C.C. battle scars #207

We all have them – scars both visible and invisible. These are the scars we accumulate as we go through life. They are inevitable. They are irrevocable. They remind us of things that perhaps we would rather forget. But our scars tell our stories for better or for worse. Scars are good storytellers because they always tell the truth. Scars don’t lie.

I confess – I have my fair share of scars. Everyone does. I feel like my invisible scars far outnumber my visible ones, however. I’m guessing most people feel this way. The wounds we carry within ourselves, the scars on our hearts and minds and souls cut deep and cause much pain. We humans are the “walking wounded” for sure.

Those who have served our country in the military certainly live with many scars, both external and internal. We see their sacrifice on our behalf when we behold their missing arms or legs or see them in wheelchairs. But the deeper battle scars they carry inside themselves, in their hearts and minds and souls, are not known to others because they are hidden from view. Being invisible, however, doesn’t diminish the damage the enemy did, leaving a scar in his wake as a permanent reminder of the battle.

So we are each walking through this life battle scarred and battle weary. No wonder the words, “be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about”, are such good advice. Each one of us is fighting many battles, battles against enemies both visible and invisible. (I wrote last about fighting “the invisible enemy”) The invisible enemy of our souls leaves the most deadly, albeit invisible, scars. We have such a hard time understanding each other. It doesn’t help that we can’t see each others’ scars. We all long for someone to understand our scars, to understand us. And there is such a person! Hebrews 4:14-16 tells me this,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus understands and accepts you and me, with all of our scars. Turns out, Jesus accumulated plenty of scars Himself during His time here on earth. Isaiah 53:4-6 tells us about His scars, saying about Jesus,

“Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Our scars tell our stories. Jesus’s scars tell the greatest story ever told. It is a love story, a story of the best kind of love – true, eternal and self-sacrificing. It is a story of rebellion, redemption, rescue, reconciliation, forgiveness and everlasting life. We call this story the Gospel or the Good news. A story foretold from the beginning of time, this Gospel story continues to be told and retold century after century. Jesus’s nail scarred hands and feet, His thorn scarred brow and His whip lashed back will continue to tell His story eloquently for eternity.

What about you and me and our scars? Philippians 3:20-21 tells me that –

“our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”

The words of a favorite hymn say it best – “Crown Him the Lord of love; behold His hands and side, those wounds, yet visible above, In beauty glorified.”

Those scars that Jesus bears from His crucifixion, will still be telling their true story of forgiveness, redemption, salvation and eternal life when we meet Him face to face. We will recognize Him by His scars and Jesus will know us by ours, because He already knows your story and my story, complete with every scar we carry. Jesus’s sword pierced side and nail pierced hands and feet are His battle scars. These are the scars by which you and I are healed.

Oh, dear readers, we will carry our battle scars with us into heaven because they tell our true stories. In Jesus’s presence, our scars will be made beautiful. They will no longer be sources of pain and sorrow, but reminders and evidences of God’s protection and deliverance during every battle we ever fought against our enemies, both visible and invisible.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. the invisible enemy #206

I’m still thinking about superheros and their prominence in our cultural narratives. From Star Trek to Star Wars to Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings – the battle between good and evil continues to be waged in story, on screen and on stage. Literature is filled with heroes and heroines and littered with defeated villains. Every era has had its heroes, like King Arthur’s knights of the round table. To this day, we call a “knight in shining armor” someone who champions the right and defeats those who would cause harm or do evil. Throughout history the battle between good and evil has raged without interruption, intermission or even a truce.

Enemies seem to be everywhere. Some are easier to recognize than others, however. Take Goliath, for instance. He was definitely a clear and present danger to the Israelites. David had no trouble recognizing this giant as the enemy, when he went out to do battle against him. In the Revolutionary War, the British were referred to as the “Red Coats” for a reason. This was their military uniform, which easily identified them as the enemy the Patriots were fighting.

