To Have Joy

When I think of joy, I think of bright sunshine and perfect summer days. Sunrises. Dandelions. Golden lanterns. The ability to go anywhere. To have no burden. To have all debts paid. To be forgiven. To be safe to explore, knowing that whatever may happen, I’ll still be safe. To know love, and to be fully known in love. To be free. When I have joy, I am experiencing in my soul these qualities. Add to them whatever good gift God plants in my soul by His grace. To have joy means to have God—in full measure, to have Him all, to experience Him intimately.

The same is true for blue joy. Blue joy is the state of mind you have when you’re in pain. When you’re suffering. When the day has not gone as you wanted or hoped. When you’re in the midst of a terrible loss, a battle, or a war, and cannot breathe. Your soul is shaken and scattered, some part of you dismembered, that you’ll never get back. It’s that part of your story where you’re led from your current pathway into an uncharted one, lost and afraid. You feel alone. Weary. Vulnerable. Crushed. And you realize, amidst the foreign names and the jagged words, that these woods are the perfect place to snag your soul on a crooked fear, and rip it open.

And when it happens, you are caught by God. He holds you. Blue joy is deeper than a feeling when all is well; it’s a state of mind in the midst of pain and suffering. An awareness that even though my life is not working as I want, I still hold the assurance of my salvation, that I am well. Even when I am crushed, I have the assurance that my life is eternal and seated in heaven with Jesus. I am held by Him. He is with me. He holds me fast. He will never leave. He is greater than my suffering. In this dark forest, He’s holding me.

There is blue joy waiting in the bitter cold. In the swamp. The desert. When the sky is howling. When the earth has lost its way back to the sunlight. When all is lost, when I’ve strayed off the path, there is still joy. Because Jesus will never leave me. He endured all loss, all terror, so He can comfort me with His joy. So whether I’m basking in Yellow Joy, or feeling Blue Joy, I take comfort. For God is Author of both. He gives me His joy no matter what circumstance I’m in.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:4-7

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On Hope

I find, daily, that my hope is being refined and deepened by suffering.

There is not a day that goes by in which I do not suffer in some way, with some anxiety or fear, with the state of the world, with broken friendships, through physical aches and pains, fatigue, spiritual persecution. If I survive the day, I am weakened, more weak than the day before. I wish I could say that I’m not afraid, that I have no anxiety in my life, that there is nothing that causes me angst, but the truth is, I’m battling all of these.

In church yesterday the message was about hope—how we can’t hope in ourselves or in anything in this world, only in Jesus, His Word, His Kingdom Everlasting. The pastor said if I hope in “having it all together” here on earth—a life of total freedom, without trouble or persecution or any harm, then I’m hoping in the wrong thing. That hope is not possible, for as the pastor pointed out, as a Christian, I am bound to suffer, in some measure as Christ suffered.

But the hope is that Jesus overcame this world, that He is alive and well, seated on His throne, in heaven, governing His heavens and His earth. I take great comfort in this. I take great comfort in His Word, where I can find the answer to any dilemma, any heartache, any pain—the answer is God’s overwhelming, everlasting love.

It is difficult to be a Christian when I am suffering, and still maintain a good attitude, as Christ did on the cross. His attitude in that moment is nothing short of a self-induced miracle. He chose to endure the wrath of God: His Father’s complete, absolute, unmitigated wrath, which destroyed Him in every imaginable, and in every unimaginable, way.

But He went to the cross with the best attitude. He may not have wanted to endure the suffering, but when He saw that this was the only way to follow His Father’s will, He accepted it. Not only did He accept it, He embraced it. He found joy in it. In the moment of His greatest pain, somehow inside Him He found the character to sing and praise His Father, as only He knows how to do, because He loves His Father that much.

His attitude was the same as if you asked a child, “Hey, wanna come outside and play, and we can go exploring?” And as a child, excited about the fun of the exploration, you’d go. Of course, in no way am I equating a child’s play with Christ’s suffering on the cross, as if there was a similar experience. There isn’t. I’m comparing the attitude between the two, which is exactly the same. You and I would have a great attitude about playing and exploring in a field; Jesus also had a great attitude, the best attitude, in suffering so torturously, so excruciatingly, for our sins.

