Moment by Moment

John flattened himself in the trench as much as he could. His unit had been attacked on all sides for days now, and he was weary. So, so weary. He closed his eyes, wishing he could just escape the battle for a moment—just one. To rest at home in his own bed without the bullets whizzing by for a little…ah, that would be so fabulous!

Instead, he reloaded his gun with a fresh round. It didn’t look as if they’d have a respite for some time still. He wasn’t sure how he could make it much longer.

John looked around him. His fellow soldiers were all weary too. It had been a long couple of weeks. (Or had it been months? He’d lost track.)

“A little weary, there, are we?” John turned in the direction of the voice. It came from a friend serving in another battalion—Andrew by name.

John nodded in answer.

“Cheer up, it will end,” Andrew said confidently as he reloaded his gun.

“Easier said than done,” John replied.

“I know it. But we’ve got to remember the truth. We’re not alone here. See the Captain’s standard over yonder? He’s here with us, even when the smoke of the battle makes it hard to see anything. He’s leading.”

“But where? Where is he going? How much longer will we have to endure this continual fire? I don’t think I can make it much more.”

“Well, good news. The Captain knows what we don’t. We’re to just keep looking to him and living moment by moment, leaving the rest to him. Now honestly, did you ever think you could make it this far?”

John shook his head. If he’d known the battle would be this intense for this long, he would have thought it impossible to survive.

“You’ve only got strength for right now. Leave tomorrow in the Captain’s care. Come on, I’ll help you back to your feet. There’s a battle to fight.”

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephesians 6:10

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

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Returning to Rest

Biscuit bounced into the room with all the energy and joy of a puppy, despite being a two-year-old lab. She wagged her tail and happily buried her face in Jason’s lap.

Jason lovingly stroked her head. He loved Biscuit. And so far, Biscuit had seemed delighted with her new owner. Ever since he had rescued her from the pound, she had seemed to understand that Jason loved her and would care for her. He was so very different from her previous owner, who had treated her harshly.

*******

One day, Jason couldn’t find Biscuit. It was so unlike her not to greet him the moment he walked in the door. What had happened?

He finally found her hiding underneath a bed. She hid her head in her paws when she saw him, trying to hide her eyes and make him disappear.

“What are you doing, Biscuit? It’s okay…you can come out.” It took quite a bit of coaxing before Biscuit finally came out from under the bed. Her whole frame trembled, as her head was hung in shame. Tail drooping in between her legs, she led Jason into the other room. As Jason surveyed the broken china and glass all over the floor, he suddenly understood. Biscuit had obviously broken the lamp and then hid herself under the bed, afraid her master would no longer love her.

Jason reached out his hands gently and stroked Biscuit. “It’s okay, girl. I still love you. Nothing you do will make me stop. You may have consequences for what you do,”—Jason added this as he noticed a small cut on her foot caused by some of the broken glass—“but I’m still going to care for you.”

It took several days of Jason repeating these words and still lovingly caring for Biscuit before the happy wag came back to her tail. Once again, she was at peace in her master’s care.

*******

Biscuit was still adjusting to her role as mother. She took the responsibility of caring for her four puppies very seriously. In fact, she hadn’t seemed to realize yet that Jason would care for them just as he had for her. Once they finished nursing, she seemed convinced it was still her job to provide food for them. She even tried her hand at hunting—which proved a comical, although utter, failure.

Jason faithfully put out food for each puppy as well as the mother. Each time he did, though, Biscuit seemed incredibly surprised and relieved. It took months before she finally realized she didn’t have to worry—her master would take care of her puppies as well as her. The happy wag returned again to her tail. She was at peace in her master’s care.

*******

At one point in time, Biscuit ended up with a broken leg. Jason, as usual, took good care of her. He got the leg set and casted (even though Biscuit hated the veterinarian working on her) and gave her medicine to ease the pain. He even carried up the stairs when her leg was too sore to make the trip.

But as the days went on, Biscuit began to show signs of depression. She wouldn’t eat well, and she didn’t seem interested in anything.

Jason kept trying to interest her in all the things she still could do—sitting on his lap, chewing a bone, etc., but Biscuit remained uninterested. All she wanted to do was run and play outside—and since she couldn’t do it, she seemed determined to be miserable.

“What’s wrong with your dog?” Jason’s friend Mike asked one afternoon when Biscuit shrank back from his attempts to interest her in a toy. “She used to love that toy.”

Jason nodded. “I know. She’s been this way ever since her injury. She doesn’t seem to believe that I’m still here caring for her.”

“Too bad,” Mike remarked. “She was always such a happy one. What are you going to do?”

“Do? Why, keep loving and caring for her, of course. Maybe one day she’ll realize she can rest in my care, no matter what’s happening or how she feels.”

“Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.” Psalm 116:7

Story: A Soldier with a Mission

When Timothy first joined the army, he was so excited. He knew he was fighting an important war. Above all, his heart thrilled at the thought of serving underneath his captain–the one who had saved his life and enlisted him in his army.

His enthusiasm bubbled over into everything he did and to everyone he met. Whatever task he was assigned–whether big or small–Timothy had attacked with joy and enthusiasm. He might not see how, but he knew the drills and tasks before him were all part of an important war. Otherwise, the captain wouldn’t have assigned them. And he knew that after the war ended, the captain would take them all to live in the new kingdom together. When other soldiers annoyed him, Timothy let their words fall off his shoulders. His enemy would like nothing more than to get them to waste their energies in anger at each other!

You could say Timothy was a soldier with a mission. He knew why he was there, whom he was serving, and where he was going. And he let that knowledge put a joy and delight into everything he did.

But as the weeks went by, Timothy gradually lost sight of the big picture. He, like so many of his fellow soldiers, got caught up in just making it from day to day. He still did his drills and tasks, but he did them as a man checking a box. He began allowing other soldiers’ comments irritate him. Worse still, he began being critical of others. Timothy was no longer a soldier with a mission.

One day, Timothy bumped into another soldier named Zach. Zach was struggling with a lack of joy and asked Timothy for advice. Timothy tried to help, but his words sounded hollow to himself. Where was his own joy?

His conversation with Zach caused Timothy to remember the big picture–to remember why he’d enlisted in the first place. He remembered what the captain had done and promised to do for them. He began praising in his heart again instead of complaining. Slowly but surely, he remembered why he was there, whom he was serving, and where he was going. And as he did, his zeal and joy returned. There was no need to just make it through the day. Once again, he was a soldier with a mission.

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Story: Casting Cares

I need to get someone else to walk the neighbor’s dog.

The thought came to Chloe as she lay on her bed, unable to move or think much due to an accident the day before. She knew she was helpless to do anything about her commitment to walk the neighbor’s dog. Why, she could hardly even open her eyes, and it seemed to take every ounce of her energy to merely whisper a yes or no to simple questions.

She tried to figure out a plan of who could walk the dog, but she quickly realized she couldn’t even do that. The mere attempt was making her feverish. “Papa,” she whispered.

“I’m right here, Dear,” came the sweet, always gentle reply.

“Rojo…needs…walked.” The words were punctuated with great gasps for breath.

“I’ll see it’s taken care of,” came the immediate reply.

“But how…?”

Chloe’s father laid a gentle hand on his daughter’s forehead. “Never you mind how. I’ll take care of it. Just trust me.”

“Do you know where the leash is kept…and—” but Chloe’s father put his finger on Chloe’s lips.

“Stop worrying about it, Chloe. If I need you to tell me anything or do anything on it, I will tell you. Let it go. I’ve got it.”

Chloe relaxed. Her father would tell her if there was anything else she needed to tell him. He had it in his hands.

“When am I supposed to take my medicine?” came the next troubled question. Chloe was so afraid she’d forget something important—her brain felt like mush.

“Not till later. Stop thinking about it. I’ll tell you when it’s time and help you take it. Chloe, Sweetheart, there’s something you need to understand.”

“Yes, Papa?”

“Your job right now is to rest. When worries come into your mind, just tell them to me and let them go. I promise that I will take care of them, and that if there’s something you need to do about them, I will tell you and help you do them. But you can’t bear them.”

A faint smile stole across Chloe’s face. That was certainly true. Why, she could hardly even open her eyes. It was shear foolishness to think that, knowing as little as she did right now of life outside the four walls of her room, she could even make an intelligent decision on her own. Chloe finally relaxed. She could trust her father to handle every care.

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Story: Job Usurping

Jeremy wanted desperately to be helpful. In fact, he had given up several opportunities in order to stay home and help his father. But now Jeremy was incredibly frustrated. It felt as if he wasn’t accomplishing anything. Sure, he had a few small tasks to do, but they were nothing special. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to do something great. And he resented all the circumstances that kept preventing him from fulfilling any of his plans.

As Jeremy entered the barn one day, he stopped short as he heard his brother singing while he worked. Jeremy sighed to himself. He remembered the day when he used to sing while he worked too. What had happened to his joy?

He knew what had happened. Previously, he’d chosen to rejoice, knowing that his father was giving him his daily assignments and had the future all in control. He’d rejoiced in his father’s love and care. But lately—although he never would have acknowledged or worded it this way—he’d begun to doubt his father’s care. He knew that was a pretty foolish thing to do. His father was incredibly wise and smart…and totally loving. Jeremy knew that. Yes, he knew it—but would he live as if he knew it?

