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Reflections

Is the Finish-Line moving again? This feels like Déjà Vu!

Twenty-seven years is a long time to work toward something. I have been running hard, with my mind set on the finish-line at the end of one particular race for more than half my life! But as the ribbon is coming into focus, I see movement there. Are they moving the finish-line? Can they do that? Will God allow it? As I prayed it over, I couldn’t shake a feeling of déjà vu.

I looked back in some files and found the following, which I wrote in 2012. (Note the photo of my now-almost-21-year-old-daughter, in blue, about to win her 5th grade track meet.) You know that feeling when someone uses your own words against you? Yeah, well, that is how I felt reading this. Finish-line déjà vu, indeed!

Girl about to break the ribbon: Finish-Line Déjà Vu
Sprinting toward the finish!

Victory! Conquered! Completed! I am a finish-line type of girl! I love the sense of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush at the finish-line of a race, a project or a goal. But God has been talking to me about being an achievement junkie… because, while I love triumphing over a “to-do” list, there is always more to do.

Arriving at the end of my “Chronological Bible in a Year reading plan” will not terminate my need for daily Bible reading. Finishing the laundry will not end the accumulation of dirty clothes. Even the glorious salvation of a loved one is only the beginning of the long and beautiful road of discipleship. God is faithfully helping me to realize that the only real finish-line is death, or the rapture (and even that finish-line is really a whole new beginning, but that is another subject for a different time!).

Words like endurance, stamina, strength, fortitude, perseverance, determination, diligence, and resolve are replacing ideas like “end in sight”, “light at the end of the tunnel” and “almost there” in my perspective. I need to be in it for the long haul – however long it will be – and realize that heavy leaning on Jesus is crucial. I don’t have the kind of devotion in me to tirelessly persist, but He is tenacious and steadfast and where I am weak, He is strong!

I knew it back then. Déjà vu – I know it now. I certainly can’t blame God for not preparing me in advance when there is evidence like this to prove that He has been teaching me this vital lesson for years.

My finish-line is not being moved. I am looking at the wrong ribbon. The one I need to be focused on is stretched across the edge of eternity’s shore. I’ll be finished when I arrive there, not before.

I’m so thankful for this finish-line déjà vu. And I’m so appreciative for your visit here on the Back Porch. I wonder… are any of you feeling tired and spent, but not yet done? We have Living Water available to us, for this race, through Jesus (John 4:10-14). I am pouring myself a big, tall glass. May I offer you one?

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Hebrews 12:1-3
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Reflections

How Hand In Hand With My Girl Plunged Me Heart To Heart With My God

Knock, knock, “Mima (pronounced like Meemaw), is it time for your lunch break? Can we go for a walk?” My granddaughter and I have been walking partners since she was born.

I checked my computer’s clock; 12:04pm. “It IS lunch time!” I was impressed with her instinct. “Go put your shoes on. I’ll get mine and meet you downstairs.” A few minutes later, we were out the door, hand in hand.

We were just past the corner when she started to complain. “Mima, my legs hurt, will you carry me?”

My eyes widened, “Oh gracious no! You’re much too big for that. If you don’t want to walk today, it’s okay. We can head back home.”

She shook her head, “No, I want to walk.” She returned her hand to mine.

We were headed to say “hello” to the goats, who were feeding in the open space between our neighborhood and the houses up the hill. We reached the trail that led beside their grazing grounds, and she started whining again. “Mima, my ankle hurts. I don’t think I can walk anymore.”

I thought for a second and decided, “It is still quickest to go back the way we came. Let’s turn around now.” She frowned. “No, I want to see the baby goats.” And she gave me her hand.

A child watching goats graze on the hillside
My granddaughter and the goats.

As we passed the tribe (did you know that is what they call a herd of goats?), she whimpered again. “Mima, please carry me. My pinky toe is squished, and it hurts really bad.”

