Human beings were created with a resilency and an intended ability to revive. Nothing that you or I encounter here on earth can remove the seed that has been implanted within us. So long as that seed remains, we will flourish under God's care. Stories from God's Word are often sources of encouragement in my life. I have featured five special stories of people who are good examples of faith under the overcomers tab
on my Sunrise Scriptures
website; stories of people who are overcomers, or conquerors. These people illustrate what it means to be held in God's hand. It is my hope that you find some encouragement in your situation through these Bible stories. Take a moment to look through the ones that seem pertinent to your life, and ask yourself the following questions:
1. What skill set did the Believer have that provided helpful in overcoming his or her problems?
2. What skills or talents do I have that could be useful in overcoming my obstacles?
3. Why am I holding back on God, if He has given me the talents needed to solve this situation?
4. What method of miraculous intervention, or resources outside the believer did God utilize to help solve the problem?Available now: Cousin Mordecai's Ring, The Ash Heap Phoenix, Broken Chains, A Child Delivered, and Restored Bones. Also: If you would like to receive emailed copies of this blog in your inbox, subscribe to the mailing list.
Do you think that it's true that adversity carves a path? It definitely carves rivers in the bedrock of the earth.
"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? - the cuckoo clock." ~Graham Greene and Orson Wells
I think there is quite a bit to the idea. After all, conflict and struggles to wield a civilization often become the fertilizer of an empire. Whereas the Roman Empire fell when life became easy and the rich occupied their time with frivolous ease and had slaves to wait on them hand and foot.
I believe that our struggles are like northern stars, guiding us in the right direction. Without those devastating difficulties, nothing would be broken, and we would hold on to the old. We would never change, move, or grow. Real change or movement only happens when one door closes. Then we have to look for the next door to open. No man ever got something wonderful by holding on to something else. Sometimes we just have to let go to grow.
Turning the car in the drive, I noticed the grass had overgrown; was still wet from a morning shower. The lovely tall potted fern sent home from my Father’s funeral drooped as if fainting from the weeks of drought conditions, as if to remind me we needed the rain, lest I think to protest. I should have removed it before now. I should have watered it. Or something like that. I sat for a moment in the driveway after turning the key, before I realized the motor was off. The vibration of the pacemaker in my hip often confuses me like that. I was waiting for the silent stillness that would never come.
I had just dropped my son off at the driving school, in a neighboring town about 20 miles away. I had just about time for a two hour nap before going back to pick him up for lunch. That would be a welcome nap, since I had been living with a sleep deficit for the past week, between a flurry of doctor’s appointments, the Defensive Driving class, and the Driver’s Ed classes, all in succession. Now all that remained was two more behind-the-wheel sessions before he was finished, at least until Fall classes resumed a week later at the local Technical College. The Driving classes would definitely make life easier for me soon.
Climbing into bed beside my husband, who was still sleeping from night shift, I drifted off so fast I wasn’t even aware of time. And, what is time, but that which marks off the days like marks on a classroom yard stick? I slept deep, traveling the waves of the euphoric intoxication of dreams to revisit the childhood of my children, a peaceful interlude for any Mother’s weary head. I arrived at a familiar dream, but this time I took some friends from my waking life with me, friends-in-the-now drafted as fellow time-travelers. There are no rules for dreamers.
Two friends from church, were riding with me and my little boys. We made a stop at my home for something, but of course my home turned out to be the single-wide we lived in when my boys were small. So, before heading in the back to grab my things, I called my younger son aside to explain the situation to him, as I knew he would be confused about the different house. I told him that since I was dreaming, and we were in his childhood, that the house was different. I explained that once I woke up, we would be living in our other house again. That’s all… nothing was really different… it was just a dream, I repeated.
Then, I took the things I was after, and turned for the door, but reached instead for my diary from my dresser. Taking a pen, I scribbled a note in my journal, wondering if I would still be able to read it after the dream. Scribbling in cursive, I carefully wrote myself a note of encouragement, “Dear Vicky, Keep going. The answer is closer than you think.” I was anxious to read the note, whenever I was awake somewhere else in time. So, I awoke. It was just a dream, and dreams are not ruled by increments of time consistent with events. Or something like that.
As I drove back to the driving school, and during lunch with my grown up baby boy, I mused over the idea that I have often thought how nice it would be to be able to go back in time, to teach myself what I know now, to help me sooner. But, the idea of my younger self teaching, or encouraging, my older self that I was going to survive this, that I could beat this battle with my health, quite honestly the whole idea was arresting. It was a familiar dream; the single-wide, my young boys, the busyness and independence of my years of single-parenthood. I just never realized that my younger self had something to teach me now. And, what did she know anyways?
