A Hope Worthy of Endurance

Over the past 10 days I’ve put in some miles. From Texas to the mountains in New Mexico, to East Texas on to Louisiana and back again to West Texas. I added up the miles, because once I started contemplating the distance, I just had to know. I’ve had 1,900 miles of windshield time to think, pray, consider and chat. Some of those miles included four kids, some only two. Some included my niece and some my brother. So many conversations and so many words poured out as the tires rolled down the road on my trek from one hot summer locale to another.

I traveled to the mountains to run my first half marathon with my dad. I drove to East Texas and Louisiana to pay tribute and bury my grandfather. So many miles gave time for words to accumulate in my soul. The build-up creates an overflow and these thoughts are my spillway. I hope you can be encouraged whatever season you are in. A season of beginnings, one of endings, maybe just a season that has yet to be named.

How often in life do we face seasons that demand endurance? Circumstances that ask everything of us and more. How many times have I fallen on my face, in the mud because I try and do it on my own? Too many. However I’ve fallen hard enough and into the pit so deep that it caught my attention that there must be another way. A much better way. The way my grandparents have lived their lives and walked in the manner worthy of the calling they have received.

My Papaw, Rodney Louis Salmon, was an incredible man. Tenacity would be an appropriate term. In fact, he carried his favorite poem in his pocket entitled, “Don’t Quit”. I wasn’t even aware of this until his passing, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. He served in the Air Force and completed graduate work at University of Texas. He was an accountant by trade and very precise, yet he had a mischievous streak that ran deep. He married Nora Beth Fuller, my Memaw in 1958 and they were an amazing complement to one another during their 59 years of marriage. I have many fond memories of his dinner table story-telling and my Memaw “assisting” him in sticking to the actual events, not the exaggerated ones, reminding him of the original story he set out to tell. She did it with such tact, always respectful, a skill I recognize much more now as an adult myself. I honestly don’t think we ever finished a story because he chased many a squirrel up multiple trees in expansive forests and by then we never remembered what the intended point was. But we enjoyed it. We enjoyed him.

Health and physical fitness were important to him. He was very competitive and loved letting us know how he beat men half his age on the racquetball court. His morning sit-up routine and exercise regimen is more than the average person does in one day and he completed half of it before getting out of bed. It is quickly becoming something of legend among his great-granddaughters and may soon morph out of proportion to a fable of sorts if we’re not careful. Family was very important to him and everything he did was driven by his love for the Lord. He relied on Jesus for his strength to push on, no matter what.

This is why the onset of his dementia was so difficult. It’s not like it would be easy in any situation, but my Papaw was a larger than life man with superhuman qualities. At first it was little things that started to go, like forgetting words and facts. But it progressed to the point of him being unable to move on his own or complete any basic task. This progression wasn’t fast. It was gradual and it lasted over a span of thirteen years before he was released from this earthly body into eternity with our Savior.

With every season and situation there are multiple facets. As we honored my grandfather’s life this past weekend, a piece of this story caused me to pause. I made a short post on Instagram and touched on this, but I must go even deeper. My Memaw has loved and served my Papaw faithfully through their life and his illness. They shared a marriage that honored Christ, showing countless generations what it means to love joyfully, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. The last 13 years have required a strength that no human possesses of themselves. God is faithful and provides exactly what we need for each moment. My grandparents have had many “moments” and knew who to go to for sustenance minute by minute, day by day. When the day came that my Papaw could no longer communicate my Memaw pressed on. When the day came that he could no longer walk, she pressed on. When the time arrived that he was confined to his bed, she didn’t waiver. Her witness to countless onlookers holds value and weight beyond measure. On this side of heaven she may never know the impact of her joyful endurance and service, but Jesus knows….and I’m sure He will embrace her one day when she joins Him and whisper in her ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Thirteen years. How easy it is to glance at another’s circumstance but not give thought to the internal battle of emotions waging each day. My Memaw never complained. She didn’t serve begrudgingly, but joyfully. She wanted to be involved. Dementia is a thief and steals everything while leaving the warm body of your loved one. Out of respect for my Memaw I don’t want to go into detail, but caring for a loved one who is sick is not glamorous. That never mattered, she served him with determination to do what was best for him. She prayed constantly. So many decisions had to be made and she didn’t take that responsibility lightly. My Memaw is a warrior, with a beautiful Alto voice, and she serves the King. She has always taken her requests to the throne begging for His wisdom, asking Him for His involvement. When she says she will pray for you she means it. What a legacy. What a bloodline. Ya’ll I’m in tears to have the privilege of knowing these people I call my grandparents.

