Giants, Beware!

It’s that season again. The sun, fun, and re-creating of summertime is upon us.

Last year I mused a bit about the stress of vacation prep. Pre-getaway tensions are nearly inevitable. Whenever normal routine is disrupted – even for noble endeavors – the potential for conflict is ripe.

Lately I’ve been working to minimize that potential by lessening my control of minutiae. I’m going wide-angle with perspective and focusing on the mission. I’m doing lots of self-talk, convincing myself the up-front labor will yield a more deeply appreciated relaxation on the backend. But the past haunts me as I recall times of being wound-up long after the last grain of beach sand was shaken from pant pockets.

My household is presently ramping-up to some very ambitious undertakings. Once in a lifetime experiences. We are all quite excited! But juxtaposed with this euphoria is my angst of being car mechanic, route planner, camper putter-upper and downer, financial backer, house securer, and emergency fix-it guy. Those roles collectively conspire to rob my joy of being the glad captain of our adventure-seeking crew. But unlike last year’s Tour de Stress, God is coaching me toward a gentler, more patient launch.

Recently I was re-reading stories of David in First Samuel. A unique thing about Scripture is that revisiting familiar stories is an opportunity for God to reveal new facets of truth. To discover fresh bits of encouragement that were previously dull.

In my most recent review of the tale of David and Goliath, I was captured by this phrase: “As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.” (1 Samuel 17:48 NIV) The mythic battle between D & G was drawn around a man – a giant man. A man to whom thousands cowered, and thousands more pledged allegiance. But another man – a young man – stood with defiance. Without shield or sword, he fought with five stones, a sling, and supernatural courage that welcomed confrontation with a spectacular giant.

Spectacular or not, we all face giants. Our Goliath can be a colicky baby, a frustrating job, a short-fall in the budget or a moldy pop-up camper. Some Goliaths seem small, like spilled milk. But sometimes milk is the last solider to join a platoon of daily frustrations. Before you know it, there’s a Goliath in the room.

Life’s Goliaths can sap our energy. Drain our confidence. Paralyze our engagement. Many times I’ve seen a Goliath and felt the urge to tuck-tail and run. Sometimes, I have. Ashamedly, there have been times when I was like the Israelite army who were “dismayed and greatly afraid” as they succumbed to the taunts and threats of a boisterous Goliath. (1 Samuel 17:11)

My current circumstance has brought my deep into giant country. Perhaps that’s why God graced my recent review of David and Goliath with the freshness of a first read. In it, I found new encouragement to run toward my giants. To confront them. To speak to them. To stand confidently upon the ready strength of my giant-killing God.

Like David.

Who didn’t rush to fight because he thought himself the ancient near-eastern combo of Maximus, William Wallace, and Aragorn. Instead, he firmed his grasp on a leather sling, caressed a stone in his pouch, ground his feet into the dry Palestinian soil and claimed with confidence what he knew to be true about his God.

Everything I do is a reflection of where I put my confidence. A moment-by-moment testimony as to whether I’m the main character of my story, or God is.

The giants are here. They will laugh and jeer and do their best to mess with me. I’ll take some blows, for sure. Vacation prep will never be rainbows and butterflies. But as I grow to understand more about myself – and more about my God – I can enter the fray with God-backed confidence.

Giants, beware!

Please Pass the Chips

They say records are meant to be broken. So this week, I did.

To be fair, it isn’t technically a record. Just a bit of self-imposed criteria. The ‘record’ I broke is length of time between posts on this blog. There’s a good chance you hadn’t noticed. There’s an equally good chance you welcomed the reprieve from more bloggish noise. Whatever your perspective, my recent trek in the blogging desert sparked some reflection.

But while I was musing, life surged on. In some ways, it ran me over. Seems every waking moment these days is spoken for. Silence, solitude and rest are conspicuously absent. And what’s strange is that even with life’s tire tracks on my back, I crave more of what’s crushing me. I want to know. I want to experience. I must respond—now. I’m hypnotically drawn to the false energy of busyness.

