You Can Teach An Old Dog…


A month ago we moved across town into a neighborhood that has a community pool.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was!  (and am!)  Whereas in Florida there are tons of pools, in Colorado where water is much more scarce and expensive, well, I’ve barely swam at all since we moved here.  Best part –  I learned that master swim classes are offered every Tuesday and Thursday morning for free!  In these classes you have a coach who guides you step by step in how to make the most of each workout, tailoring it specifically for you.  So after purchasing a swim cap and goggles I dove in!

But was that first class ever humbling…  You see, there are a wide variety of people who attend.  From Olympic hopefuls to tadpoles.  I barely made it one and a half lengths of the pool when I stopped, gasping for breath.  After living in Colorado for two years I can’t blame that on the altitude.  Yep. Say hello to the queen tadpole!

Then there was the time the coach asked if I could do the backstroke. Now I was on the swim team in high school.  I may not be fast but I do know my strokes!  Or so I thought…  When the coach told me to swim 100 meters on my back with my hands stationary above my head so I could focus on kicking, guess who promptly inhaled a ton of water and sank repeatedly?!

But you know what’s incredible?  I am improving!  Things that were impossible for me to do a month ago I’m now doing.  And I keep being spurred on to new challenges I never would’ve dreamed of.  What a difference it makes to have a coach!

Especially on mornings like today when it’s rainy and 50 degrees out.  In all honesty it’s so much easier to stay in bed.  Especially as the class starts at 6:30 am!  The very thought of jumping into an outdoor pool, even though it is heated to 80 degrees, is a bit daunting.  I almost didn’t make it.  But knowing there is someone waiting for you, waiting to help you, and a group of others to  share the journey with sure makes a world of difference.

And does it ever make a difference in helping me grow my skills.  You see, I can go to the pool any time and swim laps – and as I do my endurance will improve.  But there’s something about having someone keep raising the bar that is pushing me to improve far beyond anything I’d do on my own.  Not only am I getting stronger and faster, but as I keep marking new accomplishments am I ever spurred on to want to keep growing and getting better!

And I’m amazed how it’s not just spurring me on physically but also providing an incredible metaphor for continuing to grow spiritually.

Remember a disciple is a learner as well as a follower of Jesus.  Being His disciple isn’t a rank you attain but a direction you head.  Stop learning, stop following Jesus and you are no longer His disciple.  As I spend time in the Word and keep seeking actively to apply it I am growing and it is exciting to periodically notice differences.

But a month ago an older woman contacted me and said I’d kept coming to her mind, would I be interested in getting together?  What a gift from the Lord this has proven to be!  Each time we interact I am so spurred on to want to go deeper with Jesus, far deeper than I would on my own.  And her insights and suggestions for things I can practically do to keep growing are making such a difference in my life!

But just like swimming, it takes effort to make this happen.  This precious woman lives four hours away.   It requires time and effort and intentionality to connect.

Is it ever worth it!

So what I’m chewing on today is the reality discipleship isn’t just for new or young believers.  Discipleship is about intentionally spurring people on to be (and remain!) Jesus’ disciple.  That’s something we can all benefit from all our days!  And do the women I disciple ever benefit from me continuing to be discipled!

Thankfully you can teach an old dog new tricks* – and what a difference it’s making in my life as I keep being spurred on to learn, grow and follow Jesus!



*fun links:

Pursuing Purity – part 3

Imagine you’re in Afghanistan, right on the edge of a minefield.  Only problem – those mines are buried.  You can’t see them.  How free would you feel to run and explore knowing at any moment a mine could detonate and blow you to bits?

Now imagine an explosive expert has arrived and with his high tech equipment identified where every single mine is located and put a fence around it.  You are guaranteed the only mines that can harm you are inside those fenced off areas and you’re surprised to find there’s lots of room to run and have fun, where mines aren’t located.  How would that impact your movements?  Would you complain that you can’t go into the areas inside the fences?  Or be thankful you can freely move everywhere else?

But what if some of those mines are set to detonate after long delays?  What if you suddenly see people climbing over the fences and having fun inside of them?  Would you start to question the explosive expert?  Wonder if maybe he’s just putting up fences to keep you from having a good time?

This is why it is so important for older women to teach what is good, and so train younger women to be pure. Titus 2:3-5  (If you haven’t read the previous two posts on pursuing purity please do go back and read them so you can put this third post in context!)

After you’ve lived a while you realize even the most delayed of those mines do detonate and can be so destructive.  We served in collegiate ministry for years and saw a number of students lured into heavy drinking and partying – everyone looked like they were having so much fun!  And they were!  The only problem is stick around long enough and sure enough there is great personal damage that takes place whenever the boundaries of God’s commands are violated.  Oh, you don’t always see the damage immediately – that’s one reason why so many get taken in.  But given time, it is heartbreaking to see the consequences.

I’ve never yet met anyone who started out seeking to be an alcoholic!

And after being married 28 years it is so sad to see the devastation in friends’ lives when one spouse decides to jump the fence and commit adultery.  The sex may be awesome!  And the new relationship may seem incredible at the time, but the earthquakes of devastation when trust is broken and relationships shattered is heart wrenching to witness.

One of the most famous songs from the musical Les Mis is Fantine’s “I dreamed a dream.”

