Monday, June 28, 2010

A Little Crack--A Lesson in Perseverance

At the beginning of every school year, I tell this story:
Once upon a time there was a girl who desperately wanted to be liked and noticed by other people. When she was in junior high, she participated in several sports but she was a bit height and skill challenged so that was discouraging for her. So her dad encouraged her to try running. They began by running around the block and seemed to take forever. She didn't really like it. But after persevering a little longer, she started to enjoy it and began running longer distances. When she began high school, she tried out for the cross country team. It was a lot of fun even though practices were early in the morning. She ran her first meet--2 miles and it was great! One day she was running, stepped on a rock, and twisted her foot. It hurt, and continued to hurt the rest of the day. So she went to the doctor, and the doctor said, "You have a bruise on your foot. Rest for a few weeks." (I like to include different voices for each character in the story, much more entertaining). So she rested. Then she tried to run the next meet and it still hurt a LOT. So she went back to the doctor and he said, "I'm sorry, I missed a little crack on your bone on your first xray. You have been running on a broken foot." What? The girl was pretty bummed. You see, running and being a part of the team had become really important to her. But, she couldn't run the rest of the season. She had to wear a beautiful shoe that looked like the shoes you wear at the bowling alley. It was supposed to help it heal. Well, do you think she gave up on running? (No from the audience). No, in fact she was determined to run farther and faster the next year. The good thing was that her cheering voice got a lot of use as she still went to all the races with her team that season.

Well, the next summer she ran a lot, almost everyday. It became an obsession. She had to run. She ran a few races that season and then ..... She developed some pain in her leg. So she went to the doctor and the doctor said, "Um, you have a little crack (a demonstration of little is good here) in your bone. You have a stress fracture." Sigh, well actually it was more of an angry reaction this time. What? How could this be happening again? What is going on? Do I need a new pair of shoes again? Seriously. In fact, this girl started to become angry at God. She wanted to find her identity and love in being good at something (running) and being noticed, and her plan wasn't working very well. A good friend of hers was supportive an encouraging and suggested that she go to a retreat with her. So she did, and while she was there, she realized that God loved her and her identity was not in running, or being popular, or having a lot of friends, or getting good grades, but in the fact that she was a child of God. God created her, loved her, and had good plans for her life. God loved her so much that He had His Son die for her sins. It was a life changing weekend. Running was still important to her, but not in the same way.

The next running season she tried again. She trained less, got different shoes again, and didn't go to practice everyday. She ran a few races and then something happened... She went to the doctor and the doctor said, (At this point, the kids notice the pattern...) "You have a little crack in your bone, you have a stress fracture." Ugh, again. But, this time she knew that the Lord was watching over her and had good plans for her even with another injury. The doctor suggested that something might be wrong with her growth or bones because she had so many stress fractures. So she traveled to Mayo Clinic to have some tests done. It was a little bit scary, but she trusted the Lord. At Mayo, she saw lots of doctors and at the end of the day, the doctors said, "Well, we found a little crack in your bone...." No just kidding, they found absolutely nothing! Praise God--it could have been something very serious, but they just thought it was a crazy coincidence that she had three stress fractures three years in a row.
Well then comes senior year of high school--wow time flies! She ran cross country that year, and she ran the whole season. So what do you think this girl learned? Who do you think this girl is? (By this time, they have figured it out..)
"It's you, Miss W!"

Several times throughout the school year kids have come to me at recess said, "Miss W, I think I have a little crack in my bone..." I tell this story because those injuries and trials helped me understand that my identity rests in the Lord. At the retreat, I gave me life to the Lord. Before then, I had the head knowledge but not the heart knowledge of what it means to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. I tell this story because every single person wants to be noticed, to be someone, to be loved, but every single person out there will not be satisfied or content until he or she understands that identity and true love come from the Lord.

Those little cracks in life are lessons of perseverance. Perhaps they will help you or someone else come closer to the Lord.

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. 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.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life Means So Much

