And the day God breathed upon your still life, stirring into being the green leaf and the flower, bud upon the branch and light
upon your soul. Here you felt the earth’s air on your petals and your leaves, and squinted into sunlight, gazing high for heaven
until you felt the gardener’s hand gently turning soil and soul, and nurturing you, bud in radiant sun.
Cascading rain absorbed in warm earth turning, heaven of fragrance. What is that sound in the wind and dazzling light?
Oh, the sweet sound of your delight in God. Sometimes it is like the sound of running laughter.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Rain was as the Tears of God

This morning I was reluctant to go running. I was much too comfortable as I lay in bed; and yet the Lord mercifully aroused me. I ate some oatmeal (oats, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, brown sugar, cinnamon), made a coffee, and was out the door. I drove to Hyland Park, arriving shortly before 8am. My run was undefined. It was raining. How many times have I begun in this way? How many times have I simply pushed beyond the immediate resistance and made my way to the trail? This is so vital to my heart. I need to apprehend afresh how weak and vulnerable I am. I need to push beyond it until I understand that it is God who gives me the strength and will to run. It is God who fills me with the desire to live and love beyond my limits. It is God who opens His wonders to me along every trail and avenue that I have ever traveled. Here am I – ever so reluctant to be blessed by God Himself. Here am I running in the rain.

As we run our trails, we frequently must push beyond our natural limitations. It is only in the vast expanse of the unknown where we learn to listen and cling most dearly to our Lord. Today I ran a little over 8 miles in just over 2 hours, climbing 2352 feet and descending about the same. Often the trails are new to us, untried. Sometimes the trails are numbingly familiar. But we run them all the same. Since returning from Shenzhen, China I've covered about 80 miles running familiar routes – Purgatory, Hyland, Birch Island, and others. Usually, I'd select my distance to coincide with those times when I felt weakest, or a time of day that would be the hottest and most difficult. It is good for me to push myself beyond my natural boundaries; to discover anew that I am not alone. There is another with me on the trail. I am sustained by Him. We share the joys and sorrows of the way. In times of plenty, there is rejoicing. In times of want, there is quiet reliance and trust. It is the Lord along the trail who faithfully teaches me. I need Him with every step.

Of late, I have been listening to A Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, read by a dear English woman. Sometimes I can hear her turn the pages. I like that. In the past year or two, I've listened to this recording three times, and each time I am overwhelmed by the true nature of John Bunyan's allegory. I have read the book in times past, but there is something about listening as I run. It is always so striking to me, so applicable. My trails in many ways are like the travels of Christian and his wife and children.

For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. [Hebrews 11:10 ESV]

...Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [Hebrews 12:2 ESV]

We are each sojourning. Are we seeking the Celestial City - the dwelling of the Lord, or something far less, something shallow and dead? Each time I listen, my soul is challenged to remain fixed upon my heart's passion, to remain true to my deepest desires to love God above all.

Today the rain was as the tears of God. Sometimes, I thought His tears to be tears of joy over the multitudes redeemed to Himself, to live forever with the Lord as their light, to behold Him and find their deepest joy and satisfaction in Him, to be forever with the Lord. At other times, I thought His tears to be tears of great sorrow over the multitudes lost, forever separated from His everlasting joy and happiness, forever apart from the Lord. And then I would weep. As I ran, as the rain streaked my face and clothing, I wept. Sometimes the joy overwhelmed me. At other times, the sorrow would almost crush me wholly. And through it all, there was my ever companion, Jesus the Righteous; my Sovereign, my Lord.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. [Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV]

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. [Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV]

Let us run the trails that are before us. If we seek Him, we will find Him. Although the breadth of eternity is God's alone, He mercifully reveals Himself to us. He is the treasure of immeasurable worth, the pearl of great price. Oh Friend, may I weep tears of joy for you, and not tears of sorrow. Let us run hard and true.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wutong Mountain and Friends

 Wutong Mountain   梧桐山  is located near the border of Luohu and Yantian in Shenzhen, China. It is 943.7m (3,096 ft), and is the tallest mountain in Shenzhen. The mountain is the source of the Shenzhen River that flows into Shenzhen and Hong Kong. (Wikipedia) 

After my experiences on Tuesday, I wrote a little poem about running Wutong Mountain through mist and rain as a gift to my students this week.

