Monday, July 30, 2012

To Finish the Race. . .

Our family has been watching the Olympics and this year we have an added interest because our daughter's boyfriend is British.  Often when the television cameras pan sights of London, our daughter will say, "Been there.  Been there, too."  Her boyfriend, who grew up in England, doesn't seem to find the need to let us know he has "been there,"  his accent alone lets us know that.

Having someone from another country with you while watching these international games gives a different flair to the watching.  The entire audience of our house is not solely rooting for USA, and while we all cheer for Great Britain if USA is not in the race, or we know he cheers for us if Great Britain is not in the race, it does make one more sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Regardless of national sensibilities, the most important thing is that the race be finished and hopefully finished well.  At least once over the years I have seen an Olympic race where an athlete simply did not, either because of injury or accident, finish the race.  This I think is sadder than coming in dead last.

There was one runner in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, who showed great courage to finish his race.  While competing in the marathon, a 26 mile 385 yard race,  John Stephen Akhwari, from Mbulu, Tanganyika experienced cramps from the high altitude of the city. At the 11.8 miles into the 26+ mile race some runners were jockeying for position and he was hit causing him to fall and badly wound and dislocate his knee.  He also hit his shoulder hard against the pavement.

He could have stopped running, surely no one would have blamed him for doing so.  But he continued running, finishing last of the 57 runners who completed the race. (There were 18 runners who never made it to the finish line.)

Momo Wolde of Ethiopia finished the marathon in 2 hours 20 minutes and 26 seconds.  Akhwari finished the marathon in 3 hours 25 minutes and 27 seconds.  By that time the sun had already set and there were only a few thousand people left in the stadium.  When word was received during the medal ceremony that one more runner was about to finish, a television crew was sent out to televise his finish.

A cheer came up from the crowd as he crossed the finish line.  Later, when asked why he had continued running in spite of his injuries he replied, "My country did not send me 5,000 miles just to start the race, they sent me to finish the race."

The Apostle Paul knew the possibility of ending the race on the side of the track instead of crossing the finish line when he said, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway," (I Corinthians 9:27.)  

He also encouraged us to "run, that ye may obtain" because "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?" (I Corinthians 9:24.)

There is so much in our lives which can injure, distract or discourage us from continuing on the race which is before us.  But as did the Apostle Paul, we must not count ourselves to have already apprehended, but our attitude must be, as was his, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," (Philippians 3:13,14.)

We each face distractions, injuries and discouragements along our own races.  Let resolve to continue, to press on, to run that we may obtain.  If we fall or even if, like Akhwari, we are knocked down and injured, let us get up and continue running, so that at the end of the race, we may, like Paul, state:

" I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith"
2 Timothy 4:7

Saturday, July 28, 2012

King's Quest

Many years ago we had a computer video game which was an adventure game.  In this game, you had to take a King through a series of adventures until finally he conquered all the evil villains, found a princess locked in a tower, freed her from her prison, kissed her, proposed to her, and married her.
King's Quest II - Romancing the Throne Coverart.jpg
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

We took turns playing the game and watched each other play as we found the hidden tricks to conquering the bad guys and unlocking each new piece of the puzzle.  

The game was created so that you could make the King do whatever you wanted him to do, but if he didn't respond appropriately to the situations, or make the best choice in the situation, the next sequence in the game would not be unlocked.  Every aspect of the game, from the first clue to the final kiss was inside the game already when we first opened it up, but it was up to us to make the right choices so our King could reach his destination.

I guess somewhere along the way, we lacked one little piece of our puzzle.  We did indeed conquer the bad guys and we found the Princess in the tower.  We could even kiss her and propose to her, but we couldn't get her to leave  the tower for the wedding.  Over and over we tried, but we were never able to get her out of that tower.

In our lives, we are presented with choices and decisions to be made.  The Lord has already given us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness," (2 Peter 2:13) so we already have everything we will ever need for our Christian life.  In fact, the Scriptures tell us we are "complete in Him," (Colossians 2:10) so that we lack for nothing on our own "King's Quest."