What is the proper attitude to have, then, in whatever caliber of suffering I endure? It’s to be totally optimistic. Totally hopeful. Always thinking good thoughts. Maintaining ultimate self-control. Embracing the ones who hurt you. Enjoying the experience. Being patient when there is no way out, when you are truly doomed. Believing in the unseen, no matter how impossible. Having faith that you’ll breathe again, even when blood is clotting in your lungs. Loving. Simply loving. Jesus revealed all of these traits while suffering on the cross. He did so at so great a cost. He wagered Himself, and all His character, for His enemies, who had none. It is sobering to consider my Savior’s attitude when He held His arms out for me as I butchered Him.

Those same arms now hug me. They hug me every day, in every suffering, protecting me, even when it is difficult to maintain my hope. And I’m so thankful He does. I’m so thankful I’m embraced in His grace. In these difficulties, in their honing and refining, Jesus grooms me, cleaning off the dross around my spirit, scooping out the slag in chunks, here and there, so that my spirit can breathe and grow, deepen and expand, stretching out toward eternity. It’s nourishing. Being pruned is painful, but eternally nourishing.

And if I am to discover Jesus, and fall in love with Him, this is the only way. If I want to discover His character, His good attitude, then I need to be willing to have the same positive attitude in my suffering—to consider it pure joy (James 1:1) whenever facing difficulties and trials. Again, this is very difficult. And very rewarding.

And the most rewarding by far. I write soberly on this topic because I’m in the midst of some spiritual persecution as I pen these words. While suffering is bleak, the Word of God is much better. Just absorbing myself in His Word, reading John and 2 Corinthians and the Psalms bring me deep comfort—far greater than any pain or suffering I endure. Suffering is hard, but it is not the end; rather, it’s a tiny blip in the entire heavens that will soon be crushed under Jesus’s heal.

And what remains? Life. Everlasting life. No pain. No tears. No suffering. No persecution. Total freedom. The freedom to dance and sing and laugh and hug and play and love. What a freedom! Forever! That freedom is real. It is guaranteed to a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus Christ, repents, and serves Jesus as Lord. His freedom will never end. That is the hope I have. The hope God promises me.

I have hope that I will one day be in the presence of Jesus Christ, worshiping Him. There is nothing better.

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)

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Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving approaching Thursday, I’m lucky to be alive, so I’m giving thanks for my friends and family.

My wife is working hard at her job as a first-year school teacher, putting in crazy hours, often working seven days a week. Recently she was suffering chest pains so intense that the school nurse drove her to the emergency room and her blood drawn (she hates needles), and tested for a heart attack. She’s fine, just severely stressed. So Love, I’m thankful I have you. Keep up the hard work. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. God has a plan for your life here, where you’re at. It’s a tough job. God put you there for a reason, to shine. And I know you are, because every day you come home, you’re still glowing. Keep it up.

My dad was driving home one winter day when he hit black ice. The Nova spun. He couldn’t get control and flew off the road, down the embankment, which was steep. Only one strand of barbed wire, stretched thin over his windshield, prevented him from plummeting to his death. He later told me his last thought was saying goodbye for my brother and me and mom, praying that God would protect us. He survived. Dad, I’m thankful every day you’re alive, for the role model you are, teaching us how to live as godly men.

When my younger brother Luke was born, he had a growth on his brain that the doctors were saying could be tumorous. It was growing rapidly and needed to be operated on immediately. The odds were against him surviving. To make matters worse (as if there could be something worse than losing a child), mom and dad didn’t have enough money to pay for the operation. Mom prayed, and Luke went into the surgery. It turned out that the bump was just a growth of skin multiplying on the surface of his scalp. He came home healthy and well with a few stitches on his skin. My older brother and I called him FrankenBaby. Luke, I’m thankful that you’re alive and grown, and for all the fellowship we’ve had over the years. You are truly a Light!

A woman in our church was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The lifespan of someone with the illness, after it is detected, is about four months. She gave her testimony before the congregation, wearing a wig, leaning on the podium, struggling to maintain her composure as she spoke with depth about the meaning of life, of letting go and accepting her death, preparing her family for when she was going to be gone. She said the hardest part about her decline was seeing her family suffer for her. But this woman approached death not as an end, but as a beginning. Earlier this month she passed on. She’s now in the arms of her Father, who is thankful, eternally thankful, that His Son chose to die for her, even when He didn’t have to—so she and her Dad could be a family together on this Thanksgiving holiday.