Rain on Wutong Mountain, Mist rising,
I run the green forest wet with joy.

 It is Saturday. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, I had spent almost 4 hours traversing all over Wutong Mountain.  During the week, I met someone who regularly runs Wutong. She had invited me to join her and a friend this morning. I was giddy with anticipation. We met at 5:30am in the lobby of my hotel and caught a taxi to Wutong Mountain. A short time later, we were standing at the archway marking the entry, and off we went. My companions led the way up the road, and then turned off to the right into the forest along a path I had not noticed earlier in the week.  This direction led to many new twists and turns along new trails, and a spectacular view of a waterfall.  Friends have a way of opening our eyes to new things.

We climbed the cut stone steps, old natural stone pathways, hopping numerous streams and roots, chasing our excitement for 3:44 hours, covering 7.95 miles, ascending 5777 and descending 5668 feet.  Our faces were covered in smiles and laughter.  Midway we stopped on a broad plaza (that I had crossed above earlier in the week). One of my companions woke a shopkeeper she knew and purchased orange juice for each of us as a reward for reaching this point. Each of us drank this with a very thankful heart.  It was the perfect refreshment. As the hours and miles drifted past, we shared our mutual joys, struggles, and challenges as followers of Christ Jesus. We celebrated through our running and endurance, and we each shared that our joy seemed to grow deeper and richer – even in life's hard struggles. For me, it was wonderful to encounter two sisters in the Lord, to celebrate our shared faith, and to encourage each other along life's trail.  At last, we completed our run, and my dear companions treated me to a fantastic noodles lunch in a favorite restaurant of theirs right in the village near Wutong. The noodles were made as I watched, and the meal was eaten as the shop owner watched. We loved the food. It was incredible! A shared run, a shared meal, and shared faith and love of God – this had truly been a memorable day. 

"For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders (makes level) all his paths." [Proverbs 5:21]

Friend, perhaps we will share a meal of noodles in a small shop in a distant land. Perhaps we will share the challenge of dangerous trails just ahead. I'll be out there watching for you. My prayers will be covering your steps. So until we meet, run hard and run true.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Butterflies and Lightening on Wutong Mountain

The day began with subdued, but very real excitement. I was in Shenzhen, China  and had identified a possible trail running route.  After a good breakfast, I changed into my running clothes and jumped into a taxi. My research had identified a place called Wutong Mountain-Butterfly Trail.  The taxi dropped me at the base of an archway leading into the Wutong Mountain area.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down!
Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
[Psalm 144:1-5 ESV]

According to my notes this was the correct location, but I saw no trail.  There was only a paved road heading up the mountain.  “Ok,” I thought, “Not what I expected, but let's get moving.”  I hit the start button on my watch, ran through the archway, and on up the road.  This mountain area was beautiful, and I understood why they call it a butterfly mountain.  Butterflies were everywhere -  many colors and sizes.  How would I ever convey this to others? 

In my devotions this morning, dear old Spurgeon had quoted Deuteronomy 5:24, “The Lord our God hath shewed us his glory.”  I was beginning to see His radiance even as I began my ascent of Wutong Mountain along an uninspiring roadway.  The overlooks were becoming increasingly breathtaking. At some point, a trail appeared on my left.  I immediately followed it off into the green foliage.  At this point, I found that my “trail” was paved, as well.  It was paved in cut stone, flat along level and modest changes up or down.  However, anything more severe than a 3-5 degree shift was finished as a cut stone stairway. There were a few exceptions to this, where a cascade of boulders provided a natural stairway, or a massive root structure provided an interesting means of climbing and ascending vertically to the trail section above. But for the most part – stone all along the trail portions.  So, I followed the trail that I had found that had meandered off to my left.  Eventually, this spilled back onto the paved road and I continued my climb.  Although the road was just a road, the surrounding views were unbelievably beautiful.