She knew the answer was always right in front of her. She knew that help was closer than you think. She was aware that God always came to the rescue, just when she needed Him most. He was her Salvation, and He was her Provider. No matter how low her resources were running, the supply never drained. And, now? Now, my older self, dealing with a physical handicap was not all that different. It was a supply of strength threatening to drain. It was depleted health mocking me with the thought that I couldn’t keep going, while all along, I couldn’t fail. Only quitters fail, and I was still moving. But, it was only a dream. Or something like that.
Sometimes, our dreams become so familiar that we tell ourselves it is only a dream. We know the routine. We sleep. The scenery appears from the past. The characters resurrect as if from the forgotten depths of slumber. Yes, we recognize the all too familiar in our dreams. And, we chalk them up to just an allusion from the past. But, what if? What if your dream is just waiting on you to wake up and read what you knew all along? Will you recognize God’s direction in a familiar dream?
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Have you ever loved someone to death? I can remember when my mom brought my baby sister home from the hospital. I loved her to death! I spoiled her beyond belief. I loved her with my whole heart, until it felt like my heart would explode from trying to love her so much. But, my sister is still with me, and I haven't died yet from loving her. I'm sure now that I could have loved her a little bit more."God pours life into death and death into life without a drop being spilled." ~Author Unknown
I have said before that my father left me a legacy… he left me. He left us when I was two, and my mother was pregnant with my middle sister. He abandoned us, and all we knew was that he went to Chicago. As I saw it, my blood is worthless and I have no ancestry to trace. But, time will tell a different story. On July 9, we learned that our father had passed away, from a relative who had heard it from a distant relative who was in town trying to locate us, since we had not had contact with our Dad’s family in more than a decade. We had been taken to visit our grandparents every summer for two weeks until I was 13. Though we enjoyed our visits there, we learned little or nothing about our Father.
We had tried to contact our father for a while, without success. Finally, in 1996, after 30 years absence, he wanted to see me and my sister, and what we had turned out like I guess, and asked to meet us. We met him briefly at a park with our kids who were still young then. I took him a Father's Day card, the only one I had ever given anyone, since it was a few weeks before Father's Day.
When we met him, we realized that the man who had abandoned us all those years ago was now aging, and had apparantly spent much time homeless. He gave us an address, but when I sent a letter later, it was returned address unknown. I tried to contact him through relatives, to no success. So, for the past 16 years, every time I saw the homeless men under the bridges, I thought of him. Whenever it was snowing, I imagined him freezing cold. I figured one day his family might let us know when he died, and we would at least have a grave to visit. I wasn't doing the math. He was 71 when he died. Many of his brothers and sisters are now passed on.
When I heard that he had passed, I thought they had probably found him dead under some bridge. But, after contacting the County office, I learned that he had been in a nursing home there in Chicago for the past 6 years of that time. He died in the nursing home alone. No family or anyone to love. I learned his cause of death from the nursing home, and that he had been in two other nursing homes for another year before that, making a total of seven years off the streets. But, he came to the nursing home with not even a photo in his pocket, and they had provided the clothes he wore.
I had his body flown to Georgia, and I made the funeral arrangements. I learned from the funeral director that his body had gone unclaimed so long, that he had been embalmed by the local medical college students. They were about to cremate him as unclaimed, until I called. Part of me aches over the loss of the Father I never had, a lonely, penny-less old man with no family, and the homelessness he suffered. Yet, part of me is at peace from the knowledge that someone had pity on him in his final years, that now I will have a grave to visit, and now I have been given the bittersweet blessing of being able to lay my father to rest.
So many times, people just don't care for those who are down and out, or who have made bad choices. They don't realize that there go I, but for the grace of God. It is most sad to realize that I would have much rather flown him in alive, rather than dead. I wanted a father, dead or alive. I wasn’t given a choice. I had to settle for dead. I loved him to death. Now, I can only speak to his grave. I just received his birth certificate from Nashville. But, I don't have him. God is our Heavenly Father, and His feelings for us are much the same. God's grace and mercy, are there for each of us. His love for each human being cannot be diminished. But, how many of us have allowed Him to love us. I am so thankful that I will have a grave to visit my Father now. I just wish I could have been there for him in his last years. God works in mysterious ways.
