Going Into the Darkness

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“Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

It’s winter (I use that term loosely in Arizona!) but it’s 5 a.m. and it’s pitch dark. The path I usually run became so boring, I decided on an alternate route. It takes me in front of a deserted school. Who knew this road would have ZERO activity on it and not a single street light?!

It’s a deep, deep darkness.

Cold fear prickles the nape of my neck.

I can barely see the pavement in front of me and when a car drives by, the headlights blind me.

Even light seems treacherous when you are engulfed in darkness.

This dark, shadowy stretch of unknown is only about ½ mile. I know street lamps will light my way once I make it to the corner. “Will I make it to see those lights around the corner? Come to think of it, no one knows where I am this morning”… As these thoughts taunt me, a car blazes by and I nearly stumble over a fallen tree branch. –I pick my feet up higher.

I think about hungry coyotes, gnarly javelina, and other hidden predators as I suddenly recall every episode of Criminal Minds. –My breathing accelerates and I increase my pace.

I step further into the roadway in hopes that fewer things will trip me up. I nearly jump out of my skin as I hear the “crunch” of something off to my left. I focus on where the sound came from and see a dark figure walking what appears to be a dog.

Just as I am about to completely freak out, I come to the corner, turn and see the lighted street stretch out before me. –The pace of my heart and my running form return to normal.

Funny thing, this lighted path is where I let my guard down and stumbled up a sidewalk ramp. I scraped my hand and knee and jarred my back out of whack. Hmm…

Just like this run, you can be gliding by on your normal path and easily get tripped up by the human tendency to fall back into bad habits. And it usually hurts.

A few days later when I head out for my morning run, I head straight for the street with the school; the “dark and scary street.”

I tell myself, “If Lara Bowman can run in Colorado’s below zero temps, at 0-dark thirty, every day to honor her son in boot camp, then I can face this!”

I refuse to fear this time. I approach the black abyss and pray to God, “Protect Lara from freezing to death on her run and protect me from this fear of what could be in this darkness. Be our shield and go before us. Please light the way.”

The more I run that “shadowy run,” and refuse to fear that darkness, the stronger I feel.

Day after day, as Lara braves the freezing temperatures; motivated by her love and a promise, she understands how much farther she can push herself.

If we avoid our fears, or are not willing to do the work, we are held back from growing stronger and accomplishing amazing things.

Beyond protecting us on our running adventures, I believe that God honors each of us when we are courageous enough to face our own inner dark places. Whether it’s a past mistake, a recurring sin or addiction, or the associated worry, doubts and shame; if there’s anything making us stumble and keeping us from a full and abundant life in Christ, He will help us conquer it.

And, the more we rely the light of Christ to guide us through the darkness, the stronger Christ’s power can be revealed in us.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 1 Corinthians 12:9

And this new power and strength is intended for the good of all. It not only empowers us to face the dark places in ourselves, but also emboldens us to help others struggling in darkness.

There are many people in desperate need of some light. They (and you) may not know it, but you might be the only light that they know.  You might be the person to encourage them through their dark time and get them back on their path.

And the hard work of getting through those dark places reminds us to treasure the ease of “walking in the light.” Remain vigilant for the sin and old bad habits that so easily entangle, (as well as those sidewalks that sneak up and can cause us to stumble when we get too comfortable!)

“Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.” Isaiah 60:2

 

May you be fearless and courageous as you allow Jesus to en-lighten your race.

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VERY, VERY FRIGHTENING

Halloween

“Horror is the removal of masks.” –Robert Bloch

For some it’s heights, for others public speaking, and yet some simply fear the darkness. Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces) and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) are just a few common fears.

Since it’s Halloween, I decided to share one of my most frightening moments. It occurred just seconds before this photo was taken and is the root of my maskophobia (fear of masks.)

By the hair, shoulder pads and tube socks worn scrunched down with Keds, you can probably tell it was late 80’s/early 90’s (Scared already?!) and the setting is one that still sends ripples of fear tingling up my spine: The Renaissance Festival.

They call it a “festival” but it is really a spread out freak show.–I know because I also worked there one summer as a “bar wench” serving up ales and speaking in “hazzaahs” to all who purchased. I got to know several of the “players.” For those who regularly work these “festivals,” it’s a way of life for them. After the “shows” of the day, they sleep in tents and trailers and move from town to town. They travel like a band of “gypsies” and live along the seams until the next festival where they don their garb and perform for the rest of the world willing to drop their $40 to watch, witness, and chomp down a turkey leg.

This particular festival, my BFF Colleen and I attended. These two masked “things” pursued us the entire day. They watched on as we shared a funnel cake. They stalked us as we checked out the overpriced dragon statues and Renaissance costumes. They followed us right up to the highlight of the day—The Puke and Snot Show—(still one of my favorites—if I could ever bring myself to attend one of these festivals again—they are a “must see!”) Anyhow, I was already not fond of those who wear masks (just ask Greg Chance about that Halloween costume that scared the pee out of me three years ago at Kelly & Sean’s annual Halloween Party!)and this wasn’t helping.

I digress.

We successfully avoided these maniacal pursuers until the P&S show. Yet, there they stood, awaiting our departure, and then resumed hunting us as we made our way out of the show. So, in an attempt to shake these two, we decided to have someone photograph us with them—(Genius, right?) Our thinking was they would be pacified and leave us alone. (And at least there would be witnesses and a photo of our last moment!)

Que up the music from the Halloween movies…dim the lights…

As we approached them for the photo, (no words were spoken between them and us,) they surrounded us with these crazy, big wide arms and wrapped us in them. Just prior to the photo, I decided to look my captor head on and “face this fear.” I figured there had to be a way for the person in there to see out. So, I scanned the costume for the opening. There was a dark metal mesh face plate and, heart beating wildly out of my chest, I looked into the darkness…I swear to you this “thing” behind the costume was scarier than the crazed clown mask it wore!—He/she/it had steely eyes and it opened its mouth just as I peered in, revealing to me a mouth full of fangs!

Yes, the photo looks like I am laughing, but who hasn’t tried masking their fear?!

I was scared out of my KEDS!

To this day, I awake from nightmares of this in a cold sweat, I see those fangs, I relive that fearful moment.

After the photo, I headed straight to the “out house” area (which seemed a lot less scarier now 😉 and didn’t come out until those creepy things weren’t looking. With eyes wide like saucers and trembling hands, I told my “bestie” what I saw. We bee-lined for the exits. (That’s what good friends do—They don’t ask questions and will RUN WITH YOU from whatever freaks you out!)

So, don’t be offended if I won’t accompany you to a Renaissance festival and please understand why I avoid Halloween masks—you never know what’s hidden underneath.

Happy Halloween.