The Thanksgiving Tree

The Thanksgiving Tree

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Through the Pain... we find the Promise

I was driving through Charleston one beautiful day last week preparing to lead worship for a Women's event.  It was one of those days when the beauty of that city absolutely took your breath away.  The sky couldn't have been bluer.. full of white puffy clouds.  Clouds I could jump in.  Clouds I could snuggle in to.  Crossing over bridge after bridge.. the water sparkling.  The water fluttering.  The water waving.  Waving up to me.  "See how beautiful!"  I am moved to speak aloud, "Thank you Lord, for this beautiful, beautiful day."

Then little rain drops out of nowhere begin to sprinkle.  Not pelting rain.  Not even a shower... a sprinkle here and there.  As if someone were casting seeds of rain from high.  The sun is shinning brighter than ever.  There isn't a gray cloud in the sky.  So I begin searching hard.  It's what I always do when there is rain and sun together.  I look for the rainbow.  I know it's somewhere.. and it usually is.  And when I find it on these rare occasions I think, And there is the Promise.  A covenant the Lord has made with His people... to never destroy His world by water.

I glance underneath to the oceans of river I am crossing.  This will never rise too high and swallow me up because you said so, Lord.  Your promises are true and forever.  I think on His other promises.  True and Forever.

Why in the rain of our lives do we not begin searching for the rainbow?  The Son is ALWAYS shinning.  His light is always penetrating the darkness... He is bringing the darkness to the light.  Why in the pain of our lives do we run toward fear.. and feelings of abandonment...our idols for comfort?  We LEAVE our Comforter.  We flee our Father and Defender.

Only through the rain do we grab glimpse of the rainbow.  It is the pain that draws us to the Promise.

So in the pain.. seek hard, my friends.  It's there.  It's written deep on and in our hearts... the Promise.  He is faithful.  He is good.  He is love.  Real love.  Love that pursues and fights and never settles.  Never changes its mind.  Love that is never conditional... quite the opposite.  Love we can't comprehend... but it's there.  It's here.  Calling our names.  Our names which have been written on His hands before we even came into being.  We are His... forever.

Look!  I almost reach my destination and there it was:  His bow...the Promise.

"Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass."
Joshua 21:45 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Give me the hills!

I operate through life with a default desire for ease.  I want peace.  I want harmony.  I want easy.  I want the weight loss without the diet.  I want "delicious" without the calories.  I want great payback with little or no effort.

Like I said, this is my default.  This is where I instinctively begin.  Only Christ has the power to go into my "control panel" and alter that setting.

So, it would be to no surprise, that as I have been training for an upcoming half-marathon, I would begin to seek out easier running routes.  There are SO many hills in and around my neighborhood.  It's grueling.  It's tiresome.  Feeling fatigued one morning, I set out to run, but this time I went to an outdoor track.   

Ah, no hills... just stay in the lines and run the circle.. no thinking.... easy. I thought.

As I got only about a half mile into my run, I felt nearly paralyzed.  It was torture!  The same thing over and over.  Nothing new.  Just round and round.  There was no shade.  The sun beat down hard.  Equal distance each time... ground equally leveled.  The minutes couldn't have moved any slower.  I almost quit!

While I agonized, Christ moved in and did a little work on my settings.

I so often have such a misplaced ideal.  I think easy and predictable is the goal.  If life were only less chaotic.  No surprise detours.  No muddy patches.  No ups and downs.  No rain.  Or wind.  Just give me round and round.. level ground within the confines of a perfectly erected arena... life would work.  Then I could keep running.. and I could run well!  But it's in the hills that builds strength in our muscles.  We acquire the stamina to continue longer..  run further.  The gentle downward slopes allow us rest and recovery.  The twist and turns of unknown terrain provide motivation to continue on... to see what's around the corner.  The track makes me want to quit.  I see where I'm going.  I see I'm accomplishing nothing in particular, but filling time and adding miles.  So many people live life running the track.  Life is the race and we are His athletes.  How are you training?  

There is so much beauty in the work; in the preparation.  Our race is longer than 13.1 miles.  It is ongoing.  But we have a Coach who is interceding ALWAYS on our behalf.. who has designed a training program specifically for each one of our needs so we may run our best and finish well.  He is building into our program faith strengthening climbs, recovery slopes, hope distances.  Where there is rain... He is on the sidelines extending to us a poncho.  Where we are dry.. He is bringing cups of water.  Where we are weak... He provides the Powerbar.  And HE IS WAITING FOR US AT THE FINISH LINE!

I left that track as fast as I could.  I ran the park.  With each hill I trudged, I thanked the Lord for the hardships in my life...because I was still running... because I am stronger because of them...because HE is the strongest over all.  Quit?  Never.  Not now.  I don't want predictable and easy.  Predictability paralyzes.  It's the hard stuff that keeps us running.

Give me the hills!  My body is better for it.  My soul is strengthened by it.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 
let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, 
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, 
who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, 
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3