At every moment in this fallen world, there is the threat of death. It is crouching in the shadows, waiting for a weakness or some mistake so it can come in and destroy life—destroy the very best of holidays, of giving thanks for turkey and fellowship, of celebrating the sharing of oxygen. It’s true that no matter how hard I try, my Thanksgiving holiday will never quite live up to all the hopes I have for it, because of sin and death. But it doesn’t have to. As Paul writes, what we see and experience in this life is a mere shadow of what is to come (Romans 8:18).

So I’m counting this Thanksgiving not necessarily as a Season of Feasting, but as a seasoning for the feasting waiting for us with Jesus around His dinner table. I am humbled by death and loneliness, by loss, by brokenness. All of these seem to magnify around the dinner table on this holiday. So in such a fragile world, I’m thankful for the oxygen we share. I’m thankful most that the oxygen we share here on earth passed through Jesus’s lungs the morning He rose from the grave after He conquered death. I’m thankful that my Father and Brother and King lives and breathes, even now as I write this—that He is with our family. He is the holiday I celebrate.

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On Discipline

As a writer it is vital to receive criticism. This is never easy. Words sting. Especially the right ones. I’m sharing my current novel, a story of gold mining in the 1890s in Eastern Oregon, with friends, and am biting my tongue as I write this. So far, the words I’ve shared have come back to me abrasively, from tongues honest, and twice that true. And all of it has been good. We may have different professions than writing—banking, teaching, nursing, homekeeper, lawyer, factory worker, engineer, and more—but all of us undergo criticism. So how can I still maintain a positive attitude when someone else pries into my work and digs out the waste?

Well. First of all, I’m not the master of my work; I’m not ultimately in control of what I create. If my priorities are aligned, I’ve let God work through me to craft a work that glorifies Him. That story cannot survive unless it does this, so if I have any other ulterior motive, that motive, and the words reflective of that motive, needs to go. I’d like to think that I have something to say, something sharp. Something from my playbook. I’d like to believe that my work is a candle you light to illuminate prosperity. But in the end, the only premise of my writing should be to honor God.

That means my writing is not for me. It’s not of me. My heart, my hands, my skull—none of these are mine. My story? I can’t copyright myself. I wouldn’t want to. If I tried to assemble words that were somehow free from criticism, I’d have mashed together a lie.

And if I tried, it wouldn’t be genuine. It wouldn’t be art. Because God created me to be honed. He hones me on the page. He hones me in the kitchen and at the park and snowbound with friends and before my students, he hones me in the very thick of my mistakes, changing me here, moving me there, opening me up some, teaching me, a critic, to let go.

And more so, if I tried to create something free from criticism, my work wouldn’t last. I wouldn’t last. Picture a thin rubber dome meant to hold water, but holding air; what could have been used to bless a drought-stricken town would end up as gas.

Picture basalt. A wedge of it. If I tried to create something free from criticism than all I’d have left at the end of the day was that wedge. Nothing would have been formed from it. Nothing artistic. I’ll never shape the nuances of a character—his line of muscle, the graceful curve of his chin—if I’m unwilling to receive coaching from those around me who know how to create a man better than myself.

God is continually chastening me, not only in my writing but elsewhere, in my relationships, in my attitude, in my heart toward Him. It’s funny that the more I am instructed, the more suggestions given me, the more free I become. I’ve never regretted criticism that has helped me improve my craft, not in the long run. I suppose being disciplined is one of the most intimate ways in which God communicates with me, for He would not chasten me if He didn’t care. So my attitude, hopefully, is to receive criticism with an open, thankful heart, one that is made free.

There is nothing better than to be disciplined. When God or someone corrects me, it doesn’t mean that something is being taken away from me; rather, a horizon — one I hadn’t noticed — is being opened before my eyes. If I hadn’t let God chip away the rock around me, then I would never be free to walk with Him, hand-in-hand, to that horizon, far greater than any I could have imagined. Yeah, I’m willing to undergo discipline, as best as I can. It’s hard. It’s painful. But through it I know that I’m loved.

