A Fish Saga

Photo by MART Productions

The goldfish died … again. My daughter, Charlotte, won a free goldfish at the elementary school carnival. She was so excited. The “free goldfish” wasn’t really free though. We had to purchase a fishbowl, gravel for the bottom of the fishbowl, plants, a net scoop, a weird treasure chest, and a sunken ship. The fish expired in a couple of days. We made the first of several trips to the pet store for replacement “free fish.”

At first, Charlotte seemed to understand and named each of the newcomers despite a litany of tragedies. (I never told her about the one that got away through the garbage disposal while I was changing its water.) Then the day came when I brought home one last fish. Then, I held up the clear plastic bag full of water and a shiny, new goldfish. “What do you want to name it, Charlotte?”

She looked at the poor fish and asked, “Is he a Christian?”

That seemed like a strange question, so I asked, “Why do you want to know?”

“Because it’s going to die.”

We settled on calling him “Fish.” Despite our best efforts, this was a fish that refused to die. We forgot about him when we went on vacation for a week. We came home, and his bowl was cloudy and green with sludge, but Fish was fine. Nothing could stop him. I overfed him. I underfed him. Times were tough, but the harder things were, the stronger he became. Fish was the last in our chain of aquatic pets. When he finally expired after a long life in the fishbowl, I think we had a state funeral for him.

I’ve thought about Fish many times over the years. I realized Charlotte’s innocent question, “Is he a Christian?” struck at the heart of the matter. When times get tough, Christians are at their very best – even if they are living in a fishbowl!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2 – 4)


Climbing the Eight Rung Ladder, 2 Peter 1:5-7

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are two words often translated “patience” in the New Testament. The first is makrothumia – often translated “long-suffering” as in the classic King James Version. Sometimes all God expects us to do under trial is hang on. As Winston Churchill admonished, “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up!” Like sitting in the dentist’s chair, all we are expected to do is endure for the hour. But the word that is used in 2 Peter is different. Rather than just hanging on, hypomone, encourages us to thrive in the face of adversity. A sponge works best when it is squeezed and Christians are at their best when times are rough.

Think about it. When do we grow the most? It’s not when times are good. Where is the incentive to change? We grow when we are challenged; when times are tough! For a kite to fly the wind must blow. Paul, Peter and James all recognize this principle:

“suffering produces endurance [our word], and endurance produces character,” Paul, Romans 5:3, 4.

“the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [our word]. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” James, James 1:3, 4.

“make every effort to supplement … self-control with steadfastness [our word], and steadfastness with godliness … For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful,” Peter, 2 Peter 1:6, 8.

In fact, Jesus goes so far as to say, “by your endurance you will be saved,” Luke 21:19.

We all experience tough times. People may disappoint us. Circumstances may conspire to ruin us. Relationships sometimes fail despite our best efforts, but what counts for the Christian is how we deal with those tough times. Sometimes we can only hang on, but for those climbing the eight rung ladder, tough times are an opportunity to thrive and grow and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

The 85 Year Old Giant Killer

raising the sailThe metal rolling door to the storage unit slammed shut and I fastened the lock. Even though we gave away half of the books in my library and most of our furniture — even though we had the garage sale to end all garage sales. It still seemed like we had way too much stuff. How much do we really need? For that matter, what do we really need? Pondering that question we said good-bye to our little dog Charlie, (He’s staying with our daughter Holly in San Diego) and dropped our old sailing cat, Phoebe, at the kitty hotel. Then we drove north and pulled in to a beautiful country house to stay with friends and collect our wits for a week.

I know God has an exciting life planned ahead for us, but it would sure be comforting to know a little bit more about it. However, I suppose that wouldn’t be “walking by faith” would it? Still some details would help settle my anxious mind. I’m sure Abraham and Sarah had similar thoughts on their way to the Promised Land.

Please pray for us — now more than ever! Some exciting possibilities are unfolding and I’m always up for a good adventure and that reminds me of the story of Caleb (Joshua chapter 14).

After six long years of war, it was time to divide the Promised Land. The people were looking forward to a time of peace and settling on their land, their inheritance. The Israelites gathered at Gilgal, their center of operations about a mile from Jericho and five miles from the Jordan River. There they would be assigned their new homes, but after six years of war, the hill country still wasn’t conquered. The giants (Anakim) lived there in “great fortified cities.” No one wanted to live on the mountains.

Just then Caleb appeared among the people. It was his birthday! He and Joshua were the only two people to cross over the Jordan River of those who had begun the journey over forty years before. By rights, he should have had the first choice of the land and what would the old man choose? A shady glen where he could finish his days in peace? No! Listen to his speech to the people:

“And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.” (Joshua 14:10-11)

And then Caleb’s fiery request, “Now therefore give me this mountain!” (verse 12, KJV)

Why? Why would an eighty-five year old man ask for such a challenge? Because Caleb wasn’t done yet! Caleb knew growth comes during difficult times and in the midst of foreboding challenges and Caleb never stopped growing. Besides, Caleb trusted God – the Giants didn’t have a chance!