To the Moon and Back?

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands”

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“Love you to the moon and back”—I’ve wondered about this phrase; seen it on necklaces; spoken to children from their parents; pretty sure there’s a book about it somewhere.
The moon. It is beautiful. We gaze upon it’s stunning light when it’s full; we marvel at it as our earth sometimes eclipses it—It revolves around us—we REALLY love the moon. And since we have landed on it, it is discoverable. It is 238,855 miles from the earth and back.

That’s pretty far. But then I reflect on the sun—

I just returned from a run in the desert of Arizona. In April. I underestimated the power of the SUN. There’s talk that this week we might hit our first 100 degree day.
93 million miles away from the earth and still that sun is something to reckon with.

Mercifully, it’s April 9th. I have time to prepare for the scorching days to come. But I had forgotten: forgot to take enough water, forgot to wear sunscreen, forgot about those extra “pizza-pounds” I am carrying along for the ride. I forgot how awful it feels to be THIRSTY…The cotton that fills your mouth, the salty sweat dripping into your eyes and mouth, making the journey even just a little more challenging. The whole time I kept reminding myself bout the gloriously tall glass of ice water awaiting my return.
Just gotta make it home…

Obviously, I didn’t perish. (I am writing this 😉
But-
“Summer is coming”
And it’s going to be BRUTAL.

Why don’t we say, “Love you to the Sun and back?”
At those roughly 93,000,000 miles away, it is 400 times farther away than the moon.
One way.
The suns’s diameter is 400 times greater than the moon’s.
This majestic sun is the source of the light that reflects off the moon that we love to gaze upon. It is so darn formidable, that we cannot even gaze upon it without damaging our eyes.
When it gets eclipsed, it’s a national phenomenon. And we revolve around it.

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—-
I like routine. I am comforted by things that repeat—things I can count on; even if the things are tedious; like getting up every morning at 5:30 am to go to work, flossing, church on Sundays.

There are also my favorite repeating things—things that bring intense joy; like dining on three meals a day (sometimes all pizza!), kissing my husband every time we say “cheers,” and church on Sundays. ;0

I have this friend who will point out things in nature that blow your mind. Things like seasons telling of the cycles of life, sunsets creating colors that no Costco size of crayons could ever capture and even the intricacies of the human eyes displaying the grandeur of His attention to detail. Things that she believes reflect a God who is so creative!

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“And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace”—HillSong United

If it’s true, that all things in nature are a whisper of who God is; then …

The sun is ALL MIGHTY-The source of our light: intense, powerful, all-consuming, and lighting us through our days—all across the earth and beyond into the universe. God placed the earth at the exact distance from the sun so that it would heat to just the right temperatures for human life and animal life to be sustained and multiplied (except for the summer in Arizona when we must hibernate;) On earth, the sun brings plants its source and ability to create food… After a chilly night, the sun greets us in it’s magnificence, warms us throughout the day and even as it sets, like my friend points out, it reminds us of His marvelous and colorful creativity!

And when the dark of night comes, we are reminded that the sun has not really left us. The moon, who’s light comes from the sun, becomes our guide in the darkness. It can illuminate the areas where our enemies can snare us. And it’s not a wimpy moon. This mere reflection along with the help of the sun has the power to move the masses of oceans and seas, and creates the tides that, as they ebb and flow, also remind us of His provision.

And the moon, on its waxing and waning journey can be hidden from the shadows cast by our world, but as it continues on faithfully, cycle after cycle, the light returns. Repetitious: sliver by sliver, it is born again, full and new.

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There have been many a time when I felt that God was more than a universe away from me. Times when I felt darkness pressing against my soul—divorce, death of a loved one, watching a friend suffer…

Yet, in His constant faithfulness during those chaotic times, I would be reminded of His nearness. When my dad died in the spring of 2008, A peach tree in his backyard that had not produced a single piece of fruit, overflowed with peaches the very summer after his passing. This spoke to me of a God who not only takes away but also One who GIVES. It was enough.

Maybe the Sun is telling us about God, our Source and Creator, and the Moon, as a Reflector of His light is a representation of Jesus, who’s light illuminated the earth.
And it was on the earth, that Jesus’s light was blotted out by those who did not understand this light; just to be reborn to shine again brightly.
Faithful and constant, through the cycles of our lives, as the tides ebb and flow away the days, we can get lost in the tedium. Yet, Jesus continues to make us His focus; still caring about every hair on our head. The moon and the sun, daily serve as reminders reflecting His constant presence— that He will never leave us, He will never give up on us. He is always there to shine into the deepest parts of our hearts, to bring nourishment to the seeds of faith planted in the human heart from the beginning of time and to sustain us as we walk through the days and nights, together with Him.

