READY

(Written in February, posted in November…there is no storm today!)

Yesterday, in great anticipation of Snowmageddon 2014, I studied in the library rather than my office. There is a beautiful view from the windows out to the water, and I perched myself facing outward so as to alert the campus upon the first flake’s appearance. I felt it my duty as the midwesterner in the building. The whole of North Carolina was out of sorts because of the impending storm. They were calling for inches. PLURAL. The last time we had this much snow I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Zachary. This happens never. Or every 5 years. But mostly never.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off the birds.

A whole flock had descended on campus, apparently to ride out the storm. They were working so hard. They were flying from the ground to the trees in hasty, calculated, determined fashion. They did it for four straight hours, without stopping.

They were getting ready.

A less calculated flock was at Food Lion in Archdale. I was one of ‘those’ people, who, unlike the birds, had not gotten ready. There were lots of us. One poor man was wondering aimlessly about with a bag of bread in his hand looking helpless. He knew to get bread, but beyond that, he was lost. The cashier was nearly in tears explaining that she was just trying to ‘serve the customers’ and some of them had been so mean to her. Bless her heart. The manager was darting to and fro, sweating, and looking worriedly from the parking lot to the long lines and back to the parking lot. Bless his heart.

It’s not their fault we weren’t ready.

I had actually made a half-hearted attempt the day before. I went to Target, but only ended up with brownie mix and some Valentine’s candy. Hardly what was going to sustain the masses over the next three days.

Others were ready. The schools let out fully 24 hours before the first flake fell. READY. Businesses posted their quitting times online and on TV. READY. The local hardware store ordered extra sleds, which I purchased (the morning of the storm). READY (and business savvy). All 2 of North Carolina’s salt trucks had worked hard to get the roads covered. Bless ’em. READY.

The fullness of my under-preparedness didn’t occur until after my stop at the store. The snow accumulated so rapidly, that 20 minutes made all the difference. It was a mess, a whiteout, a slippery blizzaster. I’m one of those drivers that is really questionable to be on the road anyway…but in conditions like that, well.

‘so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’ Matthew 24:39b-42

The Word says He will come like ‘a thief in the night’. Which can be translated ‘like a snow storm in the south’. There will be those who will embrace His coming. Who were ready. And there will be those who aren’t.

Our lesson today comes not from the grocery patrons, but from the birds.13952232-458091

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image from http://www.kewlwallpapers.com/download/Bird-in-snow/1600X1200/)

 

 

 

JAMAICA

Our legs moved slowly through the palpable heat as we ascended the slight hill to the modest meeting house for worship.  Slowly, because that is the only speed left after a full day of travel including a four hour layover and customs and three additional hours of relentless curves and holes in the road.  The night before proved quite restless as the anticipation of the week ahead took over my thoughts and won over my will to sleep.

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The service began slowly.  The Pierce family would fit in so well here.  Start times are  more a suggestion than a rule, and there is no one getting bent out of shape over lack of punctuality. We must have Jamaican roots.  There was an attempt to move the air around to provide some relief by way of an oscillating fan.  A few dogs sauntered in and stretched across the tile floor.  I was tired.

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The service officially began in song.  The minimal chatter was silenced with the melodious solitary tune of a woman, who I gauged to be in her seventies.  The sound was sweet and deliberate, and she was swiftly joined by the congregational choir that surrounded us. The only instrument was a tamborine. I attempted to join in, but a hard lump had formed in my vocal chords instead. The emotion of returning to this country nearly twenty years after my first visit, the experience of which impressed so heavily on me as to choose a career path, coupled with exhaustion and the realization that I was really going to be away from my kids for nine days was more than I could bare.

Worship had begun.

The next two and half hours were filled with song, exhortation, silence, prayer, teaching, a baby dedication (bawled my eyes out, y’all) and a direct charge from the pastor not to come down here and complain about this heat. Duly noted.  The closing hymn was Have Thine Own Way, Lord, which was also played at our wedding and since we were also celebrating our ten year anniversary – I was an out and out mess.  I was concerned I would cry the entire trip and accomplish nothing of any meaning because of my over sentimental self.

