20.11.14

But I Will Never Run a Marathon



It was mid-day on Saturday, and I was dying.

My lungs were burning, and my fingers were freezing.  My knees were aching and my tongue was parched.  I had run 9.75 miles with the last quarter of a mile looming before me along with the knowledge that I was running beyond anything I had ever run before.  I felt like an explorer of the barren Antarctic or the moon, for that matter. 

Along with my equally crazy friend, Sarah, I am training for a half marathon next year, so last Saturday was another normal episode in the training process.  Normal, except for the fact that I had never run ten miles before in my life.  And two weeks before that, I had never run 8.5 miles before.  And two months before that, four miles was my comfort zone.  And believe me, the idea of running a half marathon is much more enticing than the actual torture part.    

So as I have pushed my comfortable distance just a little farther, as I have pushed my legs a little faster, and my heart a little harder, I have slowly edged forward.  And now, I find myself in the unique position of being beyond my comfort zone, looking back in to that empty box, and not missing any of it! 

My discoveries in my running shoes hold true in high heels as well, so no matter what shoes you wear, here are three reasons you should run through that comfort zone:
  1. A comfort zone that is never challenged becomes a blindness to new possibilities. 
  2. You cannot scale a mountain you have never climbed before without a Guide: Jesus becomes very real at the edges of our comfort zones! 
  3. While comfort is not a sin, God's chief end is not for us to enjoy comfortable lives, but rather Christ-glorifying lives.  Comfort zones can become catch-alls for bad habits, laziness, and pride.

Paul loved his comfort zone of Pharisee-ism  until he was forced to confront how meaningless his comfort really was on the road to Damascus.  From then on, his life was not comfortable, but it was so much more.  Here is his perspective on comfort zones:

"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. " {Philippians 3:12-15}

While I consider the fact that I am now becoming comfortable with the idea of a half-marathon, and quake in my running shoes at the thought of the full marathon, why don't we also consider what comfortable Christianity Christ is challenging in us?




“Runner,” © 2013 Alexandra E Rust, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

12.11.14

Gullible


Did you know that Shakespeare didn't actually write Shakespeare? That, in fact, he isn't the author of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and every other piece of writing attributed to him? The first time I realized this was when I was taking my SAT years ago. The essay question was on this very subject, and I found it fascinating, but never got around to researching it further. I saw, a few years later, that a movie had come out about the same topic (but never bothered to watch the film). And so a seed of doubt was planted. Based upon two very small pieces of information, I believed that there was definitely reasonable doubt as to Shakespeare's authorship.

It wasn't until last week, as Joel and I looked through the decade-old pictures of a trip he took to Great Britain with his family that I voiced aloud my doubt when we reached the photos commemorating his visit to Shakespeare's house. He looked at me with great amusement, and I realized to my consternation that I didn't know anything for certain. Research was definitely in order.

What did I find? Well, there is indeed loud controversy surrounding who wrote Shakespeare's creations. There's been many books on the subject, organizations formed, movies made, Wikipedia articles created, and more. And yet, the first suggestion of such a trick being played upon the whole world did not occur until 1857--241 years after Shakespeare's death! No contemporary of Shakespeare ever suggested such a masquerade; no written evidence has been uncovered corroborating the controversy; and the leaps of logic required to reach such a conclusion (certain bits of the plays match events in Francis Bacon's life, or Walter Raleigh's life, or--most recently popular--Edward de Vere's life) are hotly contested by academia. Indeed, award-winning scholar William Hunt said, "No, absolutely no competent student of the period, historical or literary, has ever taken this theory seriously. First of all, the founding premise is false -- there is nothing especially mysterious about William Shakespeare, who is as well documented as one could expect of a man of his time. None of his contemporaries or associates expressed any doubt about the authorship of his poems and plays. Nothing about De Vere (Oxford) suggests he had any great talent, and there is no reason to suppose he would have suppressed any talents he possessed [1]."

I had to laugh at myself for so glibly assuming such a conspiracy to be true, and to wonder at the people who are so avidly attempting to rewrite history while blindly ignoring facts, evidence, and truth.

And yet, I shouldn't be so surprised. A very many people do the exact same thing with God and His Word. 

