“A title is a promise,” says Dan Worley, who does the critical editing of all my projects and books. In view of this principle, the title of my book keeps me focused and helps me decide what belongs in it and what does not. So it is, as I near the last organizing of my new book, Mighty, that whatever doesn’t add to the understanding of the supernatural normal Christian life hits the cutting room floor. I think of it as the covered wagons heading West on the Oregon/California Trail. The closer they got to the Rockies, the more they discarded valuable possessions by the side of the way. Cast iron cook stoves, beloved sewing machines, anything heavy for sure had to be left behind. They would soon be lowering their wagons by ropes over the precipices, and everything that wasn’t absolutely essential had to go, no matter how dearly it was loved.
So here are four of those pieces that must be left out of my book, though I have carried their truth in my heart for years and wanted to share them with readers. Nevertheless, I still get to make them available to you, hoping they will uplift, encourage, inspire, or show you something you might not otherwise have had the opportunity to see.
1. Getting Down Off Everest
How do you keep going under impossible conditions? Beck Weathers had to figure that out as he plodded his way from the Death Zone of Mount Everest to safety. What he said has helped me keep plodding when I think I can’t go on in circumstances that keep going on and on and on…
2. Charles Templeton’s Doubts and the Value of Life
Suffering, Holocaust, cruelty, free will, and what makes each human life valuable—these are issues famous evangelist Charles Templeton wrestled with. Eventually he concluded there is no God. But John Lennox has a radically different understanding, one with magnificent, beautiful hope.
3. Who Is Jesus?
This one deals with the major objections to acknowledging Jesus as Deity. what does it mean when He tells His disciples, “I and the Father are one”? but then He says things that certainly sound as if He’s inferior to the Father. Can both be true? this short word study clears up this confusion.
4. Sunday At Skilled Nursing
This short piece came from my having to do a Sunday service at a skilled nursing facility where the residents were in varying states of incoherence. What kind of encouragement can you give to people like that?
So there you go. As always, I pray that something I’ve written will give you resources and reasons to treasure your life and make each day fruitful and enduring.
Getting Down Off Everest
When Beck Weathers woke up, he was surprised to be alive. He wondered if he’d died and was somehow awake in a different realm. Nobody survives a night on Everest after passing out in the snow. His problem at that point was getting back to Camp 4. A casual question the night before had brought information about the direction of the wind, and that gave him his bearings. He knew which way to go. But there had been another climber lying next to him in the snow. Somehow Weathers knew they had both been alive when the others went down without them. He wondered where she was, and why they had left her. At the same time, he already knew the answer. It was the law of the mountain. Every climber knows, and agrees before starting the climb, that if something happens to them, the others cannot be expected to carry them back. At that altitude, it would be the death of both of them. Beck knew that when he awoke, and he wasn’t upset that they’d left without him, but it bothered him that the little Japanese lady had been abandoned. She was only ninety pounds. He struggled against his anger, but realized he could never get off the mountain if he carried with him the weight of that heavy emotion, so he let it go.
Slowly Weathers plodded, footstep after footstep, his right arm frozen solid, weak from having had nothing to eat or drink for more than a day. But he was an experienced climber. He knew what to expect. He would begin to hallucinate. He would want to quit, lie down in the snow and go to sleep. But he thought of his wife and children, and reasoned that the fact he woke up meant he was supposed to at least try to get back to them.
Weathers continued on in the thin, oxygen rare air, slowly, deliberately, forcing focus on his goal. After a long time, he saw something ahead—something blue and undulating. It could be the tents of Camp 4, he thought, or it could just be blue rocks. He decided he was hallucinating. If he believed they were tents and they turned out to be rocks, he would be so disappointed he wouldn’t be able to go on. As he got closer and closer, he told himself they were only blue rocks. And then someone stood up. He was at Camp 4.
