Follow the GPS

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Steve and I were navigating the winding backroads of New York State. We were pretty confused about our location, but, like everyone else these days, relied on our map app to get us to our destination. Can an iphone preach a sermon? Well, maybe. Here’s what I learned:

Sometimes the right way looks wrong. On more than one occasion, the directions told me to turn north when I thought going south would be easier. If we went my way, we lost time wandering or snarled in traffic. Trusting the GPS software got us where we were going every time, taking us through every tricky turn. Hmmm. ‘Sounds a little like the way I have to trust God even when his ways don’t make sense to me.

Sometimes there’s a cost to following instructions. Once we had to cross a bridge that charged a thirteen dollar toll! I railed a bit, convinced that with a map of my own and time to study it I could have found another way. Later, having asked plenty of locals, I discovered that the only way to reach our goal was to pay the price.

There’s always a way back after a wrong turn. Despite my best efforts, we missed a road or two. Eventually, our electronic guide would reroute us and get us back on track. There was an inconvenience or delay with each mistake, but none of them were irreparable.

Don’t you wish we had GPS software for life? We do! Isn’t it a lovely thing that we have the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the counsel of other believers to help us discern God’s direction? So long as we commit ourselves to following his leading, we can relax and enjoy the journey, safe in the assurance that he will take us through the tricky turns, enable us to pay the price, and lovingly bring us back into his plan whenever we err.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Embracing the Mire, Mud, and Mundane by Lucretia Berry

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Have you ever said ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be a part of something greater than yourself? Perhaps you said yes to a marriage proposal, or yes to a business proposal, or yes to a marathon whose finish line is multiple generations into the future. What happens when you say yes but don’t see immediate results? What happens when you don’t experience reciprocated gratification or get to touch the manifestation of your yes? When that happens to me, I feel frustrated and foolish. I question the invitation. I wonder if I made it up. I wonder if I am suffering from delusions of grandeur – if my ego is trying to play God. 

In the dormancy of my yes, I question God’s presence, attention, and intention. My discomfort in the waiting reveals that I am uncomfortable with cultivation. Cultivation is the development that commands growth over an extended period of time. But our microwave, fast food, have-it-your-way culture has shaped me to be at odds with slow, sustainable growth over an extended measure of time. And when we prefer fast-and-easy over cultivation’s demand for commitment, persistence, and endurance, we are destined to disregard the very things that will help fortify our yes. We fail to appreciate the mire, the mud, and the mundane that coexists with our yes.

The mire is those situations of difficulty or distress from which I immediately want to extricate myself. I have no desire to marinade in situational valleys or pause to appreciate obstacles in my path. I want all my days to be sunny days. But just as rainy days are necessary for grass seed to become a gorgeous lawn, I need rainy days in my life. I not only need plenty of rainy moments, I also need to recognize and appreciate how they nourish me.

Did you know that though grass needs nitrogen, it is unable to absorb it from the air? Rain forces nitrogen to the ground where microorganisms convert it down in the soil. During thunderstorms, lightning instantly creates nitrogen oxide, which grass absorbs immediately without the help of microorganisms. Oftentimes, life’s rainy days and thunderstorms aid and expedite our growth too. We need both the sun and storms. Keeping this in mind, we can embrace the mire of unforeseen challenges. We can feel discomfort, misery, and grief while knowing that growth is happening. 

Have you ever watched The Wiz (1978)? Dorothy and the Scarecrow find a golden-bright cobblestone path known as the yellow brick road that highlights the way to the land of Oz where they are to find the mysterious, all-knowing Wiz. Dorothy and her tag-along friends don’t know exactly where they are going or how to get there, but when they locate the path set before them, all they have to do is ‘ease on down the road.’ Oh, how I wish my path forward was that easy.

The journey that obedience unfolds is way off the beaten path. Faith can call us to walk a road that only God can see – one that is not so obvious, nor is it laden with gold. Oftentimes, our Creator is creating and cultivating something new for the next generation. So, sometimes we have to get muddy. We have to off-road it and chart a new course. We have to till the soil, plant seeds – get our hands dirty. But just think of the lotus; this most beautiful actually roots itself and grows in the mud. We can embrace our mud moments, knowing that growth is happening. 

And then there are those times when it feels like absolutely nothing is happening. There seems to be no measurable growth. It feels like my yes and I have died on the vine. These moments are marked as mundane and are characterized by the ‘un’ — unvaried, uneventful, uninteresting, and unexciting. In the mundane, I am exhausted by nothing happening. But then I consider the Chinese bamboo tree. In its first year, the Chinese bamboo tree shows no visible signs of active growth. In year two, there are no visible signs of growth. In its third year, still nothing. And in the fourth year, nada. At this point, we may wonder if the seed was rotten. We may wonder if we’ve wasted our time and effort. 

Finally, in the fifth year, we begin to see the Chinese bamboo tree peeking through the soil. YAY! Then, the seed that we had almost given up on grows eighty feet in just six weeks. During the four years it appeared dormant, the tree was actually developing a root system strong enough to support its potential for outward growth. Had a strong underground foundation not taken the time to develop, the Chinese bamboo tree could not have sustained its life as it grew. While we may perceive time as lost or wasted, we and our yes are being fortified for sustainability. We can embrace our momentary mundane and know that growth is happening. 

I am learning to be confident in the One who planted the garden in Eden, cultivated it, and walked in it (Genesis 2-3). So when I don’t see a stem budding above the soil, or have to take the muddy, less traveled road, or have to endure rainy days, I can confidently embrace the mire, the mud, and the mundane. I know that God is always present and cultivatingGrowth is happening.

This article was written by Lucretia Berry  and first published on DaySpring/(in)courage (September 14, 2022) here Embracing the Mire, Mud, and Mundane (incourage.me)

DaySpring/(in)courage has right of first publication and use on their sites and properties.

Like a Yo-yo by Beth Smith     Part 2: What to Do

Okay, I’m a yo-yo. So now what? How do I begin this trusting God thing?

The Bible is full of stories of God’s yo-yo people. They obeyed God until things were good (up), then turned away (down). Then they would worship him (up). Then they would worship idols (down). Psalm 78:37 (AMP) says: “Their hearts were not right or sincere with Him, neither were they faithful and steadfast to His Covenant.”

Are we any more steadfast than the people of the Bible? Probably not, but here’s more good news. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Romans 11:29 (AMP) tells us that God “does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.”

Yea! God does not yo-yo! He doesn’t love us one minute and reject us the next. He doesn’t call us to belong to him then, when he sees what yo-yo’s we are, decide to cast us away. God is always steadfast. His Word is always trustworthy. God and his Word—these are our only hope for relief from the yo-yo syndrome.

We know what to do mentally and spiritually. Trust him.  But what else can we do to exhibit our steadfastness? Paul wrote, “Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer life, being both alert and intent in your praying with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 AMP). We need to pray, not once-in-a-while, not just when we’re needy, but all the time. That’s something we can do.

Paul also wrote, “And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted” (I Corinthians 15:58 PHILLIPS). Has God directly or through his Word told us something we should do (or not do)? Let’s jump on it. Let’s be quick to obey.

Are you wondering whether or not God has good works for you to do? Check this out: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2: 10 NIV). This can be good news or bad news. The good news is that God has prepared us and made us able to do the work he desires us to do. The bad news is that if we aren’t doing them, there’s a lot of stuff not getting done.

Isn’t it great that God can change us and use us as he himself breaks that yo-yo mess? We’ll never be perfectly steadfast this side of heaven. But the next time we feel ourselves “unwound,” or dropping to the bottom, let’s say what Psalm 42:5 (NIV)  says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Photo by Geometric Photography on Unsplash

Like a Yo-yo by Beth Smith Part 1: The Don’ts

Once a few years ago I found a bag of yo-yos on sale for a remarkably low price. Why? Because they didn’t work at all.  I bought them anyway and gave them to some of my friends as a reminder that a “Yo-yo Life” doesn’t work either.

Because we’re human, we all suffer from the yo-yo syndrome. We feel

  • good, then bad;
  • happy, then depressed;
  • fearless, then afraid;
  • loving, then hateful;
  • confident, then anxious.

What do we do about these ups and downs? Sadly, we often do something like the old song says, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”. We turn to alcohol or drugs or food or screen binging or shopping or…anything that will satisfy our senses and numb our feelings. We need to get that yo-yo up! But none of our strategies last, so down we go again.