When I had entered this area and began my run, it was sunny with a few puffy clouds and temperatures hovering in the upper 80sF with high humidity.  It was warm, but I was looking for a heat workout, and this would do just fine.  As I continued upward, a mist began rising.  I was drenched in sweat but kept ascending.  Eventually, I came to a place in the road with a small parking area and signs with maps of the park.  Here I spotted another trail going off to my right and climbing significantly upward.  I was more than ready.  Off I went.  A light rain began to fall as I left the road to run up a fairly steep ascent along a path of hundreds of stairs.  The rain was increasing as I climbed. I took a few pictures, but eventually stowed my camera for fear that I would damage it with rain.  Along my trail, I crossed above a plaza about two-thirds of the way up.  Here I saw the final ascent to bring me near the summit, and many more stairs to climb, seemingly stairs without number.  I just set my mind to climb, and maintained a steady rhythm. Who had laid all these stairs?  It boggled my mind.  The rain was increasing even more, and was coming down hard.  As I neared the summit I could feel the roar of thunder and see lightening flash. I was growing a little  concerned.  I reached the end of the stairs and made my way onto a level area very near the summit.  Here I found “The Heavenly Pond”.  It was a small pond with a large boulder in the center and an inscription. I snapped a picture to document how far I'd come, and decided to descend quickly in the growing storm that was swirling around.  Just at this moment, I encountered three Chinese young men who had come up behind me on the stairs. They were drenched and looked alarmed by the wild, crazy weather all around us - the thunder and lightening, and hard driving rain.  I yelled through the storm and said we needed get moving down the infinite stairs that we had just climbed, and head off the mountain. I took off down and they followed.  Eventually they faded in the distance behind me.

 By the time I reached the archway at the entrance to the park, I was all in; very tired and mighty hungry.  Then it occurred to me that given the size of the village at the base of Wutong Mountain, it might be difficult to find a taxi.  I began walking through the village hoping to find a means of getting back to the hotel. After almost 45 minutes, a taxi sailed past me with passengers. I hailed the driver guessing that the driver would love to find a return fare back to Shenzhen. I was right. He came back within minutes, after dropping his other customers.  I was on my way back to my hotel and a good meal. I had covered 10.22 miles in 3:42 hours, ascending 5454 feet and descending 5429.

I thought back to Spurgeon.  For this morning he had written,

Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God’s greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to thedarkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.
[Morning and Evening – Morning July 11, Charles Spurgeon]

I had made my plans for a trail run on Wutong Mountain, but God had chosen to delightfully interrupt my designs His own.  He wanted me to see His glory – the flutter of butterfly wings, a rising mist, the gentle rain, and then thunder and lightening atop Wutong Mountain itself.  I had seen and felt the wonder and power of my glorious, holy Lord. What a day, and what a run to remember.

Friend, I'm running the trails.  I'm hoping we meet along the way. I'll look for the glory of God in your eyes, and the way you love a storm and flutter of a butterfly's wing.  Run hard and run true, my friend. I'll be right along.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Lord, I have loved you

My Lord, I have loved you

My Lord, I have loved You
Longer than I have Known Your Name,
Yet dangling by my own imagination,
Severed helpless from the wonder of Your world
Of Your mercies long pouring;
Oil of grace upon my undeserving soul.

Yearnings deep to cling to You,
Yet so unable to rise or reach,
Blind eyes hungry to see You,
Yet so vacant and without vision,
Hollow ears longing for a word,
Yet so empty in staggering silence,
Wearied heart anxious to feel,
Yet so cold stone hard and dead.

My Lord, I have loved You
Longer than I have Known Your Name,
Yet soaring now on Your own certainties,
Tethered joyfully on the string of Your own Word
Of Your mercies long pouring;
Oil of grace upon my undeserving soul.

