Oh, shoot! It’s love! #(31days)

 

 

I’ve got a new set of highlighters. They’ve got some fancy new gel system in them. Guaranteed not to bleed, smear, or run. The original text shines through the bright pink, orange, or yellow. But they’re about as precise as crayons.

As I glanced back through the pages I had just read, there it was. One solitary word highlighted with a messy pink highlighter.IMG_9695

Hesed.

The Hebrew word for “unfailing love.”

Those words filled me. A love that never fails. Ever.

Unconditional love is amazing enough. A love you don’t get based on your achievements and don’t keep based on your own merits. It’s a love that is always there and is never changing. It doesn’t make sense. But it exists.

But unfailing… that’s a different idea altogether. It’s an action word. It means a love that pursues and succeeds. A love that will battle for you…and win. It’s a love that will do whatever it takes to demonstrate and express itself. Even if it means a fight to the death on your behalf.

Hesed. Unfailing love. This was the word used around 275 times in reference to God in the Hebrew Bible. Then it was demonstrated and documented in the New Testament.

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Romans 5:8 (HCSB)

Oh, shoot! It’s the shoes! (#31days)

IMG_9681It’s not the shoes.

I have this awesome pair of shoes. In fact, I affectionately refer to them as my awesome shoes of awesomeness. I get more comments on these shoes than any I’ve ever owned. And I used to wear checkered Vans! If the way a shoe looked could give us special abilities, I’d be setting all kinds of records right now.

The problem with my awesome shoes of awesomeness (ASOA) is the feet that go in them. Well, and the legs attached to those feet. And the lungs in the body that is attached to the legs that connect to the feet that are inside the ASOA.

You see, I’m a heel striker. A what? Well, for as long as I can remember, when I run I lead with my heel. I throw my leg far out in front of me and let my heel take the impact of the momentum I’ve generate by leaping forward. In my mind, I’ve got this graceful, fluid cycle that my legs revolve through. I land effortlessly, my energy gliding forward as the weight on my foot rolls from my heel to my toe, which then launches my body forward. In reality, though, every time my foot lands it’s like I’m throwing on the IMG_9682brakes. The shock of the impact halts my momentum as it travels up my leg and through the rest of my body. It’s like I’m trying to beat the asphalt into submission using the full weight of my body. Once it’s out of my way, I’ll go faster. I’ll be unstoppable!

Breaking this habit is hard. It takes discipline, practice, and personal coaching. It’s like re-learning how to run. I haven’t done it yet.

In the meantime, what lessons can I learn from this?

Well, the first is that even when we feel like we’re pushing forward with all our might, it’s possible that we’ve left the brakes on without realizing it. We feel like we’re nowhere near as far as we expected nor as fast, and the reason isn’t clear. Take a break to check your equipment for signs of wear. The inner heel of all my shoes show the same wear pattern. That was my first clue that I’m such an awful heel striker. That’s how I know I’m applying the brakes with every step. That principle applies to other areas of life, too. What have you been striving for? Why aren’t you there yet? The answer might be right in front of you. Or directly underneath you.

IMG_9680The second lesson is just as important. You see, even as a guy that runs with my parking brake on, I’ve completed quite a few sanctioned 5K runs. Yeah, I finished. Repeatedly. This reminds me that even if we aren’t perfect, we can still push forward. We can still accomplish what we are working toward. Because you’re awesome. With or without the shoes.

 

 

 

Oh, shoot! The moon! (#31days)

IMG_9553Yesterday’s post has generated more “real world” comments than any I’ve ever posted. I’m grateful for everyone that believes in me and I appreciate the kind words. Every single one of them.

As I embark on this insane journey, I continue to wrestle. There will be a lot of reading. There will be a lot of writing. I’m sure there will be ambiguity to work through. I’m not good with ambiguity.

This journey I’ve been on for seven years now has been full of twists and turns that I never would have imagined. I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie. Yet I keep trying to say “yes” to anything God has for me. Working with authenticity and love with people experience life’s lowest points. A few overseas missions. Soup dinners. Teaching classes. Opening our home to non-family members and doing our best to show them they are family to us. It’s been a wild ride.IMG_9557

And now this. Why? The words of my oldest son’s favorite speech came echoing back to me today.

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. — John F. Kennedy

Because it is hard. Sometimes that’s the point. When we follow God past the point where we can make it on our own, it forces us to lean on Him. We learn more about Him, and we learn more about ourselves. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to be self-sufficient. We weren’t created to be independent, though. Our souls crave interdependence, even though it’s messy. Even though it’s hard.

We often fool ourselves into believing we want a life of comfort. But comfort doesn’t satisfy us. At best, it satiates us, but only temporarily. We were created to push farther, to dig deeper, and to change the world. We were created to exceed our limits, but not alone. With each other. And with our Creator.IMG_9555

This part of my journey will challenge me. I’m going to need help. The bonds I have with the people in my communities will be tested. I’m sure some of those will break. But some will strengthen. New ones will form as well. Ultimately, it will be beautiful.

