Let's Run the Race
I’m celebrating. My daughter and your blogger, Mindy, has just finished the Portland to Coast 129 mile Walk. She sped walked through 3 segments of about 6 miles each for a grand total of 19 miles. When she finished her first 6 miles, her teammates cheered and I breathed a sigh of relief. The temperature was well over 90 degrees. Mindy loves rain and cool temperatures and it was literally an uphill climb.
When Mindy was approaching her 30th birthday, she decided to get fit and run a marathon. This child of mine is an overachiever but she had never been much of an athlete. She excelled in academics but missed becoming the valedictorian of her class at Ridgefield High School because she was awarded an A- in PE. She managed to pay for college without any student loans and ably represented her college speech team in Rome while she was running a business and preparing for a wedding, but she claims that she was not the first child chosen when sports teams sided up. The 26 mile marathon was going to be a challenge. However, as she explained, “There is really nothing physically wrong with me.”
And so the training began. It was long and arduous and so was the race. Her goal was to finish the marathon and to do it during the space of time when the score keepers were still recording finishing times. She prevailed.
Her father and I were perched high on the steps of a nearby building in downtown Portland, Oregon when I saw her in the distance approaching the end of the race. As she crossed the line and succeeded in her quest, I put my head in my hands and sobbed.
Mindy is like that; she’s a motivator. She even inspired her younger sister to participate in a Portland to coast walk herself. But this story is not really about either of them. It’s about my mother who successfully ran a race of her own.
My mother was born at home in tiny Beebetown, Ohio in 1916 to a truck farmer and a German housewife. She learned to love God and to work hard from her parents, but they were very practical and there was not a great amount of love expressed. My mother lamented that her birthday was always ignored. Finally she determined that she would approach the day by announcing that it was her birthday and she would enjoy being wished a happy one.
She did not leave the state until she was 18 years old when she left to attend Philadelphia School of the Bible in Pennsylvania. It was there that she met my father, a gifted man who would go on to join Wycliffe Bible Translators. There he would work on translating the Bible into Comanche and would ultimately become the Field Administrator and Translation Consultant in Alaska. In the words of my mother speaking about her future husband from Reflections from a Mother’s Heart, “I realized the great potential he had. He was a good public speaker. My talents were limited and I felt I could best serve as mother and house wife.”
This humble woman was indeed a great server. She served everyone and she served well. She served meals to her family and to Comanche Indians and to guest workers and to anyone who stopped by; she served her family by scrubbing clothes in an old ringer washing machine and hanging them on the clotheslines strung between joists in the dirt walled basement of our Alaska frontier home, she served by sewing dresses and shirts cut from flour sacks and making stylish coats from oversized hand-me-downs. She literally never sat down without work in her hands; socks to darn, laundry to fold and clothes to mend. She loved and served God and others with every skill she possessed. My mother insured that her children’s birthdays were always celebrated and we were loved and embraced. She mostly toiled in obscurity and without the praise that was given to my dad. She once stated that the biggest contribution she made in life was to assist my father and to raise all 4 of her children to love and serve God.
It was especially disturbing then when my beloved 90 year old mother descended increasingly into dementia as Alzheimers took its hold. She still served; folding imaginary loads of laundry and reaching for a phantom basket to hold them all. Her hand would mimic the precise actions required in mending as she wielded a needle on an invisible garment. Delusions became a big issue. She told disturbing and frightening stories about events happening to those she loved the most. She was convinced that my spouse, whom she adored, had been evicted by me to dwell in the shed he had built to store fire wood. (Amazingly, as a gift from God, she never failed to recognize and remember each of her children and grandchildren by name and by sight.) In her delusions, she was crowned queen and there was a great coronation ceremony. She prowled the halls of the lovely home where she resided at night and was known to enter other resident’s rooms.
With the duration of the disease unknown and the future offering only a frightening and uncertain path, it was actually a severe mercy when a diagnosis was made that would lead to her imminent death. We were heartbroken but grateful that her suffering would be contained. Many of her children and grandchildren gathered around the bed side to provide support, offer prayers, and say goodbye. In her final days, this remarkable woman rallied from an apparent coma in her sick bed to sit up and acknowledge her granddaughter Marci, who had made the journey down I-5 to see her. Mom grinned and exclaimed, “Why, Marci’s here!”