A running theme of an overarching season in my life is focused around the Greek word hupomone which translates to our English words endurance, steadfastness, and patience. It literally means cheerful or hopeful endurance. I first became aware of the word when studying James about seven years ago and groaned.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ‭‭

James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s been such a continual lesson that I recently had some new ink applied with an equation of the Greek for “endurance + encouragement = hope” on my right arm. It’s a reminder that endurance doesn’t stand by itself. It’s not an independent external action but an internal work from God allowing us to remain under the shadow of His wing during tough, excruciating, devastating, drawn out attacks on our souls. Hupomone is strengthening through His encouragement that allows us to hold onto hope. Not hope of a person changing, situation easing, sickness leaving, loved one returning, marriage redeeming, addiction disappearing, financial burden lifting, child returning, cycle ending or any other miracle we may yearn for, but hope in Christ in whom all things are held together.

Of course we pray for all of these things, but our hope doesn’t rest in a circumstance changing. Our hope is eternal. To endure whatever season or situation we are in with patient and joyful endurance we need encouragement. Paraklesis is the biblical encouragement I’m referencing. To have hope we must be encouraged to not lose hope. Thankfully God does this for us. He himself encourages us. He is the God of encouragement. He does it through scripture, the Holy Spirit and also through the community of believers.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Life when lived for duty without passion and purpose falls stale. It’s dangerous. To do what is right can begin with the proper motive but life will wear you down. It’s whittled me down to bare bone on many occasion. One of the most painful seasons of my life, to date, is when my steadfast pursuit of enduring lost focus. Initially “Jesus loves ME” was my “why” but my focus shifted to an indignant, “Well, I love Jesus, so why me?!” I became angry and resentful and began to make the wrong decisions. Duty for the sake of duty falls short. I believe the term legalism may ring true. It is not of God and holds no encouraging power.

Discouragement is dangerous, but so natural to our human nature. God understands and that’s why He Himself encourages us. We are also called to be there for one another. Not in giving our opinions, gossiping by way of requesting prayer, or judging how others are walking according to our perception, but by sharing our experience, strength and hope. Maybe we could start by praying for situations ourselves and seeking His Word for direction so we can be encouragers to those God places around us? An excerpt from William Barclay’s “The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians” describes this relationship between hupomone and paraklesis far better than I ever could:

“Here we have two great words. Patience is in Greek hupomone, which never means simply the ability to sit down and bear things but the ability to rise up and conquer them. God is the one who gives us the power to use any experience to lend greatness and glory to life. God is the one in whom we learn to use joy and sorrow, success and failure, achievement and disappointment alike, to enrich and ennoble life, to make us more useful to others and to bring us nearer to himself. Consolation and comfort are the same Greek word – paraklesis. Paraklesis is far more than soothing sympathy; it is encouragement. It is the help which not only puts an arm round someone but sends that person out to face the world; it not only wipes away the tears but makes it possible to face the world with steady eyes. Paraklesis is comfort and strength combined. God is the one in whom any situation becomes our glory and in whom people find strength to go on gallantly when life has collapsed.”

When running the half marathon with my dad in Ruidoso we had several mountains to climb. The entire race wasn’t uphill, there were many ups and downs. Being a fellow flatlander himself he understood some of the obstacles I would face. A friend shared a tip with him years ago that he shared with me. Never look at the top of the climb, just put one foot in front of the other. Look directly in front of you, only a little ahead to see where you’re going, but never all the way up. Eventually you’ll get there without all the mental doubt of not being able to make it.

It is one foot in front of the other, one moment at a time, one day at a time. Life can become overwhelming if we try to take it all on. God never asks us to do that. He gives us our daily bread. I am not who I will be a week from today, one month from today, one year from today. Enduring our current season builds new character producing hope through the Holy Spirit. The character built enables us to face each day as it is called “today.” My Memaw pressed on a day at a time trusting Jesus and I believe she will continue doing this each day until she joins Him. It’s a way of life not just some nice tag line or cliché. Let it be the same for us, one day at a time as we trudge this road together.

 ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

 

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Chrysalis of Humility

(Any words in blue have a relating scripture which is listed at the bottom. Soon enough I will take the time to figure out linking these to a separate document. Until then, enjoy the colors!)

Writing #3-

Because of pride and lies from sources other than the One who speaks only truth, it is most difficult to be rigorously honest when currently struggling though a situation. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, so guilt and shame are from another place. We may feel that we are being attacked by humans, even hurt by those who are closest to us, yet we must never forget that the Enemy is the enemy. It is easy to shift focus to blame those around us rather than taking full accountability for our errors in life. These missteps whether in speech, action, or posture of heart don’t need additional actions heaped atop the damage already done, but truly this is all guilt and shame accomplishes. It’s a trap and façade feeding the perception, “I am a failure” or “I’ll never be good enough.” This is a lie.