Earlier this year, I met Randy Dueck, and helped him develop a website for his homeless ministry in California. He would appreciate any donations for his wish list for the homeless, if you have a mind to have a look. He delivers tents and survival supplies to the homeless under the Antelope Bridge. I drove through Atlanta, here in Georgia a couple weeks ago, and I saw some tents under the bridges on the Atlanta interstates. The homeless have tents under there now, instead of the cardboard I used to see them sleeping under. That's awesome! Maybe the homeless ministry is spreading.
My father’s Funeral was such a bittersweet blessing. We played Amazing Grace, by Chris Tomlin, and Only Grace, by Matthew West. My baby sister’s Pastor spoke and sang. My middle sister’s church provided a grave plot at the church cemetery. Our Father’s surviving brothers and sisters came, and many of our maternal relatives and our family members. We had the service in the chapel, and the headstone (when it is finished) will say: “Our Father.” We chose one with a mountain scene and a deer, to remind us of the Tennessee mountain home of our father in his childhood.
While we were at the funeral, a paternal uncle gave us an envelope. He said our father had been left a share in the inheritance from another brother who had died. He had been unable to locate our father in settling the estate. So, the money would now go to me to split with my sister, since it should pass from our father to us after his death. My share was $200.00. I knew I wanted to use it for something I would remember my father by. So, I decided to buy a piece of my Pastor’s vision. My Pastor, Scott Benefield of Tallapoosa Assembly of God has a vision for living a life of purpose. I decided to spend the 200 dollars purposefully on our church’s Food Pantry, to feed the hungry, in memory of the years my father spent homeless and on the streets. I will always remember that my father did not die alienated and alone for no purpose. His homelessness left me a legacy of love for the homeless, the disenfranchised, the hungry, and the lost. That is an inheritance worth sharing!
Carried! His Mother had carried him nine months, and for the four decades since, he had been carried by most of his relatives at different times. He was gaunt, and lean, never having much interest in the festivities and meal times. He spent all day, every day, laying outside the temple, watching people. Food was the last thing on his mind when he got home. When the table was spread, even before his mother had the food finished, he talked, filling her ears with all the busy-ness of the city and the temple. Her eyes twinkled as she busied herself with the evening meal, listening to the animated voice of her firstborn, the family story teller. She loved him so, and would have carried him till the day he died if he needed her.
He enjoyed this attention, reveled in it. He loved to hear the sound of his voice, to see her eyes dart toward him intent on each word, to hear her catch her breath in surprise at some surprising bit of his stories. He always felt no one really listened to him at the temple gate. God-fearers! They seemed to be more afraid to meet the gaze of a scrawny crippled man, than of the God they professed to revere! No, they were careful to not look into his eyes and see his pain, for then they might have to hear his voice crying out for alms. They may even have to ante up on the challenge of their faith. That might be too much religion for them, he was sure.
Turning his head toward to gate, he noticed that a crowd was gathering, and the sun reminded him that it was almost the hour of prayer. Collecting his hat in his wispy, twisted fingers, he noted that he had been remiss in calling out for much of the past hour as he daydreamed. With an exasperated voice, he began a desperate call, intending to make up for lost time in the rush hour crowd. “Alms, alms! Help me please kind lady! Sir, throw a cent for a poor beggar like myself! Dear family, has God blessed you? Then share with the likes of me! Help me, please!” No one seemed to be paying him any attention at all, and they scurried past the faster. So, he called out even louder. “Alms, please, alms! Help me! I am but a poor beggar! Look at me… take pity! Lend me your hearts. Alms, please…please sir!”
With those last words, the beggar had felt the swish of a man’s cloak as he stopped in his tracks, and turned toward him. Finally! Someone was listening to him. Looking deep into the kind man’s eyes, the beggar smiled and held out his hat in his left hand, expecting to receive a gift. “Look at us! I have nothing made out of silver or gold, but I will give you what I have… in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!”
Then the man did the strangest thing, right there in front of his friend and the others who had paused to see the exchange. He reached out his right hand to the crippled beggar. As their fingers touched, the crippled man felt a surge of power course straight through his body to the soles of his feet. His hat fell to the ground, coins rolling across the pavement and landing at the feet of people who were by this point standing stark still, motionless with their mouths open! Suddenly, his feet and ankles felt strong…stronger than they had ever felt in his life.