My dependence on Christ will be tested, as well. It is one thing to know the right things to say on Sundays when asked. Lingo can be mastered. Attendance at church isn’t an indicator of spiritual depth. Even mission trips can be “successful” while maintaining self-reliance. So it’s important to push past all of that. And so I am.

Where is God calling you that is past your point of comfort? Where is He calling you that is hard? Maybe it’s another country. Maybe it’s someplace closer. But He is calling you to something.

 

 

 

Oh, shoot! I’m crazy! (#31days)

 

IMG_9634I’m insane. Clinically, certifiably insane.

I graduated from college in 1997 with a couple of degrees. I graduated again in 2005 with another one. It’s been almost exactly nine years since I put my pencil down on after a final exam.

Two days from now, class starts again. Am I a bit nervous? No. That’s too much of an understatement. It goes beyond nerves. I’m scared. Terrified, even. Even though this is familiar territory, this leap is more mentally disrupting than I expected.

My books were delivered today. My online account was activated this week. I’m in that magically uncomfortable space somewhere between “This is real” and “you’re going to be able to do this.”

There are a few people around who confident in me. People that have been through this. People that know me. They believe in me.

I have frequently told people, “I believe in you, even when YOU don’t believe in you.” As an outsider looking in, we can see the ability, character, talents, and potential in others without the burden of that internal critic that can be so overwhelming and loud. I guess that’s what I need my closest friends to echo back to me right now.

 

Oh, shoot! It’s Over! (#31days)

Tonight, I returned to That Place I like to Watch the Sun Set. It was beautiful. As the sun disappeared behind the hills on the other side of the river, the majestic colors bounced off the clouds.

And then… it was over.

The sun was gone. The last of the fading sunbeams glanced off the clouds, ending the day with a delicate kiss. I stood in awe as the orange faded to pink and then toward blackness.

But October 9th had one surprise left.

Thirty minutes after the sun disappeared, even more beams of light exploded over the horizon. An eternity after the beauty had faded, one last burst appeared. It was as if Thursday was telegraphing a reminder. Never give up. Even after the light has faded. Light can be persistent. Even after we think it’s too late. The light breaks through.

Oh, shoot! It’s dark! (#31days)

IMG_9522I woke up around 4:30 this morning. It was dark.

I drove to one of my favorite spots. It’s commonly referred to as “the place I like to watch the sun set.” Many hours have been spent there, along the bank of the Arkansas River, pointing my camera at the fleeing sun. I thought it’d be a great spot to catch the setting of the blood moon.

I shut off my lights as I pulled up at my spot. When I threw the CRV into park, my door unlocked automatically. I shut the car off and looked around. It was dark. I was alone. Everything was still. Great conditions for trying to get some shots of the blood moon over the river. Click. I locked the door.

Great conditions for getting murdered by a deranged lunatic.

Maybe I watched too many horror movies in junior high. Maybe there wasn’t a crazy man with a chainsaw hanging around the banks of the Arkansas River at 5AM on a Wednesday morning. I evaluated my surroundings for a good 15 seconds and decided to try somewhere else. I started up the CRV, threw it into gear, and high-tailed it home. I was a mile away before I realized I had the car in “2” instead of “D.”IMG_9521

Once I arrived at the well-lit and comfortable safety of my house, I grabbed a ladder and climbed onto the roof. For the next hour, I watched the lunar eclipse and tried to snap a few pictures. The stars were beautiful and so was the lightning flashing in the west.

So what’s the moral of the story? There will be times of darkness. Times when you’ll feel alone. Times when you think a deranged lunatic is going to kill you. When you’re in that spot–no matter how irrational it may really be–it will be impossible to move forward. It’s okay to retreat. It’s okay to seek out a safe and familiar place. It’s okay to go home.

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And it’s always okay to sit on the roof.

 

 

 

Oh, shoot! I need a sign! (#31days)

IMG_9486I’ve been a seeker all my life. When the thought of God would cross my mind when I was younger, I’d frequently think: “God, if you are really there, show me a sign. If you show me a sign, I’ll believe.”

For years I didn’t see a single one. From the mountains of Colorado while hiking the continental divide to glaciers cleaving in Glacier Bay National park, God was silent. Eventually, I stopped asking.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (‭Psalm‬ ‭19‬:‭1‬ ESV)

Now I look at the sky and wonder how I missed it for so long. Creation is simply too exquisite, complex, and magnificent to be an accident. There are too many subtle touches, too many fascinating oddities. So much fragile beauty.IMG_9485

Now I look at a breathtaking sunrise and wonder “what does it say about the Creator that He shows us this?”

When I see sights like these pictured here, it reminds me of the nature of God. He is good. He is a source of hope and wonder. He is more grand, majestic, creative, and powerful than I can comprehend. And yet He loves us enough to keep sending us signs.

What signs have you seen?