Yours Vs. Mine

I just got off the stationary exercise bike at our house. I typically ride six miles when I am using this bike for cardio exercise, and it usually takes me about 22-23 minutes to complete that six miles. Sometimes I pause it to jump off and do some circuit calisthenics, and so my routine may take a little longer. But by the time I’m done, I’ve worked up a good sweat, my heart has pumped at a good pace, and my muscles feel that they have been well-used.

Now, I know that there may be someone reading who is a fitness fanatic. You read those numbers, and you are severely underwhelmed. Perhaps you even did the math while you read and quickly estimated that my biking is almost a four-minute mile. Then you may have thought, “Allen, don’t you know that there are plenty of people who run four-minute miles? You’re not doing very good exercising if you are only biking a four-minute mile.”

But here’s the thing… I’m not competing against those people. I’m not in a race. I’m not working toward a personal record. Nothing wrong with those things. It’s just not what I’m setting out to accomplish. I’m simply trying to conquer another day of cardio to keep my body in good health. The goal is different. So, it’s not comparing apples-to-apples.

This is where we often get into trouble. We look down on ourselves because we don’t feel like what we are doing compares to what someone else is accomplishing. We feel like our four-minute mile on an exercise bike isn’t as good as someone else’s four-minute mile on foot in a marathon. But we need to focus on what we are trying to accomplish.

The writer of Hebrews says we are to run the race God has set before us. Not the race He has set before other people. The race He has set before us. When we do this, we honor Him and accomplish our assignment more effectively.

You don’t have to keep up with someone else. You don’t have to give as much as they give… or serve how they serve… or worship the same way they worship. You do have to be true & faithful to what God has set in front of you to do if you want to truly succeed in life. And when you focus on the race set before you, you’ll see yourself succeeding more and more.

So, if you’re not impressed with my speed on the exercise bike, that’s okay. I’m not trying to impress or out-do anyone else. I’m just trying to stay healthy so I can honor God with my life and be here for my family and those I serve. Every time I knock out another six miles in 22 minutes, I wipe the sweat from my brow and feel the success of victory over my own laziness.

For the record, I’m not trying to make my distance or time what you need to strive for either. You’ve got your own race set out before you. So get out there, and do what you’re meant to do. You’re going to be great!

The Unseen New

This week, Alex has been learning about the moon in his science studies. He’s been learning about the moon’s atmosphere (or lack thereof), lunar eclipses, phases of the moon and so forth.

One interesting little piece of information which emerged as he learned is that we cannot see a new moon. Each month, the moon goes through phases, and we can see most of them. We can see the crescent moon and the full moon, but we cannot see the new moon. It’s not that the moon has gone away or ceased to exist. It’s just that we can’t see it at the moment.

The same is true in our lives. God lovingly leads us through different phases. In a lot of those phases, we can see what God is up to. Others around us can tell what God is doing in us and through us. But sometimes when God is starting something new in us, through us and for us, we cannot see what He’s doing.

In fact, you may look at your life right now and think that God isn’t working at all. But the truth of the matter is that He is there–working behind the scenes– bringing about something new in your life. You may not be able to see it yet. You may wonder what happened to that bright, full, glorious life and work that everyone could see so clearly. Maybe your life, your purpose, your destiny, your next step, your connections, your provision seems hidden or lost. Right now, you may wonder what God is up to.

I’ll tell you what He’s up to… something new. Soon, a sliver will show up. Then a crescent will appear. Before you know it, the light will be spilling over the darkness of what was hidden in its newness, and life will start making sense again. And at some point, what God is doing will be in full view, reflecting His shining power at work in you and through you.

So, if you look up at the night sky of your life right now and don’t see anything, remember that the God Who set the moon to govern the night sky regularly hides it from view because something new is on its way!

No Good

One of the gifts Alex received for Christmas this year was a pogo stick. And though I never had one, I could not wait for him to open it when we celebrated Christmas as a family. Sure enough, he opened it and loved it. And it didn’t take him hardly any time all to be up and bouncing multiple times to our amazement.