Hebrews 12:7 “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

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A Tribute to my Father-in-law

I went on vacation with my wife this last weekend to her parent’s house where she grew up. They live out in the country. We went there because my father-in-law needed some help putting up his horse shed. He’d been injured on the job a few weeks ago and it was impossible for him to lift tools and heavy beams with his injured arm. He wasn’t supposed to, anyhow. He needed me to lend an extra hand finishing the roof and putting up siding.

We started mid-morning. He’d somehow already put up the trusses, and so our first job was to nail 2×4 wood across them every two feet so we could have an anchor to attach the metal siding. It was difficult work because at the beginning all we had to walk on were the trusses themselves, but my father-in-law wasn’t afraid to nimbly skate from one to the other as the 2×4’s were nailed in. And then when all the 2×4’s were nailed in, we started to put up the metal roof.

But the weather came. Rain walked over us, and the wind. We went inside and talked by the fire for over an hour with our boots off and the heat wicking out the November cold. And I learned something from him.

Just as I learned that a man, even though injured, sometimes must do his duty—that at times, the brave thing is to keep working, even through the pain, to keep struggling, though it fall on him—just as I learned this watching him use the nail gun and later, the SkillSaw and chainsaw and the hefting of the siding and the wood—all of it threatening to destroy his shoulder: I learned from him that the courage to bear pain is the same courage Jesus had when He bore my sins away.

My father-in-law resembles the heart of what it means to be a man in Christ. If you’re around him long enough, you see the solemn pride that he carried all through his days in the Army, through severe trial, severe weather—both inside and out; for example, through the nightmarish conditions of 130 F heat in an M1 Abrams tank, which he operated.

You’ll hear him laugh, too. Now that’s someone who’s seen the thick and thin, someone who can laugh and have a good time. I suppose a man who is free enough to laugh is first brave enough to try. Even despite the pain. I don’t know how much pain a man can take before he breaks. I’m not sure any man ever wanted to find out, truly. Except for Jesus.

We vacationed all through the weather, into the afternoon, into the evening, after the sun set, with my wife and mother-in-law pitching in. And we finished the horse shed. That shed is a visual reminder to me of how my father-in-law has been toughened, because he has been broken in Christ.

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Watching the 2013 World Series

What a thrilling World Series! We’ve seen some of the best pitching in the league, graceful leaps into the air to snag the ball with the cone of the glove, unusual pick-offs to end the game, obstruction calls, solid hits, courage, grace under pressure. The Cardinals and Red Sox are so evenly matched that it’s hard to tell one from the other statistically (in a face-to-face comparison the teams might look slightly different, unless they shaved). But whether you’re a Red Sox or a Cardinal seems a distant second compared to the excitement and drama of the Fall Classic itself.

What I marvel at the most is the players’ composure when the stakes are so high. How does he blot out sixty thousand fans at the stadium and millions more at home when he’s trying to deliver a pitch, or swing at a 93 mile per hour fastball? His split-second decision could determine the fate of not only his team, but many more (i.e. the faith of fifty million people … ~ Gatsby)

I played baseball growing up, from Pee Wee to Little League, on into high school. Admittedly, I was not so graceful under pressure. I easily lost my focus. In more than one occasion a game was lost because of an error on my part, whether as a pitcher walking home the winning run or as a third baseman throwing the ball in the dirt so the first baseman couldn’t catch it, resulting in the tying then winning run score, eliminating us from the playoffs.

I have done everything I can to avoid pressure situations. When I was a sophomore, our baseball team made it to the playoffs. I was one of the players called up from JV to go with them. But instead,  I chose to stay home and take my finals. In my mind, academics trumped athletics. In the back of my mind, however, I was thinking of another underlying reason: I didn’t want to face the pressure. I didn’t want to be called on in the clutch and then mess up.

All throughout my athletic tenure in football, basketball and baseball, I demonstrated to my coaches, and to those watching, that I struggled to focus during critical moments. When the game was on the line, I was on the other side of it, and gaining distance. In fact, I think I probably would have played better had I stuck a pumpkin over my head. This would have been effective for multiple reasons, one of them being that I would have seen better.

I believe that all of us are athletes in some manner. Maybe not physically, but mentally. We’re put in high pressure situations in our jobs or in school or in our families where we are asked to perform. It may not seem dramatic, but the decision of whether to tell someone the honest truth about yourself may make or break not only your life, but the lives of those watching you.