It is up to us, by faith and submission to Him, to respond to what the Lord has already given us to walk out our Christian life in "righteousness and true holiness," (Ephesians 4:24.)  We will experience, however, the consequences of our choices, "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live, " (Romans 8:13.)

May we each walk in such a way that we do not reach the end of our lives regretting the lost opportunities of walking in the Spirit.  May we have the sort of life whereby we can be assured of "getting the Princess out of the tower" at the end of the game.

 "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. 
If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, 
ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father."
I John 2:24

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Eternal Scar

Today I listened to my husband give a message about Jesus crying out on the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  He shared that he believes Jesus cried out "My God" twice because the Lord Jesus was forsaken on the cross by both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, leaving Him to die for our sins forsaken by both man and God, totally alone.

Immediately my mind flashed back to an instant over twenty five years ago.  Our oldest daughter was about three and she had fallen while running down a sidewalk.  When she fell, the lateral incisors of her upper teeth cracked above the gum-line and they had to be removed.

We took her to the dentist, who had a strict, a VERY STRICT rule about no "Mommies" in the room with the children.  I had to sit in the waiting room with my husband as the dentist extracted the teeth.

I could hear my beautiful little girl screaming for her mommy even out into the waiting room.  I believe that the pain I felt at hearing those cries were no less painful to me than the fear and abandonment she felt in that dentist chair.

Even after all these years, after these decades, I cannot think of that afternoon without bitter tears.  I have always felt as if I let my little girl down, as if I should have barged in that room to "save her" from that mean old dentist.  The truth is, he was doing exactly what needed to be done for her good.  But those painful moments have lasted far longer in my heart than they did in her mouth.  The memory haunts me often and I never remember it without tears.

It has been speculated that perhaps Calvary was not just a particular point in time, but to God it is eternal.  Perhaps somehow there is forever a cross in the heart of God whereby God the Father and God the Spirit will forever know the pain of the forsaken Lord Jesus crying out in anguish.

Just as for all eternity there will be wounds upon the hands and feet and side of the Lord Jesus, perhaps there will also be this spiritual scar in the Trinity.  Up until that moment God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit had only known perfect oneness and unity.  But on the cross of Calvary that unity and oneness was torn apart so that we, undeserving as we are, could by the grace and mercy of God, be entered into that unity.  While our God is a god full of "joy unspeakable,"  maybe somewhere deep in the heart of God, a cross still stands.


"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; 
that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
2Corinthians 5:21

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Happy Birthday!

There are many things in our lives which the Lord gives us specifically to bring us joy.  I can think of so many blessings which He has heaped upon my life.  In fact, my life has been a series of things "abundantly above all that we ask or think."

But today, on the 26th of July, I am thinking of one particular thing. 

Today is our youngest daughter's birthday and I am reminded yet again of the incredible blessing she has been to us through these years.  Never could I have imagined when I first held that gorgeous little eight pound bundle that she would enrich all of our lives so greatly, but she has.

The Lord has used her in my life to teach me so much of Himself and to continue to reveal to me the wonders of His love as a parent through my love as a parent.  As I watch my daughter relate to her siblings, the three of them now all adults, the Lord continues to teach me of how His children the Church interact and relate to each other.

So as I think back over twenty-one wonderful years, I thank the Lord especially for gracing our garden with this incredible rose.  I thank Him for the source of love and joy and laughter and pride she has been to us and I thank Him for the friend she has grown to be to her siblings and her parents.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Lord's Fish and Momma's Lasagna

After the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the disciples had gone back to their boats to fish.  They fished the night and "caught nothing" (John 21:3.)  That morning, Jesus stood on the shore, only the disciples did not recognize Him.  He told them to cast their nets on the right side of the ship and "ye shall find" (John21:6) and they did.  In fact, their nets were so full they could not draw it up for the number of fish.

It was this same morning that Jesus cooked a meal of fish and bread for the disciples.  He encouraged His disciples to "come and eat" once they were come to shore with their newly caught fish.