It can be easy to get wrapped in culture’s paradigm of 140 character bursts. To feast on bits of disjointed conversation like a whale eating krill. There’s a non-stop banquet out there that leaves consumers curiously hungry. It’s an addictive paradox—one that’s nipping at my heels. One that shows, along with my record breaking, that I am a victim of my own lusts. Frederick Buechner was right: “Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst.”
I sure have been thirsty lately. But I keep eating the potato chips.
And the more I eat, the less satisfied I feel. I munch and crunch as I battle the urgent. The ‘tyranny of now’ cleverly confuses my needs and desires. Life slips into maintenance mode as I settle for easy, comfortable and quick. Priorities are dictated by energy level and meeting reminders. The cycle of days blurs. And before I know it, I’m breaking records.
My record breaking didn’t bring a moment of celebration. There were no cameras or interviews. What it brought was an eye-opening collision with reality. The reality of potato chip crumbs on the front of my shirt and the burn of salt on my lips.
I can’t deny the disappointment I feel in not meeting my own expectations – with timely blogging or anything else. But my disappointments are opportunities to expose my lusts. To admit unhealthy cravings. My recent reflections exposed some ugly things. But sometimes I need ugly to recognize beautiful.
I’d like to put the chip clip on the bag more often. To rest in my God who’s ‘steady as He goes.’ A God who wants me to be just, merciful and humble (Micah 6:8). The lusts of life will beckon. And if I’m not careful, I might find myself eating chips all day then wondering why I’m so doggone thirsty.

I Need Help!

I’m an independent. Not politically, but behaviorally. I have a natural bent toward doing things myself. I prefer it that way. Seems easier. Less conflict. Unfortunately, the fallout from this loner attitude is a reluctance to ask for help.
Why don’t I ask? Probably a combination of things. A fear of appearing incapable. Pride. The desire for control. And I suspect there’s some lust for praise mixed in as well. Whatever it is that drives my rugged individualism, I’ve lately become more aware of the negative aspects of “going alone.”
My awareness was heightened through a convergence of realities that amped-up my busyness. Part of the busyness I attribute to a growing family of seven. Some to a career change. Expanded opportunities. New ventures. A bit of writing. Plus, I have a mind that rarely shifts to neutral. Partner these with a body that’s crested 41 years and the recipe is ripe for being overwhelmed.
Still, crying “Uncle!” was not an option. My approach was to muster a bit more intestinal fortitude. Preaching to myself my best halftime speeches. Engage in a bit of chest-pounding. Even with my best self-help methods, my margin deteriorated to a papery thinness. But in my stubbornness I tarried on. Just me, myself and I. We can do it, yes we can!
So I thought.
Since it was apparent I wasn’t going to ask, God sent help. Not just because I needed it, but because someone else wanted to give it to me.
When help arrived, I felt vulnerable. Exposed. Like I was an imposition. At some point I had developed the errant perspective that asking for assistance with things I’m capable of doing was presumptuous – even lazy. Thankfully, God helped me discover in my recent busyness that being helped is not about weakness and inability. It’s about unity. Giftedness. Stewardship. Relationships. Obedience and love. In the end, it’s really about worship.
In my independence, my worship was misdirected. I was idolatrous but couldn’t see it. I was worshipping me. I was playing the martyr while seeking praise for my ability to do it all. My stubborn spirit teetered with instability and moodiness. My patience grew short. Anxiety reigned. I lost the ability to relax. I worked hard to mask these tensions, but my heart couldn’t deny that I had issues.

God has gifted me to administrate. I can get a lot of things done. I’m focused. I don’t quit. I do things with excellence. But too much of anything isn’t good. 19th Century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.” So I’ve resolved to be on the lookout – for me, and my superhero persona.

I am grateful for my friend who helped me see how good it is to be helped. How we can work together. Use our collective talents and passions for a better result. Come to think of it, there are a few things I could use help with next week.