Two things struck me about this story. One is the importance of letting go of angers and resentments that weigh us down. Hebrews 12 says to lay aside weights and sins that so easily beset us. I don’t mean to become detached from caring about others and injustices, but this was not injustice. It is the law of the mountain. And it was too late to do anything about it.
The other is he did not allow himself to think he was almost there. So often I get discouraged because I think something is almost over. If I can only get this done, or if only that happens, this problem will be over and I can move on. I think of the people in the Japanese prison camp. One internee said the big questions were “How long will we be here?” and “How long is this going to go on?” He said Eric Liddell would go around reassuring them they would be able to endure. God would help them.
I remember hearing a friend tell me she had opened a cupboard and some dead flies had fallen out. She went hysterical, totally unable to function at all. It wasn’t just the flies. There had been about seven other “small” nasty surprises that day. The flies were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. She had been pushing them away, trying to ignore them and go on, but each one simply attached to the ones before till they overwhelmed her. You can’t just ignore them. One time God showed me that my relaxed, undirected mind was like a cat going from garbage can to garbage can. Then He gave me Phil 48. Here it is in the overtones of the words:
Whatsoever is pure, true, worthy of reverence, honorable, seemly, just, lovely, lovable, kind, winsome, gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, or anything worthy of praise, think on, weigh, take account of, these things—fix your mind on them. And the peace of God—untroubled, undisturbed well-being—will be with you.
My husband Dennis used to repeat every morning, “In every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” He learned it at a practice-building seminar. It didn’t work. Positive affirmations don’t always help with negative thinking, but replacing them does. It’s a great technique to teach your kids. It changes the chemistry in their brains, but it also switches them from the flesh to the spirit because it’s a principle of the Kingdom and it contains intrinsic Kingdom power. Works on grownups too.
One thing about getting down off Everest, or surviving a prison of war camp, or enduring sixteen months in the Antarctic, or keeping emotionally and mentally uplifted and uplifting to others during lockdowns, quarantines, limitations of any sort. Harboring and nurturing angers and resentments about what other people should do will drain your focus and strength to keep going. You can’t let things pile up on you. God has given you His ways to process whatever you face. Take it before Him, let Him adjust your thinking to harmonize with His, and you will have a clear heart to meet the next frustrating, irritating or alarming thing.
I know people who go through cycles of ups and downs, and whenever they hit a down, they are in despair. It’s when you keep thinking it’s over and it’s not—that’s when you can get most discouraged. I think of friends who had new meds or a big breakthrough at a session with a therapist, or a liberating revelation from God, only to wake up the next morning as depressed as ever. I think of caring for a parent or spouse with dementia who you’ve patiently reasoned back into peace, who five minutes later is just as agitated, upset, and unreasonable as before. I remember getting my mom all cleaned up, tucked in, looking cozy and dry, then checking her a couple of hours later, anticipating soon being free to fall exhausted into bed, only to find her needing to be cleaned up again. If, instead, I approached her bed thinking she would probably need another change of bedding and clothing and a thorough washing up, and I’m looking forward to making her more comfortable, I would not have been so discouraged.
Having been through many such scenarios in my own life, I’ve concluded that the best way to face them is not to think they’re over. Then, when you pass the undulating blue rocks and someone stands up, you know it’s over. That’s how Beck Weathers got down off Everest, and that’s how we can survive our marathons as well. Because this life is definitely not a sprint, and most of the time things will come up over and over, so we might as well settle that matter in our hearts. It will be over when it’s over.
Paul says to lay aside the weights and sins that so easily beset us and run with patience the race set before us. But here’s the deal, Guess Who’s waiting for us at the finish line? But wait! There’s More! It’s says of Him, “Who for the glory set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” What’s the glory? It’s us! He did that to provide everything we will need to get to the finish line, even if we’re broken or burned or locked up. The Christian life goes far beyond our time on Earth, but while we’re here, He gives power to the faint and to them who have no might He increases strength. Jesus gives us supernatural help to make it through impossible things. So let’s keep running.
The next story to follow in a few days.