Leaping up, as if on the end of a taught strand of cord, he stood straight upright, walked three steps forward as the giver stepped back, and bending at the knees he leaped… sling-shotted into the air. Landing on one foot, he broke into a mad dash before the other ever hit the ground. Running from one side of the courtyard to the other, he slapped several folks on the back, threw his arms around the necks of others, and spun them around before dancing off across the courtyard again… around and around he ran in circles. The crowd that had gathered now was laughing, as his joy contagiously coursed through them. Had they not seen him day after day? Was this not the lame man who sat at the gates begging for his keep?
A surge of shock was rippling through the crowd, as the news spread to those who were already inside the temple. “It’s the lame man…you know… the beggar by the gate… he’s walking!” The words reverberated through the temple courtyard, and penetrated deep into the temple, where some who heard could not believe their ears. It was the religious teachers and leaders of the temple. They debated among themselves what was to be done about the fact that the miracles were not over with; had not died with the Healer.
Meanwhile, the beggar had wrapped his arms around the givers, for they were two of the disciples of Jesus, Peter and John themselves. As he hugged them, and cried for joy, they led him towards the temple, laughing for joy. By the time they got as far as Solomon’s Porch, a crowd was thronging them, with everyone aghast at the miracle they had just witnessed. It was too much to believe. They had known this man for more than forty years… they knew his family. He was crippled!
The young preacher Peter realized that people were shocked at the sight of a man healed with such miraculous explosive power, and began to explain how he had not been the one at all to heal him…Jesus had healed the man. Jesus was no longer dead. He had arisen, and his power had been given to his followers to heal the sick. As he preached, to the crowds, several ladies were beginning to come back out of the court of the women to see what was happening. Among them were the four daughters of Phillip, and the ladies from “the Way.” Hours passed as the men preached, and many were converted to the faith. Then the religious teachers and leaders of the temple came out, and insisted that the crowd be broken up. Hearing with their own ears the name of Jesus, that terrorist rebel they themselves had crucified just weeks before, they seized the young preachers and hauled them off to spend the night in jail. But, the men of the young movement gathered together another 5,000 believers from the crowds that day.
One of those was the beggar, a changed man! He ran all the way home to tell his family the good news. And, who knows what great work he did for the kingdom of God, after experiencing the dynamite power of Jesus Christ in his hand, and feet, and heart, and health?! ******************* Related Scriptures used to build the telling. Joel 2:23 Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he has given you the former rain faithfully, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. (NKJV) Acts 3:25 You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (NKJV) Acts 21:8-9 The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. (NLT) Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (NKJV)
****This is the final in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." It is also the culmination of the last series on the Power of Pentecost. For the complete story, check out the Spiritual Fiction tab here on my website at “Healed and Whole.” Remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
The North Georgia mountain scenery was unspeakably beautiful, much of it through the woods. But, the last 33 miles, from the time we climbed the mountain, was a suffer-fest.
I originally thought I would settle for the 30 mile route, seeing it was a mountainous ride in Chattooga County. I grabbed the maps for the 30 and 63.4 mile routes, "just in case" I felt like I could handle it. At any rate, the decision had to be made early, as the smaller "green" route turned right at about mile 23, where the yellow route took a left turn.
The rain poured hard, making me wish sunglasses were equipped with mini windshield wipers. I rode low with squinted eyes. Finally the rain stopped. I was feeling great and decided to go for it, taking the left turn with gusto. I sort of had a few misgivings five miles later when I pulled out of the next rest stop and saw the little sign that warned, "Last Rest Stop Before the Mountain." :0 I knew the decision to take the longer route would mean I would spend a lot of time alone, as the big dogs go faster than I did at that beginning stage of proficiency for me. They would be way ahead of the guys I was with on the green route. But, I made up my mind.
I made it up the mountain slow enough to notice ants climbing beside me, as I sped by their insect troops. That was when the whole terrain took on a look of utter splendor. After that mountain climb, the hills didn't seem so bad. I decided to create a new rest stop on the route just near the top of a large hill, about 10 miles away from the last rest stop... that should do it. As I melted off my bicycle, I realized someone was almost right behind me, at the foot of the hill. After he reached "my" rest stop, he said he had been there for a while trying to catch up with me, and had figured he would lose me on that hill. We were equally relieved to have someone else along to contact next of kin if we didn't make it out of this alive. but, Jessie agreed that it would be a great view if we had to die anyways.