Have thine own way, Lord.  Yes, I thought. For this trip, and my life, have Thine own way.

Once I finally pulled it together, we began to distribute flyers (which really means we told everyone verbally) to advertise a sports camp we would hold there later in the week.  Walking through the community was such a reminder of how overly complicated we make things in our country.  Three boys (the age of mine) took turns climbing way up in the trees  for prized ginup or a mango.  We hover so, I thought.

We left the community to return to our homestead for the week.  We were staying in another meeting house in an urban area on the upper east side.  A slightly different connotation should be established for the Jamaican upper east side.  According to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, Jamaica’s per capita is about a quarter of that of the U.S. and the unemployment rate is almost double.  But what they seem to lack in economic prosperity, they more than make up for in cultural expression.  And besides all that, God seems to have heaped the majority of the world’s natural beauty right smack on the small island nation.  And we loved every molecule of it.  Whether it was stopping mid afternoon to dip our sweaty toes (yes, even your toes can sweat I discovered) in the ocean water or picking every mango within reach, we were enamored by the intensity of tropical beauty that surrounded us the entire week.

IMG_6643 IMG_6632 IMG_6657 IMG_6656Go ahead and die.

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Your breath is gone isn’t it? Taken away.IMG_6499 IMG_6452

In a stroke of brilliance on the part of our mission coordinator, we were more than visiting this site to offer our aid.  Yes we led a sports camp for 4 days.  But we led the sports camp together with our Jamaican Friends. The real mission experience was the coming together of two distinct cultures, unified by our Savior, to support one another in the Commission entrusted to us by the Savior Himself.  We bunked together, cooked together, cleaned together, rode in those vans together, relaxed together, worshiped together, ate together, and served together alongside our Jamaican Friends.  We had coffee together, ok?  We were able to experience the result of decades of partnership between the North Carolina and Jamaica Yearly Meetings.  It was so evident the investment that has been established there.  It is my humble opinion that any other mission experience is inferior.  When cultural, social, and economic boundaries are shattered, I think we get the closest to the Kingdom this side of heaven.

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I love this girl so much. My devo partner for the week.

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I don’t know how to explain how close we were without this picture: cards, corn rows, and cuddles.IMG_6570 IMG_6577

Miss Pauline.  My hero. IMG_6547

Morning praise. Jamaican Joys.IMG_6549 IMG_6502 IMG_6492 IMG_6480

The one with the football is at least 60.  She outran us all. 

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There are 26 people in this van.  There isn’t more love than that.IMG_6449

Worship on the riverbank.  I adore this circle.
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The charge I come home with is one that should ring familiar to my Christian brothers and sisters.  The mission field is everywhere and always.  No one is really exempt from cross cultural mission or local mission or familial mission. We step onto the mission field every morning when we step out of bed.  If you are a stay at home mom, your home is your mission field.  If you work in an office, the office is your mission field.  If you live in a community, your community is your mission field.  If you go to Wal-Mart for milk and fabric softener and you are standing a line that is 37 buggies long and the lady in front of you is looking despondent and helpless, that is your mission field for that moment.  And if you feel a tug on your heart for a region of the world that is far far away, that is your mission field.  Because sometimes your mission is the next country over and sometimes it’s the boy next door.  We are called to be ambassadors for Christ for as long as we are in this world to the very ends of the earth.  Everywhere and always.

That Christ’s mission may be paramount in my existence, my heart cry is this:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

Have Thine own way, Lord, that all my come to know you.

FREE

I learned a swift lesson about the freedom we enjoy in this nation the day we picked up a Cuban refugee family from the airport.  Reading about the perils faced by those living in restricted nations does not compare with beholding their relief upon their first taste of freedom. There he sat, staring at the bleak and desolate Carolina December landscape, with tears streaming.

“We have made it to free soil,” he said in his native tongue.  He gave an assuring look to his wife, whose smile is as bright as the sun, and gently rested his arm across her shoulder and touched that of his son. They had made it to freedom. My friend nearly choked on the words as she translated for me, as I was struggling to understand their dialect.

