Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Calvin, Grandma, and Running the Race...

     I love Calvin and Hobbes and rue the day their creator, Bill Watterson, decided to quit doing the comic strip.  Granted, Calvin was well on his way to reform school... but still no one could deny that he was a very bright as well as a very  funny little criminal-in-the-making!  And, thankfully, Calvin had Hobbes to keep him in check when the kid got  too out of hand, which was often.
     One of the reasons that Watterson gave for quitting the series was that he felt he had taken the cartoon as far as he could, that he had reached the limit of what he could do with it.
     My grandmother would have understood that!  (No, I'm not referring to the fact that sometimes she reached her limit with me... although I know she did on more than one occasion...)   My mother used to tell me that Grandma never went to Sunday school while she (mom) was growing up.  The reason?  She felt she didn't need Sunday school; she only needed a little fine-tuning via a sermon or two each week.  In other words, she'd studied the Bible lessons enough already!  And didn't need those quarterly lesson books anymore!
     I loved my grandmother but she didn't grow much.  Physically or spiritually. She was a little under 5 feet tall when I knew her - which sometimes made riding in a car with her  an exhilarating experience.  Especially when I could see on-coming traffic and... she couldn't...  (This never worried her! She simply carved out the middle of the highway as her province, drove 30 miles an hour regardless of the traffic signs and grumbled that if anyone didn't like the way she drove, they could get out of the way.  And get out of the way, they did!  Trust me!)
    Spiritually, my grandmother could be a bit of a mess.  She routinely insulted people (even my friends) and stirred up trouble, even in the church.  She was, um, manipulative, to say the least.   Sometimes I wonder what she would have been like if she had kept on growing spiritually and not just been content to sit back and hear a sermon now and then, which she didn't hesitate to criticize, I might add.
   The truth is that grandma came from a different era, a time when women slipped out of church early so that they could go home and fry chicken because the preacher was coming to eat as soon as the  preachin' was over.  She "worked her garden", went to quiltin' bees over at the church, sewed clothes for her grandkids on  an old sewing machine, watched soap operas religiously, and listened in on party lines so she could repeat the latest gossip.  That was my grandma!

   I think grandma might be a bit bewildered right now if she were here. Not by the technology which she would probably just dismiss with a derisive wave of the hand, but by the idea of grandmothers out jogging, wearing sweaters wrapped around their slender waists,  while pushing their grandkids in designer strollers.  I think our whole culture would flabbergast her actually because so much of it is about setting goals, looking youthful, getting the most  out of our golden years.
    And I personally think all that is good.
    But I would like to suggest something else, along those lines but still.. a bit different.
   I would like to suggest that we start doing spiritual calisthenics in our early years and continue this routine on into our twilight years.  Biblical "stretching" exercises come in a variety of ways but they all have the same goal - to tone our faith muscles.
   Have you ever wondered why God makes promises and then doesn't answer them right away?  Why doesn't He just tell us what He's going to do (in answer to our prayers, etc) and then simply do it?  Why do we sometimes have to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking?  And why, once He has shown us what He plans to do, should we have to keep hanging onto that promise for what seems like eons while the Heavens are seemingly like brass?  Why do we have to keep going back to Him saying, "Lord, you promised... but I just don't see..."
    I think part of  the answer is simple.  God wants us to exercise.
    Searching out  promises in His word and holding onto them develops our spiritual heart muscles, as it were, and strengthens our "faith vision". (For we walk by faith, not by sight... II Cor. 5:7)
    So, in anticipation of  the right-on-the-horizon new year ahead, I've tuned into the ancient book of  Hebrews to formulate a spiritual work-out plan for the next 12 months.

    1.  Motivation!  Each day I'd like to wake up remembering that I am surrounded by a gallery of Olympic Faith Walkers who have finished their race and who are cheering me on, marking my progress.  (12:1)

    2.  Warm-up!  Each morning  I'd like to limber up by stripping off every weight, including my pet sins, that weigh me down and encumber me as I get ready to jog.  (Maybe singing some version of "Gonna wash that sin right out of my life..!."  Groan... Well, I never said I was musical!)  (12:1)

    3.  Positions!  This may seem like a given... But I can find myself at the wrong starting gate.. .airport gate.. ticket gate... meeting place... check-out lane... you name it!  Even the wrong white Malibu on the right parking lot... :(  So this year I want to make sure that I am set to run the particular race that God has for me to run.  I don't want to find myself hobbling along, trying to run the race that He actually designed for my neighbor. I want to find the lane He has for me and faithfully stay in it.  (12:1)
    4.   Run!   The writer of Hebrews said to run with endurance... Not pizzaz.  Just endurance.  And then he tells us how to do this which leads to the next item.
    5.   Focus!   To run my race, day in and day out, I need to keep my eyes focused on Jesus, the One who waits for me at the end of the course, the One who lives to intercede on my behalf, and the One who is the author and finisher of my faith course.
     Finally - and this is the last part of my daily workout plan for 2013 - I want to read through the Bible at my own pace and in a "comfortable" version (The New Living Translation),  specifically looking for and writing down promises that God gives to His children.  Not all the promises in the Bible are meant for everyone. I get that.  And many of the promises in Scripture are conditional. I get that as well.  In fact, I understand that the conditions are very important.
     But this is the deal.  God gives us promises in order to stretch our faith. They are like stations along a life-long marathon race, markers along the way to encourage us and strengthen us.
      To get myself going on this program, I started today actually.  I'm reading in Hebrews right now obviously and so on an index card this is what I wrote down:

Dec. 11, 2013
Hebrews 10:32-36
      A.  Situation:  New believers are going through great difficulty and heartache which is undeserved.
      B.  Conditions they need to meet:  They are to endure patiently and not let the faith muscle they've already built up atrophy. They are to hang onto their joy.
      C.  Promise:  They will be able to continue to do God's will and someday they will receive everything God has told them He will bless them with.
    I know not every passage has a promise in it.  But my goal this year is to spend a little time each day reading through the NLT, looking for promises and writing them down. And if I'm only half way through when Jan. 2014 rolls around, that's okay.  My goal is not to finish the Bible but to get out there in my "lane", stretch my faith muscles, and walk/run the race God has for me with endurance while a multitude of Faith-ers cheer me on and my Beloved Savior encourages me from the finish line.

    If you don't have any other spiritual game plan formulated for the new year, I hope you'll join me.
     See you at the finish line!

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