“If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I”
Hillsong United

And as I return HOME from my journey with the scorching reminder of the formidable sun, and I take a long drink out of the tall, ice-cold water cup, I am reminded that I have available to me the living water that will allow me to never thirst again. I’m reminded of the One who has been chasing me on my journey, One that will leave the 99. And I’m reminded of the All Powerful One who is the source of it all, continually awing me with beauty and power reflected in a nature that is beyond my understanding. A love that blows my mind …a hundred billion times

“God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die” —Hillsong United

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And, God who created all this and every one of us; who, through His Son, Jesus, and His sacrifice for us, testifies to all the earth that His light can never be extinguished. And this All Powerful, mighty Creator— He loves us to the SON and back.

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PERSPECTIVE

Long Road (2)

Perspective

Today; the first day of 2014; a new year.  

I relish new year’s day and new year’s eve; not for the festivities, the holiday from work, the guaranteed kiss at midnight; nor for the over-booked, over-priced menus at all restaurants that evening ;). Like standing atop the highest peak and looking out across an expansive valley below; this holiday can bring a different perspective.  For me, it’s a time for reflection: to look back on a year and wish it “good riddance!” or to revel in the accomplishments, goals reached and struggles overcome; often both.

January 1 holds in it a clean slate. If you didn’t waste yourself too much the night before, it is a day to behold the promise of new goals, a fresh start and the endless possibilities for the next 365 days!

Or not. It really is just a day. Probably a day of recovery with many people swearing, “I will never again…”

The more precious time I get on this planet, the more I sense God speaking to us through His creation I realize the importance of perspective.

Perspective.

 

I took these pictures from the same location just a few months apart.

Isn’t this how we can feel sometimes? Like there is so much beauty bouncing around life in a kaleidoscope of hope and opportunity, yet other times life is a foreboding, dangerous and dark place.

But it is the same place; just a different time.

I am not one who typically relishes the unknown of what change can bring. I am a planner and seek to control the outcomes. But every season of life contains a bounty of change, so I cling to the constant:

“For the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Jeremiah 33:11)

As I write down my hopes for this new year, my resolutions for change, and I wipe away the failures and flops of 2013; I envision the possibilities that this road holds as spring sprinkles her magic dew and new life down her path. I can hardly wait to see the buds blossom into a wide array of fruits and fulfillment of purpose as summer breaks through. And I vow to remember that, regardless of dark days, looming fog, or storms that seem they won’t let up, a new season is often just around the corner; His love is an enduring constant that will carry me through those seasons.

So, whatever season you find yourself in, may your perspective be filled with hope and newness, and may you cling to the promise of His enduring, faithful, unchanging love as you travel down your path.

 Happy New Year!

HEAVEN AND HELL AND THE SPOONS

Aspen grove from community.humanityhealing.net

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” –John F. Kennedy

We live, breathe and have dreams. And yes, we die. So, what then? Shall we–

“Eat, drink and be merry?!”

Or, is there something more to this life?

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Being from Colorado, I am awed by aspen trees. The way they splash color through the forests in fall, their beautiful, smooth white trunks and cookie shaped leaves that dangle like Christmas ornaments in the wind. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned the truth of their origins — it made the love them even more.—A single seedling will birth an entire colony of aspen trees. The trees live anywhere from 40-150 years, but the root systems of that seedling continue to live on, creating new trees, living and thriving for thousands of years!

One of my favorite movie scenes is in the movie Phenomenon. George Malley, the sweet character played by John Travolta, stands in front of an immense grove of majestic aspens. As the wind whispers secrets only he and the trees can hear and the leaves dance an un-interpretable dance, he hones into something unfathomable. He gets it–

The interconnectedness of life.

The story of the spoons has never left me and further demonstrates this connection:

 

Rabbi Haim of Romshishok was an itinerant preacher. He traveled from town to town delivering religious sermons that stressed the importance of respect for one’s fellow man. He often began his talks with the following story:

 

“I once ascended to the firmaments. I first went to see Hell and the sight was horrifying. Row after row of tables were laden with platters of sumptuous food, yet the people seated around the tables were pale and emaciated, moaning in hunger. As I came closer, I understood their predicament.

