Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A case of the Heavies

Do you ever have those days when it seems like the world keeps sitting on your head, and by sundown you're a few inches shorter?
Me too. Yesterday was not the finest of my professional life.  It certainly wasn't the worst, but it was difficult.  And there was a personal element of challenge as well.
And I didn't have any chocolate ice cream nearby to share the burden with. Just a bottle of water. Water is not a good way to drown sorrows, just so you know. 
So, since I couldn't bury my troubles under a pint of Phish Food, I took them to Jesus. Its not an original concept and yet somehow it always seems novel when I get to the point of truly casting my cares upon His big ol' shoulders. I know God loves me. I know He's really the only One with the power to do much about a lot of what concerns me, and yet still I have this fear that my cares will slide down His broad back and get dumped somewhere and no one will be tending them. Then where would I be?
So yesterday, I chugged some water, grimaced, then heaped my cares on Jesus.  He took them and in return gave me peace. Not the overwhelming, "I've officially solved your problems as of...now," kind of peace, but the "I've got this, dear. Trust me," kind.
About twenty minutes later I began to worry my cares had fallen and I should go collect them. So I went back to Jesus and there they were, still propped on his shoulder, as He and I cruised with Dirk the Blue Impala through Oklahoma. And since we were on the road, it didn't take long before I had nothing better to do than try and collect worries.  But, when I checked yet again, Jesus still had them. He gave me more peace and He didn't roll his eyes or say, "Geesh, I created the known and unknown universe. I can handle your piddly career, already, not to mention the rest of your junk. Back. Off." Or,  "You want your worries so badly? You take them, then. See if they make better company on your drive. I'll meet you in Stillwater." No, he just reassured me and we kept on driving.
Which made me realize this morning how grateful I am that Jesus is patient.  I mean, He is awesome in countless ways. I will never fully get it on this planet because there's just too much about Him to glorify, and that thought itself is stirring.
But even on the days when I don't give Him credit for all that I know Him to be, on the days when doubts creep in, or when worry tries to become my master, even then He is patient, gentle, and with me. Thank you, Oh Lord for your graciousness. For your strong shoulders and your willingness to take on them the burdens that bend my spine. Thank you for doing so out of love. Not obligation, not pity, but your patient, endless love for me. Your grace astounds.  All my love.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Things I learned in Colorado, Part II

Tada!  The second ever picture on my blog!  This is Alberta Falls in the Rocky Mountain National Park, one of a number of lovely waterfalls we found on a grueling ten mile hike while trying to breathe air that  was so thin even the oxygen fell out of it. But it was worth it to see the lovely falls. It really was. I keep telling myself so.

When I was very young and lived in Oregon, I thought waterfalls were as common as apple trees, but as soon as we moved I realized how special the unique beauty they offered truly is.  First you hear the rumble, then the roar. It's a natural sound of power, similar to wind tossing about in mighty trees. Then you come upon it. Rocks have fallen in the water's path, immovable obstacles. The very foundations of the earth. But the water will not be stopped. It surges over and around the boulders, seething with the effort, rising when necessary. Though it may falter, it will find a way. Water, the very stuff we rely upon, that we bathe our infants in, exerts its might.

And over time, the sharp edges of the rocks begin to dull. Some may tumble away, some never will, but still the water flows. And when it has passed the drop, moved over the boulders, it collects, crystal clear and ice cold in a pool as still and silent as the trees that watch over it. 

The image struck me as a physical example of what love is in this world.  It is not always well received. It often faces immovable barriers. Hate and terrorism may not listen, and they may strike with a violence that is sharp and heavy. But over time, love will win.  It cannot be stopped, it cannot be smothered. And it is, in it's quiet persistence, the most powerful force on earth.

