is our cheering section in heaven and the local Church is our cheering section on earth, while the Spirit is our power from within. Persevering in one endeavor is but one of many steps in our maturing so that we can persevere in each successive task that God presents to us, some of which may strike at the point of our most significant fear.

 

Praise God that He is willing to lead us so that we grow, progressively, into the image of His Son.  Praise His Name that He guides us through our spiritual infancy into spiritual maturity as we bask in His love, rely on His Spirit to guide us, and look to do His will in our world. Praise the Lord that He has promised His grace and support as we go through difficult times. 

 

Father, thank You for your presence with us, even in difficult times.  Thank You for your Spirit who undergirds us with His power and strength as we learn to walk in faith and love for Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

COMMUNICATION AND HOW OLD IS GRANDMA?

I received an email from a friend that told the story of a grandson talking to his grandmother about current events. The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general. In reply, the grandmother thought about what was different when she was a girl of about the same age as her grandson.

The list was extensive, but here are some of the things she listed for him …

I was born before:

  • television
  • polio shots
  • Xerox
  • contact lenses
  • Frisbees
  • credit cards
  • laser beams
  • ball-point pens
  • dishwashers
  • clothes dryers
  • space walk or space station
  • computer dating
  • day-care centers
  • group therapy
  • FM radios or tape decks
  • Videos, CDs or DVDs
  • electric typewriters
  • Pizza Hut
  • McDonald’s

The email story went on with many more examples of the differences and then she asked her grandson – “How old do you think I am?”

From my perspective, she was not very old!   She was born in 1952 … I would have been 4 years old when she was born!

House in Shrivenham, England
House in Shrivenham, England

The email was humorous when reading it but profound in its message … changes have come to us so rapidly that we have not been able to really adjust to one set of conditions before new situations are presented to us.   Take the iPhone for example; phones are hardly used for phoning someone anymore; they are computers, cameras, calculators, internet browsers, maps, and games and new generations of them are issued before we know how to use the one we have!  

Or consider the family.  Rarely do you find entire families in the same city or state. There are many families with children and grandchildren hundreds or even thousands of miles away from grandparents, a situation that was rare 60 years ago.  Each of the pictures in this post reflect just some of the locations where our children and family members have lived.

Coastline at Myrtle Beach, South Carollina
Coastline at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

As I was thinking about this email and the changes that have developed in such a short time, I looked through a box that my husband brought to the house after he cleaned out a storage room. When I opened it, there were a number of things that had been retained for no specific (or good) reason. But then I saw a large envelope and, when I peered inside, I saw numerous letters and cards that had been to me sent as an encouragement during a spiritual retreat 20 years ago.

I opened and read several but had to stop when tears made it too hard to read the handwriting. Reading words of encouragement written so long ago by loved ones and dear friends, many of whom are now with our Lord, blessed my heart and soul more than I had anticipated, and surely more than they could ever have expected. A loving gesture of writing and sending a note, that was discovered anew 20 years later, still had the power to evoke strong emotion and thankfulness to our Lord for the blessing of the friendship and thankfulness to them for taking the time to send the note in the first place.

Welcome sign at the Texas state line
Welcome sign at the Texas state line

Then I thought about how I communicate with others, today. The family is spread out over hundreds of miles. We send an e-card for birthdays, anniversaries, and general greetings. It is a reminder that we are thinking about them on their special day, and we may even type in a personal note, but that’s it. What about notes to family members, encouraging them and letting them know that, even from a distance, we love them and are thinking of and praying for them. That too is most likely an email.

Communication is easier today than it has ever been. But it is temporal and evaporates at the end of the day.

In Bible days, there was no email or e-card to alert people that David had instructions for the troops.  No, he sent a letter.  See 2 Samuel 11.   The King of Syria sent a letter to the King of Israel along with gold, silver and clothing when he wanted the man of God to heal his servant Naaman.  See 2 Kings 5.  When Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem, he received numerous letters from his adversary, Sanballat.  Nehemiah 6.  Handwritten letters allowed communicating with those who were not with you physically.

Jefferson Monument in Washington, D.C.
Jefferson Monument in Washington, D.C.

This was true, also, in the New Testament. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Antioch with a letter from the church leaders admonishing the people to listen to those being sent to them.

Paul often wrote a letter to one church and then directed that it be read by the other churches in the area also. The letter to the Colossians is an example of this:

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.

Colossians 4:16.

Letters were read and cherished by the people in the church and then sent on to the next church so that all were instructed, admonished, encouraged and strengthened by the Apostle’s words.

Moses commanded the people, when they left Egypt and the feast of unleavened bread was instituted:

You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”

Exodus 13:8.

Coming into Albuquerque, New Mexico
Coming into Albuquerque, New Mexico

We are commanded, numerous times in Scripture, to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord and to tell them of how the Lord has guided and strengthened us during our lives.

Given this migration away from family togetherness, how do we communicate our faith to the children and grandchildren?

One way that we, in the 21st century, can communicate our faith with our children is by letters. It is easy to send texts and emails, and we can even Skype and see them, but perhaps, at times, we should return to the communication of Scripture and send some letters. Letters can be read, and reread, years or decades from now, after we are no longer able to communicate with anyone.  Perhaps we should send

  • Letters that tell of the Lord’s wondrous love for us.
  • Letters that describe the Lord’s guidance and strength during a hard time.
  • Letters of instruction and encouragement in the Lord, that say “It is because of what the LORD did for me when ….”.
  • Letters that witness to our love for Him and of our love for the recipient of the note.

May my life be an open letter of love for my Savior, and may I communicate that love to those within my sphere of influence in a way that is beautiful and pleasing to my Savior and in a way that will last, perhaps even beyond my own self!

Lord, give me wisdom as I try to communicate my love for You and my love for my children, parents, grandchildren, friends … help me to create a witness that will last and encourage those reading it to renew their focus on You, as You alone are to be glorified.