In the battles we fight, it is necessary to be able to clearly identify just who it is that we are fighting against. Who is the enemy? What do they look like? If I can’t see my opponent, how can I defend myself? How can I engage in battle if I don’t know who my enemy is? I sense the battle is in full progress all around me. And it feels familiar to me. No wonder. It is the battle Adam and Eve fought in the garden. It is the battle each one of us fight every day from cradle to grave. This explains why all the narratives that surround us are really just one story, repeated over and over again – the playing out of the struggle between good and evil. Every book I read, every movie I watch has a hero and a villain duking it out to see who will prevail in the end.

Who wins in the end? That is the question. Ephesians chapter six gives me some good news and some bad news. My enemy is clearly identified – good news. My enemy is invisible – bad news. How do I fight an invisible enemy – an enemy I cannot see? It seems like an unfair advantage to me. But Ephesians chapter six instructs me how best to prepare myself for this daily battle.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10-12)

Ok, so there’s the identification of my enemy and the revelation that he is invisible. What follows next are my instructions for how to fight my invisible enemy.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:13-18)

So there it is. I need to put on God’s full armor everyday. If I do, I will be protected and prepared to fight my battle with evil, as I am called to do each day. God supplies what I need – a belt, (of truth) a breastplate, (of righteousness) shoes, (supplying the steadiness of the gospel) a shield, (of faith) a helmet, (of salvation) and a sword (the word of God). This is how I am to dress for the battle. As for my battle strategy? I am given that as well. I am told to pray. God’s word and prayer. Those are the divine weapons with which I am to fight against my invisible enemy.

It is easy to feel discouraged in this battle because it often seems like evil is triumphing over good. But Jesus gave a spoiler alert in John 16:33 –

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When all seems lost, I persevere. I don’t lose hope – the One who calls me is faithful. His words are ever before me –

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:9-10)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. we all want a superhero #205

well, I know I do at least – want a superhero, that is. You know, someone to rescue me from danger, from certain impending doom, from the life- threatening situation in which I find myself. Yes, that’s what I need – someone to save me from myself as much as from the evil in this world. But will I recognize my superhero when he comes for me?

Now superheros have been around for awhile. Superman appeared in comics in 1938, followed by Batman in 1939. Joined by Wonder Woman, Spider Man, The Comet, The Flash, and many more over time, we see these and other superheros in movies as well as comics today. These heroes and heroines are always unmistakable. They have super powers and they wear special costumes – unless they are off duty, in which case they wear regular clothes in order to blend in, just as Superman did. He was Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter, until he changed clothes and became Superman. (maybe the clothes really do make the man? after all, there’s nothing like a cape if one of your super powers is flying)

Superheros are unmistakable. They are easily recognized and impossible to overlook in their distinctive, colorful costumes. Even if their faces are masked, their identity is clear. They have come to save the day. These superheros fight for what is right. They protect the weak and fight against evil. They even formed a Justice League to fight for “truth, justice and the American Way.” These comics and movies are still very popular today. It seems we can’t get enough of watching this battle between good and evil play out in scene after scene. And each time, we hold our breath wondering who will win.

So I wonder, will I recognize my superhero? Who’s coming for me? Turns out, He’s come, He’s gone and He’s coming back again. The Israelites didn’t recognize Him when He came. They were waiting and watching for their promised deliverer, their superhero, if you will. But they missed Him. He had been prophesied and promised to them centuries before. However, they were still waiting, still in bondage to Roman occupation and oppression, still longing to be rescued by this Messiah who would defeat their enemies and set everything right. He was going to be one powerful, mighty Messiah when He came. He would be unmistakable – and yet –

they did not recognize the baby born in a manger. He came into the world without fanfare (well, by earth’s standards – all of heaven was celebrating big time) He came without power or position or influence, born to poor parents – He entered earth as a helpless infant, not a powerful military leader. And that’s what they were looking for, someone with military might who could defeat their Roman captors. This baby didn’t seem to fit the description they had been given in Isaiah 9:6-7 which says,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Like the Israelites, I need a deliverer. I need a superhero to rescue me. I am engaged in a great battle. A battle that Paul described so well in Romans chapter seven, that I thought he was talking about me. Paul described our human predicament this way,