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrongI dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgivingThen I was young and unafraid
So dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untastedBut the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shameHe slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weatherI had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed

This is a song of a woman who climbed over a fence.  A fence meant to protect her.  And yes, God is forgiving.  He will never walk away from us no matter what we do.  And oh how He grieves when His children disregard his commands, thinking they know better what good is and then as He sees the destruction that follows He carries our griefs, he bears our sorrows.  Thankfully He doesn’t just leave us there.  I love how in Les Miserables you see God in action bringing good out of evil.  But how much better it is to heed His warnings and obey his commands in the first place.
One thing Fantine gets very wrong in this song – life didn’t kill her dream, her choices killed her dream. She found someone who filled her days with endless wonder, and thought he’d always be there.  So she climbed the fence, not waiting for a commitment.  She thought she knew better than God what was best. And initially it looked great!  Like she really was prospering… until this rich guy and his friends lead their women to a pub and leave them with a goodbye note, never to be heard from again.
Now Fantine, if you’ve read the book especially, you’ll note is not some horrid creature, if anything in Les Miserables Victor Hugo highlights her incredible commitment as a mom to do whatever she can for her daughter.  This is the very thing that sends her into prostitution.  But the reality is this road began with a choice when she was younger to do what seemed good to her and hope that God would be forgiving.  Or a more modern version – “I know God’s going to forgive me so why not just go ahead and do what I want?”
This brings us to a third and critical aspect of pursuing purity.  You see God never creates commands to make us jump through hoops.  They are always for our good.  Always to protect us.  Why does the Lord hate sin so much?  One reason is because of how destructive it can be.  Fantine isn’t the only one who suffers for her choice. Her daughter Cosette does too.
Remember John 10:10 ~ the thief comes to rob, kill and destroy.  Because the enemy is a deceiver, he so wants to lure us into believing we are missing out if we follow God’s commands.
And in truth there are times when we follow God’s commands and there is still destruction.  We may be so careful and miss the mines detonating but in this broken and fallen world there are times when the enemy still drops bombs on us – times when we do what the Lord says and still experience great pain and brokenness – so on one hand, following the Lord’s commands really does protect us from a lot of pain.  But on the other hand it is not a guarantee no problems will come!
Just think of Joseph.  He didn’t climb over the fence even when day after day Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Him.  He ran away… and ended up in a dungeon.  But note that wasn’t the end of the story!  You could think – hey, if he’s going to end up in prison anyway why not have sex with the woman and at least have a good time!  But zoom out and you see His choice to pursue purity even in the face of injustice proved eventually to be a HUGE blessing for him, his whole family and even the nation of Egypt as well as all the nations surrounding them!!!
So don’t pursue purity to have an easy life.  In the short term life may actually end up harder.  But God sees.  God truly does know what is best.  And in the long run, “blessed are they whose ways are blameless” (you only get that through Jesus! what we covered in the previous posts), “who walk according to the law of the Lord” (obeying His commands!). The longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, starts out with this very verse highlighting two different aspects of purity.   As David says in Psalm 16, “The boundary lines you have laid for me have fallen in pleasant places.”  May we learn to live well within the Lord’s boundaries and experience the blessedness that comes with this – and help those younger than us learn this too – even when all hell may be breaking lose around us …or those around us may seem to be having a lot more fun fence jumping!
So what can it look life for an older woman to help a younger woman process this?
Psalm 73 gives us such an excellent outline!  In it the Psalmist starts out being very honest about his observations regarding how well the wicked are doing, how they are prospering and seem to have it better and he’s almost sucked in… until he goes to be near God and considers it all from an eternal perspective.
1.  Read through this psalm together
2.  Then each take a blank piece of paper and fold it into sixths.
3.  In the top right section write “Psalmist: Short term perspective,” in the square underneath write “Psalmist:  Description,” in the bottom square write, “Psalmist:Long term reality.”  in the left column at the top right write “Wicked: Short term perspective, then in the middle write “Wicked:  Description” and in the last bottom section write “Wicked:  Long term reality.”
4.  As you read through this Psalm record what you can in each category
5.  Then discuss – with you, the discipler, sharing first.  Do you know people like those described under the wicked?  People who don’t fear God, who do evil but still prosper?  How does it make you feel when you see this?
6.  Can you relate to the Psalmist in his struggle?  If so, how?  When do you find yourself struggling like this?  Is there something you’re struggling with now?
It’s so easy never to talk about this when you meet with someone.  But it is reality.  Sin wouldn’t be such a struggle if it wasn’t fun, if it didn’t look good, especially initially! Or are either of you struggling because you’ve obeyed and life is still hard or even harder because of your obedience and you feel like giving up?  Opening up and talking about your struggles can be one of the best ways to thwart the enemy.  He thrives when things are hidden.
You don’t need to wait until a problem surfaces to discuss this!  As long as we are this side of heaven we are all going to struggle.  Welcome to being human!  Open the door for honest dialogue. Share the journey!
7.  What stands out to you from the long term realities of both the wicked and the Psalmist?
8.  What brought about the change in the Psalmist’s perspective?
9.  Now turn the page over and each of you write on the back of your pages the thoughts that come to mind after considering this.  What can you learn from this?
10.  Share your thoughts
11.  Then spend some time brainstorming ways that could help you keep perspective.
12.  Pray for each other!
Older women, whether you are decades or just a few months further along than the women around you, may we all be faithful to teach what is good and so train the women around us to be pure and in so doing be encouraged to keep persevering in this ourselves!