Monthly Archives: October 2010

Keep On

Fall already has claimed me as a casualty. Blisters from raking halted my noble intention to clean up most of the remaining stinky gingko pods from a bumper crop this year. We have previously raked and disposed of about 75 pounds of the useless fruit. The rest are not yet taunting us with their foul smell, but we know that if they are not raked and hauled away that we and our neighbors will suffer.

Gingko trees are delightful, gorgeous specimen trees – except for this one quirk. Female gingko trees produce fruit that resemble figs in size, shape, and color. Unlike their tree-cousin figs, the gingko fruit are inedible. Worse, the ripe fruit has a pungent odor which gets worse as pods dropped from the tree and begin to decompose on the ground. Some years we have endured the smelly Fall season by retreating from the deck. We were doing much better this year raking and removing the gingko fruit. Then came the raking blisters..

I only raked for about half an hour before I felt the discomfort of blisters forming at the base of my thumbs. I was enthusiastic about doing the raking. I was wearing work gloves; I had a sturdy, efficient new rake. In bygone days I have raked far longer than this episode without producing blisters. I grew up on yards with numerous pecan trees and pine trees, both of which cast mounds of leaves and needles to be raked. Occasionally the raking would cause a slight discomfort or perhaps raise a small blister, but that didn’t happen often when I was raking more regularly. Regular repetition of raking allowed my hands to become acclimated to the rub of the tool as I worked. My hands were toughened enough to do the work without suffering. I was better equipped to get on with the task and to appreciate the marvels of creation in which I was working and the satisfaction of a job well done. Not having raked in a long while left me ill-suited to resume the work, even for a brief burst.

My blisters became a sore reminder that keeping on doing tasks on a regular basis can be better than making a stab at doing them just now and then. Some chores like raking are not very glamorous. They can require time and energy we might think we would rather devote to other pursuits. As with raking the gingko pods, the job may have some unpleasant qualities. But the less conditioned we are by doing the job regularly, the more irksome the job may become, the harder the workload grows, and the less we are able to derive enjoyment from doing it. I wondered where I might quickly succumb to blisters in my spiritual life by attempting to do too-long neglected acts of service and worship.

The Bible urges us to keep on doing the tasks God has invited us to do as his partners in the world. The more regularly we do them, the better able we are to accomplish God’s good purposes. If we only do them once in awhile, we may find ourselves out of condition, feeling every discomforting jolt, unable to appreciate the joy of sharing God’s grace because of the distraction of our “blisters.”

Among other important assignments, we are to keep on:

Loving – “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 13:1 NCV)

Praying – “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)

Living by Christ-like standards. Paul sought to be an example of how to follow Jesus’ way of life. He urged the Philippian Christians to stay with the practice of that kind of life – “Beloved, Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. {9} Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NRSV)

Cultivating closer relationship with Jesus. We are to strive to go beyond enjoying the benefits God gives us to desiring to be more Christlike in all of our thoughts and actions. That takes commitment and regular investment of time and energy. – “Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, {13} because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:12b-13 NCV)

Practicing justice, mercy, praise, thanksgiving, worship, and many other tasks as co-laborers with God all are accomplished better the more often we do them. Drawing guidance and strength from God is the key to keeping in condition to do God’s work. – [Jesus said,] “Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. {8} For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NLT)

None of these examples is anywhere near exhaustive of the tasks that followers of Jesus are called to do, but the principle of avoiding spiritual blisters applies across the board. For example, if we pray just now and then, prayer may seem foreign, bothersome, uncomfortable. We may not know what to do with the time or may plead that we don’t know how to pray. But if we pray regularly, we become conditioned to shutting out distractions, grow more familiar with conversation with God, and are set free to enjoy the practice of focused fellowship with God. We also become better attuned to praying for our real needs, confessing our sin, and praying for others.

Check out your life of faith. Got blisters anywhere? They will go away – and will stay away better the more you keep on doing what you learn from Jesus to do.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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