Of Kicks and Crowns

The fruit of the Spirit is … faithfulness. – Galatians 5:22 NIV

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master. – Matthew 25:21 RSV

Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. … the Master you are serving is Christ. –Colossians 3:23, 24 NLT

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

“I knew I shouldn’t have sent that manuscript evaluation before the guy paid me,” I grumbled to my husband one night at the supper table. “Now I’ll never get paid. What do I get for being nice? A kick in the pants.”

“No,” he said, with a knowing smile. “Another jewel in your crown.”

“And what about that book order I sent on good faith that the lady really did just put the check in the mail, like she claimed?” I continued, ignoring his comment. “Twenty-two bucks may not sound like a lot, but we could really use that money now.”

He grinned. “Another jewel in your crown.”

I wasn’t in the mood to hear about jewels in my someday crown. We needed money in our checking account. My freelance work wasn’t just slow—it had come to a screeching halt.

I thought of all the books and bookmarks I’d given away, the hours I’d spent—way more than I was paid for—painstakingly editing mediocre manuscripts because I felt each author deserved my best work. I thought of all the work I’d done gratis—articles written, workshops taught, manuscripts edited. I thought of all the recent opportunities for writing, speaking, and editing that had fallen through. I thought of the paying job doing something I loved that I gave up because I believed God called me to write full time. And now doors were slamming shut in my face.

Weren’t you supposed to be rewarded for doing the right thing and being faithful?

“You know the verse about ‘casting your bread on the waters and after many days, you’ll find it again’?” I said.

Sensing I was on a roll and nothing he could say would derail me, Dean didn’t even nod.

“Well,” I continued, “my bread must have gotten water-logged and sunk, or gobbled up by fish and fowl.”

Faithfulness isn’t easy. Especially when you’ve done all the Good Book says to do, and you don’t see the fruit of your labors.

When you’ve trained up your children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), and they choose not to follow it. When you’ve faithfully brought your tithe into the storehouse (Malachi 3:10), but the windows of heaven remain shut tight. When you’re kind, thoughtful, and pleasant to people, treating them the way you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), and they’re snippy, rude, and thoughtless in return.

Sometimes I get tired of doing the right thing. Of being the nice guy. Nice guys get taken advantage of. They get ignored, overlooked. They’re overworked and underpaid. And, like me, they sometimes become battle-weary and weak, vulnerable to doubt and despair.

We can give in or choose to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), remembering that “He who called us is faithful” (1 Thessalonians 5:24) and will keep His Word (Isaiah 55:11). Even when we’re faithless, God remains faithful because He cannot be false to Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

These days I find myself repeating the words of Jim Cymbala: “Though in my heart I’ve questioned, even failed to believe, He’s been faithful, faithful to me.”

How can I be any less?

Dear God, I’ve poured my heart and soul into what You’ve called me to do, but, for all my labor, I see little, if any, fruit. I feel like such a failure. Help me to persist and persevere in the face of disappointment and discouragement and to leave the fruit up to You. Remind me that You have not called me to be successful, but to be faithful. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Matthew 25:14–46.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3 © 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Treks and Trails

The view of Fort Ticonderoga from the top of Mount Defiance

 

He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not sleep. – Psalm 121:3

To celebrate our fortieth anniversary, DH and I took a two-week camping trip through the Northeast. Starting with the Finger Lakes region in New York, we drove through the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains in Vermont, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and then up the coast of Maine to Acadia National Park.

When we weren’t on the road, I’d planned for our vacation to be a time of resting and recharging.

I should have known better than to think Dean would be content to sit around relaxing. Every day he was anxious to be out the door as soon as breakfast was over. We put 450 exploring miles on our truck and I don’t know how many on our feet.

The first trail we hiked was the ¾-mile Gorge Trail in New York’s Taughannock State Park – a level, gravel-topped track that ran parallel to the Taughannock Creek and led to the 215-foot waterfall of the same name.

“I can do this!” I thought as I stepped along, stopping to read every placard along the trail, feeling proud of myself because I was really pretty much out of shape.

The next trek was up the one-mile paved road to the summit of Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga, New York. We’d spent the day exploring the fort, and all I could think of was getting back to the camper and propping up my aching feet. But when we got to the road to the summit, the gates were closed.

Celebrating the climb

“I can do this!” I told Dean when he said we’d have to walk. Somehow I got my second wind. And third . . . and fourth . . . it took 36 minutes to reach the summit – 25 walking minutes and 11 stopping minutes for me to catch my breath. There were places where we ascended a foot with each step. But the view at the top was worth every gasp.

When we reached Acadia National Park in Maine, 120 miles of trails ranging in difficulty from “very easy” to “strenuous” wound through Mount Desert (pronounced “dessert”) Island. The walking wasn’t easy. The coastline is rocky, the mountains granite, and the trails comprised of roots and rocks to step over, between, on (and trip on) – and boulders to climb.

Rocky, root-embedded trails of Acadia National Park

The Ship Harbor Trail was rated easy. Right. We stopped on the way back to the campground to buy a box of Epsom salts.

“I need hiking shoes,” I told Dean while my feet were soaking. “These sneakers are for walking nut hiking.”

The Beech Mountain Trail, the last one we hiked, looked easy at first – soft, smooth, brown forest floor. Then we came to a marker. The left trail was .4 mile; the right was .7 mile. Since we were pressed for time, I chose the shorter trail.

But shorter doesn’t mean easier or quicker. The smooth forest floor soon changed to roots, rocks, and boulders.

“I can do this!” I said, when still another boulder presented itself. Envisioning the view from the top kept me stepping along, as well as Dean’s hand sometimes dragging me along. “I’ve come this far . . .”

It took us 50 minutes to reach the summit and 30 minutes to walk the .7 mile trail down off the mountain.

All the trails we hiked weren’t so challenging. There were sections that wound through pine trees along a soft forest floor, where I didn’t need Dean’s hand for balance or support – or to drag me over the places I didn’t think I could traverse.

The trails of life are the same: they range in difficulty from very easy to strenuous to “I don’t think I can make it!”

But we can make it. It just takes a vision of the view from the top, a hand to help us along, and lots of “second winds.”

I made it to the top!
Birch Mountain, Acadia National Park, Sept. 26, 2013

Thank you, Lord, for Your guiding hand that gives me balance, support, strength – and pulls me through the tough places when I don’t think I could take one more step. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 121.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey.