Can You Make It to the Next Tree?

If enduring through suffering is like climbing a mountain, don’t look at the mountain as you go. Look at the next tree.

Josh Squires gives us this helpful bit of wisdom in his article, “Lord, Help Me Endure One More Day.” His mountain analogy is memorable and insightful:

I once watched a documentary about the toughest school in all the military (or so the film claimed). It was the winter session of the Army Mountain Warfare School which contained unbelievable trials — physical and emotional — that seemed to assail the students from the time they arrived. But the event with the highest dropout rate was a multi-day hike up a snow packed mountain. It required traversing the whole mountain, from bottom to top, through over ten feet of snow drifts with a large, heavy ruck sack slung to their back and no special equipment. They had their feet and sheer determination.

On the morning of the infamous march, a drill instructor spoke to the soldiers. I expected it to be something full of bombast and bluster, urging the group to complete the task at hand or face swift retribution! Instead, the wise soldier simply said, “If you want to quit, look at the top of the mountain.” He went on, “But if you want to make it through, then just find the closest tree and tell yourself, ‘I’m going to make it to that next tree and then reevaluate.’ And then when you get to that tree, do the same thing again, finding the next closest tree. If you’ll do that, tree by tree, soon enough you’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain.”

For those in the midst of terrible suffering, looking for hope can be like looking at the top of the mountain, staring at it from the bottom. The thought is nice, but the climb seems impossible. In those moments, the next tree is simply praying for endurance: “Lord, get me through this season, this day, this hour, even this prayer. Do not let me go, that I may not ever let you go.”

You can read the whole article here.

Real Politics

I just wrote a book on Christianity and politics. But here’s the deal: learning to engage politically isn’t something you learn in a book or a class. You learn it by living with other Christians in peace and love as they sin against you and you against them.

You learn politics by going out of your way to care for an older saint, by becoming friends with people who don’t look like you, by forsaking your rivalries with those who do, by giving money to help the brother in need. Real politics starts there–in your church.

Jonathan Leeman
@JonathanDLeeman

Compassed About

Most evangelical Christians don’t need to be talked into the Trinitarian theory; they need to be shown that they are immersed in the Trinitarian reality. We need to see and feel that we are surrounded by the Trinity, compassed about on all sides by the presence and the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God

The Flag of the World

*Image result for miami dolphins take a knee

In light of the recent and growing controversy over pro athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, G. K. Chesterton’s essay entitled “The Flag of the World” is worth revisiting.

True patriots, GKC says, aren’t those who turn a blind eye to a problem. Rather, they love their world enough to seek its improvement. They are like a woman who stands ready to defend her man before enemies but, at home, is “almost morbidly lucid about the thinness of his excuses or the thickness of his head.” Genuine love is like that: it says the hard thing not in spite of loyalty but because of loyalty.

One thing that has struck me about these athletes who #takeaknee is that most of them have managed to do so respectfully. Imagine the difference in their message if they were to turn their backs on the flag or spit on the playing field at the end of the anthem. I haven’t seen anything like that. I’ve seen helmets removed, a humble demeanor, and in some cases hands over hearts while kneeling. It suggests to me that these men do not hate our country but love it. Their desire to see our faults acknowledged and addressed doesn’t appear to be motivated by wholesale hatred but genuine care.

I could be wrong in my evaluation. However, it appears that these men, in taking a knee, aren’t concerned with demolition but construction. They want to remodel, to build, to improve the American experience. To quote GKC again, they’re storming the castle in order to make it a better home:

For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralise each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

Chesterton’s perspective is worth pondering. True patriotism loves a thing enough to think it’s worth improving.


* “The Flag of the World” can be found in GKC’s book Orthodoxy.

* For Tony Dungy’s behind-the-scenes interview with Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins (pictured above), click here.

* UPDATE: Colin Kaepernick, who was the first to protest, didn’t begin by kneeling during the anthem but by sitting on the bench. After discussing the matter with Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem in order to show respect. See Boyer’s initial open letter to Kaepernick here, and the article recounting their personal meeting here.

Beware, Beowulf

O flower of warriors, beware of that trap,
Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,
eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.
For a brief while your strength is in bloom
but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow
illness or sword to lay you low,
or a sudden fire or surge of water
or jabbing blade or javelin from the air
or repellent age. Your piercing eye
will dim and darken; and death will arrive,
dear warrior, to sweep you away.

(Beowulf, trans. by Seamus Heaney, lines 1758-1768)

The valiant warrior Beowulf is admonished to beware. A trap has been set, though not by the beast Grendel or his grim mother. The trap is within—inside the heart of every person in the prime of life. Arrogant shortsightedness has bested many a great man, and Beowulf is urged to choose otherwise.

Of course this is a lesson for us all. There’s a funeral in everyone’s future. A final heartbeat. A last breath. We will all be swept away, whether through illness or tragedy or the inexorable decline of aging. Don’t think of this as a morbid meditation but an ennobling one. To ignore death and what follows is not only foolish but perilous.

The way around the trap is to live today with an eternal eye and a humble heart. Christ the King has conquered sin and death. A far green country awaits. He bids us come, all who believe that what he offers is better than anything to be gained in this world. “Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part.”

Or, as another poet once said, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).