Sunday, January 24, 2010

"Scared People Make Me Sick"

Well, not really.

Scared people don't make me sick, it's just that I've heard a businesswoman speak a few times, and she's someone I respect very much. One thing that she says that always sticks with me is that "scared people make [her] sick."

Thinking on that note this morning I decided to go rollerblading alone. Well, it was a beautiful day, wasn't it? Maybe a tad windy, but that didn't bother me too much -- I like a little breeze in my hair. See, the problem is that I haven't gone in probably over a year, and my strongest memory is that of not being too good at stopping. Going is not a problem. I have pretty good wheels and they're well-oiled and my balance in motion is okay. When I want to stop moving, however, everything get's ruined. I lose my balance and start waving backward, and strangely enough, any time I try to employ the techniques taught me by the boy in the store for how to slow down on skates, I swear I go even faster! As a result, the last time I went rollerblading on a beautiful day, I wiped out, all wheels in the air, as I tried to cross the street and got tripped up by a patch of textured pavement. I grabbed a hold on the wooden post in the middle of the entrance to the crosswalk, and managed to win multiple splinters the size of toothpicks! Somehow I know I still thought it was fun.

This afternoon I set off on a gloriously cool, sunny, breezy day. At first I planned to stick to the cul de sac and just make some rounds, trying to teach myself to put on the brakes. That didn't last too long as the scenery and the threat of speeding neighbors anxious to get home made me nervous and bored at the same time. I ventured out slowly onto the jogging trail behind my apartment complex. It was all feeling much safer, so I decided just to keep going and practicing, promising myself that I would stop as soon as I got to the 'big' road and I would just turn around.

You know, I really love rollerblades. They are so much easier for me than running, and more gratifying. I love running, but when I run, I always feel inhibited. I want to be able to sprint along and feel the breeze whipping back my hair and clearing my head as I slice through it. On foot I just don't have the power. On wheels I am fast as can be and there's no stopping me (as previously discussed). I daydream about Heaven and how fast I'll be able to run there, but in the meantime I get my jollies on wheels. Blades are better than bikes, too, because bikes are so much more cumbersome and they really take it out of me when I have to go uphill. Ok ok, so I'm a wimp.

When I got to the big road today, called Independence, I was full of turning-back intentions. I was calculating my turnaround point when the nagging thought about my own fearfulness and lack of adventure started getting louder and louder. Independence is a proper job of a three-lane road, two-way (so 6 lanes?), and with a speed limit of 40 miles per hour that many ambitious people stretch to 48 or 53. I decided to cross it, or at least try to make it to the little island in the middle.

It was slow going, but I did it, and without wiping out on the bumpy patches. I had to plot it out before venturing into the road. I had to envision just where my re-entry point to the jogging trail from the road would be. I had to calculate the speed of oncoming cars and choose whether or not I could make it without being hit by a car, taking into account the worst-case scenarios (falling, having to crawl across, etc.).

I couldn't help but relate my blades with my every day life, and the things that I fear. I couldn't help but consider the times I turn around or simply hold back, and don't invest myself in activities that are downright healthy just because I'm afraid that once I get going I won't be able to stop -- and then what might become of me? Have you ever feared that if you really give your life over to Christ, He will ask something of you that you aren't prepared to give? Have you feared that He'll want you to walk through dangerous passes where there's no time to calculate the safe route and the speed of oncoming threats?

The fact of the matter is, I'm pretty sure He will lead us through those intimidating places. And truthfully, I think we get a lot sicker sitting on the couch and worrying about the possibilities than just getting out there and get done with what's good for us. Things for me are so, so good right now. In this safe place, I'd better get all the practice I can at remember God's goodness, trusting in His faithfulness, and turning to Him for help with all my everyday things. Then, when the emergencies come and times get tough, hopefully I can apply my strategies where they belong.

"Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The Lord is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles' wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint."

(Isaiah 40:29-31)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Poor We Always Have

"So Jesus said, 'Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.'" (John 12:7-8)

I don't know if Mary understood that Jesus' death was approaching, or if she anointed his feet with aromatic oil because of her gratitude that He saved her brother Lazarus from the grave. Perhaps she was just trying to say that she loved Him and believed in Him, that He was Who He said He was. Regardless of her motivation (although the many options to consider are very intriguing), Mary took something very expensive (a years wages), and poured it on her beloved friend's feet. Could I ever turn a years wages -- or even a weeks wages! -- into something so quickly vanishing as fragrant oil, and then pour it on Jesus?

Could I ever turn a years wages -- or even a weeks wages! -- into something I gave entirely to Jesus, to declare my belief that He is worthy?

The poor, the homeless, and the hungry are staples of this life. They will always be with us, coexisting under the sun. By contrast, Jesus is very clear in the Gospel of John that our time to believe in Him and follow Him is extremely limited. We have a short bit of time to choose whether we will believe and "see the glory of God" (John 11:40), or ... not. When Jesus says it, He makes it sound so simple. Then we overcomplicate things. Even when He walked the earth, He had to walk His beloved friends through what it really meant to believe Him and walk in the light. I know He will do the same for us now, just differently.

Now that Jesus has ascended into Heaven, while I wait for Him to come take us with Him, He has been clear that if I'd like to be close to Him like Mary was, if I'd be interested in anointing His feet with perfumed oil, then I will anoint the feet of the "least of these," and I will have done it to Him. This is a hard saying for me, as the Gospels might say. It is easy enough to give money, or to maintain a safe level of abstraction through fasting and prayer. What about touching the hungry? What about speaking with the poor? What about those full and rich, whose spirits are still "the least"? I'd like to pass judgment and keep them all at a distance for my own safety, but I can't do that. I want to know Jesus, so I know where to go.

And it just struck me that the least of these are not far away. They are sometimes right around the corner, or at the end of my drive to work, or on the other end of the cell phone telling me how they lost themselves, to my bewilderment. Sometimes it is easier for me to sort of lose touch a little bit. Yuck -- "easier for me"? Jesus, I don't know what to say. I don't know how to show your love to them. I am a proud, blundering mess. While we still have the opportunity to share Your light, teach me how to share it with them. I have it, and they need it. I need courage! I need resourcefulness! Help!

Approaching another Monday, I am keeping in mind what a friend wrote to me this week. ... I am recording it here so that I can remember it.:

"It's easy to become desensitized to a problem as big as hunger. I mean, the numbers are truly overwhelming. And we have so many choices here, from very cheap to very expensive. Sometimes it feels like doing something on a personal level has so little impact, but then you remember the widow and her two mites. It's not about the overall impact of your $5, or your commitment to fasting. It's about honoring (and trusting) God through honoring others over ourselves." -James E. Craig

So whether I eat or drink (or don't), may it all be for the glory of God!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Learn From Others

"As I reflect on my mile today, I realize that maybe I am holding onto things that I should not. They stick to us like stinky slime and I will be praying about what those things might be. What are you holding onto that while you can't see it, is sticking to you and making you just plain stink?"

Please check out my friend Tris's blog! It's a really cool record of her 100 Day Assignment from God. I think we can all benefit from her commitment, honesty, and perseverance.