There seemed to be almost no car traffic in the Chattooga County, Summerville area. So, we didn't have to dodge cars flying down hills. It wasn't long before we were in the woods again for miles at a time. It was just stunningly beautiful! We passed a few dogs at farmhouses, but they seemed to be willing only to bark a warning, or ignore us totally. One big bulldog was sitting on a trampoline, like it was a hammock, just pretending to bark a little, to save face.
Occasionally, speed racers from the 100 and 125 mile routes would pass us from behind, coming within inches of our ears. Their routes left and rejoined our route several times. It sort of burns your ego to see riders like that, acting like its a stroll in the park while you struggle.
Eventually a SAG official vehicle got behind us, and followed us a ways. It felt like being in the Olympics, or the Tour de France, with our own team car following close behind. When I wondered why they didn't pass us, Jessie said they were probably watching us to see if we would pass out before leaving us to die on the hill alone. So, we refueled on granola bars from our back pockets and then threw out a gallant effort, standing up on the pedals to the top, and then flew down the hill at top speed, so they could see we were still breathing. It worked... they went away. It had felt like being circled by buzzards waiting to pick our carcasses off the pavement.
It did feel good later when we were at the last rest stop (50 mile mark) and the racers pulled in. We were unmistakably on a high mileage ride... if not quite up to their level. And, we could still walk and breathe. :) That was a tough ride. They had Dominoes Pepperoni pizzas and soft drinks waiting for us at the end. And, we sat there with the big dogs and ate our pizzas with pride, knowing the 15 and 30 mile riders were already home.
As you can see, I don't usually leave a lot of commentary, or "sermonizing" in my blogs. I think you will draw your own conclusions. Of course, there are no right and wrong answers in life, before death. What ever conclusions you draw will not be validated this side of eternity. Instead of trying to analyze why these things were all taken away from my life, I try to look at what remains. My Pastor at the time, had a grown daughter who died after surgery, about a year before. I woke up from surgery with my life changed. Why this happened to her or me doesn't really matter. What matters is that I was given extra years to love, which I may have never lived to see. My sister came to my bedside to tell me what went wrong when I woke up from surgery. I was allowed to live to love my Sister. My nephew Timmy was born after the first surgery. I was allowed to live to love Timmy. I married my soulmate the following summer. I was allowed to live to love Larry. I made it to my youngest son's high school graduation, and now he's in college. I was allowed to live to love Travis. I love to live. I am truly the blessed one. Come back tomorrow night for the special final blog in the series titled, "Healed and Whole."
****This is 9th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." Remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
"After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow." -H. G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance
Yes, that describes well the euphoria you feel when riding a bicycle, the first time or anytime. I may have begun to lose weight, but cycling quickly becomes an obsession you can't shake. I was soon getting in so many miles a week, between the local cycling club, and the state rides, that I found myself never needing to ride alone anymore. By late July, the thermometer hit the triple digits in our area that year, which is not uncommon. July and early August usually mean soaring temperatures for us in the northern temperate zones. These are the hottest, most sultry days of summer... the "Dog Days" of summer.
We also use the expression Dog Days to describe a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by a dull lack of progress. Seeing that the Dog Days were heating up, that friday night was the yearly Dog Days Lunar Bike Ride at Mt. Berry Mall there in Rome. That event is one of a kind, with all ages and experience level of cyclists participating. I arrived a few minutes early, to see a few townie teenagers riding around the parking lot without helmets, which naturally caused me to cringe in shock. I know this happens a lot in town, but can't decide why. (Riding without a helmet ranks right up there with smoking, and doing drugs for me. I know people do it, but I love my brain cells and lungs too much to be that foolish.)
Fortunately, the event director made the announcement over the speakers quickly that everyone must wear a helmet as signed in the waiver at registration, or be escorted away by the supervising policemen, and no more bare heads were seen.
The ride started with the tune to "Chariots of Fire" playing over the loudspeakers, (I love that tune!) while the full moon shone brightly in his spot overhead. The average Joe crowd, being people in t-shirts, were in the middle lane around the outer perimeter of the mall, going clockwise. The speed racer jersey crowd was doing paces in the outer lane, and the tykes on trikes and wee children were in the right hand inner lane of traffic, and in the parking lot for safety. Music was a mix of oldies, from "Mustang Sally" to "Grease."
The charm was in seeing a chain of racers on the left speed by in excess of 20mph, while on the right, little boys and girls spun their tricycle pedals so fast, you could tell they thought they were really riding with the big dogs. The police were stationed at corners of the perimeter, and actually had a speed wagon set up, so the tikes could see how fast everybody was going without a bike computer. Sometime after midnight, the crowd had cleared, and many of the children had gone home to bed.