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25)

Who will rescue me? that is the question indeed. And like Paul, Timothy responds to that question with the same answer,

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

Colossians 1:13-14 tells me more about what the superhero of my soul has done for me –

“For He has rescued us (me) from the dominion of darkness and brought us (me) into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we (I) have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the Savior of the world, the superhero sent to save my soul and your soul from eternal death. I confess – His methods are not what I would have expected or looked for in a superhero but then I realize that I am given a head’s up in Isaiah 55:8-9 with these words of explanation,

” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

Jesus may not have behaved like our typical comic book/movie superheros (although He did heal a lot of people, walk on water, turn water into wine, feed thousands of people with just a few fish and loaves of bread – but still, not the military might and conquest the Israelites were desiring) Jesus’s methods and instructions were a bit unorthodox actually, not your typical superhero modus operandi. In Matthew 5:44 I read,

“But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

This is harder to do than simply fighting my enemies outright! But I am told in Romans 12:21,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Jesus has overcome darkness with His light, hate with His love, evil with His goodness, lies with the truth of His Word, and He has defeated my mortal enemy – death. Jesus did this by His own death and resurrection.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)

sounds like a happy ending to me, all enemies not just conquered, but destroyed. The rescue I most need – the saving of my soul, the forgiveness of my sins – all accomplished for me by Jesus. He truly is the rescuer I long for, the superhero I want fighting for me.

today I will remember the instruction that Moses gave to the Israelites when he said,

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. abundance awaits #204

God is “able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within me,” (Ephesians 3:20) What do I ask Him for? Could it be that I “have not because I ask not.”? (James 4:2) Or am I asking Him for all the wrong things? C.S. Lewis said something really interesting when he said,

“It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I think that may be true, Maybe it’s not that I ask God for too much, but perhaps I believe Him for and ask Him for too little. That may have been the case with the paralytic lowered by his four friends down through the roof of the home in which Jesus was teaching those gathered together there. The paralytic’s friends had to cut a hole in the roof because the crowd assembled to hear Jesus teach was so large that they couldn’t get their paralyzed friend into the house to see Jesus any other way. This roof entrance may seem like a drastic measure, but the stakes were high. They believed Jesus could heal their friend of his infirmity. So they sought access to Jesus by any means necessary.

What they sought from Jesus was physical healing of their friend’s body. This would be a miraculous, wonderful thing and they would be completely satisfied with this outcome. It didn’t occur to them to ask for anything more. (in their defense, they knew Jesus was a healer, but they did not yet realize who He really was – aka – the long awaited, promised Messiah, the Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator and Sustainer of the universe) Had they known Jesus’s true identity, perhaps they would have been bold enough to ask for more. (they had already demonstrated their belief in Jesus’s ability to heal physical ailments and their boldness by going to any lengths to obtain such a healing) Could they believe Jesus for more and be bold enough to ask Him for more?

But what would that “more” be? What could be more desirable than to be made physically whole again, after living years in a body broken and hurting? Jesus actually answered that question for them with His first words to their paralytic friend. We read what happened in Mark 2:4-5 –

“Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ ”

Not exactly what they were seeking or asking of Jesus, not what they wanted, not what they were expecting. Nor was this something they even thought their friend needed. Their friend needed a physical healing. This much was obvious to anyone who saw him. Never mind that a physical healing would be temporary at best, because we all leave these earthly, temporal bodies behind eventually. But Jesus saw beyond this man’s immediate, temporal need to his deepest need – a need with eternal consequences. This man desired a temporal healing. Jesus wanted to give him so much more. Jesus wanted to give him eternal life, the salvation of his soul, the joy of the forgiveness of his sins.

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, sometimes we are too easily satisfied with the things of this world when our Heavenly Father wants to give us so much more. We don’t ask too much of God, we desire Him too little and we ask too little from Him. (especially since He wants to give us all things, as He did not even spare His own Son – Romans 8:32) So our story continues as the onlookers react to Jesus giving the paralytic something he did not know to ask Jesus for, something much more valuable than he could ever ask or imagine.