I have often thought about those fish the Lord Jesus cooked and wondered, how He got them.  I suppose He could have caught them as most people do, but the Lord Jesus was a carpenter, not a fisherman.  I think perhaps He could have just walked up to the water and said, "Fish, come forth."  Then the water would have been teeming with fish who wanted to obey their Lord and Creator and even be cooked by His hands.

If this were true it would be no wonder that then when He instructed them to put their nets down, there were more fish than they could pull up!  No matter how the fish managed to be there, they were there before the Lord told the disciples to drop their nets. 

We have seen in our own lives so many times where the Lord's provision was abundantly provided even before we realized the need was there, just as the Lord had those fish waiting in the sea for the disciple's nets before He told them to cast them down on the right side.

One particular time sticks in my mind.  We were still newlyweds and living on a tight budget.  One week especially, there was more budget than dollars and we found ourselves facing a significant portion of week until payday.  We decided not to fret or worry but to take our situation to the Lord and trust Him.

Within a few hours of praying about the matter, the phone rang and a friend had asked us to dinner.  Now that could have been a coincidence and doesn't really show the Lord's prevenience in the situation.  What happened next, though, does.

My mother called.  A social event she was planning on attending at church had been canceled.  For this event she had already made a huge pan of lasagna and a big green salad.  It was simply too much food for her and my Daddy, so she wanted us to come and get it.  Even to this day I can remember how wonderful my mother's lasagna was.  We were thrilled to have it and she was right, the pan was huge!  We ate lasagna for a week and as I recall we never tired of it.

Now the church social had already been planned and my mother had already made the lasagna when we prayed for the Lord to provide our needs. The Lord knew the social was going to be canceled and He used that event to provide for our needs.  Before we could even ask, our supply was in my mother's oven.

Jesus said that "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him," (Matthew 6:8) and it is "your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom," (Luke 12:32.)  It is His desire to supply our needs.  It is our responsibility to not look at those needs though, but rather to look "unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith," (Hebrews 12:2.)

"Seek ye the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you."
Luke 12:31

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hang On To The Rail

I was leaving work one day last week with my bag on my shoulder, although it felt like my bag and half my belongings.  I had put way too much in my bag and it was much heavier than usual.

I took the same stairwell I have used for twenty years to leave the hospital, and as usual, I let my hand simply graze across the top of the handrail as I made my descent.  Only this time my descent was quite a bit faster than I expected.

My foot hit the edge of the tread, instead of square on it, and I began a fast tumble down the stairs. It was one of those times when things that are happening fast seem to be happening slowly.  My foot hit the bottom railing, bending all my toes back behind my foot.  My knee hit the edge of the stair tread removing some of the skin of my knee-cap.  As I rolled and tumbled down four of the steps, various parts of my body crashed against the stairs, as I was to discover by pockets of soreness over the next couple of days.

When I finally came to a halt, I sat on the stair upon which I had landed and scooted on my backside down each remaining step until I reached the landing.  I was not ready to try any more stairs yet.  Carefully, I stood up and brushed myself off, mentally and physically.  I took account of my body parts trying to determine if anything was in need of more medical assistance than a bruised nurse could give.  That is one comforting thing about hurting yourself in a hospital, it isn’t far to go for help.

To add insult to my literal injuries, two nurses from the Nursery came down the stairwell about that time.  They watched me hobble very slowly down the remaining flight, holding tightly to the handrail this time, and tried earnestly to talk me into visiting the ER.  I declined.  There was no way I was going to the ER and confess that I had fallen down the stairs!

(A bit of trivia here, just because I think it is interesting. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines a flight as "A series of stairs rising from one landing to another" and a landing as "An intermediate platform on a flight of stairs".  This makes so much sense, because when we use the term “flight” and “landing” in an aerospace connotation, there is a “landing” at the end of every “flight,” hopefully.  So in stairs-terms, there is a flight and then a landing, a flight and then a landing.)

When I began my trek down the stairs, I was very confident in my own ability to navigate them without trouble.  I barely acknowledged the provided handrail and even carried a load of excessive baggage with me. 

After my fall, I repented of bringing every article in that bag, although I still had to deal with the consequences of my choice.  This time, however, I not only touched the handrail, I clung to it.  To me it was the one thing to keep me from falling, to keep me from injury, to keep me safe.

