Friday, February 21, 2014

My Olympic Dream (Two-Man Bob-a-Luge)

 So there I was at the Olympic reunion party, when I suddenly realized, “Hey, I’m an Olympian!”  Yup, I won a bronze medal in the two-man luge.  Well, actually it was a combination of luge and bob-sled as I remember it.

You see, I just happened to be at the Olympics (because, you know, people just show up there without reason), when this big burly guy comes up to me.  I think I knew him; he seemed familiar.  Apparently, something had happened to his buddy at the last minute, and he was in desperate need of a new partner if he was to compete.  Being the happy-go-lucky person that I am, I naturally said, “Sure!”  Hey, I've been sledding before, why not?  Two-man bob-a-luge?  Bring it on!

“You don’t have to do anything,” he said as we worked our way to the top of the slide, “You sit and I’ll do the running.”  So I curled up on the back of the sled while he grabbed the bar and ran, then hopped on, bob-sled formation on the luge-style sled.  We won the bronze!  It was a proud moment.

This was my dream the other night.  I wouldn't have made much of it (other than to note I’m probably watching too much Bob Costas—a fact easily confirmed every day in school when our kids break out in another rendition of the Olympic theme song!), but someone jokingly suggested I analyze it.  This time I didn't slide down the ice-covered track so quickly, but it came to me later that God is very like that big burly guy.  He’s familiar.  He sometimes asks us to do crazy things like the bob-a-luge.  He has the plan, the course is slick and sometimes dangerous with lots of twists and turns—but He’ll be in charge.  He provides the speed and energy, the steering, and the sled.  And since my face is buried in His back, I might not always know what’s ahead.

God doesn’t say that we must be the best, that we must win—He says, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Cor 9:24)  He’s looking for our faithfulness: that we run with perseverance; that we don’t give up.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”  I Cor. 9:25

The muscle we strengthen, train, race with, is faith.

 “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope…You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”  Gal. 5:5, 7

The truth, the supporting ligament-thoughts are critical to our faith, just as they are to an Olympian.  What is this truth we must cling to, that gets clipped by lies when Satan storms in like a soon-to-be-disqualified short-track speed-skater and sends us sprawling into the boards on our backs?  Righteousness comes through the Spirit, and not by human effort (Gal. 3:3)

Sometimes we doubt the surety of God’s faithfulness, of His never-failing loving-kindness, that He truly doesn’t count our sins against us.  We unwittingly fill our minds with a guilt that condemns—sometimes we lay sprawled on the ice, convinced of our own inadequacy and not accepting the hand up God offers.

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”  Col 1:22-23

This is our race, to firmly trust in the hope held out in the Gospel.  I think all of life requires Olympic level training for our faith—but chronic illness is surely an event that brings the necessity of that training to the forefront.

When I consider how my light is spent*
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts' who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
—John Milton

God doesn’t look at us as excess baggage when we ride with Him—He delights in us, and amazingly He shares the glory with us.  They also serve who only stand and wait.

“…The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 1 Samuel 30:24b. 

We finish the race, together.  And someday you’ll find yourself at that Great Reunion in the sky, and say with surprise, “Hey, I’m an Olympian!”

Still Running the Race, Merry

* Milton went totally blind in 1651 & wrote this ca. 1652.  By the way, the "one talent which is death to hide" is a reference to the parable of the talents & the servant who buried his talent instead of using it. What a struggle to want to use that talent instead, but be restricted. Also, "fondly" then meant foolishly, which makes more sense! (I fondly ask = I foolishly ask).

© copyright February, 2006

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Awards Presentation!

Presentation of Awards for Invisible Illness, Visible God
I'm honored and humbled to receive a Bronze Medal for the Devotional Category of the Illumination Book Awards. My husband Dave has been disabled by an “Invisible” Illness for 13 years now (he was eventually diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease). In fact, I find it staggering that nearly one in two Americans has some kind of invisible illness—something they deal with on a daily basis that others can’t really see, whether it’s cancer, asthma, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, chemical sensitivities, or any number of other conditions.

Sometimes a diagnosis comes quickly, and other times we can search for years, trying to find out what’s wrong with ourselves or a loved one.  Either way, the answers can come as a crushing shock. One day our world comes to a screeching halt—but the rest of the world continues on, largely oblivious.