The teenagers must have sensed more liberty to use the whole track. One happy teen came spinning past me in the right hand lane, racing against a couple of other teens on the left of me, or rather missed his goal and careened into my right side. I barely caught a glimpse of his t-shirt as I went sailing through the air, feeling like a skinny rag doll. I bounced around on the pavement like a basketball, hitting my helmet and my face, and my right arm quite a bit. I could hear the kid in the group surrounding me, walking around, repeating, "It was an accident. I didn't mean to." I felt sorry for him because he sounded scared. No reason to be scared I thought from my position on the ground. I would just be a little sore tomorrow.
The guards told me to lie still, they were calling an ambulance. I said I was fine... just to give me a minute to see straight. I head a voice in the group say an ambulance was on the way. I hurried to my feet thinking of five hundred buck ambulance trips. I asked if the teen was ok, but then I realized the teen had skipped out... hit and run... lol... before I even got off the pavement. Suddenly I didn't feel as much sympathy :)
The helmet did its job, holding my brains intact, but alas, I no longer had as much padding on my posterior. I thought I was going to get back on my unscathed bicycle, until I took the first step. My right arm suffered minor bruising and a sprained elbow, which healed nicely and quickly. We got a couple of awesome t-shirts. They are blue with a picture of a skinny hound dog with a helmet on, riding a bike under the light of the moon. He looks so happy and care free with his tongue hanging out. He looks just like that teenager did the moment before he careened into my bike.
The summer after my first two surgeries, during the time I had gone back to work, I volunteered at the Dog Days Ride, at the registration table. It was great to get to be a part, even if I couldn't manage the strength to ride myself. I think that this is one of the things I enjoyed most about cycling... the group effort put out by a cycling community to involve people of all ages and abilities. Another event I enjoyed after my surgeries was fitting kids from the local projects with free helmets, provided by the hospital. It was awesome to see the face of the children of all ages and hairstyles, waiting patiently while we adjusted the helmet straps and installed the padding to fit over their braids, fros, or bald heads, as needed. Some children were so small, it took multiple adjustments before the helmet rode safely on their heads as they rode their bikes away with a wide grin and wheels spinning.
****This is 8nd in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I was getting faster at switching tires on my bike. I had the skinny road tires on now, and my bike was strapped onto the back of the car, ready to roll. The guys in the local club must have been impressed that I found my way back to my car without GPS or a breadcrumb trail, because it couldn't have been my biking skills or my sophisticated style that sparked the flurry of concerned emails and apologetic phone calls that followed my first club ride, and the invitation for the ride the next morning.
I couldn't believe they felt responsible for my stupidity. It seems they thought I wouldn't remember the turns, assumed I missed them, and doubled back looking for the newby after they finished their ride. But, I had already heard the first two turn road names in our conversation. I had asked for the road names during the ride. They had named the two turns I later took, but hadn't been certain about the names. They said they remembered them on sight, not by name. By the time they got to their cars, and drove the route looking for me, I would have been back out on Hwy 27, because I didn't take the last small road turn they took before the big highway. I'm not really a landmark driver, but I remember street names. And, I will take major highways to avoid getting lost on a cowpath if I don't know where I am, rather than choose any random back road... eenie, meenie, miney, moe.
They had been so friendly, and even described the terrain while we had been riding, so later I recognized the long hill Andrea had earlier referred to affectionately as "Chicken Coop Hill." (She called it that because of the smell. Kurt and the guys called it "Die Hill" because it was the longest hill on the route.) I was glad they were still willing to let me ride with them. But, as it turned out, the standard plan was that the first half is no-drop. After that, it's every man for himself as they let loose the inner beast and ride like the wind. It is assumed you will get dropped, until you get faster. Shame makes you all the more determined to kick butt and take names. And, it made the pleasure all the more immense when I was later able to keep with the pack.
But, despite the fact that I felt so crummy about my speed on the hills that first day, it felt really great after I recovered, feeling all the kinks worked out of my arms and leg muscles. There is something about the really big rides... the ones that push you beyond your most recent rides... that gets you in higher form and ready to go. Now, my goal was to work on the jersey "style" problem. I just had to lose more weight, which was easier said than done.
