Monday, November 12, 2012

Fortify Areas of Weakness

Three times tonight - I heard the exact same metaphor. That there is one string, that when tugged, will make everything unravel.

I heard it from my roommate. I heard it on two tv shows. Shows I arguably should not have been watching because my bible study group is doing a week of fasting - and I am fasting from tv. Because I have weak spots, and these weak spots have the ability to unravel my life. TV is something I'll go to in place of God, or friends, or to avoid important tasks.

When knitting, you really only have one string. When things start getting really complicated you throw a lot of colors or techniques in there. But it all just comes back simple loops guided by needles. And these tiny loops all add up to form a fabric. But if you miss just one of these, you have the potential to unwind your whole work to that point. Can you imagine how frustrating that it? You've been working on something particular for days, and upon completion you find out half of it needs redone. Only skilled, practiced knitters can fix these slips without letting it derail the whole project.

Life is often like that. Every little gap we find is an opportunity to either undo everything and go back several steps. Or, as we grow wiser, learn to fortify the gaps we find without letting it destroy what we've achieved so far. Or worse, ignore the need to fix it, and leave these areas wide open for anyone to tug at, and tear you down at any time.

Monday, November 5, 2012

People are People and Drama is for your Mama

It doesn't really matter where you are.  Work.  Home.  Church.  There's drama pretty much everywhere people are.

The thing is, people are unequivocally human.  By definition, that means we have flaws, secrets, and dark sides.  We're not perfect, and I think this is pretty well known.  Theoretically.

In fact we are so not perfect, we are really, really good at finding out just how much everyone is not perfect.  We love to talk about our imperfections.  Did I say ours?  I meant yours.

We all do it.  I can feel you resisting just a hair, denying this fact even as you read it.  But drama is something we love in our televisions and in our lives.  When we're hurt or something goes not quite how we had planned out for ourselves, we tend to lash out at others to an extent.  We're hurt, and this is how we have learned to cope.  Analytically, we seek to find out what went wrong and then "fix" it.

We are quick to focus on the faults of others, and this often leads to guilt, finger-pointing, and gossip.  But we lack compassion to see and care for their faults and flaws, instead ostracizing, creating walls, or "fixing" coworkers, family, friends, and churches.  We are quick to focus on others because we often lack the ability to see our own flaws.  Or because it's scary to really admit our own flaws.  Really scary.

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Roman 12:3 

Paul says ever-so-politely: "you're full of crap sometimes."  Thinking of yourself more highly than you ought, or ignoring your own flaws and misgivings, is being less than honest with yourself.  And by extension, it's being less than honest with others, because they have to live with you, and they have to embrace you even as you place blame on them for what's not on track in your life.

But as you prepare to be brutally honest with yourself, remember grace.  You're forgiven for your sins if you've accepted Christ into your life, and confessed those flaws.  And as you realize you've been given grace in your life, work to extend that to others.  Just as you need it, your neighbor needs it.  Because none of us is perfect, but we can still all love one another despite our flaws.

"...according to the grace given us." Romans 12:6a

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Psalm 119 - Daleth

 ד Daleth
 25 I am laid low in the dust;
   preserve my life according to your word.
26 I recounted my ways and you answered me;
   teach me your decrees.
27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts;
   then I will meditate on your wonders.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
   strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me through your law.
30 I have chosen the way of truth;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
   for you have set my heart free.

NIV 1984

This psalm resonates with my frailty and helplessness.  Every day, I face pain and the reality of my health.  I am laid low with the humbling fact that I am not invincible, at least not on my own. 

I always seem to come back to this psalm whenever I've hit a low and I have trouble turning back to God. 

I came back from my first visit with the foot doctor and got news that not only was my foot broken again, but I'd be unable to run the remainder of the spring.  Again, something that I loved was taken away from me.  I remember being very upset that night and wondering aloud to God why He had done this to me again.

Over the next several days, as I was forced to explain the foot cast back on my foot, I had many people tell me that maybe there was a reason for this.  One person in particular bluntly said that God was doing this intentionally to give me a message, even if neither of us knew what that message was.

Maybe that's the hardest part of this for me: I still don't know why.  "Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders." I am laid low.  Have I not recounted my ways?  Is that why this understanding is still escaping me?