“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ . . . and He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ‘ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.” (Mark 6-12) Luke adds in his account, “and went home praising God.”

So Jesus, in His great compassion, fulfilled both the temporal and the eternal need of this man. The crowds that followed Jesus were seeking food (the feeding of the five thousand) and miraculous, physical healings. Jesus wanted to give them so much more. Abundance awaited them, but they didn’t know it was even possible. Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well reveals this abundance that awaits me for the asking.

“Jesus answered her, (the Samaritan woman) ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘. . . Where can you get this living water?’ . . . Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water (from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ ” (John 4:10-14)

Jesus was ready and willing to give this woman so much more than she could ever think to ask or imagine. It was hers for the asking. And ask she did!

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’ ” (John 4:15)

This woman didn’t ask at first because she didn’t know who it was that spoke these words to her. But when Jesus revealed His true identity things changed. We read the rest of the story in John 4 –

“The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am He.’ . . . Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, . . . (and later) They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’ ” (John 25-26 & 39-42)

Abundance awaits! While He was here, Jesus healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, the lame walked and the lepers were cleansed. But He came to do so much more than we could ever hope for or ask for or imagine. Jesus said,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Many translations say ” . . . and have it more abundantly.”

God’s abundance awaits for the asking.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Abundance awaits!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. body count mounts #203

Today’s confession is long overdue. I have been keeping this secret for far too long. It comes from a dark, damp, deep place – my basement. Yes, I confess – there are more bodies in my basement – dead ones! I have not wanted this fact to come to light. I have wanted to keep it where all secrets go to hang out – hidden, under wraps, where no one can see them. Perhaps I did not want to share this news with you, dear readers, lest you think less of me. After all, what kind of a person keeps dead bodies in their basement? (apparently someone like me) But the truth always comes out at some point, I fear. So better you hear it from me – right?

How could I let this situation continue? Well, removing said bodies is a gruesome, fear producing task, which I wish to avoid at all costs. And I have discovered there is much truth in the saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” I can live upstairs in the sunlight quite peacefully, going about my business as if there are no bodies in my basement and no increasing body count. As long as I don’t have to go to the basement to retrieve something I need, I get along very well. If I don’t see them, they don’t exist and I don’t have to deal with them. I can forget, (for awhile) pretend, ignore, deny – anything to avoid dealing with the reality of the bodies in my basement. I don’t want to keep count. I don’t want to deal with the fact that they are there or with the consequences of their presence in my basement.

Well, this is a lot of confessing for one day! But I’m feeling a little better already. It is true what they say – confession is good for the soul. Actually in 1 John 1:9 I read these words,

“If we (I) confess our (my) sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us (me) our (my) sins and purify us (me) from all unrighteousness.”

And the verse right before that (1 John 1:8) says something interesting,

“If we (I) claim to be without sin, we (I) deceive ourselves (myself) and the truth is not in us (me).”

So if I continue to live as if there are no dead bodies in my basement, I am only lying to myself. They are still there, whether I acknowledge them or not. It’s that way with the sin in my life, too. It’s there whether I admit it, confess it, repent of it, ask God to forgive it and to remove it, or not. Of course sin, like the dead bodies in my basement, is something I would prefer to keep hidden rather than face it and deal with it. Because that would require bringing it out of the darkness into the light and that is always too much of a risk.

