Running the Race


I like racing analogies.  I’ve been running (intermittently, albeit) since March, and have developed quite a love for it.  Though I’m sad to say I’ve been slacking the past while.

And so with the Olympics having started this week, and this week’s Camp Pastor talking about Olympians and the drive that it takes to finish well, and using Paul’s writing (which ties in a lot about the Olympics of old… we can assume Paul was an athlete, or at the very least an athletics enthusiast), I’ve been quite attentive.

Except for this morning during Chapel.  But that was a different story.  There was a Chipmunk in the Chapel and he kept running nilly willy and distracting me.  Silly Chipmunk.

So this morning we talked about Philippians 3:12-14, and Hebrews 12:1-4.

“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is head, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:12-14)

“1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [the previous chapter is the ‘by faith’ chapter, which outlines various Biblical heroes who suffered and died for their faith], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 Consider him [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Heb. 12:1-4, explanations in brackets added)

“31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isa. 40:31)

Running.  You can’t do it without practice.  It takes training.  For any given period of time, anyway.  How do we train?  Essentially, spend time in the Word.  Spend time with God.  Spend time in Prayer.  We don’t run to gain Heavenly citizenship, but we run this ‘race’ because we’re citizens of Heaven already by our faith in Jesus.  We can’t join it in the middle of the race, that’s not how it works… and we can’t quit.  We have to start at the beginning.

At this point, I got wildly distracted again.  And this is the reason that I’m even blogging this, because I feel that my own thoughts on the matter are thin, and I don’t need to just blog a sermon done by someone else without my own commentary.  So here is my commentary.

Did anyone watch the Opening Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympics this week?

Has anyone else yet conjured up images of Mr. Bean running a race?

Well, if you haven’t, allow me to show you where my mind went to make application this morning during Chapel.

http://www.diretube.com/london-2012/mr-bean-opening-ceremony-london-2012-olympic-games-video_4ebb98e79.html
Watch.  Laugh.

Basically, what the summation of this morning comes down to is …. realize that you haven’t won the race yet, you have to keep going, and it’s continual.  Fix your eyes on the goal.  You can’t win if you’re not goal-focused.  And forget the things that are behind you that will hold you back.  Don’t turn back to see where others are behind or around you, you do YOUR best… run with everything you have.

But there are two things that I really wanted to blog about today.  I don’t know that I want to write a totally separate post though, so I figure if I make a break in the middle and just explain that, you’ll all follow my train of thought.

Here is thought number 2.

Fear.

My Bible is a Worship Bible.  It has excerpts from various worship songs in it and it has 36 of these “My Beloved” letters, that are love letters from God, compiled based on scriptures around that section of the Bible.  This morning during Chapel, our Worship Leader read this one, and it’s been tying in with a lot of what’s been coming out of Ann Voskamp’s book, as well as my own meditations and thoughts.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  Fear shows an utter lack of trust in God, who has proven Himself nothing but trustworthy on every occasion ever since before time began.  So if you’re afraid, essentially, you lack faith.  That’s what I’ve been learning.  It sure makes me rethink letting myself freak out over such things as impending teacher strikes and mortgage payments etc. etc…. I need not worry.  That’s not what I’m here for.

Let me share with you the “My Beloved” section that our Worship Leader read this morning.  We have the same Bible, so I was able to follow along with great ease.

Have no fear of sudden disaster.  When it comes, proclaim that I am your Refuge and your Fortress, your God, in Whom you place your trust.  Then I will save you from the impossible places . . . places where death is waiting to take you.  I will cover you with my feathers, and under My wings you will find refuge.  I will protect you from trouble and surround you with songs of deliverance.

I will demonstrate my faithfulness to you and to those around you.  The knowledge of My love for you will protect you physically and emotionally.  And when you have discovered this shelter . . . stay there.  You will always be safe if you do what is righteous and speak the truth from your heart.

You will no longer fear the terror that night brings, nor the violence that walks the streets, nor the evil that stalks in darkness, nor even an untimely death.

I will command My angels to guard you in all your ways.  Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.  I alone will cause you to dwell in safety.  For I am your God.

taken from Ps. 4:8; 15:2; 32:7; 91:1-6, 11; Pr. 3:23-26.

How can anyone not want that?  I choose today to go forward renouncing fear and clinging to those promises.  Makes much more sense to me.

In One Thousand Gifts” Ann Voskamp recounts this:

“All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.”

“Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough. . . “

When I really examine that notion, I know that fear is a lie.  Fear is not from God.  Fear is useless, it is stupid, and it is a ridiculous waste of time.  But I’d never taken it to the point in my own mindset where I’d concluded that fear would be blasphemy.  But if that’s true, that fear is the notion that God’s love ends…. that means the Bible is wrong when it says that God’s love never ends.  If that is true, that God is finite, then the Bible is wrong when it says God is infinite and omnipotent and omnipresent.  I can’t stand behind a Bible that doesn’t tell the truth… and so I have to look at myself and understand that it’s myself, my own stupidity, that misconstrues it and tells me it’s ok to be afraid every once in a while.  It’s not.  It’s really, really not.  When you put it that way, that being afraid is saying God is finite and it means that His love ends and that I would think there isn’t going to be enough of something… talk about trust issues.  What a slap in the face.  No thank you.  I don’t want to live like that.

Let the fear be gone.

Yes.  Everything I want is on the other side of fear.  I saw this picture posted to Facebook the other day, and snagged it because I loved the picture.

But it’s not just everything I want.  It’s everything I need that’s on the other side of fear.  Nothing good is accomplished or achieved through fear.  There are many things in this life that I can’t have if I’m afraid.  And if I can just get past that fear, which I can only do with God’s help, who can stop me?  Why do I need to be afraid of anything?  I have more power, more strength, more sheer Goodness on my side than those who don’t know God, so what’s the point in cowering?

47.  Crashing thunder.

48.  Rain falling from the sky.  Pouring down.  However brief, hearing it on the roof.  Pounding.

49.  Light days in the office that afford me some time to do my own thing.

50.  Laughter.

51. Finding common ground in struggles of the heart.

52.  Joy in the small things.  Surprising joy.

53.  Our brains.  Sometimes I’m amazed that I can even read, nevermind write for others to read.

54.  The freedom to be fearless in Christ.

Come Apart or come apart.


Mark 6:31 (KJV)

31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

Boy, did I need to read that on Friday night when I didn’t leave my desk until 7:30, and then when I did, I took a stack of work upstairs with me.  I don’t know that I know what burning out feels like…. but I bet this is it.

God doesn’t call us to be workaholics.  In fact, quite the opposite.  During Chapel this morning, this week’s Camp Pastor preached on the need to take rest.  He referenced the Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.”  He mentioned that it’s not like most of the other Commandments.  It’s not something where it’s said:  “take some rest.”  God is quite specific.  God says through Moses:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”  Exodus 5:8-11

My title there is a play on words from the verse he used in his sermon, and it only works if taken from the KJV or other similar translations.  I checked.  Because I don’t tend to prefer the KJV… but Jesus tells his disciples to “come apart” with Him… or get away from everything else with Him.  They were surrounded by people who’d not even stopped long enough to eat.  I know how that feels.  I do it all the time.  Somewhere along the line I convinced myself that I need to be busy to be effective.  I need to be busy to be successful.  I need to be busy so that my mind is not on the things that scare me, the things that make my trust waiver.  If I’m too busy to think about them, I’m too busy to stress about them… right?

No.

Between this powerful message this morning and Ann Voskamp’s book, I’m coming to realize that the way to succeed in my life is through joy and time with God, which ultimately leads to more joy.

Stress is simple.  It’s not trusting God to do what He said He’d do.  Take care of me.  Provide for me.  Protect me.  And I’m not to have a spirit of fear.  Fear is the absence of faith.  Being afraid of what will happen if my union strikes in September when I just bought a house… that doesn’t show that I trust God to take care of that.

The solution is simple.  Give it all up.  Over… and over… and over again.  I know, easy said… right?  Right.  But it can’t become easy to do unless I start somewhere.  Start small.  Start by naming the things where God HAS provided.  Start by recognizing the blessings in my life as places where God has proven Himself trustworthy.

I’ve digressed a bit.  I have two themes and they probably won’t twist very well together.

Come Apart or come apart.  Take a break and spend time with God; Rest.  Or fall to pieces.  Or watch your life crumble around you.  Exhaustion, feeling useless, ineffectiveness… none of those things are God’s design for us, no matter where He’s put us.  I’m so guilty of this.  In fact, I’m guiltier of it during the Summer than I am at home, which is what has prompted the decision that I won’t be coming up to Camp all summer next year.  I can’t run myself this thin.  I’m exhausted.  I feel useless, and I feel ineffective.  But I also haven’t really stopped since I got here either.  I haven’t really stopped since…. well, I don’t remember.  They say idle hands are the devil’s playground… but maybe super busy ones are too?  Where have I made room for the one thing that matters most?  What difference does it make if my candy list gets made today or tomorrow, in the grand scheme of my life?  I stay up absurdly late because I feel like I’ve had no time to myself at all during the day… which fuels the exhaustion.

