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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bridge from Despair to Hope

The light is coming now. In the growing light I have expectations. I watch the last day of 2009 unwrap itself with possibility. And yet the weariness is there. The world weighs on me. I set aside this quiet despair and choose my ever-present hope, “the lifter of my head”.

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." [Psalm 3:3]

I cling, as I do each morning of my life, to the Lord Jesus. We cross this bridge together – He and I - from despair to hope in twinkling of the eye; in a moment of the heart; as the day dawns. I reach for Him and His deep, firm comforts, and the haunting shadows slip away. The world looses its hold on me. The light increases, the day breaks, the sun rises - a fresh, new morning. The Lord has made all things new. It will be a good day.

Today I feel my sore muscles from the 10K winter run yesterday. It took me 1:31 hours to cover 6.2 miles. Several days before, my daughter Abbey was looking for a run, so we laid down a bit over 5K in the afternoon in about 39 minutes. Over these most holy days my running has been irregular, so I expect to feel the soreness and impact of almost any run. But I was determined to run early yesterday morning. The night before, I set out my things so that I could push out the door as soon as I woke. The challenge was simply to leap over that first hurdle, to break through that initial resistance, and get to the thing at hand. And so I found myself on the edge of Purgatory Park at 6:30am yesterday morning. It was dark, but just so. I decided against the headlamp in this earliest dim light of darkness, and pushed off to the left, clockwise, up the slope along the plowed trail that surrounds the park. This is a circuit of 1.23 miles, undulating hills and gentle slopes with numerous pleasant perspectives - when you can see them. I was enjoying the early morning brace of raw cold and the bite in the occasion breeze, my feet crunching along the ice and snow, a rhythm in footfalls, almost quiet, and so peaceful – yes, restful almost. Here a person can sort things out, can pray and worship and wait on the counsel of the Lord in the breathtaking silence of early morning. Words are few, thoughts are heaven bound, and my feet trace a trail along the snowy ways. I take the gentle inclines as they come, and once each circuit (I will make five circuits plus a little), I climb steeply to the park’s summit, off-road on a single foot trail, carved by those of us who simply cannot resist the glorious pleasure of this view from highest spot above the park. With each climb to the summit I pause amazed, and gaze out across the breathtaking vista. A fairly small park - but so beautiful. It is rich with God’s fingerprints. This park may be one of His smaller canvases as far as landscapes, but His work is masterful and divine; glory-laden wonders laid out plain for us. You don’t need to be a theologian to see His sign here. It is plain.

"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!" [Psalm 115:1]

The light is coming. How could you ever miss God here? It seems impossible. And then I resume the run, the rhythm along the snowy path in the ever-increasing light of the morning. The rhythm, the cadence of life that has come to expect God’s wonder in a thousand twists and surprises; the ever-turning, cycling seasons; the crazy madcap wonder in a child’s joy and delight; the sun and rain, the blazing glory of the rising sun each day as God whispers His common grace across the morning. I resume my run into His wonder, into His grace. I run because of Him.

Sometimes when I look back over my shoulder I catch a glimpse of despair approaching. I feel the weight and troubles, the darkness of the world and the weariness, hope seems to hang lifeless there. And the darkness begins to close in on me. Then He comes - bold, light of dawn, breaking across the horizon.

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'” [Revelation 21:5]

The Lord comes as I have been taught by every sunrise that I have ever seen. He comes in glory and wonder, and He comes in His faithfulness and hope. He comes as I place my hope and trust in Him. No, the troubles will not vanish, but he will give me the strength to run, to love, to forgive. He will lift me as I reach out to Him. He will comfort me as I listen to Him. His words are true and simple. I hear my footsteps crunching on the snowy trail. I feel the rhythm in my steps that He has taught me over the many miles together. His grace abounds and it only remains for me to accept His love in this dark, harsh world. I feel the cold, but even the bite of winter reminds me of His constant provision and grace. Oh, may we run! May we feel His kindness with each step along the trail. Let’s run hard and true! Oh, may we run hard and true for Him. Come with me today, my friend. Life’s trails lay out before us, and they are unknown to us. How shall we run and for whom?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Weight of Wonder and a Feast

The trails wind out before us and our feet have touched a thousand places as the wonders have spread out before our eyes. We are captives of these fleeting glories, wanderers in this special world created for us by the loving hands of God. We are most blessed.

It is Tuesday morning, 8 December 2009, Kolkata India. Yesterday I ran a 5K on the hotel treadmill. Today I will do a 10K on the same machine. It has been over a month since I have written in this place about the trails we run and the struggles we face on the way. And like you all, the trails and challenges continue whether we write or not. Since the last time I wrote, I have traveled 45,000 miles and dusted the trails and treadmills in four counties on three continents. And the trails and struggles have attended me with each new place. Each fresh trail has offered a feast of difficulties and a feast of things to behold. Along with the struggles, I have found beauty and wonder that stretches my heart and sends my spirit to soaring to new heights. These wings to fly seem to come of the rarified air in the times of struggle and hardship. So I cannot turn away from the hard places. They are by design for my good. The difficulties seem to prepare our hearts to see with more clarity and insight. Is it the same for you?

Since I wrote of the old growth forests, the ancient trees and their abiding mystery, I have been many places – almost moving too quickly to pause and appreciate, to allow the air of each new place to tease me into a run and into fresh discoveries. Looking back over these weeks, the past lays out in a crazy, wandering line. But let me share. Late October found me pounding out a 10.36 mile trail run in the Reserva Ecologica in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In early November I managed a 10K and a 5K treadmill run in Sao Paulo, Brazil, followed a few days later by a 13.86 mile run in the Parque Ibirapuera. Returning to Buenos Aires in mid-November, I managed to squeeze in a 7.13 mile run in the Reserva Ecologica. Returning home, I had the opportunity to run a 5K on Thanksgiving (26 November). A good friend of mine, Brian, suggested running from his home (insert 6:30am start and 6.75 miles here) to the 5K event. It was wonderful. An early morning run in the pre-dawn darkness. My total for the day – 9.85 miles. In late November/early December, I returned to Buenos Aires only briefly – enough to drop a 5K on a treadmill – and head for home before coming to India. This is a recap of my last 9 runs.

I could almost fit these nine runs on the back of a postcard. But could I? No. It cannot be done. For truly each run, each experience and challenge we lay before ourselves and follow through on - each one carries a weight of wonder and a feast for the heart’s enchantment. A mere description of place and time and distance cannot capture the spirit of the place, the struggles and attitudes, the dark challenges that tell us to give up and quit; no mere recap can capture the lovely rays of light that dance on leaves, a thousand glimmering jewels of dew and the early morning breeze coming from the Río de la Plata near Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires. It takes your whole heart. It is not words, it is life. These are not mere facts to be listed. Rather, they are the fingerprints of the living God on our lives - His world spun into being by His own hand; and we are given the opportunity to handle it, to see and smell it’s deep hues, and wonder at it manifold complexities and mystery. We are given this window to see Him and know that He is there. I would not miss this for the world.

The trails will continue and the wonder will never cease. He is Lord and His world declares His greatness each time we slip on our shoes and start down a trail. We, each of us in our own way, begin to see Him more clearly and with greater reverence than the last trail we ran. I must run and I must declare His place along the road. Will you come along and see? Will you run the trails and watch for His unmistakable fingerprints in every living thing? I hope to see you soon. Let’s run together and see. Let’s run hard and true into the breaking light and the glories that abound.