How many times in my spiritual life have I approached a set of stairs and only given lip-service to the protective “handrail” the Lord has put there for me?  He puts His Word in our lives as that handrail, He puts the fellowship of other Christians as that handrail and He puts the communion of the Holy Spirit as that handrail.  But if we don’t grasp those handrails and hold fast to them, we will not know the benefit and protection of them. 
“…hold fast that which is good. “  1 Thessalonians 5:21

How many times have I struggled along carrying my burden of thinking I was good enough and sufficient enough to handle the stairs by myself, when the Lord Jesus has promised to be my “all in all”?  How many times have I failed to believe His word, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness”.   How many times have I failed to respond to that word the way that the Apostle Paul did, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

So as we approach the stairs of life, let us hold fast to the handrails.  Let us cleave to the Word of God.  Let us remain faithful to the fellowship of the believers the Lord has put around us and let us remain sensitive to the communion of the Holy Spirit. Then like Jude we will be able to gladly proclaim,

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling,
and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
to the only wise God our Saviour,
be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”
Jude 1: 24,25

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rivers Outside, River Inside

I love rivers.  I love the sound of the water and the smell of the sea.  I love the breeze against my face.  I love to hear the slurping sound our paddles make as they plunge into the river and I love the feel of the water dripping onto my arms and legs as the paddle comes out of the water.

I do not like, however, to see a river in my sun-room.

Last night I went into the sun-room to get something for my daughter and I noticed a river coming out of the laundry room.  Water had spilled out from under the door into the sun-room and was quickly making a river.  Ironically, the sun-room is the room where we store our three kayaks and all the paraphernalia needed for a kayaking trip.

As I quickly began wiping up the water with a nearby towel, I remember a fleeting prayer of thanksgiving for the ceramic tile we had put in that room several years earlier.  Even the inside walls are made of brick as this room was added onto the house by the previous owners.

It was easy to determine the source of our flood.  Our water heater had sprung a leak…or two…or three.  Water seemed to be coming from all sorts of places.  Were my son home and much younger, I would have suspected he might have used the water heater for “target practice.”

As a young boy, he would take his b-b gun outside and shoot at various targets.  In spite of strict guidelines set by his parents, we still find little b-b holes around our house where he had not had the greatest judgment in choosing his targets.  I can’t complain too much, he did grow up to become a Marksman instructor with the USMC.

Our water heater was leaking up high and down low.  We managed to turn off the gas, our prime directive at the time.  But we never managed to completely turn off the water.  A slow but steady stream of water, via water hose now, continued from our water heater to the front yard.  Almost insultingly, it started to rain on top of all that water.

You don’t truly appreciate hot water until it is turned off. Washing dishes with cold water just doesn’t seem the same.  Neither does taking a bath or a shower.  I don't even what to think about washing my hair with cold water! Do plumbing problems always happen on Saturdays?

During all our mopping and drying and mopping again and drying again, it would have been easy for either or both of us to succumb to the temptation to be at the least irritated, and at the most worried.  But we sat at the water heater calm, even making jokes.  

 We took a break while waiting for the water to drain (which we incorrectly supposed at the time would reach a finishing point) and cleaned the inside of our car.  We did not feel worry or despair.  Actually, we felt peace.  We both know that we have a Lord who has been in the habit of supplying our needs and taking care of us for over thirty years now.  As I often say to Glen when we speak of these things, “The Lord hasn’t let us go hungry yet.”

Confidence and trust are wonderful things, indeed, it is great to have confidence and trust in people. How much greater to have confidence and trust in the Lord of Universe, the One who hangs the very stars in place. How great to know He not only knows our needs, but He cares about our needs, and He has provided for our needs before we even call.  Now that is someone deserving of confidence!

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation,
Whom then shall I fear, whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the Strength of my Life, the Lord is the Strength of my Life,
In whom then shall I be afraid?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Redirected, Rerouted and Remade...the Perfect Pillow

I spent the morning making a pillow.  Not a decorative pillow, a functional pillow. 