King David definitely had some sins he was keeping hidden – such as adultery and murder. Eventually, David could no longer deny what he had done and he came clean before God. Then God was able to make David clean. (pun intended – I bet that’s where the expression comes from, when we “come clean” or confess whatever it is we are working so diligently to conceal, we are cleansed of that burden and given a clean slate and a fresh start) That’s the promise of 1 John 1:9 – if I confess, God will forgive me and make me clean. I can’t clean myself up, I need my Heavenly Father’s forgiveness and love to do that for me. David’s words in Psalm 51 are written during his time of confession, repentance, renewal and restoration which he experienced when he acknowledged what he had done before God. David cried out to God, saying,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, . . . Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. . . . Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.” (Psalm 51:1-9)

David stopped denying and hiding his deeds from God (which weren’t really hidden from God anyway) and experienced the joy that confession and repentance bring. It’s always just a matter of time anyway until we have to deal with what we have denied for too long. Luke 8:17 reminds me,

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Guess it’s time to bring those dead bodies up out of my basement! Time to come clean and be made clean. I understand the longing of David’s heart and I cry out right along with him,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

I don’t want the body count in my basement to grow. (but those little critters seem to find their way in – I am not even trying to trap them – I want them to leave, not remain with me in my basement) Likewise, I don’t want my sins to accumulate as David’s did when he tried to cover up adultery with murder. The words of Psalm 130 are my prayer today,

“Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. lost #202

I was going so fast that I almost walked right past him (or her), and the fact that my eyes were not on the ground made it even more likely that I would walk right on by without ever noticing. Still the dark green circular something on the pavement did manage to catch my attention, so I stopped to take a closer look. Turns out it was a turtle, a little bigger than the size of my open hand, but with no head or legs visible at the moment. What should I do? If I left him there, he would be run over by a car for sure. And he didn’t seem to be making much progress in crossing the street. (Turtles are notoriously slow) I confess – I didn’t really want to pick him up with my hands but . . .

This turtle was obviously lost. Where had he come from? And where was he headed? He was alone as far as I could tell. Do turtles travel in herds, or packs or flocks or in any kind of a group caravan? Turns out a turtle group is actually called a “bale” – but this morning it appeared that all the other turtles had “bailed” on this one, because he was quite alone in all the world when our paths crossed today. Had he failed to follow the other turtles and lost his way? Had he become distracted and taken his eyes off the other turtles? This turtle obviously hadn’t read my recent post about keeping your eyes on the ball. If he had, he would know how important it is to “fix your eyes” on what is essential, so you don’t end up lost, alone and far from your intended destination.

This morning, my new turtle friend was all three of these things and he needed my help. There are so many things to see along the path, perhaps this turtle had become distracted because he had not heeded the words of Proverbs 4:25,

“Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”

There seems to be no shortage of advice about where to look or not look. Still, like my new turtle friend, I often find myself lost, asking “how did I get here?” Then follows the more important question, “and what is the way back?” Where do I look? All manner of instruction comes to mind as I daily navigate the path before me, step by step. “Don’t look down!” How often have I heard that admonition? Good advice when my path becomes a steep climb upwards or like the tight-rope walker, I must walk a fine line in life. They say “don’t look down” for a reason.

I am to look up. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:1-4)

Good to know – so reassuring – with my eyes on my Creator, He will not let my foot slip. With my eyes on Him, I will not wander off the path, even though many are the distractions that line the path on both sides. “Don’t look back” is another admonition I hear as I follow the footprints left for me by the One who “leads me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24) Dr. Richard Johnson says, “no horse wins a race looking back.” (race horses also wear blinders so they can’t look to either side, preventing them from getting sidetracked, which would slow them down in their race to the finish line) But looking back can have even more dire consequences than just not finishing first. What about not finishing at all? Consider what happened to Lot’s wife, who was running for her life along with Lot and their two daughters, from the coming destruction of the city of Sodom. We read her story in Genesis 19,

“As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!’ . . . But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:17 & 26) Then I read in Luke 9:62,

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ ” Instead I am to follow Paul’s instruction given in Philippians 3:13-14,

“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.”

Daily distractions vi for my attention. If something can get me to shift my gaze, even for a moment, I can be deterred and even veer off course. Such was the plight of my turtle friend this morning. Something had distracted him, captured his attention, shifted his focus and now he was no where near his intended destination. Although I don’t know exactly where that is, I know it is not the middle of a street. I couldn’t leave him there in the street, so I picked him up and deposited him in the cool, damp grass of the nearest yard. I took into account the direction he was facing when I found him (even though his head was inside his shell) and chose the yard to which he appeared to be headed. There were no other turtles in sight, to provide me a clue as to which way the migration might be going. At least my wayfaring friend will be more comfortable in the grass than on the asphalt.