By now we were past the half-way point in our loop and forging ahead was the best choice. But I had noticed that her shoes had been difficult to get on, and I feared she might really be getting a blister.

“Tell you what”, I bargained. “You can take your shoes off once we get off the trail and back onto the sidewalk in our neighborhood.”

She agreed. I held her hand and we started again, but a few yards further, she stopped. “I can’t walk, Mima, my toe REALLY hurts.”

I fell for it. I love that girl. I would have carried her piggy-back, but I slept funny on my shoulder last night. Instead, I held her like a baby – a big baby! – with her knees over one arm and her shoulders and head resting on my other. She giggled, put her hand over mine, and we continued on our way. I was getting an unexpected upper body workout!

“Mima, can’t you carry me like mommy carries my baby sister? You know, with my head on your shoulder?”

She was really too big for that, but a change in position sounded oh-so good. So down the hill I trekked, her head on my shoulder, my hands across her torso and her feet dangling near my knees.

“Good gracious, when did this child get so big?”

“Mima, I’m falling! Scoot me up!”

I mustered all the strength I had left, popped her way up and folded her waist over my shoulder like a sack of rice. She giggled and from upsidown, held my hand. I was so relieved when that sidewalk came into view! When we got there, I put her down and told her she could take off her shoes.

She quickly removed them, squeezed my hand, and skipped on ahead. As I trailed behind, marveling over how sore my arms were from a walk, my heart realized something…

What an amazing picture of what we do so often to God.

How do we do it?

We ask God for something and then complain incessantly about it. An example might be a:

  • Spouse
  • Job
  • Home
  • Car

or

We want God to provide certain experiences but then find fault and fail to enjoy them. These could be:

  • Vacations
  • Memberships
  • Friendships
  • Meals
Tent on a lake shore at sunset: hand in hand
Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on Pexels.com

It is exactly what the Israelites did in Exodus. They had been slaves in Egypt and prayed to God to free them. He removed them from the grip of Pharaoh’s hand, but they found all kinds of reasons to whine.

As I thought about the ways people around the globe, all through the centuries, have grumbled against God and His hand of provision, I wanted to fall on my knees in awe. He has put up with so much! He gives us what we want, and we change our minds and complain. He carries us, but we gripe, wanting more and different.

We all have a hand in grumbling against God.

I do it. You do it. All of mankind, generation after generation has done it. And yet He loves us. He still cares for us. His heart is still for us.

And I thought my arms were tired? The pain I felt was absolutely nothing compared to what Jesus endured with nailed hands outstretched on the cross, body bleeding, lungs suffocating, heart breaking… all of that for the grumbling, whining, never-satisfied human race.

Wow. I jogged and caught up with my granddaughter. Oh, how I love that girl! One day, I’ll explain to her how a hand in hand walk with her plunged me into a heart to heart talk with God. But for today, I’ll just be grateful that He loves me so perfectly and I get to love her.

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Reflections

Spiritual, Physical, and Financial Fitness

Do your goals change from year to year? Do you have both small and large things you want to accomplish? As the more seasonal obligations and hurdles have come and gone, three overarching aspirations have continued to shape my life. They are Spiritual, Physical, and Financial Fitness.

When my kids were small, I set the expectation for myself to do one thing each day to make progress in each of these categories. I still have the same ambition today, although my methods for achieving them have drastically changed. Whether you’re younger or older, have similar goals or completely different ones, I’d like to invite you into my reflection on Spiritual, Physical and Financial Fitness, then and now.

Spiritual Fitness

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:10, 11

Then: My kids attended AWANA when they were young. If you’re not familiar with it, the best I can describe it is like a Christian scout troop. They met weekly, had uniforms, and earned badges for scripture memorization and service to the church and community. With 5 kids in different levels of AWANA, I had several Bible verses to help little minds to memorize each week. My kids had different learning styles, so we made up songs, dances, hand motions, and beats to help with comprehension and memorization. I enjoy the fact that still, to this day, when a key AWANA verse comes up, we all start moving in sync. This was a time of wonderful growth and Spiritual fitness for me; a time when much of God’s Word was prominently fixed in my heart.