Jeremy didn’t quite see how to, but he knew the first step was to repent and start replacing his complaints with praise. Whenever the complaints would fill his mind, he began choosing to say a praise instead. He also began reminding himself of his father’s character and love—and of how faithful his father had always been. Slowly but surely, the cloud began to lift from his heart and a smile crept back once again. Once more, he was content to let his father direct his steps, even if that plan didn’t seem very special at the moment.

~~~~~~~

“Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
~~~~~~~

Jeremy knew the fields needed planted soon. His mind kept racing to try to figure out what he should plant where. Should they grow potatoes or corn in the backfield? Should they order from Seeds Express or Seeds Forever? How many tomatoes should they plant? The list of decisions went on, and with each additional one, the tension in Jeremy’s heart grew that much bigger. He finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He hurriedly sought out his father.

Jeremy’s father was waiting for him and, as always, listened lovingly as Jeremy poured out his list of decisions. “You know, Jeremy, I’ve already made all those decisions.”

Jeremy looked up in surprise. “You have?”

Jeremy’s father nodded. “A looong time ago. Jeremy, I’ll tell you what to order when. Just seek me and ask what you need to do and be about what I tell you to do.”

Those words lifted a huge weight from Jeremy’s shoulders. No wonder he’d felt so exhausted lately—he’d been trying to do his father’s job! Now how silly was that? His father had it all under control.

~~~~~~~
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
~~~~~~~

“Benjamin, that’s not how you feed the pigs. Daniel, would you please try to pay attention to the instructions I printed on how to milk a cow?”

Jeremy’s patience was completely exhausted with his brothers. He wanted desperately for each of his brothers to do a good job—for his father, of course!

And the neighbors—now they were a whole other story. Jeremy wanted them to get to know his father too—he knew that was what his father wanted. But sometimes it felt quite impossible to convince any of them to so much as talk with his father.

Once again, Jeremy was discouraged. And once again, he sought out his father.

His father explained, “My dear son, you’re taking on my job again.”

Jeremy looked at him in surprise. “I am?”

His father nodded. “It’s my job to train your brothers and deal with them if they’re not getting it—it’s just yours to faithfully teach them what I tell you. And it’s my job to get the neighbors to talk to me—it’s just yours to faithfully present to them the truths I gave you to share with them. You can’t control any outcomes; that’s my job. All you can do is faithfully obey what I tell you.”

Once again, a load fell from Jeremy’s shoulders. Oh, when would he learn to stop trying to take over his father’s job!

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Story: Misguided Peace

Jason screeched the jeep to a halt in front of the mansion. Even over his engine he could hear the jovial music and merry making. He leaped out of the car, not a moment to lose.

“I need everyone to head for shelter–the volcano is erupting soon!” he shouted.

Someone grabbed him by the arm. “Excuse me, sir, but would you mind keeping it down? You’ll disturb the guests.”

Jason stared at the man in bewilderment. “That’s the idea! They need disturbed. Did you hear what I said? The volcano is erupting soon–everyone needs to get out of here right now.”

The man just smiled. “They’ll be time to deal with that later. Right now, we’re enjoying life. And if you don’t watch it,” he added gruffly, “I’ll see you get put out of the way. I’m in the middle of closing a very lucrative business deal.” The man rubbed his hands together gleefully as he spoke.

As if that will matter if the volcano gets you, Jason thought to himself, as he hurried on. He kept shouting his warning, but to his surprise, no one paid much attention.

“I don’t believe in volcanoes,” one young lady informed him with a rebellious shake of her head. “If you do, that’s fine, but don’t force your beliefs on others.”

Jason shook his head. “You don’t understand–I’m not trying to force anything on you. I’m trying to get you safe. If you don’t leave this area, you will die, whether you believe in volcanoes or not.”

“As I said, I don’t believe in them. I think we’re all just supposed to be kind to one another, and then everyone will be okay.”

“But–” the lady had already walked off before Jason could reply.

After many similar interchanges, Jason finally jumped back in his jeep and drove on to find others to warn. He simply had to try to tell as many people as he could before it was too late! How they responded–well, that he couldn’t control.

Jason pulled his jeep to a halt in front of a large “Volcano Shelter” sign. The whole area looked like a massive construction zone, as men and women labored to reinforce an enormous concrete building.

“The volcano is erupting soon–you guys need to flee!” Jason called through his window.

“Flee? You mean work harder!” a woman with a wheelbarrow full of bricks replied. “We’ve been working and working on this shelter my whole life. If we just keep working, it will hold us through the volcano.”

