Friday, March 24, 2017

The Unexpected Welcome

Glen and I enjoy walking and we walk a lot.  It is primarily to keep us in shape for hiking, but it is something we have enjoyed doing together for the last three years.  Gradually, over time, we have increased our distance, again to aid us in the hiking we do on the Appalachian Trail.

Last year, as we were hiking in Virginia, we hiked -- not by plan but out of necessity -- 23 miles in one day.  That began a joke between us about walking the distance of a marathon, or 26.2 miles.  We would mention it as we walked and even talked about the places in town we would walk.  We devised a route that would take us by all our favorite coffee shops, because we knew a walk of that distance would take many hours and we would need some coffee along the way!
After about 11 miles

Joking led to planning and planning led to doing.  On February 4th this year, the weather was absolutely perfect and we set out to walk our "Orange Moon Marathon," with only the two of us being participants.  There was no police escort or fans along the way to cheer us on.  Only our family and a few friends knew what we were doing, and we kept them posted on our progress by texts as we passed each milestone.  In fact, one of the highlights of the walk for Glen was the texting he and our  ten-year-old grandson Jackson were sharing during that time.

It was a long day, seven hours of walking, and the moment we set foot again on our own property we hit 26.2 miles.  We looked at our door and a "Finish" sign had been placed above it.  As we walked up our driveway we could hear the song, "Chariots of Fire" (the theme from a movie about a Scottish Olympic runner and missionary) blaring from the kitchen window.

What an unexpected welcome!  To top it off, as we walked in the house, our youngest daughter had designed "Orange Moon Marathon" tee-shirts for us both.  None of this was expected, but it was greatly appreciated as was all the support and encouragement we received along the way.

It reminded me of a song I heard 40 years ago.  A young woman I went to college with stepped up to the microphone and belted out the moving song, "Welcome Home, Children."

A great day is coming
Heaven's gates will open wide,
And all who love the Lord will enter in;
To join with their loves ones
Who in Jesus Christ have died;
Our eternal life in Heaven to begin.
And the Lord Himself will greet us
On what joy will fill that day!
When with the smile of the proudest Father
He'll look at us and say,

Welcome home, children!
This is the place I've prepared for you.
Welcome home, children,
Now that your work on earth is through.
Welcome home, children
You who have followed so faithfully.

Welcome home, children!  Welcome home, children!
Here where I am you shall always be,
Forever rejoicing with me.

The Scriptures tell us "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." We cannot begin to imagine the joy, wonder and glory we will know in that first moment when we slip from this existence of mortality to that eternity of immortality and incorruption.

"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?"

No matter how wonderful our lives here may be, our best days -- our very best days -- are yet to be!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stand Still

"Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."  Exodus 13:14

On September 13, 1814, during the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was invited to dine aboard a British ship as a guest of the Vice and Rear Admirals,  as part of a group to negotiate the release of American prisoners.

The British ships were poised and intent to attack Baltimore. The three Americans, having witnessed the strength and position of the British ships were not allowed to return to their own ship.

Key was unable to do anything but watch the bombing of the American forces at Fort McHenry from the British deck.  At dawn, Key was able to see the American flag still waving and he wrote the poem which has become our national anthem.

Oh, say can you see,
By the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed,
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
Through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched,
Were so gallantly streaming.
And the rocket's red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there.
Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wave,
For the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

The Lord would have us to be the same as Key during the assaults and attacks we face throughout our Christian life. We are as powerless to fight in our own defense as was Key on the deck of that British ship.  Our hearts, however, can be at peace and rest knowing that we don't fight our own battles. It is Christ in us who works in and through us to accomplish His will.  We must stand still and trust the Lord to be our strength, our strong tower, our deliverer.  

Let us rest in Him and ever "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Counter-Balance

Yesterday I wrote about keeping our cadence as we walk or hike and more specifically as we walk with the Lord.  I mentioned how sometimes our feet can hit a rock or a root and send us struggling for balance.

Appalachian Trail North Carolina
I was thinking last night of the times this has happened on the trail as we hike.  There are an abundance of rocks and roots along the Appalachian Trail.  When you trip over one of these rocks or roots in the path, though, the twenty+ pound pack on our back acts as a counter-balance.  While we are indeed hurled down the path at a speed much faster than we intended, rarely does it result in us actually falling.  The weight seems to somehow keep us upright.  It is when we are walking on the the city sidewalks, without our packs, we are more likely to hit the ground. The burden of the packs tends to help keep us upright.  

Isn't this true in our spiritual lives as well?  When our hearts are burdened, when we have troubles or problems which are clearly beyond our ability to manage, we more easily turn to the One upon whom we should cast all our cares.  In those times the Lord seems not only present in our lives, but as David said, "a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1.)

When hiking in the woods for several days at a time we 
Appalachian Trail  Georgia
must carry everything we need on our backs.  We cannot escape the pack.  In this life too, burdens will come and we have found no way of yet to escape them.

"Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." 
Job 5:7 

What we have found is our troubles bring us even closer to the Lord as we depend upon Him.  Sometimes it is in His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus to remove the burden.  Sometimes He lightens the load.  Sometimes it is His purpose for us to walk the path with the load centered squarely on our backs and to depend upon His strengthening, His empowering, His guiding to see us safely along the way.

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: 
for My strength is made perfect in weakness. 
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
 that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Appalachian Trail Tennessee