Getting Stronger

Last Saturday, I made some repairs to the stone wall that lines part of our backyard. I’d recently been observing (actually creeping by) a stonemason who’d been upgrading a wall in my neighborhood, thinking to myself,  “Hey, if he can do that, then so can I!” So after doing a bit of research, I gathered my materials together and bought a bag of masonry cement. Saturday rolled around, and eager to get on with my project, I hoisted the 80-lb. bag of rock dust to the back yard to prepare the mix and get after the repairs.

What I did not anticipate, however, was the sheer weight and awkwardness of lifting that bag while in a bent over position. The result, though not immediately noticeable, was several days of back strain and pain, made more tolerable by my pal, Mr. Ibuprofen and 3 of his siblings. Sure, 80-lbs. may not seem like that much, but lift it the wrong way and you’ll quickly discover how brutal such an exercise can be. Truth be known, I have a weak back to begin with. In college (among many other foolish decisions I made), one Friday afternoon I jumped out of a fraternity house second-floor window and landed in a pile of sand (Don’t ask why I did it. It was supposed to be a joke). Upon my encounter with the sand, I discovered the joke was on me as my back was bent into an inhuman position. Let’s just say my chest and knees came together with extreme pressure.

 I stayed in that position for 3 days.

 Alone in my college apartment while all my friends were away (including my roommates and girlfriend), I languished in bed all weekend, unable to walk, eat or find any pain medication. There was no food in the fridge and the cupboards were bone dry (college life!). This was also in the days of no cell phones (when dinosaurs roamed the earth), so if someone wasn’t at home, it meant you couldn’t contact them (imagine that!). In my  72-hour delirium, I do recall crawling to the bathroom once. That wasn’t much fun.

 Upon my girlfriend’s return to campus, she found me in bed, emaciated, in the fetal position, and not smelling too fresh. After feeding me from my favorite burger joint, she got me some medication and a heating pad. Miraculously, in a few days, I no longer walked around like a elderly chimpanzee.

 All that to say, this is one big reason why I have such a weak back.

 Weak muscles can’t bear much weight or lift heavy things. Strong muscles can.

Weakling

 I think faith is as much like a muscle as anything. The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. The stronger it becomes, the more weight you can bear and lift.

Some believers have weak faith. They have trouble trusting God for the smallest things. And when the big weight of life lands on them (as it often does), they crumble under the pressure. Some of these people are weak because they are afraid to really let go and give God everything…everything about themselves and their lives (family, career, future, finances, emotions, etc). They are living in disobedience and their spiritual growth is hindered. They are like adults who still suck on pacifiers and throw tantrums. They are miserable people.

Others are weak because they are simply young in their faith and haven’t developed strong muscles yet. Some are plagued by reoccurring sins or areas of immaturity. But in time, they’ll be ok, as long as they keep growing and trusting.

Some Christians are weak because they subconsciously convince themselves they can do life without other believers. These people are very deceived and secretly full of pride. They haven’t realized yet that one great source of muscle-building is being in community with fellow weight-bearers (see Gal. 6:1-3). They haven’t yet learned how important it is to be taught the Word of God in the context of their spiritual family. These people do not have a bright future, spiritually-speaking. That’s one reason why their marriages fail and their families disintegrate. It’s why they can never seem to make progress in their lives. Doing it alone, they sadly have no idea how great life could be if they let God work His mighty strength through them and through His body. They don’t know that even in their weakness, they could experience strength (2 Cor. 12:9) Instead, they get “stuck”, bogged down in a life where their biggest goal is merely to survive and “get by”.

Paul-Anderson

Living here on Planet Earth can be carefree at times. It can also be heavy and burdensome. But whatever life sets before you – light or heavy – He wants you to “be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” (Eph 6:10). Practicing that daily choice to trust Him won’t always be easy, but it is within your reach.

Even right now.

What Makes You N-n-n-nervous?

 Everybody has their comfort zones. Dentists. Surgeons. Actors. Pilots and Plumbers. Accountants. People who do what they do with expertise and ease. It’s a default mode thing. Some people are born with it. Others get it through education. Most through experience and repetition.

A while back, I was interviewed about my book – The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook – by a news anchor on our local NBC affiliate here in Little Rock. You would have thought I’d be nervous being “on TV”. But no. It was actually exciting and energizing to me. In fact, I was completely unaware of the cameras in front of me.

Please don’t misunderstand, there are plenty of things that make me uncomfortable and nervous – multi-tasking, making cold calls, going to plays and musicals. And for the record, I am a terrible card player. No, make that, “I suck” at card playing. I think it may indicate a learning disability or something. And ask me to explain how the Government the Stock Market works, and you’ll carry me off in a straight jacket.

photoUpon the conclusion of my interview, the news anchor leaned over and whispered, “You’re really good on camera”. I thought, “Oh yeah, I was just on statewide TV. Ha!” Truth is, in the thousands of times I’ve spoken to crowds, I can’t really recall any time I’ve had the proverbial “butterflies in the stomach”. Or maybe I did, but they were just flying in formation. Either way, it just always feels natural to me. And why? I suppose education, preparation and experience have something to do with it. And some gifting. I feel confident and calm when I get to inspire and enhance people’s lives.

What about you? What are you so good at that you could do “in your sleep”? What’s your default mode? Where do you shine? What energizes you and at the same time helps others?

What makes you feel so alive when you do it?