My Lord, I love you. I love that you're love. And I love that although the ugly in this world may strike with the speed of hateful vengeance, your love is stronger and your love wins. Thank you for the beauty you put in this earth to remind us of you. Wash me in your love, oh my Dearest. All my heart, all my self, is yours.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Things I learned in Colorado, Part I

In Colorado, the Arkansas river runs cold. Much colder than it runs in Arkansas. But I hardly noticed as we careened over the frothy swells of white water and around the glossy heads of boulders that jutted above the surface.  I was too busy listening for Ryan, our instructor to yell, "Forward two! Forward two!"
The all-day whitewater rafting trip started with a safety talk.  We all snugged our yellow helmets on our heads, had a professionally trained rafter tighten the straps on our life vests, and climbed aboard an out-to-pasture school bus where a guy with spacers in his ears told us what to do in the worst case scenarios.  It's a good thing they don't have that talk until the bus is moving...
One of the most important things he said was that if you see a rock wall approaching and your guide says paddle, do it.  If you lean in and away from the obstacle, you will hit it and maybe fall out. If you don't want that to happen, you have to dig in and paddle hard.
Easy enough, right?
A few hours later, we'd worked our way through a couple rapids and I'd started to notice something.  When you look at the river ahead, your mind processes which way you think the water will push you.  You plot the course in your head and prepare for the swells and dips it will involve. You're ready for that ride.
Only, that's not what happens.  Because behind you is a raftmaster with a rudder paddle who influences the path.  When you think the boat will go straight, it moves sideways. When you think it will hit, it evades. 
And sometimes, when you think the water should push you forward, it guides you gracefully toward a jagged rock wall.  The shadows eat you first, and the gorge looms and you know you're about to get a nasty bump.  It would make sense to brace for it.
But then, Ryan yells, "Forward two!" And you have a choice.  Either duck, or wedge your paddle in the narrow three-foot gap that separates you and that jagged wall and pull for all you're worth.
I pulled hard. Then again.  It didn't make sense.  The way the boat was pointed, I might well be hurrying us toward a rocky end. The woman in front obviously thought so as she braced her paddle like a jousting stick and tried to push us off the rock. It didn't work.
But then, just as I was about to close my eyes and rehearse what I would say to the EMTs to ensure I was taken to an in-network hospital,  the boat darted forward with a graceful ease, away from the wall and toward the center of the river, now crystal clear and sparkling with sunlight.
Even then I saw the parallel. In life, we let God steer, but we think we know the path we're on. We see some bumps, anticipate others based on the way things flow, and brace ourselves.  But then, the path we saw gets lost in the rapids.  We're moving in ways we never anticipated.  Thrilling ways. Sometimes dangerous ways.  And every once in a while, this new path hurtles us toward a rock wall.
It doesn't make sense. I've followed God. I've gone where he's called me.  Okay, mostly.  But still, when he said row, I rowed and now I'm about to become a smudge on the side of a gorge.  Then he calls out to row and hard.  Really, God? Are you trying to send me headlong into a rock face?  I have a choice. I can do it, I can row and know that if I go out it will be in a blaze of His glory, or He might save me. Or I can try and shove the wall away. I can deny it, I can run for it, I could even jump from the boat if I wanted and float the rest of the way in my trusty life jacket and helmet. 
If I base my decision on what I can see, that might be the wisest course.  But I can't see the One steering. I don't know what He's doing to direct this course, only what He's asking me to do. There's no time for Him to explain what actions he's taking and how they will impact the position of the boat. I can trust...or not.
And the times when I trust, when I dig in and use my whole core to move forward in the direction I'm told, those times are always a precious.  They are sometimes scary as all get out, but they are best.
Thank you, Lord, that you are always with me. Even in gorges, when rocky walls loom, you are there. You see what I can't, you know what I never will, you love me like I can't hardly believe. Your call is ever for your glory, and in that I find the hugest blessing ever. You never try to pitch me from the boat, you want to ride it with me. And thank you that even when I panic, you are with me. When I fail, you are gracious.  Give me the courage to row hard wherever you point me. I trust you.