The wind can be a huge inhibiting factor for the #1 pastime here in the Village – golf! It certainly is a different game when hitting a golf ball into a direct wind. And just let there be the slightest of sidespin on the ball, and the wind will accentuate the flight of the ball to the left or right. Some days it seems like every hole you play you have a head wind, no matter which way you turn.
For those new to central Arkansas, just up the road is a lake called Lake Maumelle. The lake was created as a water source for Little Rock and the surrounding areas. It has a ridgeline running its complete length on its southern shore. Because the lake lays in an east-west direction, and the wind coming over the ridgeline creates downward pressure on the lake, it is a sailing mecca for those who enjoy the sport in this part of the state. On windy days you can see many large sails on tiny boats zooming downwind on the lake. And then they turn, or “tack”, changing the direction of the boat into the wind as they zig zag back across the lake. I’ve tried sailing in the past and enjoy the downwind portion. But when it came time to tack back and forth, I lost all ability to make progress toward the starting point.
The majority of the disciples were fishermen. I sometimes have scratched my head and wondered how they could be so short-sighted in their behavior. When Peter jumped from the boat and walked on water, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. Then he cried out to Jesus to save him? Couldn’t this fisherman swim? Some say no, but there is evidence to the contrary in scripture following the resurrection.
So why did the disciples struggle in boats? When Jesus sent them across the Sea of Galilee, scripture tells us they struggled against the wind all night! Why didn’t they just “tack” and use the wind to their advantage? We will never know.
We are no different. How many times when we meet a brick wall, whether it’s a situation we’re trying to overcome, or a person who has a difference of opinion on a matter. We (or at least I will confess) think applying “head on” effort will break down the wall and we’ll be victorious. A lot of energy is expended when we try to muscle through the “wind.”
What we need to do is “tack” in the direction of Jesus. Just like when Jesus calmed the winds, the sea went still, and the disciples had a new focus. He can calm the winds of our lives in the same way when we focus on Him. Let’s all learn a lesson from the disciples and stop struggling against things on our own. Christ will give us a direction to “tack” when we give the struggle to Him in prayer.
Maybe I should ask the question using correct English: With what are you struggling? As you can guess I struggle with the English language, or should I say with formal English. Do I use “its” or “it’s”? Should I put the question mark inside the quotation marks or outside of them? You’ve heard the joke, “a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with.” That describes my grasp of proper English to a tee!
We have many struggles in our life. You have witnessed as adults the struggles of puberty in teenagers, specifically boys, and laugh. I must pause here and tell you I did not have a son, I had two daughters. I wouldn’t trade them for all the riches in the world. They were wonderful and have grown to be beautiful women. As for a boy, I believe God in His infinite wisdom knew I would have had no patience for raising a teenage boy! I laugh, but I digress!
It’s easy to look back and see the struggles of others, but a little more difficult to see our own. While we can identify the struggles we overcame, how about those we failed to reach victory? It’s not as easy to talk about the latter, because of the first step to problem solving: admit there is a problem.
Those of us who gave our life to Christ at an early age did so with the faith of a child. We accepted the fact we could not solve the issue of our own sin. We were told Jesus died for our sins, we wholly accepted this, and made Him the Lord of our lives. But what happened after that?
Those who accepted Christ later in life approached Jesus with a different mindset. They had more years behind them, and therefore more “sins” to have forgiven, but the struggle is different. Adults rationalize, qualify, quantify, and apply logic to problems. But these struggles lie within ourselves rather than with God, so we wrestle inwardly.
Do younger Christians have the same struggles? Is accepting Christ at an early age make living the Christian life easier? Absolutely not!!! Older adults have experienced the “pulls” of this world and have seen those paths lead nowhere. But a younger Christian, even though they have Christ in their life, must face the inevitable decisions and struggles posed by the world without the luxury of experience.
Can we use someone else’s experience as our own? We all know the answer to that question. Can we use someone else’s faith as our own? I answer this question with a contrast: God versus my God. Is God just someone we’ve heard about, or do we have a personal relationship with Him?
We all have struggles. But those of us who call upon Christ’s sacrifice, and are covered with God’s unfailing grace know we have a source of strength far beyond our own.
Struggling? Give your struggles to the only One who can pull you through!!
I have several medically trained individuals in my family. One common thread regardless of the category of vocation is the oath: First do no harm. This is a fundament premise in the medical community in treating individuals who are ailing. Most of the oath a physician takes at graduation can be rolled into these four words – primum non nocere.
These few words can also apply to any person and not necessarily to physicians only. Doing no harm does not mean to stand idly by while someone is in need of help. Doing no harm is not a prescription for remaining inactive in the presence of need.
A friend of mine’s son who is eleven years old was walking with his mother in a park. Suddenly, he took off in a sprint toward the pond which lay along the path. His mother had no idea what was happening. Then she saw something alarming; a toddler who had unknowingly fallen into the water. The boy jumped into the water without hesitation and rescued the two-year old from drowning. He acted without regard for his own safety and was even injured by underwater debris.
This young man is just wired this way as I’m told, as he is constantly seen doing acts of kindness. Such a person can be described as having a heart of gold. Could he have done no harm by ignoring the situation? I think you would agree with me in saying no!