A pillow is a very big deal to me. You see, I am very particular about what goes under my neck. 

The problem with my neck began at least twenty five years ago.  I had taken a pregnant patient down to radiology for X-rays to determine if her breech, or buttocks first, baby would fit through her pelvis. (That was back in the days when we still did that sort of thing.)  While I was waiting for the X-ray to be made, developed and read by the radiologist, I went to sit on a nearby stool.  Only I didn't know it was broken.  When I sat on the stool, the seat collapsed to the legs with a crash as it hit bottom.  As it did, I could feel each vertebrae in my back stacking upon each other like the floors of an imploding high rise building.  The vertebrae at the top, in my neck, took the brunt of the force. 

Being young and still in that stage of life where I considered myself pretty much invincible, I didn't think much it.  Then a few weeks later a similar event occurred.  We were in the gym, and I went to sit on a machine in the gym, only the pin wasn't in the seat and again I went crashing to the ground.  The force of my weight was again sent pummeling up into my neck.  This time I seem to recall it bothering me a little more. 

Then a few  months later a young girl who had only been driving for four months decided she wanted to be in our back seat instead of the front seat where she was driving.  She rear-ended us.  It wasn't a very forceful impact, more like a fender-bender.  But that night at work I started having very short but blinding -- literally blinding -- headaches.  I went to the ER and was told I had whiplash.

The blinding headaches disappeared in a couple hours, but the migraines began.  Then slowly -- so gradually I didn't notice it at first -- my left fingers went numb. My hand began to lose strength. I was dropping things. I couldn't even hold a Styrofoam cup because I couldn't feel it. 

My friend at work insisted, no she nagged me incessantly, to go to the neurologist.  Her husband had suffered through similar symptoms in his legs and had ended up with permanent nerve damage.  She was effective.  I went, but I was sure the neurologist would tell me I was crazy.  He did not.  He told me I had significant, and he said it with that serious doctor voice, significant nerve damage.  The resulting MRI showed a herniated disc at one vertebrae and bone spurs at another.  My neck pain and arm problems were real.

After three weeks of traction, my neck was somewhat better, but we began to search for anything to make my neck more comfortable.  Part of that was buying a Tempur-pedic pillow.  It was wonderful.  The elastic foam cradled my neck and bounced back when I got out of bed.   It was like a miracle.

But I began to notice lately my Tempur-pedic pillow didn't feel so good anymore. The miracle was gone. When we bought our new mattress, we also bought new gel-foam pillows.  They are doughy and squishy, but not quite what I needed them to be for my neck.  So today, I took a look at my old Tempur-pedic pillow and realized where my head had rested for all these years, the foam was no longer bouncing back.  I guess I killed the bounce!

This gave me an idea.  I took that Tempur-pedic pillow, and the gel-foam pillow and I cut them both up into little tiny squares.  I filled the cover of the Tempur-pedic pillow with all those white and yellow squares until it looked like a huge taco filled with squares of cheese!  The gel-foam is soft and doughy and the Tempur-pedic foam is firm and more supportive.  Together they make one incredible pillow.  Neither was quite right anymore in its own right.  But remade, rerouted, redirected, it is a n-i-c-e pillow.

Sometimes we may go for years, even decades, ministering or performing duties for the Lord in a certain way.  We may not even realize we are losing our "bounce."  But the Lord knows, like I knew with my flattened Tempur-pedic pillow, He can best use us in a different fashion now. 

If we are willing to let Him apply His scissors, His reworking in our lives, He can reroute us.  He can redirect us into a place of duty and ministry that we might not have ever imagined, but is just the very place where we can give comfort and encouragement and love to the part of the body of Christ that is hurting around us.

Let us seek to be only what He wants us to be, to serve where and how He would have us to serve and to be willing to be redirected, rerouted and remade if necessary for His glory and His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus.

In my life Lord, be glorified.
In my life Lord, be glorified today.
Be glorified in the heavens,
Be glorified in the earth,
Be glorified in this temple.
Jesus.  Jesus.
Be Thou glorified.