Then Austin wanted to try it. We weren’t sure Austin would like it yet, and so we had not gotten him one. But he insisted on trying it out. He tried. Then he tried again. And he tried again. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not seem to get the balance and motion to work. Even after we got back from visiting our families for Christmas and the boys got back at the pogo-ing, Austin struggled to get even two or three jumps strung together. He would get frustrated and say, “I’m just no good at it.”

We tried to encourage him to keep trying, to keep believing. But when you just seem to keep failing, believing for success is a tough pill to swallow. We wondered if maybe his body just wasn’t at a stage of development where he could achieve what it took to pogo.

Then the day before yesterday, something clicked. He had kept trying. Alex tried to share what he had learned that worked for him. And Austin would just not give up. Suddenly, while I was watching him, he jumped six times. Then it was ten. Then he started setting goals. Next he nailed more than 20 jumps. Out of nowhere, he strung together 60 hops. The kid was becoming a human Tigger before our very eyes.

We were blown away when he came back to our room before we left to go somewhere, and he showed us a video he shot on the iPad of him jumping. As I watched, I counted… ten, twenty, forty, eighty, 100… 110! One hundred ten consecutive jumps on the pogo stick without stopping.

Yesterday, he decided to up his game. How high could he bounce? How far? Now Alex was trying to compete and catch up to him. Austin surprised us by showing us his new trick… he could jump up the steps from the sunken living room to the entryway and back down without falling. Next was some kind of trick where he kicked his foot out while jumping. Then it was jumping over things stacked on the floor, followed by special landings. I’m starting to think we better get a helmet and some elbow pads on this kid.

But wait a minute… Isn’t this the same kid who couldn’t do it to begin with? Isn’t this the same kid who thought he was no good at it? Isn’t this the kid who had compared himself to his brother who happened to learn it almost immediately and got discouraged because he couldn’t keep up? What happened? What brought about the transformation?

I’ll tell you what happened. Austin didn’t give up. He kept hoping. He kept believing. He kept trying. He kept taking advice. He kept watching someone else do it and learning from them. He kept on. And though it wasn’t immediate like it was for Alex, success came.

It reminds me of Abraham in Scripture. God said he would be the father of many descendants, but for 25 years, nada. Yet Paul told the Romans that Abraham was counted right with God because he just kept on believing, kept on trusting, kept on hoping. Abraham kept on until the promise became reality. When it looked like he couldn’t, he kept believing and hoping he could and would.

You know, there may be something that you want to accomplish, but you think you are “no good at it.” Don’t give up. Keep hoping. Keep believing. Keep trusting and trying. Keep studying. Keep watching and learning. One day soon, just like Austin and Abraham, you might just succeed beyond what you could have ever expected!

By the way, Austin hasn’t stopped. This morning he woke up with new goals and new ideas for the pogo stick. And he is inspiring Alex to try for more by his success. So get out there today and try again!

You Are Making A Difference

The picture above was taken the day AFTER Alex, Austin and I had mulched all the leaves in the yard with the riding mower and blown all the leftover debris off the driveway. Yes, you read it right… the day after. We must have billions of leaves on our property.

I woke up the mowing after we had made the yard look so great to see this view. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. We wasted all our time yesterday. It looks like we didn’t do anything at all.”

But I knew better. There have been times in the past when I had the mentality of just letting all the leaves finish falling, and then trying to mulch them all. Fun story, I caught a riding mower on fire one time doing that. I had let so many leaves build up that they got caught up under the engine and ignited.

Lesson learned. Mulch anyway. Sure, the yard may only look clean for one afternoon. Sure, you may have to do it all again in a couple of days. Mulch anyway. It makes a difference. Once the leaves get soaked by a rain or build up too much, the job is incredibly difficult and takes much longer.

You know what else is crazy? Sometimes we each look at our lives and feel like I felt looking at that yard covered once more by leaves. If we’re not careful, we can begin to think that what we are doing to help others, bless others, serve others is not making a difference. Yet, it is. If we didn’t do what we had done yesterday, people’s situations would be even more difficult today.

You are making a difference in the lives of those around you. You’re making a difference at work, at church, at school, in your community. So, there are new problems today. There would be double the problems if you didn’t do what you do.

Paul told the believers in the church at Galatia not to get tired of doing because eventually they would see that their efforts were making a difference… people’s lives were being impacted.

