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“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:14-15).

Ever find a pair of kicks you couldn’t live without? If you love to indulge your tootsies, you’re not alone. Americans spend more than twenty billion dollars on footwear each year.  More astounding are worldwide athletic sales surpassing fourteen billion. And that’s just Nike products.

We buy specific shoes to enhance health, express personality, or elevate our stature. Shoes fit themselves into our psyche soon after we’re born. No recent obsession, since childhood tales of glass slippers, elvish cobblers, and ruby slippers resonate across the centuries. It’s no wonder we cherish our soles. Shoes inhabit our youthful dreams and grown-up wishes. We search for those ideal shoes, convinced their magic will take us places.

Instead of aspiring to take men places, ancient Roman military boots were designed to stay put. First century soldiers wore sandal-boots, with little attention to the visible parts of the feet and calves. Leather laced over the top of the foot and strapped around the lower leg. Reinforcements focused on the soles. Several layers protected the warrior from the earth. Cobblers drove hobnails into the outer soles to hold the boots together and offer traction.

Centurions knew the battle priorities didn’t lie in decorating ankles or comforting piddies. Modern combat trainers echo their philosophy. Digging in and holding the battle stance makes all the difference during a fight. A warrior must not be knocked off balance, or worse, to the ground. A downed opponent gives advantage to the enemy.

Scripture advises us to fit our feet with warrior boots. Divine soles ignore appearances, status, and comfort. We won’t acquire these powerful kicks from elvish tales or Famous Footwear. Boots that ready us for spiritual triumph come from the gospel of peace. Christ’s perfect footwear has nails driven through it. Jesus has already won the war, you see.  That’s the greatest story of all time. We don’t have to defeat the enemy all over again. We just have to stand firm on Jesus’ victory. What a relief! No need to go on the offensive and rout the devil. It’s done. And we can rest secure in the peace of Christ’s triumph. We win.

Trade in your footwear wishes. Trade up from glass and rubies. A slipper doesn’t prepare soldiers for war. Strap on the peace of Christ. Secure the laces, ensuring against a slipping heel or twisting ankle. Don’t let the snarls and temptations throw you off balance, no matter how close the circumstances seem to your face. Don’t slip on lies meant to grip us with fear.  No need to let the enemy knock you off that stance of peace. Dig those cleats into your triumphant position. Stand. Firm. And you’ll rock those readiness boots!

 

I’m liking the candy corn around me, deep azure skies above, and an extra hour of sleep on the horizon. I like autumn, but it’s not my favorite. Before passionate fall-enthusiasts take defensive aim, let me just honor your right to like whatever you choose. Perhaps your heart skips a beat when pumpkin pie shows up on the table. My eyes glisten at herald angels singing, but my kids wretch at the first carol on the radio. Though I wish they could enjoy my favorites with me, it isn’t a household rule. My family knows what they prefer, and it isn’t always aligned with my wish list.

 

We often bristle against our dissimilar preferences in the family of God. Professing what we like and what we don’t can turn into household rules edging out those who disagree. Options diversify and thereby beautify the world, but make poor legislators. Scripture doesn’t command us to like everything, nor does God insist we all like the same things.

You’re welcome to enjoy the old hymns while I prefer the electric guitar. Both obey the Biblical call to worship. Please serve the homeless, but allow me to encourage the abused. Both follow the call to care for those in need. As long as we follow the Word of God without changing it, we can show His love in the unique ways we like. The Lord created us with intentional differences in likes and perspectives. He knows what His children enjoy better than we know ourselves. 

So, whether you eat candy corn by the layer, by the handful, or never touch the stuff, notice how the varied colors offer beauty to the season. The same ingredients flavor each part, however. In God’s Kingdom, each unique hue carries the potential to deliver joy sweetened by the same Spirit of Love. When we join hands in love, God transforms us into a beautiful family which honors our unique brothers and sisters to more perfectly glorify the same Lord.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? …But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ …But God has put the body together… so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-26

 

Autumn’s cascading leaves and glimmer of auburn across the horizon offers a perfect setting to consider falling. Though I’m as prone as Lucile Ball’s screen characters to stumble through my home, today’s blog won’t highlight the comic relief of physical clumsiness. As we delve into squash season, let’s take a moment to plan how we deal with a spiritual spill.
Even the most grace-filled Christians trip over their tongues, attitudes, and fingertips now and then. Asking whether we’ll stumble remains a moot point. The significant issue lies with what we do during and afterward.
How do you cope with your fall?
1. Do not stiffen.
Bracing against the impact includes techniques such as denial, burying, avoidance, and blame-shifting. Take responsibility. Apologize. Don’t put it off.
2. Use your knees.
Pray. Ask the Lord to help you humble your mind and heart as soon as possible. Pray. Seek reorientation and transformation from the Holy Spirit. Pray. Listen for direction from the Lord, scripture, and mature Christians. Did I mention you should pray?
3. Take the hand helping you up.
Jesus might lift you up in Spirit, or also employ a Christian friend in the process. Once your heart has changed, take that grace extended to you.
4. Move on.
Only the enemy would have us remain defeated in the dirt. God convicts us in order to move us forward in His purpose.
If you absorb all the spiritual renewal Christ offers in the process, God can strengthen you beyond your pre-tumbled state. Learn. Transform. Proceed.
May Jesus bless your autumn and renew you through every fall.

