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The Coffee Break

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Living With Elephants

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
—Deuteronomy 31:8

 

For several years, an elephant named Elliot lived in the stairwell of our house. At 9 feet tall, the stairwell was the only place Elliot fit, his long trunk draped over the bannister and his big ears touching the ceiling. The kids would pat his trunk as they raced down the steps and before they left for school they would remind me to “feed the elephant.”

Elliot wasn’t a flesh and blood creature, of course, but made of cardboard and poster paint, a creation from my son Dennis’ imagination the year our Vacation Bible School had a Jumanji theme. Other animals from my son’s crafty hands went home with delighted students, but Elliot came to live with us.

The April of Dennis’ junior year in high school, Elliot took a trip. Dennis and I folded him into the trunk of my Grenada and carried him into the University of the Arts admissions office as part of my son’s portfolio. The director was so impressed with Elliot that not only was Dennis offered a place in the art school, Elliot was invited to live in the lobby.

We missed Elliot for a while, but he wasn’t the last elephant to live with us.

I’ll bet a few elephants live with you, too.

Have you ever lost a job? Worried about a teenager? Been unable to pay a bill? Spent the night in an emergency room? Wondered how you would feed your kids?

Elephants. All of them. And not nearly as lovable as Elliot.

But we as Christians do not need to fear the elephants in our lives. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Be not dismayed.”

The Israelites, led out of Egypt by God, encountered a few elephants of their own along the way to the Promised Land. They were chased by Pharaoh and his chariots, ran out of water on the journey, grumbled about the manna God provided, and in general feared the unknown. They’d come to rely on Moses, but as they stood at the very brink of the Jordan River, Moses announced that he would not be going to Canaan with them.

Say what?

Moses reminded them that God had always been with them on their journey and always would be. We wonder how to deal with our own elephants, but God is always ahead of them. Always.

On Sunday, Pastor Aaron provided us with his Rules for the Road. I’d like to give you some tips for dealing with elephants.

  1. Approach your elephant from the right side and with the correct attitude. Ignoring it by throwing the bills under the bed will not help.

 

  1. Be prepared to get wet. Elephants often walk through water and mud. It can get messy but hang on. God will lead you.

 

 

  1. Sit up straight and maintain your balance. Running off screaming will only frighten the elephant and make things worse. Move in time with the elephant and with God. God will go before you, not the other way around.

 

Not all the elephants in my life have fit neatly into my stairwell. Some have outstayed their welcome. But real elephants, well-known for their excellent memories, have another unique ability seldom extolled in Western literature.

They always obey the voice of the Master.

Running On Empty

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Read your Bible; Pray everyday!

When I was kid my parents taught me and my brothers to set aside some time every day for what they called, “Quiet Time”. Now, this was different from a “Time Out” and I can assure you I had plenty of those… No, "Quiet Time" was a set time each day where my brothers and I would find a quiet place with our Bible, a notebook, some highlighters and a pen, and then we’d spend time with God. 

Our lives were crazy!  With four boys, my parents were always carting us to some sporting event, practice, or after-school activity. Then there were our normal responsibilities of homework, housework, and physical fitness.  Add to all of that was the life of a pastor's family.  Church functions, sudden hospital visits, and just about anything and everything else would occupy valuable time in our lives.  My parents knew that if we weren't careful, our family would run out of fuel and we'd be living on fumes.  Before anything else AND after everything else we needed to spend time refueling from our source of power and strength...our Heavenly Father.

Honestly, as a kid, this discipline wasn’t always appealing to me. Sometimes it was forced and sometimes I just went through the motions. But now I recognize this discipline as an invaluable and indispensable part of my life. What I’ve learned is that I absolutely can’t make it without Jesus in my life.

There’s an old and simple chorus that we use to sing as kids…

Read your bible
Pray everyday
And you’ll grow, grow, grow.

It really is true. We need the fuel of God’s Word and the power of His presence that’s activated through prayer in order to live as God intends.

Ask yourself…

  • Am I tired all the time?
  • Does every little thing push me over the edge?
  • Am I trying to fix things on my own?
  • Am I trying to control situations that are out of my control?
  • Am I constantly giving in to temptation?
  • Am I always dreaming of a different life rather than choosing to make a difference with the life I have?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, you are trying to make it on your own! You're running on empty. You're running on fumes. You’re trying to live life in your own power and eventually you'll run out of gas, sputtering along, desperately trying to reach your next destination. I’ll write more on the "How-To's" later, but for now, start living in His power by just opening up your Bible and soaking His truth in.

Have some quiet time. Talk to God about your exhaustion. Tell him what’s pushing you over the edge. Ask for his help instead of trying to fix stuff on your own. Surrender control. Ask for His power to resist temptation. Thank Him for the life you have and ask Him to help you make a difference in others’ lives! Stop running on empty!! Just take a next step by doing these two things: read your Bible and pray everyday! Do those two things and you will grow in His strength!

Make this a prayer of yours today and everyday.

“God, I need you in my life. I can’t make it on my own.”

Pray it as often as you can think of it!

Posted by Aaron Harding with

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