The same is true for you. Don’t give up on doing good for others because it looks like you’re not making a dent in the problem. One day, you’ll be glad you did what you did.

As for me, I’ve got more leaves to mulch…

Trust The Dot-Placer

Remember those dot-to-dot picture puzzles we used to do as kids? PR31 and I were just talking about those. I loved doing those things. It seemed so simple. Sometimes, you could just look at all the dots and actually see the object in your mind before a single line was drawn. Others, however, were not as simple. You might think the line needed to go a certain way, but there was no dot there, or it was definitely not the next number in order. So what did you do? You looked for the next dot, and you drew your line to it.

Maybe today, your life feels like one of those dot-to-dot puzzles. Mine certainly does sometimes. Just about the time I think I see where I think the line is going… or should go… there is no dot there. So what do I do? I stop, look for the next dot, and draw my line there. Then I may have to stay on that dot for awhile as I search for the next one.

Why? I trust the Dot-Placer. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we should trust the Lord with all our heart and not depend on our own understanding… that we should acknowledge God as the Dot-Placer, and in doing so He would direct us to the next dot to which we need to draw our life’s line.

It’s not always easy. At some points along life’s dot-to-dot, we think we have it all figured out. We think we know what the shape is going to turn out to be. We think we know where the next dot should be and where we should draw our line. But God has a magnificent, intricate plan laid out with all the dots in the right places. And if we will just draw our line to His next dot, we will end up in the right place… at the right time… in the right way.

If your life feels like a crazy dot-to-dot puzzle today, hang in there. Don’t draw your own line or add your own dots. Stop on the dot where you are, and look for the next dot God has laid out for you… even if it takes a little while to find it. Trust the Dot-Placer. The picture is there, and it is coming into focus a little bit at a time. One day, you’ll look back and see why He directed you along those dots in the way He did.

Going Higher

Note: Clearly Spiritual Post

Hang in there! Don’t give up! The Lord impressed on my heart this morning that someone needs to know He hasn’t let you down… He’s just setting you up for something greater!

You may feel like God has forgotten about you. You may think He isn’t doing anything about your situation. You may have even asked where He is and what He is up to.

So, He invited me to be a part of letting you know that He is at work on your situation. He loves you. You matter to Him. He values you. He is putting all the pieces together in the right order for you to be the best you can be.

I know it may be a struggle to hope or believe. But you ARE going higher.

Now help a brutha out… If this is for you and your situation today, would you comment, message or text me to affirm that I heard clearly from the Lord? I’ll pray for you.

Forget The Forecast

It’s raining outside at our house at this very moment. Why is that important? Well, when we checked the weather app this morning… like less than an hour ago, it showed that there is zero percentage chance of rain today. In fact, it showed that our weather would be sunny and the temps would get up to 102 degrees today. Yet, when we looked out the window, we saw clouds. And then the rain just started falling about ten minutes ago.

We decided to ask Google if it was raining where we are. The AI device’s voice replied, “No, it is not raining where you are. It is sunny and 84 degrees.” We tried two or three times, even using a zip code closer to our house than where it thinks we live. Same answer every time.

And yet, we stood at the door looking out at rain. Rain… on what is supposed to be a zero percent chance day. Rain… when there is no rain reported. It rained today.

PR31 and I both went to each other simultaneously with the same thought… God can make something out of nothing. God can make something happen when the predictions and forecasts say it isn’t going to happen. God can make something happen even when reports around say it isn’t happening. He doesn’t need prognosticators to agree with Him. He doesn’t need reporters to agree with Him. He can do what He wants to do… when He wants to do it… out of nowhere.

That spoke to me today. I am reminded of the God written about in Romans 4:17 who calls things into existence that do not exist. He can do that in my situation. He doesn’t need a prophet or a preacher to say it’s going to happen. He doesn’t even have to have anyone else notice it’s happening. He can make happen in my life what I need Him to make happen… even if it doesn’t exist yet.

And the good news is… He can do it in your life, too! Don’t give up because others say it isn’t going to happen. Don’t give up because others don’t recognize it’s happening. Keep holding on to Him! Keep having faith! The God who calls things into existence which do not exist just made it rain at my house… and He will make something great happen in your life as well!