 

Every person held a full spoon, but both arms were splinted with wooden slats so he could not bend either elbow to bring the food to his mouth. It broke my heart to hear the tortured groans of these poor people as they held their food so near but could not consume it.

 

Next I went to visit Heaven. I was surprised to see the same setting I had witnessed in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food. But in contrast to Hell, the people here in Heaven were sitting contentedly talking with each other, obviously sated from their sumptuous meal.

As I came closer, I was amazed to discover that here, too, each person had his arms splinted on wooden slats that prevented him from bending his elbows. How, then, did they manage to eat?

 

As I watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor.

 

I suddenly understood. Heaven and Hell offer the same circumstances and conditions.

 

The critical difference is in the way the people treat each other.

 (taken from Wikipedia.org)

Hate breeds hate; love grows love.

Like the aspen tree, we will die. Yet, what about our “root system”? 

We make choices while we are here:  how we live, what we dream, what our legacy will be.

While we’re here, let’s remember we’re all in this together.

Don’t allow the hunger for things of this world to distract from the ability to impact another in need.

Sometimes it’s as simple as sharing a kind word that feeds another’s soul.

And the reward for your act may just be eternal.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

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WEEDS, BOUNTY and THE KILLER OF GREEN

It was/is harvest time (depending on where you are in the world!) and this photo is the actual bounty taken from my gardening. What you see is the evidence of the extreme care, the hard work, the diligent planting, seeding, weeding, watering and toiling over that I did this year for my new garden.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

I was overjoyed over my harvest! I can usually kill anything green just by looking at it! So, it was with trepidation that I even bought seeds, planted them and thought anything besides death would happen.

But the tools of God (sunlight, earth, rains and His power) brought forth fruits (OKAY—vegetables!) from those seeds planted!

I learned so much for next year…

What I didn’t take a picture of is the bounty that I extracted and swore to never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again replant– THE MINT.

For all you gardeners:  laugh all you want, nod knowingly as you read on– and for those who told me—go ahead and say it, “I TOLD YOU TO NEVER PLANT MINT!!”

I learned this the hard way. Three chiropractic visits later, I can sit upright in a chair and write to you about it.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Matthew 13:24)

First, for you who are intending on planting a garden—DON’T PLANT MINT (or oregano for that matter!) THEY ACT LIKE WEEDS!

After I harvested my beautiful vegetables, (took about 10 minutes), it was time to deal with the maddening mint (took the rest of the day.)

All plants, save the oregano, were overtaken by the mint. Four seemingly healthy other plants, that had been it’s good neighbors, had perished. Don’t get me wrong, I planned for this (remember—I am the killer of green,) but I couldn’t kill this green mint to save the neighborhood! As I began the removal process, I was nearly overtaken by it myself.

I tugged at stems, just to be pulled down deeper–(Think of the movie Poltergeist, when the tree comes through the window for the boy.) That insidious mint would surface for a bit, then dive down into the garden box, twist around the roots of a good plant, choke it out, root it’s self and then resurface. Like a pool of swimming piranha: up and down, around and through, over and under, until all in its wake is destruction of all other living things (again, except the oregano that held fast.)

As I was battling this beast, I had all but forgotten of the sweet victory of my other bounty.

What started out as a lovely little herb was winning the battle over my joy for the harvest.

And isn’t that how sneaky sin can be in our lives?

It starts out with an innocent thought that can quickly turn into a joy stealing, all encompassing, relationship destroying action.

After I (hopefully!) successfully removed all the mint’s massive amounts of leaves, roots, off shoots and appendages, I turned to the oregano.

I have to hand it to the oregano. Even as it witnessed the devastation of its garden box neighbors and was surrounded in the waves and torrents of mint, it held its ground.

“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sows them is the devil…The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:38,41)

The weird thing— it was the oregano that nearly did me in.

We battle against an enemy that came to kill, steal and destroy. (John 10:10)

Something that we could’ve handled at our full strength, can drop us to our knees and take us out when we aren’t on guard…

After dealing with the multitudes of mint, I should have known the oregano would be challenging.

I began tugging. I mean, there really wasn’t much left in the box for it to hold on to, so it should just lift right on out of that box.

I stood on the side of the garden box, both feet anchored as I put all I had into it. I hung suspended above the earth, holding to nothing but oregano. I groaned and grunted (it works for tennis players, so maybe it would help give me some gusto!)…it wouldn’t budge. I flexed and pushed, got down and tried at all angles.

I nearly gave up. Would it really be that bad to allow the oregano to hang out?

But, hadn’t I had those same thoughts about the mint?