However I get there, I know I can only literally run again, when I run in the path of His commands.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Broken Again

For the second time, I've broken my foot from running. For someone who is constantly moving, I'm only allowed to swim right now (I swam this morning for the first time in YEARS). In six weeks, I can start cycling.  In 10 weeks, I might be able to start running.  Not training, but I'll be allowed to start lacing up and hitting a trail as long as I actually take it easy.

At this second break, I've heard from multiple people in multiple ways, "Don't you think God is trying to tell you something here?"

That was my thought that first night after seeing the doctor, reading the clear-as-day x-ray for myself.  I was angry and pretty upset that He'd take this away from me - again.  But I kept hearing it.  Okay, if there was a reason behind this, why then?  What is He trying to say?

I knew some reasons.  I haven't found a church home yet, and I've been struggling to find and commit to a church community.  I've been lackadaisical in my Bible reading.  Generally, it's like I just don't know what to say to Him.  It's as if I'm deaf.  I can see Him all around me, and He's especially visible to me on a quiet trail, but I can't hear anything He's saying to me.  I strain my ears for a hint of His voice, but nothing.

After a nice evening with long-lost and newly found friends, I might even think that there's more to it than even that. First, you should know that they're all amazing people and Christians.  Some had recently come back from long term missions work in Haiti, some were headed that way, and all were just a little nerdy (my kind of people).  This fellowship has been sorely missed and lacking in my life of late. 

Myself and my running have the focus of my life for so long, I almost don't know how to function without the time spent on the trail.  But I think I'm finally edging past the idea that running is always about longer, faster, harder.  I want to improve, yes, but even more so, I want to sustain this active lifestyle.  I want to find people to share this with.  It's not sustainable to be so constantly driven towards this goal of 'improving' to the exclusion of the rest of my life.  I think now I'm finally realizing not only do I need to find a balance physically so I don't keep getting injured, I need to find that balance in the other parts of my life.  I don't want to admit it, but maybe running has been what's been keeping me from finding a community.

"It's not about doing the things you love, it's about doing things with the ones you love."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

(New) Balance

I had a great run today, made especially satisfying in relation to the tiring weekend of headaches & no sleep.

At the very end, as I'm walking on my cool down, I get a sudden sharp, but fleeting, pain in my foot, exactly what the stress fracture had felt like.

I think, "God, no!" and pray on the spot desperately to not have a broken foot again. Is this what I get for focusing in running? Is this such a bad thing? Have I not left enough room for God inbetween long runs and tempo workouts?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tests of Patience

Today I made it to Harvest, a young adult service at McLean Presbyterian Church.  The message this evening was on patience, and the reading from Mark 14: 32-42.  Pastor James defined patience as being "long suffering;" but in the gospel of Mark, Jesus shows us patience without anger, and instead responds to the sleeping disciples with grace.  Pastor James had the congregation thinking of things that tested their patience - we said traffic, people at work, students in our classrooms.

Pastor James said that patience presents us with a challenge and an encouragement.  The challenge is we presume to know what His timetable his for us, and the plan He has laid out for us.  Or, we challenge His timetable, and try to take matters into our hands.  As we rebel against God's timetable, we rebel against God himself: we essentially want to make ourselves the center, and have God rotate around us.  The encouragement, however, is that God is eternally patient with us.  We don't need to see his examples of patience, we need to realize we are living through His patience with each of us, every day.

As the message went on, I reminded myself that patients need patience, something I posted on this time last year.  I have come a long way in a year, but having ongoing medical concerns is a constant test of patience.

And then someone had a seizure.

There was a noise, a fall, and the room went silent.  Then a rush of those clustered around the fallen person to try to render aid.  Fortunately, their medical seemed known to those around them.  But it was terribly silent, and everyone quickly realized we were powerless to do anything ourselves.  EMTs were called and came to take the person to the ER while the congregation prayed.  This seemed such a visceral lesson in patience.  We who could do nothing to aid but pray, sat and waited to hear that the person was okay.  And the person who had seized, I couldn't help but think they must be enormously tested with this ongoing condition - this condition that would even take them away from church and the support and community it provided.

These tests of patience remind us that we can only force our own timetables and plans on God so much, before He humbles us and makes us realize that we don't even control our own bodies, let alone our own plans.