In some ways, many more of us have an “invisible illness.”  Not all hurts come with a diagnosis. Anyone who has lived with the pain of broken dreams, unmet expectations, the death of a loved one, regrets, fears, worries—has lived with a private pain that the world just can’t see.

But God sees. God understands. God cares. And Jesus continually intercedes and acts on our behalf with power.  He is:
…one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life…
~ Hebrews 7:16
When I first read this, I was blown away because I realized that since Jesus is in me, then this power of an indestructible life is in me, and I could rest in that power. Something more powerful than my emotions, a peace that passes understanding! And since we are in Christ—this peace is a sure refuge. This inspired me to write Invisible Illness, Visible God: When Pain Meets the Power of an Indestructible Life.

We are not powerless. 

Jesus is our priest on the basis of the power of an indestructible life—an immense power to overcome immense pain. On our own we drum up despair, depression, thoughts of death—and he comes to save us with life-giving power. God offers us the ability to walk through the flames and come out more beautiful. God enables us to choose life over death, and to choose love over bitterness. We are weak, but his power rescues us. He is the better hope by which we draw near to God.

Often we want the physical miracle, the visible one—and sometimes instead he makes himself and his love visible to us. Pain meets the Power of an Indestructible Life, full on, face to face—and God calls us to fix our eyes on him.

The power of an Indestructible Life

His love endures forever—Psalm 107:1
His faithfulness reaches to the skies—Psalm 108:4
His righteousness endures forever—Psalm 111:3
His salvation lasts forever—Isaiah 51:6
His covenant is everlasting—Ezekiel 37:26
He betroths us to him forever—Hosea 2:19
He puts his Name on us forever—1 Kings 9:3
His sanctuary is among us forever—Ezekiel 37:26
He lives with us forever—2 John 2
He will swallow up death forever—Isaiah 25:8
He reigns forever—Psalm 9:7
He gives us his Holy Spirit forever—John 14:6
His word stands forever—1 Peter 1:25
He remembers his covenant forever—Psalm 111:5
He is a priest forever, he has sworn!—Hebrews 7:21

Imagine—Jesus never, ever stops interceding for you, his beloved, his delight.  He uses the greatest, most extraordinary power that exists on our behalf, to be our priest, our intercessor, our guarantee, our hope. He could condemn us and instead betroths us and unites us with him.

Indestructible life.  Forever.  That is the surety, the rock, of his covenant with us.

His mighty power encouraged me in my darkest days, and I pray that you also will draw strength from his power.

Invisible Illness, Visible God: Illumination Bronze Medal Winner

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Run to Get the Prize

" Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

--1 Corinthians 9:24-25

With Bugler's Dream and Olympic Fanfare echoing in our minds for the next three weeks, we get to rejoice with the victories and groan with the defeats of athletes who have been preparing for years. They train mind and body to win a coveted prize, to push themselves to greater extents and discipline themselves to persevere through injuries and setbacks. Sometimes when one falls I feel a sympathetic pain in my knee or chest, sharing the impact with them. And when one overcomes severe odds, I can't help but feel my heart soar as they fly down their course or through the air, expressing freedom, speed, and artistry in the unique ways of their specific disciplines.

We, too, are in training. I'm meditating on Psalm 119 this month as I prepare for a study, and the Psalmist so eloquently expresses the passion and discipline we need as we train for our forever crown. His heart is fixed on God and his word--he rejoices, delights, and sets his heart on God's laws. God's statutes are his counselors, and God's goodness to him is his very life. When he is sucker-punched by life, he doesn't wallow, but keeps his focus--he knows the One to run to, the One who gives him strength and preserves his life--the one who sets his heart free.

Daily he does the active exercise that training and discipline require: he seeks the Lord and hides his word in his heart. He considers, chooses, learns, obeys, follows, praises, recounts the Lord's ways. He runs in the path of the Lord. His soul is consumed with longing for God's laws.

Does life seem mundane? Don't forget, we are in training, and we serve an amazing Lord. Be enthralled with him again. Does life seem overwhelming? Fix your eyes on the one who preserves your life when you are "laid low in the dust." Remember the one who answers, strengthens, opens our eyes, gives us life, and sets our hearts free. In him we truly soar.