These shoes were made for walkin'

 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peaceEphesians 6:15

We've all been admonished to "walk a mile in their moccasins" in order to understand someone else's point of view.  Good suggestion.  But we are exhorted in Scripture to walk in a different manner.  Our feet are to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  Let's unpack that verse....

First of all, this verse is in the midst of the passage sometimes referred to as "The Christian's Dress for Success"  -- putting on the armor of God so that we can successfully withstand the attacks of the enemy.  What do shoes have to do with it?

Well, the writer of this epistle is drawing on a picture quite familiar to the readers of his day -- that of the Roman soldier.  The image evoked here would be of thick shoes, strapped onto the feet of the warrior.  The bottom of the shoes would be studded with iron nails which provided better traction on rugged terrain as well as protection from razor sharp spikes stuck in the ground as enemy traps.  The shoes were strapped on with secure binding so that they wouldn't come loose in the battle.

The Gospel of Peace prepares the Christian to walk successfully in the battle, to endure the rugged trail, to avoid injury from the traps set by the enemy.  But how?  This Gospel of Peace is not referring to our peace with God (that's taken care of by the breastplate of righteousness...but that's another post).  No, the Gospel of Peace is referring to our relationship with others. 

The counsel given here is that having peace with others is a key to victory in our walk of life.  Peace, reconciliation, that is possible because we have peace with God ourselves. 

When there is not peace with others, we are prone to stumble along the trail.  To get cut by the spikes set out by the enemy of our souls.  To be unable to walk or stand, sustaining injury.  Practically speaking, this looks like bitterness towards a sister.  Hard-heartedness towards a neighbor.  Avoidance of a former friend.  Private pains of loneliness, feelings of rejection, depression over unmet needs, isolation.

Maybe we need to strap on the shoes of peace and walk to someone today for reconciliation.  If this brings a name or two to your mind, I hope you'll walk on, sister.  Walk on.  Victory's in sight - for you - not to mention what it will do for your comrade.

MY Race

Hebrews 12:1,2 :
 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God

My Betsy is a swimmer.  She was blessed with the long torso, lean body type that proves an advantage for competitive swimming.  She also has the tenacity and work ethic that have resulted in some summertime blue ribbons.  She's a natural in the water.

There's this one habit, though, that her coach has worked with her hard to break.  When Betsy is speeding through the water, she has a hard time not glancing over to the lanes on either side just to check on the competition.  More than once, this has cost precious milliseconds that made the difference between 1st and 2nd.  This is very common among young swimmers.  You see it all the time - a kid gets out in front and decides that relishing the position includes looking back at those behind.  And that wasted motion means time lost for the lead. Betsy's been swimming for a while but even so, she has to fight hard that natural tendency to look at the other lanes.  For her, it's not to enjoy her lead but rather to see if she's still got the lead. She measures her progress, not by the finish line, but by the other swimmers.  On the side of the pool, her coach shakes his head (or shouts "No, Betsy!!"), wondering how he can keep her from worrying about somebody else's race.

I don't swim competitively but, like my Betsy, I wrestle with looking in the other lanes of those in the race around me.  I've walked with Jesus a long time and I should know better but I can still get distracted by some of those in the other lanes.  Happened to me just the other day. I read a book about a dynamic Christ-follower who does remarkable things.  I was inspired...and deflated.  Wondering if I am doing any of the right things.  I needed some encouragement to re-focus and so I thought you might, too.  It's so tempting to see others in the lanes around us and think they are winning.  Cuz they look like they're "ahead".  So we pull harder, try to swim faster, all the  while losing time because we are measuring our race by somebody else's.  Instead of focusing on the finish line.

Do you know what I mean?  We get distracted by all sorts of "wonder if's" -- should I go to that church where so and so goes?  Or get the same kind of Bible?  Or take that Bible study?  We look at the lane on the other side of the pool and assume that we should homeschool or adopt or do certain Mommy-activities or be involved in a particular ministry just because someone else is and they sure look like they are winning.
It's not that we want to beat somebody else (I don't think) - we just want to be sure we're doing the right thing to win the race.  And we can focus all too quickly on someone else's race and assume we are losing because we aren't running the same one.

But notice that the passage in Hebrews says "the race marked out for us".  This means we have an individual, particular race that we are to run.  It's ours.  Not somebody else's.  While we are all called to the same commands to love and serve and show mercy and obey God, our races are not all marked out the same.  We are called to finish this race - not to swim in somebody else's lane.  Time spent wondering or worrying about the other lanes distracts me from my own race, makes me lose not only focus and time but also joy and contentment. Of course we should clap and cheer for all those swimming beside us but they should not be a gauge of how well we are doing in our own lane.

The solution?  Right there in that passage.  Fixing my eyes on Jesus.  He called me to the race that He marked out for me.  He equips me to run that particular race.  And He promises joy in the running if I keep looking at Him. Gonna work on focusing on the finish line.  And less on the lanes of friends.