Embrace the Train and Other Frustrations in Life

Railroad-Crossing

“…always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”—Ephesians 5:20(NIV).

Living in Claremore can be a challenge as well as a frustration. Everyone I’ve met has one complaint in common—the trains. I’ve lived here since 2005. Since then, I’ve discovered many side roads in my attempts to avoid them. However, since our city is divided into quarters by two railroad lines—the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Union Pacific Rail lines—it’s almost impossible to go north or south, east or west and avoid them completely because the two intersect in the town’s center. On a positive note, they’re a good excuse when you’re running late.

Interrupted schedules, as well as concerns about emergency vehicle crossings, have led to more than frustration in this community of approximately 19,032. I’m sure it’s raised more blood pressure readings than standing in line at a speedy grocery checkout with someone in front of you who has much more in his cart than the allotted 10-20 items. My opinion? Most of us don’t like to wait anywhere because we’re always in a hurry.

One of our local residents, Brandon Irby, decided to view the train challenge in a positive way by posting this message on Instagram: “So here I am, stopped at another train, and here’s my challenge to you. Upload a positive thought, with a photo or video with the hashtag #embracethetrain to Instagram or Facebook the next time you’re stopped.”

What a novel idea! What if we applied that to every area of our life that leaves us frustrated and angry? How much would it change your attitude? How might it change others around you if you embraced the frustration and anger by giving thanks—no matter what?

Are You a Religious Nut or a Fruity Christian?

fruit of the spirit 2“But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; and here there is no conflict with Jewish laws”—Galatians 5:22-23(TLB).

Let’s imagine you were put on trial. You have been “accused” of being a Christian. How would the prosecution prepare their case against you? What evidence could they present to prove your guilt? That’s a pretty sobering thought, isn’t it? Would there be enough evidence to prosecute you for being a follower of Christ?

Recently, as I was preparing for a workshop I was leading on the fruit of the Spirit, I was amazed at the number of times the word “fruit” or “bearing fruit” was mentioned in scripture. Of course, the scripture most think about when they think of fruit is found in Galatians 5:22-23. As I looked up this well-known scripture in different versions of the Bible, the one resonating with me was the version I found in “The Living Bible.” Look at the beginning of verse 22 above: “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this kind of fruit in us.”

Many times, when we read the list of fruit that Paul mentions in Galatians, we feel overwhelmed by the challenge of trying to live out these characteristics. Are we born with the fruit of the Spirit? Nope. It’s only when we surrender to Jesus that His Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, helping us to produce fruit.

Are You Lost in a Maze of Worldliness?

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost

—Luke 19:10 (NIV).

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“It’s this way.”

“No, over here.”

“That’s a dead end. You’re not looking at the map.”

This was only a part of the conversation punctuating the cornfield maze my grandchildren, my oldest son and I had on a recent sunny October afternoon. The maze, along with other activities, was a part of many fun-filled and educational opportunities for all ages at a northeastern Oklahoma farm.

Before entering the maze, we were handed a map, along with instructions to find clues located on several signs along the way. At the top of the map was a phone number we could call if we couldn’t find our way out. As we wove our way through the twists and turns of the maze, we were often slapped in the face with dangling corn stalks. We often found ourselves going in circles. When we discovered a sign on the trail, I was amazed to see we could use our smart phones to read a QR Code. For those who are not familiar with a QR Code, it’s similar to a bar code found on products scanned at the checkout. In this case, the QR Code revealed information via the smart phone to locate our position on the map.

Other than the map and the signs along the way, we had no way of knowing where we were in the maze of corn. We laughed along the way even as we disagreed sometimes on which path we needed to take to find our way out of the jungle of corn stalks.

This World is Not Your Home

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“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when He arrives”—1 Peter 2:11-12 (MSG).

A conversation with a friend at church was a reminder of what God had laid on my heart that week. The cross necklace I wore reminded her of one her grandmother, now deceased, had worn. Our conversation began with the necklace and led to a discussion about the swiftness of life’s passing, especially when we begin to lose loved ones.

Recently, I attended the funeral of a friend, who just two months ago, appeared to be in excellent health. Cecil, along with his wife, was an example of a true Christian servant. Each Sunday morning Cecil would rise early to drive over 10 miles to our church, where he would leave his car, pick up the church van and return to his small hometown to pick up a load of children who he brought back for services at Claremore FUMC. After church, he took the children back to their homes and then returned to Claremore to leave the van and fetch his automobile to return home to his own family. Let’s see—that’s six 10 plus-mile trips each Sunday or three 20 plus-mile round-trips, every Sunday. Cecil—whose wife voluntarily cooks a meal at our church’s bridge service each Thursday for 80-120 people—also drove the church bus on the same night to pick up and deliver to church those who had no other way to attend the informal evening service. Why did he do it? Because Cecil understood this world is not our real home.

Pray Down at High Noon

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“In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen’—Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV).

If you enter Ardmore, Oklahoma off I-35 near the 12th street exit, you’ll see a billboard on the west side of the road. Facing south, the billboard proclaims, “Ardmore Prays ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ at High Noon Daily.” Sponsored by Pastor’s Hope, the billboard’s message has become a mission for the Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church Ardmore. After hearing Dr. Terry Teykl speak at an August 17 prayer workshop, Jessica Moffatt Seay was impressed by the Holy Spirit to encourage others to begin praying The Lord’s Prayer at high noon.

Dr. Teykl, national prayer teacher and author of 18 books related to prayer, founded “Pray Down at High Noon” with a goal of raising up a million people worldwide who pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon every day. So far, 800,000 have signed up to participate.

How to know the will of God for your life

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“But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”—Matthew 6:33 (NRSV).

We humans are a selfish bunch. We want everything our way. We want God’s blessings but we don’t want to surrender anything, including our time, talent and treasure.

We want to know God’s will for our lives—at least some of us do—but we don’t want to take the time to discover what His will is. That would mean sacrifice on our part.

Recently, our pastor’s sermon series was titled, “How to Know the Will of God for your Life.” Although I’d read articles and books on this topic, I needed a reminder. We easily become distracted by busyness and the chatter of life. Pastor Ray’s five-part series included the following:

1. First, we have to seek God’s kingdom, remembering we are coming on His terms, not ours. Matthew 6:33 says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

2. Second, we need a plan that offers better reception, meaning if we can’t hear that still, small voice we need to examine our Christian practices like prayer, meditation and worship. These three are like phone plans designed to help us stay connected and communicate more clearly with God. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

What does it mean to be a Successful Christian?

Success

“Then He said to all, ‘Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me!’”—Luke 9:23(TLB).

In a recent newspaper article, Sean Kouplen, the CEO of a Tulsa-based bank, listed five traits to find balance in life. Speaking from a business viewpoint, he mentioned the characteristics as common ones among those who he defined as successful in life. As I read the list, I realized they also apply to our Christian life.

1.    They have a clear vision of who they want to be.

As Christians, our vision should be striving to be more Christ-like. The banker added, “No matter what their goal, these   people aggressively pursue it with a single-minded focus. They aren’t reactive and they don’t just drift through life.” As Christians, we must be intentional about our spiritual growth. We can’t drift through life, expecting to grow in the fruits of the spirit without spending time with God and reading and studying His Word each day.

2.   They give their best effort at everything they do.

As Christians, our goal should be to do our best each day, no matter the circumstances or the task. According to Kouplen, “Whatever they are involved in, they pursue it with passion and productivity.” Wherever we are asked to serve, we should do it as Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

3.   They focus more on others than themselves.

As Christians, we should be focused on others’ needs. Successful business people enjoy helping others be successful, the CEO said. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Remember the Good Samaritan?