The words etched on Lady Liberty’s statue manifested before my eyes in that moment:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 

There is no telling what they have had to endure.  I’ve never been comfortable with the phrase “I’m proud to be an American” (because of Gal. 6:14).  Glad, yes. Grateful, abundantly.  It’s not that I’m unpatriotic.  Pride insinuates that I have had some part in acquiring my birthplace, and that is not the case.  I simply had the good fortune to be born here, and not elsewhere.   To that I owe gratitude to my ancestors from Germany and Switzerland, who braved the Atlantic and left their countries to seek new opportunity in this new nation.  And subsequently I owe a debt of gratitude to those who have served to defend that freedom and that opportunity in the hundreds of years since.  Like my father’s father, whom I never knew.  He died long before I was born.  To his service, and those like him, I owe an untold debt.

I am deeply and humbly and abundantly grateful for the freedom I enjoy as a citizen of this great nation.

Recently I saw a Facebook post that said, “Memorial Day: It’s not about the Barbecues.”  But may I submit that it is about the barbecue, the parade, the family gathering?  May I be so bold as to suggest that gathering together and enjoying the company of our loved ones is precisely what they were fighting for?  Are not the carefree smiles of our children a gentle reminder of the sacrifices made?

Today, we pause briefly to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.  We wave our flags, visit the cemetery, attend a parade, or gather with our families.  A pause. But the greater chance to pay our respect for their sacrifice comes in all our tomorrows.  May we live our entire lives in such a way to honor those who gave their lives for ours.  Let not their death be in vain!  Let not our freedom be in vain!

The Christian clause here is obvious:  With that great freedom, comes great responsibility.  For to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).  It is my humble belief that we followers of Christ must use this gift of freedom for His glory.  We have the great privilege to proclaim His name freely! Without threat of imminent death!  May we not take that liberty for granted for a single moment!  And may we not miss the opportunities that abound to proclaim Him to those who are still captive.  For there is no purer freedom than that which is found in Christ (Rom. 8:2, John 8:32).

For freedom, we thank our country.  For being set free, we thank our Savior.

I am infinitely grateful for both.

May my life be a reflection of my gratitude….by offering both a lifted lamp and a saving Light to any  ‘yearning to breathe free’.

INDEED!

Today was such an odd Easter for me.

I LOVE holidays.  I don’t want to say I live for a special occasion, but I kinda do.  And Easter.  WELL.  As a follower of Christ, there is NO BETTER DAY!  Victory!! Triumph!!  Death is defeated!!! THIS DAY!  A welling up in my spirit happens every Easter and there is joy beyond compare.

So, the fact that I woke up in a hospital on a plastic couch to the sound of oxygen and the never ending beeps of the never ending machines and a night staff who didn’t seem to notice that the Savior of the whole wide world was being celebrated literally all over the whole wide world….

I gathered my belongings.  I sipped coffee and chatted with my dad.  We shared some tender moments, prayed together, and I walked out of the room.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I turned down the hall.  I hated leaving him.  And I hated not being home with my boys.  Feeling so torn and absolutely overwhelmed by the sense of needing to be in two places at once, I headed home.

As I was driving towards the blinding sun on the interstate in almost no traffic, I started thinking about the body of Christ who were gathering this morning.  I drove by church after church after church with parking lots full.  I began to imagine the joy and could almost feel the sentiment of triumph as I passed through the countryside.  I thought about how in every church today, every single one, the message is the same on this day.  And that welling up in my spirit came over me as I said aloud….

Christ is risen, He is risen INDEED!

Dare I say that today, there is simply unity in the Body?  From Presbyterians to Pentecostals, to Quakers and Catholics, Methodists and Baptists…the same message rings out…

CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!!

Although I spent the morning alone, I didn’t feel alone at all.  Indeed.  I passed by all those churches and felt like a part of each one.  I sensed a great solidarity and camaraderie and belonging to something so much greater than myself. From the little country church in the valley to the big church on the hill, I am your sister and together we have some Good News to share!

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CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!

