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Saturday, January 4, 2014

You got those basics down yet?

Ever trip over your own feet?  You are just walking along, oblivious to the world, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself sprawling forward, lunging out of control and looking like a complete fool!  When you attempt to reconstruct the event, you simply cannot see the "reason" you fell.  In essence, you accept the excuse of having tripped over your own feet.  My last fall was similar - just walking along, then in a moment's time, I found myself sprawled over the gravel, mortified to have fallen in the very front of the hospital while on a walk with a friend.  You have probably already heard this story if you follow the blog regularly, but my immediate response (and I mean IMMEDIATE) was to reach out for my friend's hand and return to a standing position as quickly as possible!  It wasn't so much because I wasn't feeling a little pain, or because I didn't like the warm feel of the rocks.  It was out of shame!  I was out in plain view, with who knows who watching my fall, and I was mortified!  I wonder if this is how we face our spiritual and emotional "falls", too?  We find ourselves just kind of oblivious to the events of the moment, then almost without notice, we find ourselves face down, sprawled in some pretty hard places, and mortified!  Shame enters in and all we want to to is "duck and cover".  What is often missing in those moments is the helping hand of a friend!  In fact, we often fall because we don't have the right balance of accountability friendships in our lives!

My question: What are God-worshipers like?  Your answer: Arrows aimed at God’s bull’s-eye.  They settle down in a promising place; their kids inherit a prosperous farm.  God-friendship is for God-worshipers; they are the ones he confides in.  If I keep my eyes on GodI won’t trip over my own feet.  (Psalm 25:12-15 MSG)

If you sometimes don't feel like an arrow aimed at God's bull's-eye, I totally understand!  There are definitely moments, sometimes days, when I just feel like I cannot get on track and I see myself wasting opportunities, drifting without a paddle, and kind of lost in the motions.  I have to ask the question: Who's going to be in your circle of influence this year?  If you are wise, you will include at least one person in whom you can confide, find wise counsel, and who will be there for you when you are sprawling out of control.  Yep, we want to get close to God in this new year, but we also need those who will challenge us to be closer to God, to not settle into the warmth of the rocky places, and to refuse to give into the shame of our falls.

I took a couple of semesters of archery in High School and got pretty good at hitting the target with ever-increasing accuracy.  Eventually my aim helped me to land more bull's-eyes and less of the other concentric circles on the target. Today, I am not sure I could hit the broad side of a barn!  It has been that long since I picked up a bow and arrow!  The principles are still the same, though.  You need a steady arm as you grip the bow, a slight rotation of the bow with your elbow out to avoid smacking your inner forearm with the string, and the ability to line the arrow up with precise accuracy.  I gave myself a whole lot of bruises on my inner forearm before I ever learned that "rotation" part! In fact, the stinging sensation reminded me each and every time of my need to "adjust" my grip.

Until I realized the slight rotation of my elbow actually prevented the string from attacking my forearm, I didn't realize the other benefits of this subtle maneuver.  I could only focus on not experiencing the same pain over and over again.  In reality, this subtle change in how I held the bow provided me more stability to aim and release the arrow with just a little more accuracy.  I focused on eliminating the pain - my coach focused on me finding stability with my shots.  I think this is what God has in mind when he gives us good friends who walk along with us in this journey of faith.  They help us see when our grip is wrong, our aim is amiss because of how we are holding onto things incorrectly, and what to do to correct it before it causes us so much pain we abandon it all together!

The slight rotation of wrist and elbow made all the difference in eliminating the "sting" of the bow and improved my ability to hit the target.  As I also learned to keep my thumb pointed directly at the target, I saw how much this also influenced where my arrow would land.  It was as I followed the "basics" offered by my instructor that I improved my stance, grip, release, and eventually my aim.  What I didn't realize, and this almost made me not want to pursue this sport at all, was the inability to hit the target for quite some time until I had pretty much mastered the basics.  We sometimes are willing to give up way too soon, aren't we?  We don't want to take the time to master the basics in this Christian walk and we find ourselves giving up just about the time we'd finally be able to hit the target with accuracy.  My first shots were haphazard, most falling way short of the target.  As I learned to pull the string to my cheek, hold the bow with precision, and of all things, control my breathing, my aim improved.  The basics made all the difference.

When we are put off by the failures, we often don't want to go back to the basics to see where we need to make adjustments, but this is exactly where we need to start - with the basics.  What my coach told me made all the difference - don't focus on the bull's-eye - focus on hitting the same spot on the target each and every time.  When you are able to do this, you then only need to make subtle adjustments of your arm up or down to find the bull's-eye.  It worked!  When I stopped doing the things which caused me pain, focused on the elemental stuff, and just consistently did as I was taught, I hit the mark every time.  It isn't the "mastery" we need to focus on, it is the "basics"!  Just sayin!