I had to admit I needed help. I turned to the garden tools.

As dusk approached, I shoveled, chopped and dug up that oregano and piled it atop the carcass coffin of mint. I gave my apologies and condolences and went inside to cook up my bounty…and to call the chiropractor.

 “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

For whatever the weed is in your life, there is Help.

BUZZ KILLS

by Any Murray andybadger at flickr.com

by Any Murray andybadger at flickr.com


Breaking the Cycle of Violence–October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

BEES
If you didn’t know they stung, you’d think they’re pretty cool. So daring with their wacky coloring, yellow and black—pretty auspicious to wear in the spring! They help keep the flowers beautiful, they create honey and bees’ wax and, in general, will let you go about your business unless you get in their’s. For most species of bee, after they sting you, that is it for them. They leave behind the maximum amount of venom along with their lower abdomen muscles and, as a result, they die.
Their legacy of pain has ended. They sting only in protection of their colony or in defense of their queen. Unless you are allergic (which I won’t go into here), your pain is temporary. Ensure the stinger is out of your skin, put some ice on the area and stomp an extra time on the dead bee carcass for good measure and cathartic release. Done. You’ll feel better shortly.

A parent’s disapproval can inflict so much.–Those crossed arms and that stern face. The down-turning of the mouth, like the weight of whatever you did will eliminate their possibility of them ever smiling again. Even when you are 30 or 40 years old, (and way beyond their grounding you for the weekend or taking away your TV privileges) a parent’s disapproval has power.
It stings.
In hindsight, I see the echoes of that face when I was in my teens and the height of my “wrong doing:” sneaking out, hanging with the wrong crowd, experimenting with alcohol…My parents saw their “colony” threatened and they reacted. The grounding, the lectures, the taking away of my boom box (the 80’s equivalent of an I-POD)—It stung—but it was temporary.
“Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

But what if what is delivered is more than just a stinging disapproval?

WASPS
Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps are often confused with bees because of their similar daring springtime look, but they differ in vast ways. They aren’t called “angry wasps” for nothing! Wikipedia describes them as “social hunters.” Their primary focus is on protecting the queen, feeding her larvae and increasing their colony.
And, if you’ve been stung, you KNOW the difference. It hurts on a whole different level. It festers like an untreated infectious boil.
Yellow jackets, hornets and wasps have a slimmer, more lance-like stinger with smaller barbs, so that it does not dislodge at a sting, but rather they pursue you more aggressively and will sting you on, and on, and on and on. Even worse, the venom they leave in you marks you to their wasp friends as an enemy and, you know how friends are– they will follow the lead of their buddy. A legacy of recurring pain; and it doesn’t just go away, it lingers and perpetuates.

How do you stop it?

In researching the difference of these two summertime “buzz kills,” I found one answer in how to avoid the anger of the yellow jacket, the hornet and the wasp—
YOU RUN!

CYCLES
My college thesis was on the cycle of domestic violence: the abuse and abandonment– leading to the apologies and promises—rounding the corner on the cycle to the rest phase, which leads back around to escalation and abuse, once again (and on, and on and on.) Hollywood portrayed this cycle in “Sleeping with the Enemy” (Julia Roberts), “The Burning Bed” (Farrah Fawcett) and more recently, “Enough” (Jennifer Lopez.) Remember these?
I sought to gain an understanding of why people stay in this terrible cycle. My studies helped me to gather knowledge, but it left me in no way with a greater understanding.

Actually, it discouraged me to new depths.

Not only do the victims of abuse live in this cycle, finding escaping it too difficult or scary, they usually end up doing one of two things: they become the abuser in a next relationship, or they continue in relationship, after relationship, after relationship (and on, and on and on) with a new abuser at the helm of this ship on its often deadly course.
These wounds aren’t just “stings;” this is a legacy of violence.
What does it take to stop this?
I am not an expert, nor am I qualified to speak to most abuse victims-having not been in a physically abusive relationship-but I know about word-wounds. I studied the effects of abuse: low self-esteem, lack of feelings of worth, depression, substance abuse, cutting, and every other gamut of behavior that manifests when abuse exists and festers on the spirit.

How do you change the course of what must feel like a Titanic?

How do you dig that rudder in and change direction?

Maybe, just maybe, we take some advice from nature and in how to escape the legacy of pain inflicted by the wasps—We RUN!

