Strengthening Unused Muscles

How are those snowshoes working for you?  They take some getting used to, but I’d say you’re doing quite well.  I’ll bet your legs are feeling sore, though!  You’re probably using muscles you didn’t even know you had….

This trail we’re breaking has some interesting aspects to it.  No one has been here before–especially us, and right now that’s what really matters, doesn’t it?  How many times have we found ourselves facing a situation–quite often because of a decision we’ve made, be it a good one or a bad one–where we know we’ve never been here before, but it’s a necessary place to be in order to get where we’re going?

These kind of places stretch you.  Sometimes so thin you don’t think you can be stretched any further.  Yet what happens?  You find that you’ve still got something left…and so you’re stretched some more.  And you find that when you get to the other side of that difficult time, you’ve become a better person–a better you.  Stronger, a more complete person, a thicker skin, a relatability to others and what they are experiencing, an air about you that says you’ve been through the Refiner’s fire and come out of it on top.

You also find something else has happened.  You’ve been put in a situation that requires you to use “muscles” that you haven’t used in a long time–if ever.  These “muscles” aren’t physical; rather, they are parts of you and your personality that are rarely or never used.  And you find that the situation you are in requires the use of these “muscles”….and this hurts.  Sometimes very intensely!  But you know that already, don’t you?  And this is the most crucial point you could be in.  Because it’s your choice and your choice alone as to what happens next.  You either give up because it hurts too much….or you choose to push through it anyway, continuing to grow and change and become who God wants you to be.

Isn’t it amazing how God does this?  He leaves so much up to us–and quite often, that is a responsibility that we don’t like to accept.  Yet it can be found all through the Bible.

Let me leave you with this (it’s from a picture my wife just shared with me and I want to share it with you):

When God pushes you to the edge, trust Him fully, because only two things can happen:  Either He will catch you when you fall or He will teach you how to fly.

The Only Joke I Know

Wow, it’s cold out here!  But it sure is beautiful, right?

Ok, I told you last time that I would have a joke for you today.  I’ve heard quite a few over the years–some good, many not worth remembering (probably the same for you)–but there is one in particular that I have never forgotten.

I heard this joke over 15 years ago and unfortunately it is the only good one I remember.  Which is really quite amazing, since any other really good ones have been permanently deleted from the trash can.  (Why is it that you so easily forget the good ones and the bad ones don’t want to leave?)

So, without further delay, here it is.  It’s not theologically correct, but it’s a good one nonetheless:

Jesus, Moses and an old man are out golfing one day.  The hole they are approaching is a rather difficult one, with plenty of natural obstacles along the fairway and water hazards to contend with.  One of those water hazards is a particularly large one that’s right in front of the green they are swinging for.

Moses is up first and gets his ball ready….a couple of practice swings…..steps up to the ball….beautiful form as he begins his swing…and hits the ball solidly, sending it in a beautiful arch–right for that water hazard that’s in front of the green!  But Moses’ eyes never leave that ball, and as it begins its decent, he stretches his golf club out towards the water hazard like a staff.  Suddenly, the water in the water hazard splits right down the middle, the bottom of the water hazard instantly dries up, and the ball bounces along the dry ground, up onto the green–two feet from the hole!  Moses looks at Jesus and the old man, lifts his eyebrows a couple of times and just stands there with a big smile on his face.

Jesus is next, walks over and sets up his ball….not even a practice swing….and with absolutely perfect form, he hits the golf ball square on and sends it sailing through the air….straight for the same water hazard!  But he, too, never lets his eyes leave that ball.  And when it meets the water in the middle of the water hazard, instead of sinking into the water, the ball bounces across the surface of the water, up onto the green–ONE foot from the hole!  Jesus looks at Moses and the old man, gives them a wink and steps back for the old man to take his turn.

What do you think the old man is thinking at this point?  I know, me too!  He looks at Moses and Jesus, takes a deep breath and gets his ball ready.  He takes quite a few practice swings….eyes the fairway carefully….steps up to the ball….and promptly swings at it like Happy Gilmore, sending the golf ball soaring way off to the right.  The ball ricochets off a shed roof and sails through the air in the other direction, further down the fairway, and lands on the clubhouse roof.  It rolls down the roof, into the gutter, and begins to work its way around the roof gutter, shooting down the downspout and into the grass at the top of a hill.  The ball rolls down the hill and into the water hazard that’s right in front of the green.  A few seconds go by (a couple of crickets can be heard), and suddenly a fish jumps out of the water with the golf ball in its mouth!  It spits the ball up onto the green and into the hole.  The old man got a hole-in-one!!  He looks at Moses and Jesus, raises his eyebrows a few times and gives them each a wink with the biggest smile an old man could ever have.

Jesus looks at the old man, then at Moses, then back to the old man.  He looks down at the ground, heaves a big sigh and says, “I have got to stop playing with Dad.”

A Change In Direction

It’s beautiful out here this morning!  Got some fresh snow last night.  I love to see snow glistening on the tree limbs, enveloping us in a huge white canopy.  The sunlight reflecting off of the fresh snow like millions of tiny diamonds is just as impressive.