Indeed. In truth. In reality. Whether I have on my Easter dress or not.  Whether I am driving in my minivan or am surrounded by the Body or am in a hospital room or wherever.  It is still true, it is INDEED reality, that:

‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’ Luke 24:1-6

Indeed He is!  And He reigns victorious. And today the cares of this world, the being pulled in too many directions, the distractions, the pain, the suffering, the ordinary all fall away for a time….to simply proclaim:

CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED!!!!

Happy Easter dear brothers and sisters.  It was a joy sharing this day with you all….

 

CAPTIVE

I sat in the cold, stone room for what seemed like ages anticipating their arrival.  Curiosity and nerves were competing for first place in my typical over-emotional state.  Being a ‘feeler’ can be exhausting.  It’s difficult to explain what a typical daily emotional roller coaster a ‘feeler’ must ride.  I can go from crying tears of injustice to laughing hysterically at situational ironies in a matter of minutes. There has been no greater invention in recent years than the emoji, which helps solidify every single text I send. Without it, my text recipients are left to wonder my true feelings.

The room was cold.  It was silent.  Eerily silent.  I was curious. Or nervous.  And then a sound of a low steady hum slowly emerged from the silence.

The prisoners were coming.

My mom and I, and an inter-denominational makeshift congregation, were in the bowels of Raleigh Central (maximum security) Prison awaiting the arrival of the convicted felons and those men who had chosen to minister to them.  This was the closing ceremony of a 3-day spiritual renewal experience for the prisoners.  Michael was a volunteering minister.  I came to support Michael.

I fully expected to be consumed by discernment, the prickly hairs on my neck to stand on end as I met the roughest of the rough.  The vilest of offenders.  The rapists.  The murderers.  The thugs and thieves.  I fully expected that I would be accosted and undressed by their vicious eyes.  I expected to be disgusted and nauseated at the thoughts of what had put them behind those bars and barbed wire.  I fully expected that.

The soft hum was gaining volume.

It was a song.  A familiar one.

Finally, it grew to decipherable lyrics…

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and God’s grace.
I can hear the brush of angel’s wings,
I see glory on each face. 
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.

Their deep, modulated voices created so pleasing a sound that it shattered my expectations and I was filled with conviction.  As the voices became louder, it was evident that their echoes filled the prison walls from end to end.  Tears flooded my eyes and I wept at my pride.  They continued to sing upon entering the room, and though I tried, I could not distinguish between the captive and the free.  Instantaneously the barriers created by past mistakes and current condition were vanished, and I can’t articulate in mere words the serenity that was in that place.  We were one.  One Body. A royal priesthood.  Surely, the Lord was in that place.

One by one, the men gave their testimonies.

One by one they shared how they had experienced God that weekend.  One by one they shed tears of repentance.  And tears of grace, received.

A young man stood to share.  His calculated gate was evident as he took his place at the mic.  His hair, in dreads to his shoulders, covered his brow.  He hung his head.  After what seemed like an eternity, he lifted his head to speak.  I’ll never forget that face.  Seven years later, I can still see it as vividly as a photograph in my mind.  His cheeks were round, his eyes – soft and round and brown, not cold. Warm. Innocent.  It was the face of a child.  Your child. My child. I was immediately drawn to him.  My maternal instincts flared so abruptly, I nearly approached him to sweep his hair from his eyes.   I showed incredible restraint and stayed seated.

“My whole life’s been hard,” he began, as his voice cracked.  He had to pause and wipe a tear from his bright, right, brown eye.

I had to compose myself as well, in order to collect the puddle that had become of my body on the cinderblock floor.

I saw his life.  I saw my life.  I saw my mother gently tucking me into a warm bed and kissing my forehead.  I saw him alone and cold and unattended.  I saw my dad walk beside my bicycle as I learned to peddle on my own, giving instruction all along the way.  I saw him walking the streets, alone, figuring out life as he passed through it.  I saw my mother dropping me off at the front door of the school.  I saw him being schooled on the street.

I saw exactly how he came to be where he was.

That day I was given a new set of eyes through which to see the people God created.  The lost, hurt, broken, prideful, rejected, outcast, forgotten ones.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17

The need for my own repentance overcame me, and I had to seek forgiveness for my hardened, judgmental heart.  I thought I had gone there to let my little light shine.  And when the blazing fire of Christ entered the room through song, I realized it was I who had been captive.  That I needed to be set free.  Free from the bondage of judgment and pride and self-righteousness.  Free to love fiercely, mercifully, and unconditionally just as He has loved me.

