Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest...and Thankful

The pastor at the church I attend in South County St. Louis, Missouri spoke this past week on a passage in Acts (12:1-16) which describes an event in the life of Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and a founding member of the Christian Church.

This is what happened.

James, John’s brother, is killed by Herod. Not the Christmas story King Herod, but rather his grandson. He’s cut from the same cloth, however. Wanting the Jews on his side, and also because he was just an ungodly man, he persecuted the Christians, the Jesus Followers. After killing James and seeing the positive reaction from his constituents in Jerusalem, he forges on by arresting Peter.

As would be the case today, Peter’s church congregation is alarmed and upset about this and begin ‘earnestly praying’ for his safety and release.

Jump to Peter’s prison cell. An angel appears. (How cool would that be?) The mission is to bust Peter out of jail! To do that, to get Peter to safety, they have to go through four gates. The angel leads the way through three of them, all the while Peter believing that he’s dreaming. But after the third gate, the angel leaves Peter, disappears entirely, and Peter is left on the street, alone, but awake now to reality. The fourth gate he has to pass through in order to complete this prison break and reach safe is the gate to the church, to the building where the believers are ‘earnestly praying.’ So he high-tails it there and knocks on the door.

Two things happen. First, the servant girl sent to see who was knocking on the gate is so surprised to hear Peter’s voice that she forgets to let him in before running back to tell the others. Second, the others do not believe her, in fact they say she must be out of her mind.

Eventually they open the gate to Peter and they see and believe Peter is out of prison.

There’s so much to learn from this story. So many angles and perspectives and revelation and application possible to harvest from these verses.

But what popped out at me this read-through concerns the perspective of the ‘earnestly praying’ believers.

From the moment Peter is arrested, the believers ‘earnestly pray’ for his release. We can relate to that, right? A serious issue comes up, we put our heads and hearts together and we implore God to set it straight, fix it, restore it, send a miracle.

When Peter’s congregation received, in miraculous fashion, the answer to their ‘earnest prayers,’ they did not believe it. They rationalized the news, dismissed the messenger, even accused her of being crazy. Yet, the very answer they had been seeking stood just on the other side of the gate. Knocking. Waiting to be ushered in.

In light of this, I ask myself the following question: What prayers have been answered in my life that I have not acknowledged because I have yet to see them with my own eyes?

I’m wondering if it is possible that the answer I’m pining for stands right outside the gate, knocking, because I sit inside refusing to believe it’s possible.

I don’t completely understand where my thought process is going on this in a theological sense. But it does encourage me in one thing – gratitude. Instead of shouting ‘Thanks be to God, Peter’s okay,’ the early believers doubt instead. If I can form a habit of counting my blessings, readily have praise on the tip of my tongue, I may believe the answer to my ‘earnest’ problem as soon as it knocks on the door. Maybe even before then.

But what if the answer is ‘no’? you ask.

All the more reason to praise Him. Why? Because He is a great and good God. And because I can trust Him in all things. And because I know He loves me with an everlasting, unfailing love.

By all means, continue to pray earnestly. Just be ready to welcome the answer with a thankful heart, too.

Happy Wednesday, Dry Ground friends! Be encouraged!

(photo by

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Master’s Pace

As is evident in the blogs I’ve been posting lately, I do a lot of walking, with and without the dog. But I can’t help it if that’s when inspiration strikes.

The dog I take walks with is a puppy, not a year old yet. But in dog years, I would say he’s in the ‘terrible’ twos at the moment. Not that he’s terrible at all, because he’s a pretty good little tyke. What I mean is that while he is trained to do many things all dogs should know how to do, he often does them in his own sweet time with a look on his face that says to me, “Only because I want that treat in your hand.” He is clearly telling me I have not conquered his will in any terms.

So while we’re on walks, I try to keep it structured as far as staying on one side of me, not running into the street, walking at an even pace that matches mine… not ‘heel’ necessarily, but equivalent.

What does little Samson do? Well, he rarely heels. More often than not, he’s lagging behind me, stopping to sniff something, stopping to sit in the shade, running into the street after a blowing leaf, running ahead to catch a bird, trying to pick up in his teeth all sorts of curiosities, most of which are pretty nasty.

I feel bad for the fella, but I’m constantly yanking on the chain and saying, “Come on.” Even after the 5-second rule –my allotment for stopping when he just really has to stick his nose into a tuft of grass for a prolonged whiff – I’m tugging the leash, cheering him on, telling him he’s a ‘good boy’ even though he hasn’t managed to stay at my side for more than ten seconds at a time the entire walk.

I’d get frustrated, but he’s a dog, you know? And a puppy with limited home-training.

But this morning, when I’d rather been taking a rapid walk, not a stop-walk-sniff-tug, I wondered if God sees me like I was seeing Samson at that moment.

