The Long Haul

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

I thought I’d steal a few precious minutes to give an update from my little corner of the South. A quick note to my Facebook followers before I dive in: Even if this article posts to Facebook, I am taking a break from Zuckerberg’s social media platforms for a time. So if you have a comment to share, please share it here on WordPress… or better yet, consider helping support this writing ministry by visiting my Patreon page! Become a Patron!

I’ll be offering extras for my Patreon supporters, building in more as I go, but this blog will remain free (and sparse so long as our family’s needs require me to work outside the home!)

It’s been an interesting year. I’ve been working part-time at my kids’ school teaching cell phone photography to middle school students – a feat roughly equivalent to swallowing live eels while guiding two dogs, eighteen kittens, and a chicken safely through New York City using a homemade map and the Force.

And while it must be admitted that middle schoolers spend more energy attempting to circumnavigate the school’s network restrictions than taking photos with their phones, it can still be fun to see the photos they do take and hear their thoughts.

Then a week before Christmas break, I came down with the Bane of 2020 – COVID 19. My symptoms were mild and I recovered at home over the break. But a couple weeks after I began feeling better, the body aches and fatigue came crashing back. And again a couple weeks after that… and again… and again…

So here I am in mid-March wrestling with unpleasant facts: Not only am I blessed with the invisible illness of ME/CFS, I also get a free – and equally invisible – membership to the COVID Long Haulers’ Club.

Not fun. Incredibly humbling. But nonetheless, I am blessed.

I admit, this blessing doesn’t really feel like one. If given a menu of blessings, it isn’t one I would have selected. And it doesn’t go particularly well with the 70% pay reduction our family tasted in 2020, nor with the 2-car, 4-driver dynamic we’ve been noshing on since last fall, nor with any of the banquet of bland fiscal fare we’ve been sampling in the last 18 or so months. But it’s a blessing still.

I don’t know when, I don’t know why, and I absolutely don’t know how, but I do know the Lord will use this newest struggle in some way for the comfort of His people. Perhaps in some way I will be able to speak to those who share in this weird and unpredictable cycle of flu-like aching and exhaustion and point them to the comfort I have in Christ.

Or maybe the Lord simply wants to make His power abundantly known in my profound weakness.

I have no idea what to expect. All I know is that I committed myself years ago to walk the narrow, difficult path that leads to life. Whether this current dark valley is a brief foray of reduced visibility or just the beginnings of another steep descent into utter blackness, I have no way of knowing. The road curves just ahead and I have only enough Light for the path beneath my feet.

Still, no matter where this Way leads and no matter how short or long the journey, I know I never walk alone. The Lord Yeshua is with me. Regardless of the personal cost, with Him as my Guide I am in it for the long haul.

Bible Study Hack: My Secret Shortcut to Experiencing the Almighty

I’m just kidding. There are no shortcuts.

But I do have a sort of secret for how I stay faithful in my daily reading the Word of God, though it is neither very secretive nor mysterious. What is it? Simply this: I enjoy it.

I actually adore getting up and spending my first hour or so with the Lord, reading His Word, studying it, praying through it, and even interceding for others in prayer. To me, it’s like getting to start my morning with the Person I admire the most in the whole wide world, because… well, that’s exactly what it is.

The Bible is not something I read because I have to, nor even because I ought to; I read it because I love it and I love its Author.

It excites me to know that the Most High God, the magnificent Creator of all that has being actually left us here on this crazy, blue and green satellite with a written account of His character and work. Even more, it thrills me to the core that He actually participated in the experience of humanity instead of remaining on the outside like some cosmic marble collector.

It may seem a trifle odd when I confess to you that I do not only love the inspirational chunks of Scripture; I love all of it, even the parts that make me squirm uncomfortably because they expose my sin and shame. I welcome the heart-wrenching as much as the heart warming. I love it all because I know that even the awful lash of discipline is administered personally and perfectly by the hand of my infinitely loving Father.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts.
Psalms 119:92-94

Yet in all truth, there really is something like a secret behind my enjoyment, and I feel I would be remiss if I did not clarify this point: I cannot claim even a particle of credit for my delight in God’s Word. Not even the barest sliver stems from any righteousness or natural goodness on my part. It all has to do with God.

And all of it has taken time. Lots of time.

You see, the only reason I am able to enjoy His word, to look forward to reading it; the single solitary reason for my tendency to think about Scripture or ponder the nature of God when I am walking or washing dishes or gardening, or whatever it is that I do is because of His life at work in me.

To put it bluntly, I have because I asked, not for my glorification but for His.

… You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

James 4:2b-3

Even my love for the Lord is something that He has given me. All that lives and loves and is good in me is because of His life-giving power, His breath in my lungs, His love poured out into my heart.

Nor is this the quick work of a single hour. I have spent years desperately, tearfully entreating God to help me overcome my unbelief – and He is doing so. Yet I also know that I will be praying the same prayer for all the years that are left to me, for each new day brings with it yet another understanding of how pervasive my unbelief truly is.

If any faithfulness or goodness is seen in my life, it stems from God’s grace and work alone. You can be dead certain that all mistakes and wrong turnings are my own.

Believer, I do not know where you are on the narrow path that leads to life, but I want you to know that there are no shortcuts or cheats to intimacy with God, nor is there a bypass that will allow you to circumvent the pain of contrition. Yet every step of the way, every atom of faith, even the will to press on, is freely offered by the One who is both the Beginning and the End.

And you are invited along for the journey!

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