I wished him well on his journey and continued on with my own, reminded once again how easily I can lose my way if I allow the distractions of each day to turn my focus away from the One I am following. Don’t look down, don’t look to the left or to the right, don’t look back, keep my eyes on the prize – or as the words of a favorite hymn say,

“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.”

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. eyes on the invisible ball #201

Everyday I feel like it’s the bottom of the ninth and I’m up at bat. We are down by one, the bases are loaded and it’s full count – everything depends on this next pitch and on my response to it. But no pressure, right? The advice I am receiving in this moment is the same advice I received in the moments leading up to this one – the same advice I just received for each of the previous five pitches hurled my way during my current time at bat – the same advice I have been receiving for years (because it does not change with time) which is – keep your eye on the ball.

Now this does not seem an impossible task – this connecting of the bat with the ball – difficult yes – impossible no. My worst enemy at this moment – anything or anyone that would distract me, even momentarily, from the task before me. Anything or anyone that would cause me to take my eye off the ball, would cause my failure and ultimately my defeat and the defeat of my team. So I must keep my eye on the ball no matter what else happens!

But now imagine, if you will, that the ball is invisible and I am blindfolded! Impossible odds! No way can I hit the unseen ball now. And yet, the advice I am given in this situation remains the same, keep my eye on the ball. Do they know what they are asking of me? But God’s word is clear,

“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Walking, running, hitting invisible baseballs – all without sight – all with faith? I don’t need my human sight after all, just faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells me this about faith,

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” another translation of that same verse says,

“But faith is an assurance of what is hoped for, a conviction of unseen realities.”

substance, evidence, unseen realities – (how can something be both unseen and real?) these make up my walk of faith – so that ball barreling towards me is real enough, even though invisible to me. Doesn’t seem like a level playing field, does it? But Ephesians 6:12-13 gives me an explanation of the situation I find myself facing,

“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies – the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world. So use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will still be standing up.” (Living Bible)

Oh, that explains the advice I get from Hebrews 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:18 – both telling me essentially where to look in order to keep my eye on the ball, so to speak. Hebrews 12:2 instructs me with these words –

“Let us (me) fix our (my) eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our (my) 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.”

So, I am to keep my eyes on Jesus, who is invisible and I am told to –

fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. How interesting – the things I am to focus on are unseen, invisible things – intangible entities. Paul lost his physical sight while he was traveling on the road to Damascus, This loss of sight, enabled Paul to see clearly who Jesus really was and Paul fixed his eyes on Jesus from that point on for the rest of his life. You could say Paul never took his eye off the ball after his eye opening encounter with the living Christ. I don’t want to be any different. However, there are so many things to distract me in this world that I can be all too easily persuaded to fix my eyes somewhere else or on someone else.

If I can’t keep my eyes on what I can see, (like the ball) how am I ever to keep my eyes on what I can’t see? Yet that is exactly where I’m told to fix my eyes – on those unseen eternal things – God’s love, truth, mercy, salvation, reconciliation, peace, healing, compassion, justice, faithfulness, freedom, righteousness, goodness, God’s great grace in the gift of His Son – all invisible manifestations of an eternal, holy God.

Every day I find myself standing at home plate, bat in hand, wondering if the next pitch will be a fast ball, a spit ball, a curve ball (life throws lots of those my way) while trying to keep my eye on the ball but being totally distracted by the cares and concerns of the day, also being blindfolded and knowing I am swinging at an invisible ball – just as I am fighting an invisible foe. (Ephesians 6) Impossible odds – and yet – I don’t lose heart – I stay in the batter’s box because –

“the battle is the Lord’s.” (1 Samuel 17:47) and because ” . . . with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

even a home run in the bottom of the ninth –

sincerely, Grace Day