In this arena, let us strive to excel, to play our best, to try out hardest—in whatever endeavor we undertake, whether it’s touching someone else’s life, or in fighting for the lives around us. Our athleticism is in our courage and respect, our sacrifice, our love. With these skills we will win. For it is already won.

Thankfully we have One who played the game before us. He went through it on the cross. He played every down. Took every pitch. Took every hit. Ran every suicide line. He was pushed. Far beyond what we will ever dare to understand. His Father pushed Him. He pushed Him not because He needed to be pushed, but because He wanted to perfect The Game itself, which is the forgiveness of our sins, and our return to His arms.

The World Series is a fascinating sport to watch, replete with a gloveful of thrilling moments. I like to watch it because it encourages me in my own sport, where my heart will determine how well I play, one that already has the crown for which it is vying, one that grants me grace for the moments I do not perform under pressure, and strength to face the moments when I do.

The baseball players for the Red Sox and Cardinal spend all year perfecting their swings, honing their pitching skills, deepening their knowledge of pitch counts and game scenarios. I’m comforted in watching them, knowing that their physical sport is a mirror of what goes on inside a man. The discipline. The sacrifice. The pain. The hurt. The conditioning. The suffering. No great crown has ever been won without it. I’m comforted in Hebrews, where it explains that God disciplines all His sons, and that though it may be painful at the moment, it produces eternal rewards.

The Word Series is like a man’s life in even the most boring moments. For in those moments game-on-the-line struggle is being waged—one that ultimately determines the fate of his eternity. How he think determines how he acts, how he live. His positive thoughts determine how well he performs. I suppose those athletes who are cool under pressure have learned that skill, to think positively and not worry about outcomes.

I’d like to apply that to my life—to think positively about the day, about others and myself—to fight for what is good and right. For my actions will determine how my day ends, not only for me, but perhaps for those around me as well. If that’s so, then I pray, I crave, to be disciplined— just as disciplined as if I were playing in the World Series.

Hebrews 12:7-13: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

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Thoughts on My Car Wreck

Thoughts on My Car Wreck

I’ll never forget the night I crashed my truck. I was speeding home from Portland to John Day on December 31st. Although it was a warm winter, the roads were icy in some places. It was after dark and I had no one in front of me. I wasn’t paying attention to how fast I was going, descending into Cottonwood Canyon between Wasco and Condon. By the time I hit a 35 mph curve, I was at 75 mph. I lost control, spun, overcorrected, and smashed into a makeshift rock bank, one tire dangling 200 feet above the canyon floor.

I share this because I remember how scared I was to take my eyes off the danger ahead of me. As I was spinning and turning, my arms, legs and eyes all had frozen on the looming edge of the canyon. I did exactly what they teach not to do—I looked where the danger was, not where I wanted to go.

Such is life. How often does a coach tell his team whose ahead in the fourth quarter, “Don’t play not to lose; play to win!” Or consider the maxim: If you aim to not hit the target, you’ll miss the target, every time.

My encouragement to you and me is to focus on playing to win; specifically, in trying to hit the bull’s eye. Because our bodies go in the direction of our eyes.

Consider Peter. When he stepped out of the boat, into the storm, there was only one place in the entire earth, and the heavens, that was safe for him to look. It was at Jesus. Anywhere else, and he’d be swamped, which in fact is what happened to him as he became afraid of the storm. If he had remembered to trust in Jesus before him, he would have managed to arrive safely at his Teacher, and then, in that arrival, praise Him.

The wonderful thing is, is that Jesus rescued him even though he didn’t look at Him. And I’m thankful that God spared me on that night when I did everything I shouldn’t have done to keep me safe, and everything besides to end my life haplessly.

The point is, even when we go where we shouldn’t, God is still there to pull us back to Him.

But imagine the quality of life we might have if we were intent to keep Jesus in our bull’s eye? To pursue Him relentlessly, as if He alone were the championship we’re suffering for all season? To omit fear and hear His voice and go, with great courage, trusting that He knows the way out, to let go and put our life in His hands?

I suppose we’d feel joy. All the time.

