When “Finding God” Is All That’s Left

You, Lord, are our Father. We are nothing but clay, but you are the potter who molds us.
Isaiah 64:8

Heavenly Father, Master Potter, you design each one of us and sculpt us from clay and dust into images of you, the likeness of Jesus Christ – but you give us a choice. The choice is a simple one: to accept that we are the product of your hands, skillfully made for specific purposes, for glorious reasons; or to see ourselves – not as beautiful reflections of you but as standalone originals, equals to you, gods in our own lives, in our own minds, with ambitions we decide and define for ourselves.

How we must disappoint you when we choose the latter!

But some of us are blessed to be given – to be suddenly struck by – the recognition of our origin, our place and means of manufacture, our humble beginnings, middles, and ends. For us, life ceases to be a struggle for survival (of the fittest). It is no longer a challenge and a competition to make something of ourselves – by ourselves – through our manipulations of others. Instead, life becomes a peaceful and joy-filled journey of adventure to see and experience every single thing and moment – even the frightful ones – and each and every companionable meeting of brothers and sisters that you have planned for us. On our years-long trips through your wondrous creation, we find opportunities to demonstrate our choice – not to build our own vain-glory, but to lift up, encourage, and shine your light to illuminate the paths of those trapped or lost in the darkness of despair.

What a treat to have such a cause as our motivation! To simply, humbly follow the clues and cues you have hidden, sometimes quite plainly, in this divine “scavenger” hunt, when “finding” you is all there is.

Lord, the work of “doing” within people is yours. Yes, we can boast slightly that it starts with what they see and hear and feel from us, those who believe and know just this much: that you are the Master Builder and we are of your workmanship.

God, we have a funeral today, to celebrate a broken but repaired jar of clay returning to your eternal workshop in glory.  We who remain here need to discover again your comfort and assurance. I pray for this.

In Jesus’ life-changing name, Amen.

Spartan? Try Roman!

My wife, God bless every bit of her, has always been a fitness nut. She’s always felt driven to it. Before we were married, she worked aboard tanker ships, and would tell me about her off-hours on-board exercising. (There was not much else to do when embarked for months at a time.)

Mid-life has been no different. Several years ago, prompted by the sudden, shocking passing of a co-worker who had gone out for a jog, a group from her company started working out together. They set and accomplished goals, at first running 5Ks and 10Ks, and then getting into Spartan racing. This is a race on a course filled with obstacles of every kind: walls to climb over, barbed wire to crawl under, tires to pull, weights to carry, etc.

It was a time of great camaraderie, as family and friends got involved. Our son joined. Even I, just months after open-heart surgery, took up walking the 5Ks (and still do). Spartan races are held in specific locations, and sometimes there are multiple levels and lengths. Finishers are awarded medals. A series of three is a trifecta. There’s a shadow box here at the house, proudly displaying all of my wife’s hard-earned memories. Seasons have come and gone, and the group’s makeup has changed as members move away and change jobs, but a group it remains.

This morning I awoke wondering what (or who) inspires a Spartan. I immediately noticed that there are parallels with followers of Christ, because Jesus, our founder, ran a race very similar to the excruciating challenge of Spartan. Let’s call it “Roman”.

We have all these great people around us as examples. Their lives tell us what faith means. So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fail.
We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy that he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.
Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.
Hebrews 12:1-3 ERV

What Spartan racing is to full, comprehensive physical training, the Roman cross has to be to full, comprehensive spiritual training. And the biggest difference between the two is that the cross, for Jesus, was run to the death.

You are struggling against sin, but you have not had to give up your life for the cause.

We Christians are called to die “in effect”.  To die to ourselves, to die to our own selfishness and goals, and instead to live in and for Christ, for God’s purpose for us. And in service to others. This is the biggest similarity between Spartan and Roman. Sure, there are elite Spartan competitors, but, by far, the “common” racers are not concerned with their own times; they’re only concern is surviving the race to the finish. And they willingly aid those running alongside them. Throughout a Spartan course, you will see nothing but one racer helping and encouraging another.

A Book of Cliche’s?

There are, of course, many cliche’s I’ve heard from my Spartan. Motivational sayings are printed out and tacked up on the fridge. You can google on Spartan race quotes and quips, and fill a book with such sayings.

Likewise, we have a book of Christian motivation, The Bible. But “cliche” doesn’t do either of these collections justice. “Cliche” has a negative slant. It’s definition is “a saying that is overused to the point of meaninglessness”. So I looked up some synonyms: platitude, banality, maxim, axiom, truism. I think I found the right word in “dictum”, which has two definitions. One, is like those other words: “a short statement that expresses a general truth or principle”; but the other is very definitive: “A formal pronouncement from an authoritative source”.

The Bible is our guide. It is full of advice and recommendations on life’s best practices. Can it function the same way for a Spartan racer? I think so, but I now know that in it, I have found another way to connect with my beautiful, hard-charging bride.

Faith Is Like ____; Faith Is Really ____

Have you ever heard faith being described?

Faith is like re-watching a recording of an amazing come-from-behind sports victory – knowing how it will end; but faith is really sitting down to watch the first game of a new year, knowing that my team will consistently play well, make a game of every contest, no matter the final score, no matter a single game throughout the season, and be playing in January. (Yes, my team is the New England Patriots.)

Faith is like my favorite “happy ending” movie marathon (again) – it seems like Lord of the Rings/Hobbit are always on somewhere; but faith is really catching a movie I’ve never seen before, knowing the ending will be just right, because the best stories are all based on The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Faith is like being up early enough to take in the sunrise; but faith is really the assurance of tomorrow’s sunrise.

Faith is like the hostas around my house in the springtime, making their annual re-appearance; but faith is really having the landscaper move some of them to new spots in the yard, knowing that they will do just fine. (I’ve seen this – you can’t hurt a hosta!)

Faith is like reading Revelation and other verses about The Day; but faith is really waiting expectantly, counting the signs, completely sure it is well on the way, even if it won’t get here in my lifetime.

Faith is like tasting the memory of last year’s Thanksgiving dinner cooked my Brother-in-Law Dan – and the years’ before that, too; but faith is really the delicious smells coming from the kitchen this year and knowing they’ll be worth it.

Faith is like the finish line of a 5k walk, barely 4 months after open-heart surgery; but faith is really like the starting line of yet another 5k, today.

Faith is like hearing my favorite worship song this morning at church, and making my joyful noise right along with it; but faith is really having that song ringing in all glory in my head for the rest of the day, and then having it return fully at a stressful point during the week.

Faith is like a warm bear-hug; but faith is really feeling that hug again at exactly the right lonely moment.

Faith is like every intimate moment I’ve ever had with my wonderful spouse; but faith is really appreciating the true feeling of closeness when our bodies have aged past the capability or interest of experiencing it any longer.

Faith is like the precious moments spent holding my grandchild; but faith is really the immediate smile at the sight of his face or even the simplest thought of him.

Faith is like seeing my daughter go forward at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs; but faith is really knowing she’s going to be all right in this life.

Faith is like the time I spend in the Word, comforted by its promises from a loving Creator; but faith is really looking back on a life that has been completely changed and re-arranged to now have purpose.

How do you describe faith?