Longings satisfied falling in Your arms,
Still eyes overcome in brilliant light,
Ears flowing with Your sweet song,
Sad heart changed in a moment’s time;
To hold and see and hear and love You,
So long desired and now embraced,
Oh unearned grace, Oh mercy full that
You found me, calling me by name.

Henry Lewis
31 May 2008

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Passion at Sixty

It is now sixty years I am upon this place, this world, this tangle of earthly pursuits.
And what am I to say? I am an infinite debtor to my Lord. I owe a sum beyond all measures.
Yet I have been bought with a sacred price. And the trail I follow is His own Calvary road.
Oh, if I could somehow embrace this road, the harsh struggles, the deep abiding joys;
If I could somehow place my feet in His own steps, or weep forever upon His nail-pierced hands.
Yet it is enough He loves me. He loves me even with my so many sins and wayward wanders.
It is now sixty years I am upon this place, this world, this tangle of heartrending sorrows.
And what am I to say? I love Him with a deepening passion, yes, so much more. A holy love.
Oh more the love for He has held me near, heart-beating near through many dark nights.
He has been my true Friend, my Champion. He has held my head when all was lost upon my sea.
He has my life; I gave it to Him long ago, though I would give it a thousand times and then again.
He is the world to me, no less. He is my only breath, my heart, my joy, my sole abiding passion.
It is now sixty years I am upon this place, this world, as my eyes fix upon my Sovereign Redeemer.

Henry Lewis
5 October 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Struggles as a Place of Expectation

The trail goes on. There is a call of God on our lives. It is a song. When I sit quietly before Him I hear the ache and longing, I feel the pull of eternity and His whispers – songs beckoning me to Him, drawing me. Oh, to be like Him, loving Him more fully and clearly, knowing Him more perfectly. This is the song. Yet at times the weariness of the road wears on me, the sameness, the drone, the constant pressure in this fallen place on the redeemed heart. We take the long road. We run the trails.

Stirred from a fitful attempt to sleep by the flight attendants and the promise of something to eat, I cracked my eyes open a bit, dropped my tray table, and awaited the breakfast meal. We were coming into Buenos Aires after an almost 9 ½ hour leg from Atlanta. I had begun my journey from Minneapolis, and had been traveling since a 2pm takeoff the day before. I glanced over my left shoulder and caught an image of a radiant orange band of light indicating an approaching dawn. A short time later the sun was streaming into the window of our aircraft. It was Sunday morning over Argentina.

My previous entry to this blog was written at the end of January. It is now the end of March. Almost two full months have passed with many trails and adventures, and little time to chronicle the wonder along the way. It is time to reflect and time to share some of the texture of these passing days. There was a modest run of 5.53 miles near Austin, Texas, a few runs near my home in Minnesota in various directions and distances, 10.13, 4.25, and 15 miles. A few treadmill workouts in upstate New York, and a couple of runs in Buenos Aires of 6.25 and 10.5 miles with temperatures in the mid-80Fs and humidity standing at 87% in a near dead calm. These last runs a week ago in Argentina pushed me to new levels of endurance as I purposely layered them with intense elliptical, interval workouts to challenge myself. When I arrived at the hotel yesterday, I cleaned up, had a real breakfast, slept for two hours, and went for an 8 mile run in the same park as two weeks ago – Ecologica Reserva along the Rio de la Plata. The temperature was 79F, 79% humidity – again, a dead calm - perfect for an endurance workout. This run was a real study in determination and endurance. I began the run physically flat-lined, nearly exhausted from my travels, but set myself to run at least 6 miles. As it turned out, I was reluctant to stop at 6, so I just kept plodding along through the heat and discomfort. It was good for me.