Jesus made the path to life a safe one—though our little boats are battered by storm and ice, we are safe in Him. In His sacrifice. In His love. In His arms. May our actions follow our faith. May we go toward the One who has saved His children from peril. On this day, and in the days of this Fall, and through every wreck we may encounter until God calls us home.

It’s comforting to think that Jesus Christ has made each of us His bull’s eye. There is not a storm ever imagined in heaven or in hell that will ever prevent Him from keeping His eyes on His target. You and me.

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Summer’s End

We all love the Fall, if we’re thinking of Thanksgiving or the harvest or any one of our birthdays, the lives of our children, the memories from our anniversaries, the crisp air and the first nip of frost. The goodness of the good parts of our season remind us that every budding has a fruition, a ripening, a gathering, a celebration.

It’s also a time of sadness for the hopes and the harvest that did not come. it seems that in these days the only ripening we take in is the swelling of our pain. We think This is my life; is this all there is? Is what I see, the smoke in the air, all that I’ve lived for this year? Is the fruit of my labor an emptiness I cannot draw out, as deep as it is?

I argue against that. I fight not to rake in all the dead red leaves, the orange and brown–all of them fallen from the tree–as if my life and theirs were together only at best loom for the compost. I fight against the aging of my body and the decay of my flesh, to believe that in this season of wholeness I am whole. I am a bud in heaven.

I celebrate our summer’s end, I suppose, for both its prosperity and for its disintegration, because I am both of them. And pleasantly so. And thankfully so. There is nothing better than to know as I a die here, my seed is rooting out in heaven for an eternal harvest whose joy and celebration and thankfulness will never end.

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My Two Favorite Words

In our American society, we’re taught that we can do it. As Walt Disney once said, “If we can dream it, we can do it.” Our innovation and will have created entire industries, from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age. You’ve also heard the phrase, “If it’s got to be, it’s up to me.” Granted, applying our will and energy toward an end is good, even essential, to being productive—not only for an American culture, but for Christ.

But I believe I’ve found two words that are even more powerful than I can.

It’s I can’t. What I mean is, I do not ultimately have the power to control or improve my life. But Christ in me does. If I have given my heart to Him, and allowed Him to sit in the driver’s seat for me, then I, now in the passenger side, have no handle on the steering wheel. I can ask Jesus to go here or there, turn this way or that, request certain destinations (such as a drive through at Dairy Queen with my wife for a butterscotch dilly bar:), but He is the one with the responsibility to get me there. It is through Him that the actions and movement of my life flow.

It’s a beautiful understanding. I’ve spent so much of my life driving myself to do better, to excel, to make schedules that control my world. Of course these are healthy when applied in a healthy way, but if my foundation is my belief that I am the foundation for these things to make happen, then they won’t. Not in a way that glorifies Jesus.

But to remind myself over and over that I can’tNot my power … Not my power but Yours, Jesus … empowers me not to assume the weight of the world, but to give it away—to the only One who understands what it takes to hold it up, as He did on the cross.

There is a tremendous release here, a feeling and awareness and joy that I can sit back and enjoy the ride—to discover the scenery, life, the rest of the family in the car, to be myself, to be free.

One of my favorite verses, especially growing up, is Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I’ve fumbled over that verse throughout the years, and have struggled with the problem that I address in this post. What I’ve come to realize is that now that I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), it’s not my old self living in me, but Christ in me, through His Spirit. I’m one with Him, an adopted son.

What that means to me is when I give up control of my life to Jesus and let go of my anxieties, worries, stresses, fears, insecurities, wants, needs, hurts, pains, losses, burdens—when I give them all up to Him, He takes them away. Isn’t that beautiful? When I go to work and feel burdened by a responsibility that quickly weighs on me, I have a tool, a reminder, at my defense. I can’t. Help me, Jesus. I can’t do this. Please help me do this! For You!

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In Support of My First Year Teaching Wife

I’m impressed at how hard my wife is working these two weeks before school begins. She’s had essentially no time to prepare for her classroom, since she spent all summer teaching summer school. She’s had to cram a month of work into a few afternoons, since she’s had new teacher training for several days now. The room looks great! I’m impressed by how cool you are, and how composed. You told me yesterday you had 42 things on your list that had to get done by Monday, and each day new things keep getting added. I don’t know how you’re getting it all done. All I can do is marvel at your hard work and grace. Keep it up! You’re already a great teacher!

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