My last thought before I count out some more blessings and then collapse onto my pillow.  Well I guess it isn’t my thought, it’s the Pastor’s, but it struck me hard.  If you’ve seen the movie “Big Miracle,” you’ll get this.  If you haven’t, go get your hands on a copy from somewhere.  Legally, preferably.  It’s fantastic.  The Pastor compared church to the part in this movie where a couple of whales needed help getting air so they could escape rapidly freezing waters.  Church, The Sabbath, rest with the Lord… that’s what it should be like.  A gasp for air.  The substance we need to be able to continue.  Not just a routine.  Not just a habit.

And so I ask myself… am I in a habit of gasping for God?  Needing Him so badly that I scramble to be in His presence when I feel like I’ve been out for too long?  Or do I just keep holding my breath, hoping I can fix this on my own?

36.  Words of encouragement.

37.  Super strong hugs, when needed most.

38.  Grandparents — how lucky I am to still have mine.

39.  Reuniting with family I don’t see often.

40.  Brother-sister deep chat bonding time.

41.  The beginning of Family Camp.

42.  It’s safe to trust.  Christ is a bridge that is always safe to cross.  And God gave us Christ, so He too can be trusted in ALL things.
43.  Come apart or come apart.  Mark 6:31.

44.  God has not commanded us to be workaholics.  Exodus 20:11, Deuteronomy 5:12, Matthew 11:28-30

45.  Hilarious pastors with needed messages.

46.  New life.  Welcoming baby Matthew to the world.  The anticipation of meeting him this weekend.

The ugly beautiful


The ugly beautiful.  My life is full of it right now.

This is what Ann Voskamp uses to describe the things that we shouldn’t love, that the world would think we’re crazy for finding joy in and being thankful for.  I’m struggling.

So much so that I’m finding it hard to keep plugging through the book.

As of tomorrow morning, I have four weeks left before I have to go back South and life goes back to reality.  Busy, hurried, frustratingly frantic reality.  Not that I’m not busy at Camp, but it’s a different kind of busy and I’m surrounded by people that I only get to see once a year, and whom I love dearly.  When it all ends… in a mere 5 weeks… I go back to life.  Back to a job that while incredibly rewarding some days, is also incredibly exasperating when it’s not.  Can I find a balance here?  I don’t know, I haven’t been able to so far.

Lord help me, I can’t do that one alone.  Not another year on my own.

But even though 4 weeks from now will be sad as I plunge back into reality, I also dive back into excitement, into new things.  Beautiful things.  A new house.  A home.  Finally… a home.  My home.  One I don’t have to share with loud or smoky neighbours.  An elevator-less home.  And a classroom!  No cart.  No forgetting things in my office.  No sharing my office space with everyone else in the school.  Excitement.  Is this the ugly beautiful?  Finding joy in things that would otherwise be overshadowed by the things I don’t like?  Obviously I’m not forgetting about my house, and how excited I am for that.  I got art yesterday!  And I can’t wait to hang it up!  I bought a futon today, and a new TV!  I feel so grown up.

And yet so childish at the same time.

So foolish to think I can be truly happy when things crumble around me.  But I know it’s true.  It’s out there.  It’s elusive but it’s there.  I’ve seen it in the lives of others.  I’ve seen this overflowing joy in my Mother.  I’ve seen it in a couple friends.  I’ve seen it in a man I admire greatly, a Pastor I’ve known for 13 years, who’s not had an easy year to use the biggest understatement of the century.  His life is a living example of finding joy in awful, terrible things.  Why can’t mine be the same way?  What do I have to lose?  Why do I run from what I know could be so great?  I feel like I’m close.  And then I pull back.  What am I afraid of?

At any rate, it’s midnight and I ramble past midnight, there must be a switch that flips when the clock chimes the new day.  So to save any readers who’ve made it this far from a downhill spiral of nonsensical silliness, here is my list.