The enemy need only confuse and convince us we are still caterpillars, we are not worthy of our wings, and they must be only an illusion. Why we listen, when we clearly have wings is a mystery to me, but I fall for it too.  When I go to anyone other than Christ to seek my identity I suffer a temporary de-capitation of my wings. I continually do it to myself. When I hurt, I seek immediate gratification, typically in the flesh rather than the Holy Spirit which always sends me reeling. It may have a short season of satisfaction, but always falls short of my desired outcome. The emotional hangover can last even longer when retaining this illusion of control. My pride hates to admit I fell for the lies (again) and some attempt at preserving my ego must be had-yet it too fails once more. Pride is my constant enemy and it can only be combated with the humility that comes from serving Christ.              

“Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with the others; it takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.” –Excerpt from Andrew Murray’s Humility

I can only come to the conclusion to further ask God to reveal my pride and ways to die to it, and to accept further pruning with a willing heart rather than run. The running always gets me in a heap of trouble. The enemy hooks me and I once again fall at God’s feet for mercy. This mercy I should accept but so often fight it, choosing to be more concerned with others perception of me rather than Christ’s opinion.

This is where I’ve so often become stuck in the transformation process, refusing to move forward. I’m looking at an audience of butterflies and moths rather than the One….the Son. Only in the Son’s light will I see myself clearly, but I continue looking through dimness trying to see who I am. He has already told me who I will always be to Him…His precious child cleansed and covered in His blood. I am bought at a price but constantly sell myself for worthless lusts. This world consumes me and uses my fear as fuel. I chase the flames asking to be burned more, maybe this time it will finish the job. But this fire cannot quench the Spirit; it makes the Spirit fight harder because He will never let me go. He has a better fire to offer-one of refinement to make us reflect His image. He’s rescued us from this darkness I try to return to time after time. I don’t fit in there anymore; I have this light that shines. It’s His light and treasure I carry around, not mine. It belongs and originates from the Glory of God and I cannot fuel it on my own. Therein lays my dilemma when I attempt to live life on my terms.

When I stray from His fellowship my light grows weak. The gifts He has graced us with, are just that, gifts. He entrusts us with His grace through “talents” used to glorify Him and edify the Body of Christ. These gifts are not our own nor do they make us “special” and above others believers. As His children we are all special but not above others. It’s by His grace we are saved so no man can boast. I boast a lot, but have no room or place to. When Christ makes us keenly aware of the enemy’s lies in our lives, it isn’t the awareness that makes us wise, but the decision to act in the wisdom he has given. I believe this is where so many of us stray and unfortunately I’m speaking from experience not presumption. The insight alone in how to respond to situations does not equate a life of wisdom-knowledge truly avails us nothing without action. It is the works and actions done in accordance with the insight God gives us, that produces a life lived wisely or in other words an abiding life. 

“When the creature realizes that (the call to humility) is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place.”–Excerpt from Andrew Murray’s Humility

So as I’m sitting in a painful, prideful pity party God is just waiting on me to put it aside and accept His love & fellowship. We can attempt to heal ourselves, to seek shelter in things of the world. But as time goes by, nothing changes. Time itself does not heal. The key to healing is time spent with a loving God who will hold nothing back to heal us. He already gave the blood of his only Son. This is where I’m stuck in my transformation process. I’m scared to death.

I like to imagine a caterpillar and am curious if she ever feels this way, frustrated and eager to participate in a reality outside the chrysalis. Imagine if she was removed too soon from her environment of transformation, it wouldn’t be pretty. Of course a caterpillar doesn’t wonder these things, she has no idea what is in store for her ahead, but God has an amazing plan for her nonetheless. We have many seasons lived in chrysalis of our own, you know the period of waiting where God will always prove true and is doing so much INSIDE of us. So often we are too focused on external circumstances to see it! As God continues to work things out inside of us I pray that we will focus on the hope in Christ who promises He will complete the work He began. This is where Hope exists in and through our circumstances.

“My fundamental identity in Christ supersedes whatever struggle I am going through now.” –Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp, How People Change

Relating Scriptures

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No Condemnation

Romans 8:1 (NIV84)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

The Enemy is the enemy-

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV84)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Pride is my constant enemy-

James 4:6 (ESV)

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Concerned with others perception-

Galatians 1:10 (NET)

Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!

Bought at a price

1 Corinthians 7:23 (NET)

You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men.

1 Corinthians 6:20 (NET)

For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

Sell myself for worthless lusts-

James 4:1 (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

James 4:4 (NIV)

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

He will never let me go-

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)  

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Rescued us from this darkness-

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

His light and treasure-

2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

By His grace we are saved-

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Decision to act

James 3:13 (NIV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Works and actions-

James 2:22 (NIV)

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.