As we cling to Him through struggles there is a deepening in our hearts, a growing trust and anticipation of His glory. I love this place of expectation. The difficulties seem to fade to the background as we focus on His loving purposes through the hardship. The trails seem to offer me a place to train for life’s deeper struggles. And – as with the running – I find a growing trust and anticipation of His glory through the hard things.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
Asaph [Psalm 73:23-25]

The trails continue for me, and I run them as I can. I find a feast, a richness of life along these winding ways. But I hear His song. Yes, the way grows weary and the road is long. But this is a trail that I have not charted. Another much wiser than I laid this route before me before time began. And so I run. I run with my whole heart. I train along these trails for the struggles yet unseen. I find the wonders with every turn and savor the glory He has scattered in abundance all around me. Sometimes the song comes on the wind or in the melody of birds. Sometimes the laughter of children lifts my soul to heaven. And so I run. Will you come along? Will you set your course to run? There is a call on the wind. Do you hear it? Let us run hard and true. Let us not be set back by hardship and struggle, but push on and savor these trails laid out before us.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dance Along Eternity’s Glimmering Edge

Sometimes when I run I discover a new world, an enchanted place for dreaming where my imagination drifts high into the heavens and seems to brush the divine. Almost as an afterthought, I skirt the edges of eternity and run past a thousand sacred moments in my pursuit of lesser things. How do I miss the holy moments so easily, and casually overlook the deepest considerations? Friday morning, 29 January 2010, at 8:32am I was standing on the trail’s edge anxious to get moving. I had lingered a half hour longer than planned enjoying a second cup of coffee. But now I faced my next challenge and was itching to go. It was a quiet morning in Saint Edwards State Park near Seattle, hazy without direct sunlight, subdued, still; a canvas as yet unpainted. I was planning an intense workout, and that is just what I got. I ran three circuits - each including a steep descent down the North Trail, running along Lake Washington, a steep climb up the South Trail, returning down the South Trail descending hard, along the water again, and pounding up the North Trail. Three of these circuits measured a total of 10.6 miles in 3:01 hours ascending 4314 feet and descending 4348. This was a lot of up and down in the space of 10 miles over 3 hours – at least for me. And I felt fabulous after the run. This certainly was one of my strongest workouts to date.

But the forest gave me much to think about, and the thoughts have lingered on in my mind. As I moved along the trails, the old growth forests hung heavy with time and age, the massive trunks of standing pines, the ancient fern beds and ivy cover, and ever present moss gathering at the whisper of any moist, northern exposure. I could feel the near timelessness of the place. And in it all I felt as if the forest itself was hung as a rich curtain of opulent colors and fragrance, draped in time and mystery and a thousand stories of love and sorrow – and I was running through it unaware of the magnitude of the moment or the place; running on the edge of many other lives. Each step a sound, an echo, a ripple back to other moments and adventures. At times the trail was nothing but a blur, at other times I took in its great detail. I passed numerous shelters that wildlife had used, hollowed trunks and burrows. I wondered about the shelter I have found in the Word of God and in His faithfulness. As I crashed down a steep descent I felt His courage rise within me. As I began a steep climb with no energy left within me, I found His strength sufficient to each step. And as I ran, as I pushed beyond the limits I had known it seemed in some measure that I needed to set myself aside, to die to my efforts –again and again, casting myself on Him, on His sure faithfulness. With each moment I needed to die to me so that I could live to Him.

The great curtain of forest hangs before us all with every trail we run. This wonderland of beauty carries us away with its loveliness and seems to press us into another world beyond. The trails we run are not the simple trails of creatures earthbound and common. Rather, these trails – they are pathways to the heart, trails to truer things. These trails let us dance and weave along eternity’s glimmering edge. We play in this timeless majesty. We are hearing the sounds of heaven in the small gurgling brooks, catching the fragrance of His glory in the ancient aroma of the woodlands, and feeling the wing of an angel on the edge of a passing breeze. Step high, my friend, along these trails that we run together. Oh, may we run hard and true. Step high for we encounter things more sacred and pure than ever we would have thought. We hear the voice of God as He whispers to our hearts for we have seen Him painting a canvas with every trail we have ever run.