I had three women's jerseys, with meaningful name-brand labels matching the name on my gloves, but "form-fitting" didn't look the same on me as it did on the slim, trim, six-pack crowd. So, I wore a teeshirt to hang over my belly flab, instead of a jersey. Of course, I felt like I had been busted by the fashion police, when I saw the attention they gave their jerseys. I realized before long that they did not care how fat you were. They just expected you to be honest about your fat, let it all hang out in a tight jersey, and swallow your pride. Everybody knew you were fat, and you should just be yourself and wear a stylish jersey. And, of course, you had to learn to keep up or get dropped. But, that was beside the point.
****This is 7th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
It was before the dog days of Summer, about mid-July. I had finished my first 5K as planned weeks before on the Summer Solstice. And, on this fine foul weather day, I was taking advantage of the rain by laying around the house, reading magazines and getting one of those valuable Sunday afternoon naps (after Sunday School of course.) It rained a couple of times while I was at church, which was one mid-day service there. But, by the time I was almost home, it looked fierce, with lightening bolts, like fingers of a teacher writing her marks across the sky, grading our papers with disapproving marks. The bolts raced across the sky, and struck the earth in the distance. A strange wind was brewing, while dark clouds billowed upwards in the sky above us. Those clouds opened up as I pulled into the garage of our new house, emptying their full force on the outside of my world.
I was safe inside, and comfortable. Leaning back in the chair at my desk, I logged in to find an email from one of my summer school sutudents telling me the exciting news that she had passed the CRCT retest that we gave them at the end of the summer session. I was so happy to know. That knowledge, and the row of mason jars full of fresh lime pickles standing on my countertop from my first canning session with my friend and neighbor, Diane over the past two days, worked together to ease the agony and shame of my failed Saturday morning ride the day before.
I say failed because I got dropped half way through, not because I didn't finish. I finished. I could pedal my way out of hell, and still be sitting in the saddle, not because of strength, nor speed, but simply because of my one strength of endurance. I call endurance a strength because not everybody can continue fighting a losing battle. Remember the old man in the book, The Old Man and the Sea? The sharks may have eaten his marlin to the bone, but he brought the marlin skeleton home tied to his boat.
"Dropped? What's 'at mean?" my neighbor, a kind elderly gentleman, had asked as he loaded me up with about some fresh cucumbers from his garden the evening before. Looking at his wrinkled brow, I pondered silently the reality that dropped meant my butt felt to fat to make those hills on this particular ride. I answered aloud that it meant I got to enjoy the scenery alone the last half because I couldn't keep up...I got behind... left behind.
I had joined the Coosa Valley Cycling Club and took off on one of the weekly rides, at the last moment, without taking the time to change my thick mountain terrain tires to my thin road tires. I had enjoyed the state rides so much, that I had decided to try the local club rides, instead of riding around town alone. The first half of the ride had been wonderful, talking and enjoying the scenery, even though I was struggling.
My knees were aching most of the ride. I had not only overworked them lifting furniture in my recent house move, but I had gotten out of practice riding. I realized after that half way point where I began to drag on the hills and got dropped that it had been weeks since I had done any serious riding. After summer school ended, I had done the 5K, and then spent a few weeks packing, moving, and unpacking. I had done a single, measly 6 mile ride Thursday afternoon. I was not ready for a 30 mile ride.
A fine pickle I was in, realizing that too late. I had been too eager to ride. And, I frequently found myself doing whatever those around me were doing, even if I wasn't used to their milage yet. Like with that first 50 mile Silver Comet Ride from Cedartown to Piedmont. My previous rides around town had only been 10 mile rides. I went from 10 miles to 50 miles all at once, because I just don't know how to stop when I get started, if everybody else is still rolling.
These were my excuses laid out in my mind as I slogged through the beautiful countryside alone, trying to resist the urge to kick myself, and giving myself that "attitude" pep talk I wanted and needed to hear. The physical pain was bad enough, but the shame of being dropped was enough to make you have visions of hanging yourself with your bicycle chain. Luckily, I was able to find my way back to Hwy 27, not knowing the route ahead of time, but being familar with Rome somewhat from College days. By the time I got back to my car, I hadn't realized how exhausted I was.
I hadn't taken a break, because I still had entertained hopes of "catching up" until this point. I knew I couldn't be much further from the mall where we had parked. But, the road just kept stretching before me. When I finally pulled into the mall parking lot, there were still cars from our pack... the big dogs who were still out riding the 60 mile loop. I had been with the group doing the 30 mile loop. I was relieved to still be able to hoist my bike onto the rack on my car. Riding home, I popped in my audio cd of the book of Mark.