Jason examined the impressive-looking shelter. For a moment, he thought maybe the woman was right–it did look well built. And these people, unlike the ones at the mansion, were at least trying to prepare for the coming catastrophe. But then he shook his head. He knew the volcano would obliterate everything in its path–whether a mansion or a fabulous shelter. The only way to safety was to leave the little island.

“Ma’am, this structure won’t hold. You have to leave the island–and you have to do it now!”

The woman held herself up to her full height. “What do you mean it won’t hold? We’ve been working hard, I tell you, unlike those frolicking fools over there.” The woman tossed her head knowingly in the direction of the mansion.

“It just won’t hold–the volcano will destroy everything in its path. Come, leave the island, and you’ll be safe.”

“Humph! And leave behind all I’ve worked for? I think not! You, sir, should not be so narrow-minded. There’s more than one way to prepare for this volcano.”

Jason sighed. “I’m not meaning to be narrow-minded. I just want to warn you of the danger. There is only one way to safety–and that’s to leave this island. Everything on it will be destroyed.”

“How do you know that?” the woman snapped.

“I have it on good word. The manual…”

“Aw, there’s more than one way to interpret that, even if you believe it’s error-free,” replied the woman.

“Even if? Ma’am, that manual has predicted hundreds of things accurately. This very island bears within it evidence of a flood that ties with what the manual says happened. Plus, we can see evidence of the volcano getting ready to explode that ties with what the manual says will happen. And as for interpretation, it’s pretty clear. The problem is that people keep twisting it because they don’t want to hear what it says.”

The woman shook her head. “Look, I believe the manual is a good book. But it’s foolish not to do what we can to prepare for the volcano.”

“Exactly! That’s why you must leave. If you believe it’s a good book, you should follow what it says…”

“I’m trying!”

“But it says to flee, not to try.”

The woman shook her head despairingly and with a loud, “Humph!” turned back to her work. She was too busy building her own volcano shelter to take the way of escape already offered to her. How could she turn her back on all she’d accomplished and admit she was no better off than the people over in the mansion?

Jason found himself fighting back tears. Would no one listen? Would they insist on either clinging to the cares and fun of life or vainly trying to make their own provision for safety instead of taking the one offered to them at tremendous cost? The king’s own son had died to provide a way of escape from the volcano…oh, that more people would listen and respond before it was too late!

****
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:3

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Short Story: Play by Play

Andy raced down the field, reaching up after the basketball. He knew exactly what he was doing–or so he thought. He had read that cutting to the right like this was the right move to make. Yet to his surprise, he saw the basketball sail past him to the left. He had missed the opportunity he’d been waiting for…again.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The other players had all filed out of the locker room long ago. Only Andy sat, his head buried in his hands, defeat written in his posture, even if he hid the despair in his eyes and face.

Andy heard his name called–he recognized that voice. It was the voice of a fellow player–Tony. “Hey, Tony,” Andy mumbled, struggling to collect himself. “I thought you’d left with the others.”

Tony gave one of his broad grins. “And so I did–but I realized you weren’t with us and came back. You okay?”

Andy started to nod, then shook his head. “Not really. I just don’t understand. I keep messing up. I just wish I knew where to be when.”

“Sounds to me like you need to talk with the coach,” Tony replied with a knowing smile. “He’ll fix you up right quick. Say, I think he’s in there.”

Andy followed Tony’s finger, which pointed to their coach’s office, located just off the locker room. “Now?” he whispered.

Tony grinned again. “There’s no time like the present.” With that, Tony patted Andy good-naturedly on the shoulder and headed back outside.

Andy knew his friend was right. He needed to talk with the coach. It had been too long since they’d had a really good talk.

To Andy’s surprise, the coach guessed his frustrations and articulated them clearer than even he could. “Andy,” he explained, “you want to know what you’re supposed to do all the time. You want me to lay out for you a game plan for the rest of your career–a rule you can follow about where to be when. Today, for instance, you copied what you had seen another player do in a game, and thought you’d be able to catch the ball.”

“But the game doesn’t work that way. I call the plays one at a time, play by play. Our strategy against one team will be entirely different than against another. And what I want you to do will be different too, although never outside of the bounds of the rulebook. Andy,” the coach paused and looked straight into Andy’s eyes, “it’s your job to read and know what is in the playbook; more importantly, though, you need to listen. The entire game tonight, I was calling out directions–I told you the plays we were running as you needed to know–but your mind was too filled with trying to figure out what to do on your own, and looking at your mistakes, to  listen. There’s no formula you can follow out there on the court–you just need to listen play by play.”

As the coach’s words sank in, a weight fell of Andy’s shoulders. It was the coach’s job to figure out who needed to be where! It was his job just to listen–and obey.