Keep Pressing Heavenward to Win the Prize

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”—Philippians 3:14(NIV).

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Today, I’m pressing on. It’s Friday morning. I’m in my usual spot facing my computer screen. I’ve prayed, “God, please give me the words to reach the people You want me to reach.”

When I began this journey, I had no idea I’d still be writing a weekly column almost 12 years later. I don’t share this out of pride but out of humility. While I’ve always loved writing and reading, my post-retirement plans from a 30-year teaching career didn’t include a weekly Christian column. But God had a better plan.

Recently, I was visiting with a fellow classmate. We both graduated from a rural Oklahoma high school in 1971. Like me, Duane doesn’t see retirement as a time to sit and rust.

When I speak to groups, I always share with them something I learned from a man who is still going strong in his 90s. When I first met Jack, he was in his late 70s. Because of my relocation to a new community, I was attending a different church and was changing my membership.

Making Each Season Count

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens...Ecclesiastes 3:3 (NIV).

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 My two oldest grandchildren, now 12 and 13, spent several days with me recently. Cheyenne is now taller than I am by almost two inches. Her brother, Brennan, is also catching up with my five foot plus three inches. I’m not getting any taller, but they are.

It’s sometimes difficult to fathom how fast the years have gone. It seems just like yesterday that I was changing their diapers. While I miss those years, I’m enjoying this new season in life. Watching God at work in them and through them is a delight to this praying “Nana.”

A friend’s essay in a Christian writer’s newsletter made me think about our time here on earth. Martha, who turned 60 recently, wrote, “Am I really that old?”

Then, she questioned herself. “What do I have to show for sixty years of living? What impact have I made on my world? Do I even have a legacy to leave? If I die tomorrow, what would be put on my gravestone?”

Like me, Martha may have another 30 years to live or we may die tomorrow. Neither of us cares about making a name for ourselves, but we want our children and grandchildren to know what it means to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the peace only God can give.

As Christian writers, we know the best way to leave a legacy is through our writing. Encouraging other writers in our group, she wrote, “I believe my heart, and yours too, is in the right place. But if we never get what’s in our heart on paper or on the computer screen for our loved ones and the rest of the world to read, our gift will never see fruition.

Are You Controlling Your Attitude?

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”—Psalm 118:24 (ESV).

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When I saw the following post on a friend’s Facebook page, I had to share it with my readers:

A famous writer was in his study and compiled the following list:

  1. Last year, my gallbladder was removed. I was in bed for a long time.
  2. The same year I reached the age of 60 and had to leave my favorite job. I spent 30 years with this publishing company.
  3. The same year my father died.
  4. The same year my son failed his medical exam because he had a car accident. He was hospitalized with a cast on his leg for several days. The destruction of the car was a second loss.

His concluding statement: “Alas! It was a bad year!”

When the writer’s wife entered the room, she found her husband looking dejected and sad. She read what he had written, left the room, and came back with another piece of paper. The husband read her version of his account of the year’s events:

  1. Last year I finally got rid of my gallbladder which had given me many years of pain.
  2. I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write with more focus and peace.
  3. The same year my father died at the age of 95 without depending on anyone, without any critical conditions, and met his Creator.
  4. The same year, God blessed my son with life. My car was destroyed, but my son was alive and without permanent disability.

She concluded: This year was an immense blessing.

What does true freedom mean for those who choose to follow Christ?

Understanding the Paradox of Freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”—Galatians 5:1 (NIV).

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To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. Constitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.

According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are, indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.

Only Christ can set us free.

Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?

What is Your Focus in Life?

“But God has blessed you, because your eyes can see and your ears can hear!”—Matthew 13:16(CEV).

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When I was in sixth grade, I was diagnosed with myopia or nearsightedness, meaning I had the ability to see near objects more clearly than distant objects. To compound the diagnosis, I also had astigmatism, an imperfection of the cornea preventing part of it from focusing light onto the retina.

At 10-years-old, I was fitted for glasses. Because my eyesight was so bad, the lens in my glasses were thick in appearance, almost like the bottom of the classic soda pop bottle. As usual, children forced to wear glasses earn the nickname, “Four Eyes.” I was no exception. I admit, it hurt at the time.

When I reached high school, my vanity led me to ditch the glasses out in public. My parents wouldn’t buy contacts until I graduated and headed to college. I put up with the hard lenses in my eyes for three or four years until allergies made me forgo them. I returned to glasses.

During the next three or four decades I tried contacts again, this time the soft ones. Again, allergies made me miserable and the contacts were uncomfortable. Finally, I decided to stick with glasses. By this time, the material used for lenses had improved. Although I still needed a strong prescription, the lenses were thinner. I no longer looked as if I were sporting pop bottle bottoms in my frames. I actually looked forward to picking out new frames each time I visited my optometrist.  It was almost as good as shopping for new shoes.

Praising God Through the Trials and Turmoil

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God”— Psalm 43:5 (ESV).

Gulley-washing rains have plagued parts of the country during the past months, leaving a path of destruction behind in many areas. Lives have been lost and property has been destroyed due to the flooding.

Living close to the lake, I’ve seen the aftermath. My house is on higher ground but some of my neighbors have had to contend with rising water because their homes are lakefront property. One neighbor has even been fishing off his front deck, and a road running in front of his property is no longer passable.

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While on my daily walk through the neighborhood, I’ve watched as the rising waters have left the neighborhood lakeside picnic area unusable. The three concrete picnic tables and the large fire pit were swallowed by the rising lake levels.

When the rain abated for a week, the tops of the picnic tables came into view, as did part of the fire pit. The torrential rains returned and they disappeared once again. Now, as the water begins to recede, driftwood debris graces the shoreline. Some of the pieces are beautiful, even with the ugliness left behind.

While I contemplated the mess left behind by the storms, I thought about the trials we face in life. They come and go, just like the lake water levels rising and falling with our capricious weather.

Seeking God’s Wisdom in Practical Ways

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm”— Proverbs 13:20(NRSV).

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Social media and 24/7 news programs have added a new dimension to the cacophony of voices clamoring for our attention. While there are some advantages to having this access, I am beginning to think they are surpassed by the negative weighing us down and often leading to wrong choices.

As fabricated stories, also called fake news, continue to proliferate on these social sites, it has become more difficult to discern the truth. Although some are outright unbelievable, many will fall for the false information and share it as the truth. Seeking the source of these posts helps if we are wise enough to seek it.

How do we know when to act and when to be still?

Our best source of wisdom is God’s Word. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Because so much of the world’s wisdom is foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19), it is imperative, as believers, that we seek His guidance. A recent devotional shared by a friend addressed the fast pace of most of our lives. The writer said, “We find ourselves being driven by rapidly changing circumstances.”