She was primarily non responsive and many hours were spent in reflection and the sharing of memories. She lingered through days and nights and my siblings and other loved ones verbally released her to make the journey that would result in a crown, one that mattered for all eternity. When the end came, she left this world without struggle or fanfare. As Mom breathed her last breath, I was struck with a vision that comforts me still.
I saw my mother cross the finish line with her arms lifted high in victory and celebration. A huge crowd filled a vast amphitheater and the cheers and joy of spectators filled the air. My heart swelled as she strode forward to receive the rich reward that awaited her. She received a hero’s welcome as she finished the race.
"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." Hebrews 12:1
When my parents were first married they lived in Idaho. My mama was a school teacher and my dad was a candy salesman. When I was two years old, my dad came home and told my mom he wanted to sell the house, move to Washington and start an electrical contracting business with my grandparents. My mom was surprised. Shocked really.
How do you know when a drastic crazy idea is the right one? Research, time, advisors? Those are wise, but in this case were not available. So my mom prayed "God, please sell our house in such a way that I will never forget that you were the one who answered."
Thirty-eight years later and my mom still tells the story of the weeks of silence, nothing happening, no offers. She says that the day before they were to move there was a full price cash offer. She says she doesn't ask God for memorable answers anymore because it about stopped her heart. God's just when you need it timing can be scary. But she said she got in the car with full clear knowledge that the move was the right one.
The book of Judges is a cycle of stories where the people of Israel wandered off course, they found themselves in a serious mess and begged God for deliverance. Again. And again. So God would send a judge. Not a judge in a courtroom. These judges were warriors who would go battle and save the people. Judges is a violent and sad book. It's also a book that reminds me that God will use flawed people to bring about his purproses. He'll rescue his people when they call. God hears and answers. God wants us to know that He is mighty to save. He is faithful to keep His promises.
"The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said to the Israelites, "I brought you out of Egypt into this land that I swore to give your ancestors, and I said I would never break my covenant with you." Judges 2:1
I went to a meeting last night for a much loved ministry. Change is coming. Not our choice. Not a surprise to God. The leadership team has studied options, researched costs, brainstormed solutions. They laid it out. We asked questions, added numbers and racked our brains for ideas. Then we prayed. Part of what we prayed is that God would make the next steps clear.
I think about the judges in this book frequently. I tell my daughters about the warrior Deborah. She's as tough as they come. She knew that God would fight for her. I'm strongest when I remember that as well. I'm strong when I'm dependent. Strong when I'm weak.
I talk about Sampson. That man wrecked his life by flirting with the enemy. Seriously. When someone has proven to be dangerous to your safety - love and forgive them - but do it with safe boundaries.
I talk about Gideon and how God called him but he was s c a r e d and c o n f u s e d. No question his people needed help, they were starving and in great oppression. So Gideon asked God for a sign. He laid out a sheep's skin, a fleece, and asked God that if Gideon was supposed to really act that the fleece in the morning would be dry and the ground wet. God answered. Next night Gideon asked that the fleece would be wet and the ground dry. God answered. Tangible clear sign to proceed.
"When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." Judges 6:12
I don't actually think that fleeces are the best spirtual practice available. I think God gives us brains for a purpose. The Bible is very clear about the wisdom of seeking counsel, of waiting for clear direction, of resources and planning. But when I'm at a crossroads I ask for directions. The people in Jesus' day asked for a sign - and the one he gave was himself on the cross. Love and Sacrifice. Clear directions.
Have you seen our society? It's a mess. When children are sold for sex you know something is off. I'm grateful that God still sends people to fight. It may be that He has called you. Not to grab a jawbone and take out the enemy. No burning fox tails required. The weapons have changed. The best weapons are grace and love and the best battle plan is sacrifice. Don't forget that when you don't know the next best step that God will answer. It's best to wait until that's clear. Just buckle up. It can be a wild ride.
Click on the video below for the Judges installment from The Bible Project's Read Scripture program. I love how they fit this one into the grand story of the Bible. Sometimes I wonder how the violence fits in. This is a good walk through.
I love the reminder that God is able to rescue us when we call. Take a minute today and remember that He is Mighty to Save.
"Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to the LORD; I will praise the LORD, the God of Israel, in song." Judges 5:3
I'm one of those crazy yelling jumping jersey wearing proud 12 flag waving Seahawks fans. I happen to like Blue and Green and Brown. Good solid football colors.
I think God must like that color combo too. I spent some time last week in this cute little kayak. The solitude and gorgeous view was good for my weary soul.
Green and brown and blue. Makes me slow down and breathe.
These blues and greens and tans work nicely too. Vast.
Breathe deep. Listen closely.
Simple green of fresh local pears. and homemade spiced pear sauce.
Everywhere I look, blue and green and brown. Good color combo. Loving August.
I love worship songs. I love singing to Jesus. I listen to Christian radio or Pandora on the way to work, on the way home, in the shower, doing chores, pretty much all the time. Besides prayer, worshiping is my favorite form of praising God. I get so excited when new worship songs are released that speak directly to my testimony.
There is a new song, Thy Will, on the radio by Hillary Scott -The Scott Family. Have you listened to it? No? STOP what your doing and go listen to it right now. Seriously, don't read any further unless you go listen to it. The lyrics are so powerful, so true, and everything I needed to hear a few weeks ago.
Last week I had to face my greatest fear-one of the things that I constantly struggle with. No, it wasn't a fear of heights, spiders(EEK!), snakes, or clowns, it was the fear of sitting down and talking face to face with my mom. You see, my mom is an alcoholic, and I have had to accept a harsh reality that due to this addiction, she loves alcohol more than me most of the time. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have talked with her in the last 4 years. There has been a lot of hurtful conversations and heartbreak, but slowly I had found some peace that I couldn't do anything to help her other than pray for her. I love her with all my heart, but I had to separate myself from her so I didn't enable her drinking.
Then a few weeks ago, I started feeling a tug at my heart that I needed to meet with her. I was so overcome with anxiety and confusion that I decided to sit down with my pastor. We talked about boundaries and the possibility of her shutting me out and not accepting what I had to say to her. I really couldn't imagine her rejecting me or my feelings, especially not an apology. I mean she is in fact my mom, right? Well, I tried, and she did reject what I tried to tell her, and it broke my heart. I was crushed again with the reality that my mom loved a substance more than she loved me. Then I heard this song. I was driving home from work and I had to pull over as I was so over come with emotion. The lyrics start out with:
"I’m so confused I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan"
It was like I was hearing someone narrate my life on a radio station. I knew I had heard the Lord loud and clear, I knew I was supposed to try to talk with my momma. My pastor and I talked about me apologizing to her for my faults within our relationship, because then I'm putting the ball in her court. I had prayed and prayed and prayed for her to accept my apology and to say she was sorry, or at least give me some sort of motherly love. I ended up broken, confused, and upset as to why the Lord would put me through that all over again. I sat on the side of the road bawling my little heart out, crying out to God for comfort and understanding. Then I heard this part of the song:
"Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not So
Thy will be done"
Woah. Huge punch straight to my gut. I really thought I had been relying on God through this, but I realized I hadn't been trusting him with every possible outcome, only with the one I wanted. I wasn't trusting that He knew what was best for my mom, and for me. I instantly stopped crying and felt that peace that I had been searching for over the last 4 years. Psalms 3:3 came straight to my head;
"But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high."
I felt God's arms around me in that moment, reassuring me that He is carrying me through this, I was not alone.
As I kept listening to the song, the chorus repeats Thy Will Be Done a lot. But I needed to hear it about 10 times before I started actually thinking about His will, his pleasing, perfect, and good will. While I have no idea what that entails or what it looks like for me, but I am 100% confident that He has things planned for me, GREAT things, that I couldn't even begin to dream about. I believe that He is not done with my mom yet, and He is certainly not done with me. I have hope for my mom, even if we never have a relationship here on earth, I'll keep praying for her to open her heart to Jesus and to the free gift of grace. Maybe His will entails my mom reaching out to me someday, thankful that I tried to mend things with her. Maybe it's that she just needed someone to remind her that there are people who still love her. Maybe we will never have a relationship, but God is using this moment to allow me later down the road to help another young girl going through the same thing. Maybe I will never know why she turned me away until I face my Maker in Heaven.