Our ‘walk’ would be far more pleasant, wouldn’t it, if we kept pace with God? Wherever He was going at whatever gait He took, sticking right by His side, stopping when He stopped, walking when He walked, running when He ran.

Instead, though, we run ahead chasing things that only fly away, fall behind to stick our noses in someone else’s nasty business, resist following to laze in some cool grass in the shade, or spend time on distractions that would harm us if we picked them up. All the while, God is gently tugging us, saying ‘Come on’ because the path He’s laid out is nothing but the best.

It’s not a matter of His breaking our will, but of us surrendering it to go Master’s Pace.

Happy Weekending, Dry Ground Friends! Be blessed!

(photo by

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Trek to Live Long and Prosper

I hope you all had a blessed Easter weekend!

As I was jogging the other day, more thoughts about how life is like running popped in my head. So I thought I’d share.

See, I’ve been sans treadmill for too long now – months. Combined with temperamental Midwestern weather, I haven’t exactly maintained a consistent running schedule. Sad, because I had been going five miles at a time and feeling really good about it. Now, I’m lucky to manage two without hacking up a lung.

But running outside presents too many variables for my sensitivities. I’m a huge wimp when it comes to cold weather. Also, I like to control elevation, speed and time, much better accomplished on a treadmill making the miles fly rather than crawl.

Therefore, I’ve had to come up with a new strategy for outside running, a mental plan for cold weather and hills my two biggest banes. So far, this is what I’ve learned.

The easiest to plan for is the cold. Wear layers. No stroke of genius. But for a flip flop girl, it takes some motivation. Convincing myself that I won’t turn into an ice cube if I just keep moving, and that I can drink something hot and yummy when I get done only takes a few words of encouragement to myself and maybe a warm up dance to a wild rock song - recently something by Red like "Breathe Into Me" (click HERE to jam w/me!).

Okay. But no amount of clothing is going to flatten those hilly sidewalks out there. What to do?

I found out that it’s a matter of focus.

Sometimes, like when I’m running downhill, fixing my gaze on a goal in the distance, a stop sign or a fence post or a driveway, helps me cope with any exercise-related discomfort making the jog pleasant and even fun.

Other times, like when I’m running flat or slightly elevated surfaces, paying attention to the path right in front of me, step by step, is the best way to keep me moving and ignoring heaving lungs. After a second, I look up to see that I’ve come farther than I expected.

And when I’m running uphill, I find it best just to close my eyes. For a pace or two at least. This way, I don’t obsess on how high or far or long the path is, which just psyches me out and defeats me before I begin. Rather I think of keeping my feet moving or breathing one breath at a time or even the sound of waking birds chirping in the tress. Eventually, I’ve obtained my goal.

Well, life is often described in terms of mountains and valleys, highs and lows, smooth stretches and rocky messes. As we traverse each kind of terrain (and we will), how do we attack it in a way that obtains the goal while getting as much as we can from the journey itself?

In other words, how can we live long and prosper in this hostile environment?

When few obstacles get in the way, when life is chugging along as we all believe it ‘should’ be, like running downhill, fixing our eyes on a goal far off is wise, right? Planning for the future, sowing in order to reap, reaching for that success or degree or reward, whatever the case may be. Focusing on long-term goals keeps us moving in that direction with confidence and strength.

But running downhill leads to the valleys, doesn’t it?

In the valley, the way may be flatter, but it’s darker there. Not as much sun reaches those depths. If you look up too much, all you see are mountains, the ones you aren’t on at the moment. During these times, focusing on the path in front of you will probably accomplish more, get you further, keep your attitude in check. The greener grass is probably in the valley anyway.

To get to the mountains, though, for that magnificent view and sense of conquer and victory, running uphill is required. It’s the toughest. It takes the most effort, puts the most strain on your system. At times, you are sure you can’t do it and even consider quitting. Sometimes, all you can do is close your eyes and will your feet to move up one after the other.

That’s called not losing heart.

God’s Word is full of promises for those individuals who do not lose heart, who don’t give up, who continue doing what they should even when it isn’t easy, who live by faith and not by sight.

He promises – one day you’ll look up and find out that you’re there, making every step worth the struggle.

Hope this encourages you to keep on trekking, Dry Ground friends!

(photo by

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just Like He Said

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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Real Easter Hero - NOT a bunny...

It's kinda tough to pick one song to post for Easter weekend since most songs I listen to pertain to exactly that - Easter - the death and resurrection of my Savior, my Rescuer, my God - Jesus. I've been listening to music all day thinking, 'that one would be good' or 'oh, no this one is better'... but here's what I've decided on. Abandon's 'Hero.' Thank you, Jesus, for being the ultimate hero, the ultimate and real and loving hero of the world and of my soul.

Happy Easter, Dry Ground friends!