So, got your snowshoes?  You forgot them?  Well, I’ve got an extra pair for you.  Put these on.  And while you’re doing that, I’ll fill you in on what we’re doing…

You may have picked up on it, but we’ve been heading in a northerly direction since we started our journey.  The trail we’ve been walking is a well-used one, but it doesn’t change direction–and we need it to.  We need to head directly north from this point, so we’re breaking our own trail from here on.  The snow is deep, so it’ll be slow going.  But we’ll make headway!

Choices.  Aren’t they complicated sometimes?  We’re making one now.  And every one of them has a consequence to it–cause and effect, as it were.  When God gave us that freedom to choose for ourselves, it came with the responsibility of shouldering those consequences.  Something many of us don’t like to do and some of us even try to avoid.  Now, I realize that you may not believe what I believe about God and the Bible, but walk this out with me for just a few seconds–after all, you are actually walking in my snowshoes right now.  Even if you choose not to believe this, at least you can understand where I’m coming from.

When God created mankind and gave Adam and Eve freewill, He did so out of His love for the only part of His creation that was made in His own image–us.  He knew that the only way He would truly have our love in return for His was for us to be able to freely choose to love Him back–or not.  It’s that “or not” that makes all the difference in the world.  Because that means it’s our choice–not His–what we do with His love:  accept it or reject it.

The funny thing is, it’s those same people who don’t want to acknowledge Him that get so upset when they’re told that Hell awaits them if they don’t choose differently (that argument of “how can a loving God send anyone to a place like that?”).  But think it through….He’s simply giving that person for eternity what they wanted their whole life on earth:  a life without God.

He certainly has created some beautiful things, hasn’t He?  Look at the beauty of winter that is all around us.  Some would argue, “Where’s the proof that He exists?”  And I would respond, “Where’s the proof that He doesn’t?  Look around you; there is proof everywhere.”

One thing I know for certain:  The person with an experience is never at the mercy of the person with a theory.

I’ll have a good joke to share with you next time we catch up.  I think you’ll enjoy it!


Jesse’s Hill

The fire feels good, doesn’t it?  How’s that coffee?

Let’s see, where was I….

The king of all sledding memories is “Jesse’s Hill”.  Remember that hill on the road that I was at with the horse just before he bolted for home?  At the top of that hill on the left was Jesse’s house (a kid about my brother’s age), and just to the right of the house was a big double hill that we would sled on every winter.  The second part of it was steeper than the first, so by the time we hit the bottom of it, we were screamin’ fast!  The first winter we were there, he and some other neighborhood kids had a snow ramp built at the bottom of the double hill.  Man, you flew down that hill!  So you wanted to hit the ramp just right.

The problem was, as you were sledding down the hill and trying to keep your trajectory in line with the ramp, there was something we called “The Tree” just to the right of the sled track that had huge thorns all over it–the “wait-a-minute” variety that grab you upon impact and say, “Wait a minute.  This is really going to hurt.”  (This was the kind of tree that inspired classic kid tales that were passed down from one neighborhood kid to the next:  “Hey, did you hear about Johnny?  He was sledding down Jesse’s Hill the other day and The Tree got him!  I heard he had a thorn in his nose like an African tribesman and they had to remove another one from his skull with pliers.”)

Then, at the bottom of the hill on the far side of the ramp was a built-in momentum-stopper which consisted of a small grove of one-inch diameter sumac trees.  These trees would stop you in your tracks should you fail to apply every extremity as a brake (this is, of course, after you have successfully launched yourself from the ramp, all the while keeping a wary eye upon that sumac grove because too much time airborne meant you were definitely having some quality time with the sumac grove).

My fondest memory of Jesse’s Hill is when Jesse himself went down.  We were all watching the pro himself in action as he sat in his faithful plastic red toboggan and expertly guided his sled down the double hill to the ramp below.  He used his hands and body weight to steer it, going straight passed The Tree and on to the ramp.  Then, at the last second he lost control–or realized he was already going too fast and was taking evasive action to avoid the sumac grove, which means he lost control–and treated us to a scene that still plays out in my mind 30+ years later:

As he met the ramp, it launched his body one way and the sled another, just like a “V”.  His body went left, visible to us as a small snow-suited figure flying through the air in spread-eagle fashion, his hat and mittens cast off just like a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, while his sled went the other way in a beautiful arch, both landing about the same time.  Once the snow settled, he just lay there, probably assessing any damage to his extremities, making sure everything is where it should be and trying to determine what went so catastrophically wrong.  We wanted to go see if he needed any help, but we were unavoidably detained due to all of us laughing so hard that we had already peed our snowsuits and had frozen tears forming on our faces (in fact, I think a couple of us had collapsed in the snow due to laughter exhaustion).  He eventually made it back up the hill, and once again, all was well in the kid-dom of sledding.

Well, friend, it looks like the fire has died down.  I appreciate you taking the time to join me on these romps through some interesting memories.  It’s getting colder out here, so I’m going  to turn in.  Meet me back in this clearing.

And bring your snowshoes….you’re going to need them.