Run to the arms of the ONE who promises to be “our refuge and strength, our ever present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Run to the One who you can cast your cares on because he cares for you. (1Peter 5:7)

One who promises He will be your rock and your fortress, and under the protection of His wings, you will find shelter (Psalm 18:2 & Psalm 91:4)
He will provide a way-a new way—a new course and new hope for your journey.

With His power, the cycle can stop.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phillippians 4:13)

There is HELP available.

BE SAFE. TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST. ASK FOR HELP.

In the event of a life threatening incident, immediately contact 9-1-1
For other help, contact the national domestic violence hot line at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Or go to http://www.thehotline.org

PEAKS and VALLEYS

from GEONiius.com

from GEONiius.com

PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler all sang, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.”
You take one step forward and end up ten steps back…
Have you ever faced something seemingly insurmountable?
Divorce, Depression, a Diagnosis, Death of a loved one…
Have you made it through or conquered that “thing” and stood back a moment to breathe and bask in that moment?
I think this is what they were singing about…life.

As a kid, it always cracked me up to hear parents and teachers telling how they “had to travel to school by foot in the snow and it was uphill both ways!”
I totally get this now. Life is tough.
I’ve had those moments and am witness to this in several friends who are right there, right now. As if those insurmountable things are everywhere; surrounding, taunting, jabbing. Like you’re standing at the bottom of the lowest point of the vast depths of the Grand Canyon, entombed by its red cliffs, and on your last drop of water and final morsel of nourishment…

Approaching the hill at mile 23 of my second marathon, I heard the “POP” and felt something inhuman happen in my knee. It was sharp-shooting pain like I have never felt before, EVER.
Several doctor visits, MRI’s and consults later, I learned all about bulging discs and the nerve pain I was experiencing. I was told to quit running, to take up swimming and prescribed physical therapy (and injections, but no way am I having needles inserted in my spine!). The doctor told me, if I absolutely had to run, to quit for a year and if I continued to run, I better do it on soft surfaces and only uphill; downhill would aggravate the condition.
If you are a marathon runner, you know this news is like hearing your best friend just shot your dog and ran away with your life savings and your spouse (and insulted your mom on the way out!) Plus, if you are a runner (or athlete of any kind), you can relate to not wanting to give-up.
“…The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
I kinda half listened to the doctor’s advice; and half marathons are only one-half of a full marathon…
The Whiskey Row half marathon:
“Starting and finishing in historic downtown Prescott, home of the famous Whiskey Row, this out and back course is considered one of the most difficult in the United States, offering panoramic views of Northern Arizona. Starting at 5,280 feet, the elevation increases at 7,000 feet at the 13 mile turn around. The course is paved road for the first and last 3.5 miles, the rest is on Forest Service dirt road in the pines.” (From Active.com)
I registered, booked the hotel and was not going to let a little nerve pain get in the way. Well, if you know anything about back pain– it can take you to your knees in about .00015 seconds! I pushed through the pain. I stretched, attended physical therapy, did all those exercises at home, learned to swim and got addicted to ibuprofen (if that’s possible!)
I showed up at the starting line and prayed that I wouldn’t end up on my knees (no pun intended!) I lightly jogged until we hit the first uphill; I gritted it out and passed people! Funny thing though, it is followed by a downhill (those parents and teachers were full of sh*#!! 😉
A pack of three women, each with matching motivational t-shirts kept blowing by me on the downhill. I walked and prayed all the way down; hoping the ibuprofen would keep those bulging discs in check for a little while longer. Yet, on the next uphill, I was able to pick it up again and I caught back up to those three women! As I passed them I wanted to stop, but they cheered me on! Then, when they passed me on the next downhill, I whooped and hollered for them. For 13.1 miles of peaks and valleys this continued.
“Cause He who is in me, is greater than I will ever be and I will rise”-lyrics from “Rise” by Shawn McDonald.
And guess who crossed the finish line at the same time?
Me and the three.
Regardless of pace or terrain, we end up at the same place if we press on.
“How were you able to run all those up-hills?” One of the three approached me after the race and asked me, “Was this your strategy?”
As we chatted, I explained my run was not a strategy but was my survival.
We do the best we can with what we’ve been given.
The pain I am feeling from last weekend’s FBFW half marathon run as I write this reminds me that I tempt fate. I also realize that at any point, this could be taken from me. Will I be okay with that fate? –The prognosis of not running to me is worse. So I trudge on.
There are no guarantees in this life. Or are there?
Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 6:16:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
This life is hard. It throws things at us that we never saw coming.
BUT, there are moments when you will be renewed; you will be the shiny, new, crystal “windshield.” Relish those moments—regain strength, breath in all that is good and pure and praiseworthy. Because, guess what?
Bugs happen.
Whether you are just trying to breathe, just needed a moment of rest and gritting out the uphill climb of that heart pumping, legs aching, body deteriorating and spirit dousing ascent and cannot even see the summit , OR
If you have ascended from that valley, are breathing in the majesty of God’s peaks, mountaintops and towers of glory, OR
Maybe you are gliding the downhill slope and breathing in with ease as if the wind itself is propelling you effortlessly through the moments of this life and you can enjoy some peace and rest;
My hope is that; wherever you find yourself, the valley, the peak or the slope of life, you take in a deep breath and PRESS ON!
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
-Hebrews 12:1-3