That day changed me.  That day I gained the audacity to believe that Jesus could make all things new, even a wretched, captive, sinner like me.

PORN

I’m a football fan.  The first 3 years of my marriage my team was on fire, and I literally had to go through the grieving process when football season was over.  We haven’t seen much football since moving to North Carolina, because we’re Colts fans and we’d have to pay to watch on a regular basis.  And we’re too cheap for that.

Because today was a rainy/cold Sunday afternoon, Josiah didn’t feel well, and we weren’t over scheduled, I thought it would be nice to turn on the TV and watch a football game.  You know, America’s pastime and all that (Sorry MLB, it’s totally NFL). Our son was in the room with us, being that it was in the middle of the day and he was wide awake.

Within 2 minutes, the network we were watching aired a Hardee’s commercial.  In some combination of horror, disbelief, shock, and bewilderment, my once innocent 7 year old was accosted with images that were overtly sexual and included (almost, but may as well have been full fledged) nudity.  His response:

‘That was weird.’

‘Weird’ because he doesn’t have the vocabulary to express what he saw.  

I have gone to great lengths to prevent my children from seeing too much advertising.  We do not have cable TV, and PBS doesn’t air commercials.  Originally, selfishly, I didn’t want them being inundated with products that they ‘had to have’.

And now, I guess it will be to protect their eyes from the soft porn images on Hardee’s commercials.  

Frankly, I don’t blame Hardee’s.  Neither do I blame the network.  They are businesses and their sole purpose is to generate profit. That’s business.  They have no obligation to cater to my beliefs. They don’t claim to be followers of Christ, and therefore I would not ever expect them to act under my convictions.

They air/produce/create/promote/utilize those commercials because it (somehow) sells cheeseburgers.

I could rant and rave and scream until I’m blue in the face about the dangers of pornography/overt sexual images on the actual brains of our girls, our boys, our culture, and it would not make one bit of difference.

Because sex sells cheeseburgers.  And until it doesn’t sell cheeseburgers, it will continue to sell cheeseburgers.

Get it?

Don’t want to see those commercials?  

  • Don’t buy those products.

We will never win this battle with an argument of righteousness.  It’s all about the Benjamin’s baby.  Every dollar you spend casts vote.  

Hardee’s, you just lost our vote (and our dollar).

Sincerely, 

Parents who are trying to raise boys to become men who respect women

RUN

When I made my ’40 before 40′ bucket list, it must have been a warm day.  Warm, but not hot.  Productive, but not busy.  And I must have felt good and optimistic and happy and energetic and rested.  ‘Delirium’ is the only thing I can figure, because I included on number 16, “Run a 5k”.

I haven’t run since 8th grade gym class.  But ‘the heart’ and all that.  So, I’ve made a small, minuscule really, effort at working out since I entered my thirties.  My husband loves this.  He’s one of those brute animals who is a glutton for punishment.  He still wears his shirt from high school wrestling that says ‘no pain no gain’.  And he means it.  He likes to tear into a new workout routine and push his body to its limits, then enjoy the sore muscles as a physical reminder of his victory over the threshold of mediocrity.  This is who I chose as my ‘trainer’ for the 5k.  Because, 1) he’s free  2) he’s smokin’ hot, and 3) he’s free.  This is how our training sessions went:

Michael: You’re doing good, Babe. One more set.

Me: I hate you.

Michael: Almost there.

Me: You’re a liar.

Michael: You’ve got this.

Me: I hate this.

The adorable title “Jingle All the Way 5K” was 100% of why I chose it as my inaugural race.  Unfortunately, as the name implies, this race was in December.  And the eve of December 7th came in cold and rainy.

Me: It might rain tomorrow. Too bad about the 5k.

Michael: They’ll still have it.

Me: You think we should run in the rain????

Michael: You’ll either be wet from rain or sweat.  What’s the difference?

(You see what I live with?  I tried another route.)