Chris Rice has a song that is called Life Means So Much. This song and the phrase Seize the Day have been the running through my head for the last few months. Perhaps I am thinking about life more reflectively and intentionally because I turned 30 this year. Or perhaps it was the discussions my 5th grade class had about making each day count. My roommate likes to say, "Life is short." It is. 3 years ago my childhood friend Bonnie passed away after a year battle with cancer. She was 27. She had a tumor removed in October, got married in December, and passed away the following October. Bonnie was very passionate and very ambitious. Every single time I talked to her she challenged me with something. She taught me to ask questions, to dig deeper, to search the Scriptures to find the truth for myself, and to take God out a box and believe He can do much more than I could ever ask or imagine. She taught me to believe, to pray believing that He would answer prayers and to believe who He says He is. Bonnie was goal oriented. She and her husband had plans to earn enough money to be financially stable so that they could travel around the world and educate people about the Lord. In fact, I remember one conversation we had about life goals. She told me she had written 50 life goals and challenged me to do the same. So I did--some are little things like learn to make my grandma's pie, make a quilt, have my own garden, learn to play the guitar, write more music, and others are larger goals such as getting my master's degree in education, adopt kids, be a prayer warrior, take counseling classes, minister to inner city kids, own a home that is open to guests and visitors all the time, and have a large family. All those goals are of course subject to the Lord's plans, however it has been good for me to take several of these goals and pursue them. Two of these goals have to do with running. The first was to run a half-marathon. I ran my first half marathon a week after Bonnie died. The entire race I kept thinking about Bonnie and her rock solid faith during her battle with cancer, and that helped me run that 'race' with perseverance as she had done. The second goal was to run a marathon. Despite my history of plaguing injuries, I decided to sign up for the Twin Cities Marathon in October and am excited to run for a cause--World Vision. Kari has been a great friend and running buddy the last three years. I have watched her run 3 marathons and can't wait to run one with her! As Chris Rice says,

Every day is a journal page
Every man holds a quill and ink
And there's plenty of room for writing in
All we do is believe and think
So will you compose a curse
Or will today bring the blessing
Fill the page with rhyming verse
Or some random sketching

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Every day is a bank account

And time is our currency

So nobody's rich, nobody's poor
We get 24 hours each
So how are you gonna spend
Will you invest, or squander
Try to get ahead
Or help someone who's under

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Has anybody ever lived who knew the value of a life
And don't you think giving is all
What proves the worth of yours and mine

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Every day is a gift you've been given
Make the most of the time every minute you're living


Can anybody hear me?

The customary rhythm and flow of my house is generally accelerated by the morning ritual. Among other sounds heard is the rapid patter of feet as each of four kids awakens with a fresh sense of urgency in their bladder. The youngest races to the closed door, clasps his hands in prayer and with eyes squinted knocks adamantly upon the door. It's available, I say from my vantage point in the living room. With a shrug of thanks and relief he enters and relieves himself. To the believer all things are worthy of prayer, even the little things like "oh dear god let the bathroom be vacant now because it's always a crap shoot in a household of 6 with only one bathroom and 3 older siblings." While praying for water closet relief does not nearly rise to the threshold of "oh dear god please allow me the provisions to feed my children today" it is born of the equal faith that some one is listening. Moving beyond that inquest in the journey of faith takes a bolder step that says, not only is someone listening, but that someone will answer. And perhaps the boldest step of all is the belief that not only is someone listening, beyond someone has an answer, to the last cosmic leap that someone can actually respond with action to my plea. There was no one to answer my son from behind the bathroom door, only I, with my perfect vantage point could do that for him.May I have the grace to ask in faith of the One who has perfect perception today.


A time for everything

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under heaven:a time to be born and a time to die,a time to plant and a time to uproot,a time to kill and a time to heal,a time to tear down and a time to build,a time to weep and a time to laugh,a time to mourn and a time to dance,a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,a time to embrace and a time to refrain,a time to search and a time to give up,a time to keep and a time to throw away,a time to tear and a time to mend,a time to be silent and a time to speak,a time to love and a time to hate,a time for war and a time for peace.

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

While on a trip to Haiti many years ago I happened to mention to one of our more pensive leaders that the banana tree bears fruit only once and then it must be cut down to allow for a new plant to grow in it's place. He appeared somewhat nonplussed by that new information and we bumped along the rutted road for another 30 minutes or so. The monotonous hum of the engine grinding was suddenly broken by our pensive leaders declaration, "I've got it!" and now all ears are trained on him. "We have but one life to live and then we die, that is the message of the banana tree." While not terribly profound to the rest of us in the truck, this thought penetrated our leaders heart; he has one life to live and then he dies. One life to make an impact, one moment in time to do fantastic things. He returned home to walk both coast to coast and border to border across the United States for causes he believes in and last I heard he is in the process of walking around the world. Walking, walking, (as opposed to walking to the train station and putting 4 or so hundred miles between me and the last trail walking) as in putting one foot in front of the other walking. That is a lot of miles and a lot of making good on his understanding that we are given but one life to live and then we die. One other unique thing to the banana tree is that each tree produces live offshoots that can be cut from the mama tree re planted, producing a new plant and a new crop of fruit. I have but one life to live to reproduce what is good and desirable in me, by God's grace may I produce both fruits and shoots.