“…only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'” – John 8:9-11

I glanced at the movie pass offer, displayed on a banner across the bloodmobile.

I just used my last movie pass with my son the other day. Maybe it’s a good day to give blood. I feel healthy, after all, and so much of our community struggles with a cold right now.

I strode into the chapel for worship and prayed for guidance. At the close of the service, I exited the double doors to face the blue bus again. I tilted my head and studied the option.

A whisper descended into my mind’s weak ear. “Not now. Go get a cup of coffee.”

I rounded the corner toward the social hall. I could get some coffee, stand available for a divine encounter, then proceed to the bloodmobile. Halfway down the sidewalk, a boy scout held a posterboard advertisement for a pancake breakfast.

Pancake breakfast? I don’t eat pancakes. I can’t possibly go in there and just get a cup of coffee without getting the scouts’ breakfast. There also won’t be many opportunities to bless or encourage others, since they’ll all be seated at tables with food I won’t be sharing.

I whirled around.

I can get some diet soda while donating blood. That should serve me just as well as coffee.

A nagging uncertainty pricked at my spirit as I marched across the street. I peered inside the bloodmobile at the empty benches.

“I must’ve come at just the right time.” I grinned at the phlebotomist and ascended the steps.

Paperwork and vitals breezed along without issue, but the ease ended there.

“Just a little prick, now,” the technician said.

Familiar with the process, I nodded. “Hope there’s not too much scar tissue. I’ve given blood from that arm many times.”

“Let me get someone to help.” He turned away.

I glanced at the clear tube extending from my arm. “That’s strange.”

The woman who took my paperwork elevated my elbow and jabbed the needle deep into my arm. I winced at the unfamiliar pain level. Needles never bothered me before. The clock ticked past eleven, each passing minute increasing my tardiness to teach the eleventh grade Sunday school class.

“Give the ball a squeeze every few seconds,” he reminded me. “You’re almost done.”

Squeezing sent a jolt through my arm. That’s never happened before. 

When the donation ended, he instructed me to raise my arm for a few seconds. He cleared me to lower it and another technician tried to apply a bandage. Profuse bleeding ensued, so she told me to raise my arm again. That’s never happened before, either.

At quarter past eleven, I hustled to the far building. My sole remaining student waved to me from the classroom across the hall. I joined the other class and apologized. Despite dizziness, I engaged the students with my usual passion for the Word.

I considered running errands after church, but a tug toward home persuaded me to put them off until later in the afternoon. I checked on my son’s cough, worked on some writing, and clipped coupons with no further dizziness.

On my way to the first of my errands, I processed my experience aloud. “I don’t think I’ll give blood again for a long time.”

I considered several shades of thread at the fabric store, but struggled to decide in the poor light. I took two in hand and grabbed a third.

The thought sifted into mind. “Don’t buy a third. Two is sufficient.”

I glanced at the spool. God? My stomach churned. I should go. I replaced the third spool and headed to the check out line.

Customer service hailed me. “I can take you over here.”

As she retrieved my change from the drawer, a tidal wave of nausea overwhelmed me. I knelt and rested my reeling forehead against the counter.

“Do you need a chair?” Three associates rushed from behind the customer service desk.

“Yes, that’d be good. I’m just dizzy all of a sudden…”

“Sit up.”

“Have some chocolate…some Coke…”

I sipped the cola. My gullet resisted the tiny square of candy. “I feel sick…”

A trash can appeared beside the chair. I leaned my head into a dream…things to do…

A crowd of faces hemmed in the fluorescent glare. Linoleum chilled through my tee shirt into my spine and ribs. How did I end up on the floor?

“Are you all right?” A man smiled down at me. “Her color’s looking a bit better now.”

“The ambulance is on its way,” an associate said.

After the EMTs completed their review, my husband arrived from work to support me through the parking lot and drive me home. My son later helped retrieve my car. I spent the unsteady evening in bed.

My failure to tune into the Spirit cost time and energy for countless others. I felt silly and weak, a reminder of my utter dependence on higher strength. Each minor choice carries an  infinite stream of potential contingencies, and God alone foresees them all. When I am tempted to trust my own understanding, I pray His Spirit will bring my public fall to mind. For in my weakness, I must listen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

May the Lord reward my husband, the anonymous doctor who volunteered his attention, the kind associates at JoAnn’s Fabrics, and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue from His richest treasures of abundant blessings.

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