The ups and downs of life are a part of reality. We can’t run away from life anymore than we can jump out of our own skin. So, what are we to do? God is the only lasting answer. We must trust him with everything, and turn to him for help when the yo-yo is dropping instead of turning to short-term solutions.   

When we’re down, we tend to say, “Well, I guess I just need to try harder.” Ah, but here’s some great news. It’s not the trying, but the trusting that does the trick. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “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 direct your paths.” The God who saves us by his grace is also the God who is powerful enough to sustain us and to keep us steady, to stop the yo-yoing up and down.

(To be continued…)

Photo by Geometric Photography on Unsplash

As My Parents Age

As My Parents Age, by Cynthia Ruchti, is a terrific book. If you have parents who are over 70, consider picking up a copy. If you hope to someday be over 70 yourself, consider picking up a copy.

Today, though, I want to depart from my usual theme and tell you about some of the instructions I’ve now given myself, having watched the aging process assail my parents.

Take care of your skin. Dry skin is fragile skin. Fragile skin can tear and bleed and hurt. A good moisturizing soap and lotion may seem unimportant now, but it’s an investment in your future comfort.

Take care of your feet. A pedicure every once in a while may seem frivolous, but it’s also an investment in your “old person feet.” And, no, you don’t have to get your toenails polished.

Take care of your teeth. You know the routine. Floss. Brush. See your dentist. You want your teeth to outlast you. A century or so ago they seldom did, and we all tend to live longer now. So, be warned.

Take care of your weight. You think it’s hard to keep your BMI in a reasonable range now? Just wait until taking a run—or even a long walk—becomes impossible. Moderate your eating habits now so that you’ve created the habit you will so dearly need later.

Take care of your attitude. If you tend to panic or complain now, you’re going to find it nearly impossible to keep your perspective in old age. Life just tends to get more difficult. Do yourself, and perhaps more importantly, your younger loved ones, a favor. Learn to be happy for what you have, to trust the lord in all things, to rejoice, and to be at peace.

As the years creep up, KISS  more. Keep It Simple Stupid. That sharp brain of yours will probably dull a bit. So, as time goes on, make your life a bit less complicated year by year.

Enjoy your blessings! Notice what your younger self is able to embrace. Make memories. Love and be loved. Fill your happy bucket with enough to last you if and when life becomes limited.

And, now, please, those of you who have learned other essential tips, please, please, weigh in in the comments section. We all need to know what you know!

Photo credit: michelle dot com via unsplash.com

Shut Up and Dance!

I’m a Straight No Chaser fan. Last week, I was listening to their music (thank, you, Alexa) and heard their rendition of “Shut Up and Dance.” It made finishing up my household chores way more fun. Last night, I played it for Steve, and we danced to it right there in the kitchen. Today, we both had it stuck in our heads.

The words of that song are a surprising reminder of how we are to live as followers of Christ.

Don’t you dare look back. Yesterday is passed. Our sins are forgiven. We are to forgive the past hurts others have inflicted on us. While these are obvious truths God intends for us to live by, we all need to be reminded: Don’t look back.

Keep your eyes on Me. Me, meaning our loving lord. When our focus is on the Lord, we become aware of his all powerful presence, affecting our attitude and our actions.

You’re holding back. What are we to hold back from the Lord? Nothing! Confess all. Submit all. Give all. Obey all. Enjoy all.

Shut up. Okay, we don’t think of God as saying “Shut up.” But that’s just another, albiet slightly rude, way of saying “Be still.” Or, “Stop babbling on about your fears, worries, and hesitations. Start trusting our Almighty God instead.”

Dance with me. I used to talk about God giving me marching orders, but that phrase—cold and unfeeling—was never the right one. He does ask us to dance with him. Make no mistake, our Lord is to be the one leading—always. Are we often uncertain, wondering what the next step will be? Sure. Nevertheless, our lives with him are to be intricate and beautiful as we seek to follow his ways.

Here’s a link to that popular song, part of which has become a hymn of instruction and praise for me. I hope you’ll never hear it the same way again!

Straight No Chaser – Shut Up And Dance [Official Audio] – Bing video

And if you want a little more. Read on:

Phil. 3:13 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Oh soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Oh turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace


Helen Howarth Lemmel, 1918