Now: I no longer have a built-in weekly Spiritual fitness program. I must be intentional about spending time in God’s Word. I set my own Bible reading goals and find Christian blogs, podcasts and online Bible Studies to follow during the week. All this plus church on Sundays and I still have a ton of room to grow in the arena of Spiritual Fitness. I will ultimately realize my goal when I arrive on eternity’s shore and am finally made perfect, as my Heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Physical Fitness

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.  No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

1 Corinthians 9:26, 27

The motivation for this one has never really been a struggle because I yearn to get out and move. The hard part is finding the time to do it.


Then: I had a double stroller and 5 kids. It was not unusual to see me out on the trail with two kids in the stroller, one perched carefully on top, one on my shoulders or piggy-back, and another walking beside me. Sometimes we would rotate who was where. If I timed it right, I could get out to walk when one or two were in school and that helped quite a bit. When I didn’t have a car, walks to the grocery store or the park were naturally part of our days and physical fitness was not difficult to come by.


Now: I still love to walk. I didn’t have to push a stroller or carry anybody for several years, but the grandkids have brought that back into my life recently. Although it is harder on me now, I’m grateful I can still do it! I do have to purposely plan the ‘daily’ part of this goal; not because I don’t want to be consistent with physical fitness, but because I often feel pulled by the ‘urgent’ at the expense of the ‘important’. (You won’t want to miss this related post: How to Distinguish Between Urgent and Important)

Financial Fitness

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 14:23

Then: Financial fitness was much harder when the kids were little. I did not work outside the home, so finding ways to make or save money each day required thought. We went on recycling walks, collecting cans and bottles to exchange for cash. We took outgrown clothes and toys to consignment shops. I made items to sell at craft fairs. I clipped coupons. The kids and I did what we could so the financial burden did not fall entirely on my husband.


Now: I have a full-time job. I still try to meet this goal daily though, so even on my days off from work, I am looking for ways to earn extra money, or save it, or both. Financial fitness will be a focus until we leave it, fat or lean, to the next generation.

The three main lessons I have learned over the years I’ve spent in pursuit of Spiritual, Physical, and Financial fitness are these:

  • Even baby steps are progress if they’re taken in the right direction.
  • There are seasons with every endeavor. Some seasons are easier than others, but difficult seasons are not excuses to quit. The seasons will change.
  • Creativity is key. If God has given a directive, He’s thought of a means by which it can be met. He can be trusted for inspiration.

Thank you for reading my reflection on Spiritual, Physical and Financial fitness as I’ve pursued it, then and now. What are the objectives you are chasing these days? Are they enduring or are they quickly attainable? Do you have tips to share about how you’re being creative or making progress?

Related post: Determination,

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Devotions Emotions

How to Reset Your Mindset Today

Yesterday was hard. It was that perfect storm of disillusionment at work, disappointment at home, and dissatisfaction in myself. I wanted to run, or box, or frantically clean the house, but I only had the wherewithal to sit and cry. Have you been there? Everyone quips “It’s ok not to be ok”, and I agree. But that was yesterday, and I don’t want to set up camp at my wits end. I need to figure out how to reset my mindset today.

When my computer freezes, I do a hard reset. I can’t close the apps or save my work; I have to turn it off and let it come back fresh. To reset my mindset, I must temporarily shut down my emotions, thoughts, ambitions, and perceptions. When I bring them all back on-line, I should only be able to access what I have previously, intentionally saved and that which Jesus has autosaved for me.