Thy Will Be Done- His perfect will. As I kept listening to those words, I kept being reminded of what He has already done in spite of my mom not being a part of my life right now. I am blessed to have a fantastic, Godly mother-in-law whom I love dearly. And in the last 4-5 years, I have had many women come into my life who have been my "surrogate moms". These women have prayed for me, loved on me, supported me, cried with me, cheered me on, and made sure that I didn't feel like I was motherless. I think I have taken them for granted, forgetting that God put them in my life for a reason. I was so focused on the fact I didn't have a biological mother caring for me, that I couldn't see that His plan was to put all those amazing women in my life when I needed them.
The lyrics go onto say "I know you see me, I know your hear me Lord". I am realizing now how true that is, all the time. I felt so far away from Him, because I was not trusting in His will, not trusting that He was right there beside me. I was only trusting that He was going to do what I wanted, not trusting 100% in His plan. I'm learning to trust Him now entirely, trusting that His will is perfect and remember that He is always in control.
For Father's Day this past year, I bought my husband an apple tree. This was one of those win gifts because I actually listened to his stories of childhood apple trees and homemade apple sauce. This was a bummer gift because the poor tree has been sitting in the pot it came home in since June. It needs a permanent home.
The book of Joshua opens as the Israelites are mourning the loss of their leader Moses and they are poised on the edge of the promised land. They've been homeless for over forty years. The book's namesake is appointed their new leader. And lead he does. One of the most encouraging verses in the Bible is in this first speech Joshua gives his people.
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
I love this reminder that the promises of God are not for peace or prosperity or for security or wealth. The best promise is that God comes near, goes along, never leaves.
My spouse pointed out yesterday that this weekend was our final opportunity to get the tree into dirt before school starts in ten days. Say it isn't so! I'm not ready for school. I can't handle the mom homework yet. Nonetheless we headed out to the local big box home improvement store and pondered our options. We both vetoed the gorgeous DIY pavers. The resident chef voted nay due to cost. I voted no due to incompetence. Last time I tried to DIY anything I purchased the wrong size wood to repair my garden boxes. They now look worse than when I started. We ended up buying some square tiles, a mountain of dirt and a really big pot. The sticker on the tree says it's slow growing. Permanent home moved out a couple of years.
The Israelites however were done waiting. They marched aross the Jordan river on dry ground. Miracle reminiscent of the days of Moses. Joshua told the people to pick up a stone from the middle of the Jordan river and to stack them up on the oppostie shore as a memorial.
Joshua 4:6 "To serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?'
My children respond to rules and requirements and challenges best when we give them the history. I certainly do better when I remember my stories. Part of why I write is to make record of miracles and God's faithfulness. Memorial Rocks, Memory Trees. Our apple tree has four apple varieties all grafted together. Self Polinating. McIntosh, Fuji, Honey Crisp and Gravenstein. It will be a good reminder to us that we are all different but growing and dependent on each other.
The iconic story in Joshua is the battle of Jericho. God tells the people to march around the city for 6 days. Then on the 7th day they are to march around the city seven times. Big yell. Outer defense wall came crumbling down.
Frequently my battles involve waiting for walls to come down. I fight lots of battles. I look at the photos of Syrian children and battle apathy. I read the news and fight cynicism. We build defenses against industries that want to exploit our daughters. I fight fear and bitterness. I'm grateful that God does not leave any of us to battle alone.
The battle of Jericho and the accompaning story of Rahab inspire me. Rahab was a prostitiute who lived in the city of Jericho. She'd heard the stories of Israel; of plagues and the Red Sea and fire by night. Then she heard that the Israelites were coming to Jericho. Her story is proof that God's whole plan is to graft in anyone who believes. Rahab's future was not determined by her genetic code, her residence, or her *ahem* colorful past. Her future was determined by her decision to listen to the stories of God and to throw in her lot with His team. The fact is Rahab is in the family line of the future Messiah. Beautiful proof that God will include anyone who comes along for the journey.
By the end of the book of Joshua, the Israelites have witnessed miracles, won numerous battles, occupied the territory and divided up the land amongst the 12 tribes. Joshua has a closing speech calling the people to commit.
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
We can all get grafted in. Your past doesn't matter. Come along.