REPTILE RELAY

LIZARD © 2004 Richard Soberka - http://www.photoway.com/REPTILE RELAY
Do you run alone?
Running along the succulent lined sidewalk of sunny Scottsdale, AZ this summer, I was thanking God that this was the last stretch of the run. The sun blazed out its 100 degrees already at 8 a.m. and I was enjoying the slight downhill of this last 1.5 miles of the run. I slowed to take a sip of the rationed remainder from my quickly evaporating water bottle (now approaching those 100 degrees!) and noticed I had a bulging-eyed admirer checking me out from the block wall.
I stopped briefly to study the approximately 5 inch lizard flexing his muscles in a two-, then three-pump push-up before he scattered down the brick wall to the shade of the small succulent bush. As I continued on my run; he followed and began to keep pace. I watched from the corner of my eye. My five strides matched up with his hundreds of steps as he stalked me; bolting from bush to bush that lined the well-manicured embankment of the Cactus Shadows housing development. I began laughing out loud as I continued on; for hundreds of feet, this lizard continued to keep stride with me!
I studied it closer, thinking this had to be impossible for this tiny creature to maintain this pace! Was there somehow another lizard hiding along the pathway, ready and waiting to take the next leg of the race? How could this lizard keep up? But he did!—I was amazed; he, so tiny and having to work so hard to match my downhill run; and me, advancing toward my own air conditioned shade and fresh, chilled water awaiting me at home, yet enjoying the moment with my new running partner. I would slow a bit advancing on the next opportunity for him to rest in the shade, but he would dart out once again and I was motivated anew to continue.
I thought back to the mile relays I ran for Arvada West’s high school track team. Each of the four girls on the relay team had to run ¼ mile at top speed as she transported a shiny aluminum baton to the next fresh-legged runner. What began as a featherweight baton and run-ready legs pumping like well-oiled machinery, at 300 yards would transform into exhausted, wobbly legs nearly giving out and handing over what had become a leaden encumbrance. The next girl then took over transporting the (once again) lightweight aluminum cylinder and, undoubtedly she underwent the same transformation at that 300 yard mark. This went on for each runner and ended with transporting that baton across the finish line to victory!
It would seem that my little lizard stalker had his own teammate with fresh legs waiting in the cool shade of those succulent bushes ready to take over for his endeavor to keep up with me. I laughed at the thought of how many millions of steps he (and his teammates) would have to take to catch me before I made the rest of the journey to my air-conditioned oasis.
I thought back to those Arvada West relay days and, what I loved most about the team was, even though each girl was exhausted after her own leg of the run, each girl would find enough strength to make her way to that 300 yard mark (wobbly, exhausted legs and all!) and cheer on her teammates.
About ¼ mile in to my reptile relay run is when my companion’s journey with me ended. I still had quite a way to go and I thought back to all those mile relays–without that girl located at the 300 yard mark, cheering when most needed, the journey seemed impossible.
My mind returned to the joy I felt during that little jaunt with my lizard companion and it carried me the rest of my way home.– It also struck me as so similar to the journey we have with God; I thought about His footsteps and that old story of the “Footprints in the Sand.”
Whether we see the one set of footprints or we see both sets of prints, we never run alone.
Whatever it is that you are carrying; a shiny baton, a nearly empty water bottle, the loneliness of heartbreak, the loss of a loved one, the burden of an illness; or, maybe you run from the shadows of shames in your past; there is One who can carry you on; One who will heal all your wounds and quench your soul-thirst. He cheers us from the 300 yard mark and every other lonely stretch along the way, providing laughter for the moment, a friend to help carry your burden when your body has exhausted its strength and, most definitely, He shows us the hope of an Oasis at the end of the journey.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)
May your relay, your day, your journey and your life be blessed.