Phone charging: how to reset your mindset today
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Have you seen the HALT theory? It suggests that if I’m Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, I should fix those things before making any decisions or taking any action. It is great advice, and I’ve already decided that I will set my mental and physical self in a much-needed time out. To reset my mindset today, I must apply HALT in my spirit.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”

John 6:35 (emphasis mine)

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11 (emphasis mine)

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

Psalm 25: 15-17 (emphasis mine)

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:30, 31 (emphasis mine)

This post is real time. I am writing as I am doing in hopes that you might find it helpful and maybe share your tips with me too because, as much as I wish it weren’t so, I’m sure we will have further opportunities to perfect our stress response techniques in the future. My friend, if you’ve been facing storms of your own, I am so sorry. Truly, I feel your pain. I invite you to HALT with me in the truths of Scripture and let Jesus reset your mindset today!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus ( in Matthew 11:28, 29)

Have you had a hard day recently? How did you get back on track?

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Romans 8:6

You might enjoy this related post: Ready, Set, Pray!

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Devotions

Where I Stand

I was getting so frustrated! I could see it, but I could not get it. I was applying lipstick from where I stand regularly in front of my bathroom mirror and noticed a hair on my lip. It wasn’t long enough to be mine, which would have been easier to grab. No, it was likely one that had once belonged to my dog. I couldn’t feel it with my fingers or with my lips, but my eyes insisted it was clearly there.

I struggled long enough to be quite confused before I realized that the piece of hair (fur?) was actually stuck to the mirror. I just happened to be standing in a place where my lips were reflected in just that spot and I was deceived. If I had been standing three inches to the right or the left, the hair on the mirror would have blended with the reflection of my hair and I wouldn’t have noticed it. Had I been standing six inches to either side, I would have seen it for what it was – a hair on the mirror.

And my thoughts began to race. There was a spiritual lesson there. and it was this:

Where I stand matters.

Where I plant my feet can determine what I see and how I see it. If I am standing on the promises of God, I will see things as they really are.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31b, 32

But if I’m standing to the right or to the left, I set myself up to be deceived or to miss the point altogether. With so many social issues and tensions raging all around me, I don’t think the need for clarity has ever been greater. I cannot afford to see things askew.

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 4:25-27

Have you been grasping at something you can’t quite seem to get your hands on? Have you noticed that things appear one way and seem to actually be another? Are you having trouble getting at the truth through the trash? Maybe it has to do with where you’re positioned. If you and I consistently align ourselves with Jesus, He promises to keep our paths straight. And, from where I stand, that is worth everything.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5, 6

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.”

James 1:23-25
Categories
Reflections

God Used Fortnite

I love it when I am going about my daily routine and God interrupts with a completely relevant object lesson. It not only teaches me valuable truth and encourages my heart, but it gives me an obvious topic for my next post! This one came about in just that way. The fact that God used Fortnight to highlight something to me just makes me love Him even more. (Expect further information in a separate entry soon!)

Psst… Update: This promised ‘further information’ has been posted here:
Forthright about Fortnite

I was walking with my son and husband near a construction site nearby. One day it will be a whole neighborhood, but today it is mostly dirt and a handful of sparkling new model homes. To draw traffic to the models, there is a large balloon which can be seen from miles away.

My son commented that his first instinct, when he saw the balloon, was to check under it for loot. He also mentioned that he’d been awake into the wee hours that morning playing Fortnite. (I don’t play, but I have been told that it is a regular occurrence in the game to find valuable tools under a balloon that drops.)

Hot air balloon and flowers: God spoke using Fortnite
Photo by Tabitha Mort on Pexels.com

It struck me that my son had spent so much time in the Fortnite world, that his first instinct was to react to something from this world in the context of the other. And then it was as if God just spoke right to me,

“What if you spent that much time in my Word? What would you see differently in this world if you were that deeply immersed in Mine?”

Oh, right through my heart! I would love nothing more than to see this world, to understand its glories and its pains, through God’s eyes. And I can! I just need to spend more time in His realm.

If you knew me personally, you’d be as surprised as I am that God used Fortnite as a means to communicate with me. But He did, and He made His point sweetly and succinctly. I will think about this lesson any time I see one of these balloons from now on and I hope you will too! What is the most creative way God has gotten through to you?