Here is your link to The Bible Project's walk through of Joshua. I watch these and learn. I especially like the approach the authors take to hard questions about evil, genocide, war and the like. If you struggle with the wars in the Old Testament and how they fit in with the love your enemy narrative in the New Testament - watch this. The discussion is worth pondering.
Here are links to a couple of author, Francine River's novellas. These two put flesh on the stories of Caleb and Rahab. The stories are included in her larger novels Lineage of Grace and Sons of Encouragement. Both are worth the read.
If you've been following along you know I'm a part of an 8 person team for the Portland to Coast which takes place in under a week. Yikes. My three turns in the relay add up to a 19 mile assignment. One recent morning I went out for a training walk. I headed out from my house, down a monster one mile hill and joined up with my speedy team captain and another good friend. They both walk WAY faster than I do. My captain gave me some excellent tips and good reminders. Three miles later I decided I better take it down a notch and off went the friend and coach. Six miles in and I was at the base of another big monster hill. Big breathe and hauled my body up. I tried to remind myself of all the captain's tips. Somewhere up the hill it hit me that there was a great life application story.
One side effect of writing Quirky Faith is that life applications tend to pop up all the time. Since I gave my family and close friends veto power some of those stories will stay in the vault. Come to think of it, building Quirky Faith is its own challenging hill. Most dreams are uphill; scary and fun.
Climbing a Hill???
1. We all face hills. Sometimes those hills are steep and rocky and painful. I once rode my bike down a rocky hill and straight into a tree. I was wearing my helmet. Good thing too because even so I had a monster headache, smashed up jaw, and bleeding knees. And then I had to haul my body and my bike back up the hill. Totally my fault.
Truth is every single person has times where you are sitting at the bottom of the hill, sometimes bruised and beaten and you have to haul yourself to the top. Some hills are fun and inspiring. Some are not. It might be that fifty pounds, or the credit card debt, or the concrete wall of bitterness you built in your marriage. Or maybe your mountain is not self inflicted. Your partner walked out, the best customer left, cancer hit home.
Doesn't matter really.
Truth is that everyone has a time when the hill is looming. Don't get arrogant to those around you climbing out. And don't despair in comparing your hill with anothers'. Hills hurt. But they are common to us all.
2. Get Up! Did you watch the Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D'Agostino 5000 meter crash in the Olympics. (Read here). I loved this story. These two Olympians tripped up and fell. And then they each took turns helping the other up and finishing the race. D'Agostino ended up running the last mile with a torn ACL. Tough cookie. First step though was to get up. We are all gonna fall. Get up. God is in the business of fresh starts. Leave the junk behind and move on.
3. Keep your Eye on the Top. Remember my bike crash? Happened because I forgot to look at where I wanted to go. Instead I focused on the obstacle ahead and smashed right into it. Same thing in life. If you focus on the climb it is overwhelming. Focus on the goal. The view at the top of the hill is worth the climb.
4. Get a Coach. A captain, leader, mentor, pastor or coach. Oh goodness. I need all the accountability I can get or I seriously flake. I'm also not at all intuitive about how I use my body. I need someone else to watch and help me adjust. If you don't have the tools to climb your hill, ask for help. They have tools you need.
5. Head up, Shoulders Back. Halfway up the training hill my captain yelled out to us "Head up, Shoulder's Back." She reminded us that walking while hunched forward cuts off your oxygen and makes it harder to climb. She said when we stand up straight, relax our shoulder we can breathe better and move faster. Oh so true. Getting through your junk is harder when your head is hung in shame, when doubt and fear are weighing you down. There is NO SHAME in climbing out! Hard work is honorable. Get to the gym, put in the reps, work extra hours, make restitution. But do it with your head up and shoulders back. The grace of God is like oxygen able to help you climb. Don't cut off the source by hanging your head.
6. Don't Quit. Seems obvious. One foot in front of the other all the way to the top. Don't stop. You do not have to climb as fast as the others around you. Just don't stop.
So my race is in a week. I have lots of hills, a great captain and fun teammates. We'll eat and laugh and cheer each other on. And as I climb my hills I will pray for you if you pray for me. Because we all are climbing.
If you haven't watched Kevin Hart's announcement that he is running the Hood to Coast this year you really should. FUNNY. And a good laugh never hurts.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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