28. Warm breezes blowing clothes dry on the line.

29. Trading My Sorrows – “Though the sorrow may last through the night, His joy comes with the morning”I love this song, it reminds me of high school… well, of the numerous, numerous times I sang it in high school.  I love the translation in The Message of the verse this song was taken from.

4-5 All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in a while, but across
a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out
give way to days of laughter.

Psalm 30:4-5 (The Message)

30. Long, deep, heartfelt, honest chats with trusted friends.  The ability to hash out tough decisions.

31. Amazing mentors not afraid to be real and honest and ask tough questions, even when you hardly see them.

32.  Fudge.

33.  Raspberry Green Tea Ginger Ale.  How it bubbles and soothes.

34.  Seeing the Milky Way in a clear night sky.  How it never gets old.  How a camera does it no justice.  Examples of His majesty.

35.  Memory skills that let us retrace our steps and find what was lost.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”


Tonight, I’m laying on my bed, contemplating rain.  I have a headache.  I have had one off and on all day.  It was my day off, and I had great plans for all the things I was going to accomplish.  I did one of them.  No, 2… but still.  I’m whiny, I’m kind of grumpy.  I’m exhausted – my face shows it, my eyes show it.  I had a good friend that I don’t see often leave Camp today, and I won’t see her for a while again, and it’s always sad when that happens, so I’m a little mopey to boot.

But it’s raining.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen rain.  It’s been rare this year to see any type of precipitation… and the ground shows it.  I can’t recall ever going this long without significant rainfall.  I haven’t seen rain in at least three weeks.  It’s been long enough that I don’t totally remember the last time.  I think it rained when I was in Ottawa…. so about three weeks ago.  I know it’s been considerably longer at home.  The ground is parched.

My life is parched.

Tonight as I was heading to bed I was reminded of a quote I have seen many times, but saw most recently in the art section at Wal Mart last week while in North Bay.  “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”  It struck me today that that’s pretty much what this journey of gratitude is all about.  I’m not supposed to wait until I’m not grumpy, until I’m not whiny, until I’m not exhausted, until I’m not a little mopey.  I’m not supposed to wait until the rain has passed to get out and have fun.  I’m supposed to enjoy the moment regardless.  I’m supposed to give thanks regardless.  I’ve struggled with that the last few days.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I was starting to see joy so somewhere, someone thought “hey that’s not good” and brought me back to ‘reality?’  I don’t know.

But I’m thirsty, and I want this… and I want to dance in the rain.  So here’s my sad attempt at finding joy despite whiny grumpiness, exhaustion, and a tinge of sadness.

23.  Light rain on a tin roof.

24.  Rain.  How it refreshes and gives life back.  How it’s so very badly needed.

25.  C.S. Lewis’ poignant truths wrapped in phenomenal storytelling.

26. Sticky buns — sweet, sugary, cinnamony, buttery deliciousness.

27.  “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

28.  Warm breezes blowing clothes dry on the line.

Watching the wind pick up


Today, I watched the wind pick up.  Maybe that sounds crazy.  Let me explain.  It was a very calm, still morning here at Camp.  I wanted some time to myself so I took my Bible, my book, my camera, and my journal out to the end of the dock.  As I was walking out, I noticed that because it was calm, the water was so still that I could see right to the bottom of the lake, even further toward the end of the dock.  I’m not usually able to see the rocks… in fact, I didn’t realize that the bottom was so rocky there, as I can’t touch the bottom when I jump off the dock.

During the span of time while I was sitting, enjoying some time to myself, the fish were jumping in and out, creating some pretty awesome ripples.  The water bugs were buzzing across the surface of the water, leaving some pretty cool lines as a result.  And the dragonflies were flitting around, landing here and there on the dock around me.  I got some pretty sweet shots of them.

The coolest thing though, was that as I was packing my belongings up off the dock, getting ready to leave to head in for Chapel, the wind started to pick up.  Normally, that’s something we only feel.  If it’s a drastic difference, we can tell when we look at flags and when we look at the trees, but if it’s only a subtle difference, like it was this morning, that wouldn’t give any measure of change.  I watched the wind pick up.  The lake got just slightly choppier.  It started to ripple just a little bit differently.  It was pretty fantastic.

I was just finishing up my last page before I closed it up, and I read this quote, that was just SO striking to me… especially as I had just noticed the wind pick up.