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had three simple rules for living as a Christian: 1) Do no harm by avoiding evil of all kinds, 2) Do all the good for all, and 3) Attend to the ordinances of God. Three simple rules that embody the Christian life. The actions of the young man in saving the toddler can easily be seen in the first two rules. He did not harm the child by doing nothing, and certainly did all the good he could by rescuing the child.
So how can we do no harm? We fight within ourselves every day to think good thoughts and not bad ones. We are sinners by nature, but I submit the overwhelming source of our negativity is evil. How can we have a mind of Christ and still allow evil to influence our thinking at the same time? It is a struggle. If we know poison is bad or fatal, do we take it, or do we avoid it? The same can be said of evil influences.
We see terrible acts of violence in our nation in the name of positive change. You simply can’t do good by doing harm. It is an impossibility. The only way we can make a change is through prayer and by avoiding evil. Put good things in our body that will make us healthy and avoid the bad things that would harm us.
Do no harm to ourselves or each other. Pray, avoid, and love. Now there’s a prescription meant to cure a lot of hurts!
Sometime in our academic careers, many of us had to write a paper which compared and
contrasted a subject. For me it was one of the more difficult things to do. It was an exercise in
finding how two points were similar, then conversely writing how they were different.
During my time with the State of Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was to write
opinions of state-level grievance decisions. These opinions were for the Chief Operating Officer
for the state. The COO’s office reviewed the decision and decided to either uphold the decision
of the panel or to overturn it. The decision came from two papers – one to uphold and one to
overturn. I just thought it was difficult to compare and contrast subject matter. Now I was
writing one paper in favor of and one opposing a decision! At times I felt like I had to develop a
In all the decision papers I had to write, one thing was absolutely necessary, which was
emotional control to prevent a skewed opinion. I had to write equally fair opinions. So many
times, we let our emotions highjack our thinking which then leads to behaviors driven by
feelings rather than logic and control. For instance, if we have an overwhelming feeling of
danger we might react in an anxious manner. If we think someone has “stepped over the line” in
their interaction with us, we might react in anger. But if we have a mindset of wanting to
contribute positively to the world around us, we might act with a sense of accomplishment and
pride. Yes, a contrast of positive versus negative thinking.
So how do we have a thankful mindset? One way is to not be introspective. If we look
inward and the situations we are in, we might feel anger, guilt, or embarrassment. But if we look
outwardly and appreciate what we have received or what we have in our lives (not what we don’t
have), we feel a sense of gratitude, and gratitude leads to behaviors such as giving back and
What contributions are you making to the world around you? It would be very easy
during our present times to completely isolate ourselves in our homes with the television as the
only outside contact we have. As an old saying goes, “You can’t make sweet grape juice from
lemons.” We must filter the bad information coming into our lives, look at it with a logical
mind, and not let it drive our mindset.
So, how do we set our minds on the “thankful track” every day? The best way is putting
pressure on your knees – prayer. Jesus knows our emotions, our trials, and our sufferings. Who
better to talk to than someone who has “been there, done that!” Alone we cannot be at our best.
But with Christ as our coach, mentor, advocate, and friend, we can change the world around us
by allowing Him to change our perspective!
My wife and I have had the luxury of seeing a great deal of the United States on the back
of a big touring motorcycle. Our country is so diverse and so beautiful, with towering buildings
in the big city to the towering Sequoia pines in northern California. And the smells are no less
different. I can even say the rains are different as well, from the pure rain in the Ozarks to the
muddy rain in the Mojave Desert. Yes, our country is a tapestry, woven together to be quite
We would plan out our big trips after months of talking about what sights we wanted to
see. One such trip was up the Pacific Coast Highway eventually ending up in Glacier National
Park. We planned for months with our traveling partners, selecting stops along the way for rest,
doing laundry, and of course the local tourist attractions. We always had the end goal in mind,
but we had to plan one day at a time to avoid a long day on the motorcycle. Eventually, we
reached all our planned sites and made it to our ultimate goal safe and sound – home.
Our trips were not without struggles and breakdowns, from the extreme heat in the
deserts of the Southwest to breaking down 155 miles from the nearest Harley dealership in
norther Arizona. Struggles are just part of the experience, not unlike life.
Looking back over our nation’s journey, there have been wonderful sights and sounds but
there have also been some struggles. Things “break down” along the way and we have repaired
the brokenness. The repairs must take place to continue on the journey. Our life’s journey is the
Matthew 6:25 and following tell us to plan our day one at a time. Yes, we have an
eventual goal, but God only promises us today. Matthew’s words tell us not to worry about
tomorrow, nor the food we will eat or the clothes we will wear. God clothes the fields with
beautiful flowers and provides food for even the smallest bird.
We are part of God’s wonderful creation. However, how important are we in it? I will
tell you, we are the only part of creation made in the image of our Creator! If He cares for the
lilies of the field and smallest of birds on the ground, how much more will he care for us?
Yes, we are on a journey. We’ve experienced great times and some hard knocks as well.
When we reach our ultimate goal, our forever home, we can look back and see the wonderful
tapestry of our lives God has woven for us, a beautiful creation woven by the Master’s hands.