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God..."
Those first words caught my attention for some reason. This was the beginning, I reminded myself. Mark was the first gospel writer afterall. The others later expanded on his recollections. I thought ahead to John the Revelator and his expositions on the end of the gospel... the good news.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the
first and the last. Revelation 22:13
Jesus Christ... the beginning...and the end... the good news of Jesus. I remembered the angel a few chapters before who will preach the gospel in the end times, when men still will not listen.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having
the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every
nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6
Such a comforting thought... the Gospel has begun, is everlasting, and will have its fulfillment in the return of Jesus Christ Himself. In light of that fact, getting dropped was just a speck of dust on the shores of eternity.
****This is 6thin a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!
I glanced over my shoulder as I made the 8th circle around the track that morning. There was no one behind me. I spun my gaze back to the asphalt spread before me. No one in front of me. I began to ask myself, "Why am I here?" Then I raised my eyes and spoke to God, "I need a miracle of strength right now to finish this last mile today, God." As the words rolled off my tongue in the seconds I was raising my eyes, I saw the sun raising before me. Daybreak!
I thanked God for the miracle of a new day. I was reminded of how my life had been before I began to run. I remembered why I was there. I began running to lose weight. I continued running to relieve stress and to build endurance. I ran for life... healthful life. I ran because I wanted to be fit.
That would be strange if I wanted to be unfit, now wouldn't it? I've heard of Mothers and Fathers being declared "unfit." Some teachers are unfit to teach. If I wanted to be a fit Mother, and a fit teacher, and Spiritually fit, why should I be content to be an unfit person? No one would verbally choose to be unfit. But, that's what I do if I fail to make the right choices. Fitness, endurance, life, those are enough reasons to run. It doesn't matter who's watching.
I love the ocean. The weekend after the 4th that year, after Summer School, Travis and I would be headed to Tybee Island. I already had my lawn chair and beach towel in the car. If you're going to be lazy, the beach is a great place to do it! Otis Redding's classic soul tune, "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay" below, reveals an odd philosophy that many of us take, even if we don't realize it consciously. It's like as a student, though I always had the same potential, year by year my performance changed, based on whether or not there was anyone who cared if I did well in school or not.
Otis (singing) feels as if it doesn't matter; he sees no reason. So, he does nothing. that's strange. If it doesn't matter to anyone whether Otis does or doesn't, then he could just as well do or don't. So, why does he choose to do nothing? I don't know, but that's the nature of the beast.
Who also has made us able ministers
of the new covenant; not of the letter,
but of the spirit: for the letter kills,
but the spirit gives life.
But if the ministry of death,
written and engraved in stones,
so that the children of Israel
could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses
for the glory of his countenance;
which glory was to be done away:
How shall not the ministry of the Spirit be more glorious?
For if the ministry of condemnation be glory,
much more does the ministry of righteousness exceed in glory.
For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect,
by reason of the glory that excels.
For if that which is done away was glorious,
much more that which remains is glorious.
2 Corinthians 3:6-11
Paul is speaking here of how glorious the ten commandments were to the children of Israel, while they were just rules written in stone. Paul is comparing those stones of law to the grace and salvation written in Jesus' crucified flesh. He asks how much more glorious the "Thou shalt's" of grace are, than the "Thou shalt not's" of the ten commandments.
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this
thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Timothy 4:16
To do is much better than to not do... with or without reason. I figure, since I can...I will.
***Running With Angels on Golden Candlelit Streets: The Longest Night!
Since I have already written about the Greenville Candlelight run in a previous blog last year, I will just share the link for your reference. Even though I had moments of doubt about running a race when no one would be there to see or care, I did it. I was there. Travis was there. And, God saw. Those are enough reasons to reach for a dream. Later, my Mom went with us to the Run in Dalton, and Travis actually ran it with me. That was an awesome experience, running with my son. The photo below is from the Greenville newspaper of the runners lined up ready to run. I'm in the 2nd row in the red Jesus Christ teeshirt. Below that is a picture my Mom took of me and Travis that day in Dalton before the race.
****This is 5th in a series of ten on "Blogging by Faith." As you read one each night, remember that nothing lasts forever. I do not know how or when God will heal me. But, I know I am healed by His Word. I will be healed for whatever purposes God has for my life. Time is irrelevant. Believe with me!