“If you want to be really alert to seeing Jesus’ divine beauty, his glory . . . then make sure you tune your senses to see his grace.  That’s what his glory is full of.”  — John Piper, quoted in Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”

I was having a bit of a moment this morning.  It’s sad that it had to end.  But maybe, just maybe, if I tune my senses to see His grace, it doesn’t have to.

15.  My baby brother returning home from a Mission’s Trip to Mexico, completely jazzed in his relationship with Jesus as a result… a day early!

16. Water so calm and still you can see right to the bottom.

17. Quiet time at the end of a dock

18. The beautiful sound of Tori practicing violin, drifting even down to the dock on a still day.

19. The warmth of morning sun on my back.

20. Fish jumping out of the water – there’s more down there than meets the eye.

21.  The way one jumping fish causes ripples that radiate outward – aren’t our actions similar?

22. Watching the wind pick up.

 

All photos taken by me.

Blazing to the Summit


“God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” — Mother Theresa

A friend of mine posted this quote to Facebook.  It’s out of a book she’s reading on Mother Theresa.  I am grateful for the way that the world just seamlessly works… without us.  Something does not need me to do it in order for it to be done well.  I don’t need to control that, hold onto it… fix it.  The sun never doesn’t come up.  The moon never ceases to rise.  The grass…. well it’s not growing very well right now because it just won’t rain, but I can’t do anything about that.

Anyway, this post is thin.  It is, I don’t have a lot of other things to talk about.  But I want to share my list for the past two days.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as I get to connect with an old friend, for a whole week!
Here’s my list!

6.  Refrigerators

7. The sun setting over the glass-like waters of Ahmic Lake

8.  Cool evening breezes

9.  Young teens not afraid to showcase their talent in front of 100 others.  Bravery lived out.

10.  Family game night

11. Countless layers of innumerable, brilliantly shining stars, punching holes through the deep darkness of a Muskoka night sky

12.  Another day of relaxation after another successful week of kid’s Camp

13.  The way the sun catches the lake and looks like brilliant diamonds

14.  Coconuts – and how excellently they turn into pie

 

All photos taken by me.

One Thousand Gifts


I’ve been slacking.  Hardcore slackage going on over here.  But I handed out the address to this barely used blog to a new friend today, and so I thought it was about time to put to paper (erm… sort of) some of my recent thoughts.

I’ve been reading a book given to me by a friend in October.  I know.. October.  I read really quickly, but to say that I read infrequently is a gross understatement.  Gross.

I’ve been reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp.  I’m not a book reviewer.  Far from it.  To be truthful, I’m sure you’d need to read far more than 2-3 books per year to be an efficient reviewer anyway.  At any rate, I’m halfway through the book so I can’t give a stellar account of my thoughts/feelings/whatevs, but I’m thoroughly impressed, and I’m greatly enjoying the message.  If you’ve not read it, it’s all about Voskamp’s realization that continual gratefulness truly can lead to joy in all aspects of your life.  Giving thanks to God for everything, in everything….. all the time.

Easy?  No.  Far from it.  Every human instinct we have is to tend toward ungratefulness and to whine and complain.  And I’m not exempt from that tendency.

But the point I’m driving at here is that I’d like to experiment with my own list…. Voskamp was dared to keep a list of 1000 things she truly cherishes and for which she’s thankful.  As she’s going through the list – writing, recording, journaling her list of things that she’s grateful for, she begins to find it easier and easier to find joy in the little things.  She begins to see more and more things that she CAN be thankful for.  And when tragedy hits, she finds she is able to see the good in the situation, as hard as that is.

I want that.  I want to be that grateful for everything I have.  I mean, really… when you really break it down, look at things objectively… even subjectively!  Who can’t find something to be grateful for?  Anything?  Start small!  Start with things like sunshine.  Who doesn’t love sunshine!?  Or… rain… if you don’t actually like sunshine.

So I’ll start.

1.  Camp Kahquah – being here was met with some mega fixed feelings this summer, but I’m here now, and there’s definitely good in it.

2. hearing worship carry through the floor, the doors, the air… as 85 10-13 year olds lift their voices up and sing to Jesus

3. dinner out with the fam – and the best Pina Colada I have EVER had.  Thank you, Tanner’s in Magnetawan!  Who knew?

4. running in the quiet stillness of 7am in Northern Ontario.  Hearing the creatures… as much as that’s equal parts creepy and amazing.

5. 32% humidity.  That needs no explanation.

These are just a few of the things that I really want to highlight today.  So I’m at 5.

Will you journey with me to 1000?