Me: I don’t feel good.  Work, kids, dinner.  Hard week.  Don’t feel like running that thing tomorrow.

Michael: Don’t run it then.

(I mean, can you believe him?  Ugh. No way was I backing out after that.)

Me: Oh, I’m doing it alright.

Michael: It’s whatever you want to do.

Wait…

I was up at 4 a.m. Nervous.  We arrived to the race site to falling temperatures.  After a brief warm up, instructions about ‘follow the signs’ and yada yada yada, the race began.  It began on an incline.  At the top of the hill, there came over my body a strange hot sensation that radiated throughout.  I quickly identified the sensation as pain.  Oh no, I thought.  This isn’t going to work.  I’m in pain!  I hurt!  There are so many more deliberate steps I have to take!  Crisis! CRISIS!!  No one else seemed bothered.  Michael was out in front, and I was wondering why in the world I thought I could do this.

But I kept going.

The burning sensation gave way to warmth and I began to focus on the paved road that lay ahead of me.  Just keep doing this, I thought.  My best friend told me to plan out my next vacation during the hard parts of the run.  I tried, “I think we’ll go to…” and then my mind just went to “this stinks.  Why am I running?  My body hurts. I’m thirsty.”  Apparently, there are no complex thoughts that can go through my prefrontal cortex when my body is being subjected to such torture.  But little by little, I made my way around the loop. And mile 2 went by so incredibly fast, I can’t even account for it really.  Except I was so thirsty by the end of mile 2 that I allowed myself to walk 10 paces to take a sip of water.  As I neared to the finish line, I picked up a little bit of speed.  This wasn’t even horrible.  No wonder no one thought running a 5K was a big deal.  I can totally do this. I’m not as out of shape as I thought!  Seeing the finish line ahead, I couldn’t see Michael.  Where could he be?  He should have been done way before me.  Familiar faces were lining the finish cheering and smiling!  ‘You’re almost there!’, they shouted.  ‘Just one more time around the loop!’ they said.

Wait. WHATT???????  One more time? Around the WHOLE loop?  I’M ONLY HALF WAY DONE?????????????

I died inside.  And a little on the outside.  Halfway????  I told my body it was over! I told my poor unassuming legs that if they could just kick it in high gear across that chalk line, I’d let them rest.  I was so devastated.  That whole ‘yada yada yada’ must have actually been ‘And then you do it again. For a total of 2 times around the loop.’

I did not stop.  But I did walk for a bit.  I just kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other.  Finally, I thought just pick up your legs in a quick, jogging motion, over and over and over.

The first step was the hardest.

I knew once my body began, I would be able to finish.  So I started running.  And I kept running.  I ran past the now familiar signs.  I kept running. I was all but Forest Gump.  I was doing this thing, no matter what.  And I kept on.  I ran and ran and ran.

And when I was still quite a ways from finishing, I saw Michael jogging towards me.  He had won the race, and ran back to find me.  He came at the perfect time.  I needed some encouragement.  He stayed with me.  He ran with me, even after he had finished.  He ran the whole rest of that race by my side. He was so encouraging that he teetered closely to annoyingly so, but I would never ever say that in a million years. (Honey, God bless your sweet soul.)

I have heard real runners speak of a runner’s ‘high’.  Some kind of euphoria they experience during a run. That did not happen to me.  I got runner’s ‘cramps’ and runner’s ‘sore everything’, but no feeling of intense pleasure from this sport.  And when I found out I was only half way through, I felt like giving up, like giving in.  Instead, however, I picked up my feet.  I made a decision.  I kept going.  And no sooner did I get discouraged than did my handsome trainer come to my side.

Friends, this Christmas season, I am mindful of those who feel like giving up.  I am burdened by those who feel like all hope is gone.  If this is you, dear reader, pick up your feet.  Keep going.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

And if you see someone who needs your courage, your strength, your cheer…run with them.  Stand with them. Fall with them.  For we are called to encourage one another and build each other up, through trials of all kinds.  This season is so painful for so many.  In the hustle and bustle and holiday cheer, do not neglect those among us who suffer in despair.

The true meaning of Christmas is hope amid desperation.  Spread that.  Give hope.

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