"For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." {Romans 1:20-21 NKJV}

There are those who--like I did with Shakespeare--need only a few suggestions about evolution and the impotence of a god to believe the alternate theory that the world created itself or that Scripture is a literary gem, but not authored by God. They may not realize that "I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin [2]," as Dr. Voddie Baucham so brilliantly put it.

The good news is that many of these people are no more truly educated in the matter of spiritual things than I was about Shakespeare. It may take only a look--only a question put in love, to cause them to reconsider the lie they have so unconsciously believed. It may take only a statement to cause a lifetime of assumptions to vaporize.



New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
[1] Blakemore, Bill. "'Anonymous': Was Shakespeare a Fraud?" ABC News. ABC News Network, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
[2] Baucham, Voddie. "Why I Choose to Believe the Bible." The Ever Loving Truth. 30 June 2005. Sermon Audio. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

6.11.14

Inspired



Every day I live, I find new people, places, little moments, and big truths to love, and I am inspired to live to love and to love to live this life God has gifted to me.  Not unlike the first Adam, who was literally inspired by God with the breath of life, for that very word "inspire" comes from the idea of infusing with life by breathing!


This week I am inspired by:

Friends who care about what I have to say.
Reading a verse in Scripture that seems to be and indeed was written directly to me.
The benediction of an adorable smile from a 2 year old.
Carrying on a lively discussion with my family.
A cup of tea or coffee always inspires genius!
The privilege that we still have to vote.
Friends who are going through intensely dark times, yet can't stop talking about Jesus.
My students who take what they have learned to love in lessons and teach younger siblings or parents.
My mother's patience.
My father's gentleness.
Jesus' longsuffering love for me regardless .  No need to even clarify, just regardless.

Who or what inspires you today?



“4/52 Joy,” © 2014 StephaniePetraPhoto, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.

30.10.14

Honeymoon in the San Juan Islands

hon·ey·moon
ˈhənēˌmo͞on/
noun
noun: honeymoon; plural noun: honeymoons
  1. a vacation spent together by a newly married couple.
  2. "romantic hand-holding breakfasts together on their honeymoon"
  3. from the idea that the first month of marriage is the sweetest





Humorous and not-so-humorous honeymoon anecdotes abound (we missed our flight! we forgot our luggage! we got third-degree burns from the sun!). Amazingly, however, none of these or any other mishaps occured on our honeymoon! Aside from the general fatigue and recovery from the wedding preparations, our honeymoon week was as near-perfect as one can get this side of heaven. Joel planned every detail beautifully, Providential blessings showered down upon us, and we basked in the joy of being together.













After a day in Seattle and two days of tearful goodbyes with our families, we flew home and were so blessed by a wedding reception our church here in Maryland threw for us! 

                            hon·ey·moon
The first month after marriage, when there is nothing but tenderness and pleasure.
~ Samuel Johnson

{Dear Mr. Johnson, may I amend your quote to say "the first two months after marriage"? For I can certainly attest to the fact that these sixty days have been nothing but tenderness and pleasure. Methinks my enjoyment of marriage might even stretch into three months, six months, thirty months, or thirty years! Will you wait three decades for my report?}

22.10.14

Musical Chairs



Where you sit matters.
When  I walked in the door for some of my first childhood concerts, I picked my seat carefully with one objective in mind: the best view of the violin section.  Somehow, though, I still knew that no seat in that auditorium was the best seat, for you couldn't physically feel the music from that vantage point.  Since I surely never dreamed I had a chance of sitting up on stage with the music-makers, though, I was satisfied with my spot in the audience.  

Now I play in concerts several times a year, and a few weeks ago when the lights were dimming and the hush was falling, I realized with the crescendo of the drum roll that I have the best seat in the house!  Joining me in that position are nearly fifty musicians, our conductor, and one very special person each concert who gets to sit in our "Merry Chair."  With sponsorship, an audience member is ushered on stage to sit in this specially placed chair in the midst of the symphony, and my ten year old self is intensely jealous!

For believe me, there is a mammoth difference between staring down the bell of the trumpet as it bellows at you versus living amongst the music while it swirls around you.  And the leap from sitting amongst the music to being a music-maker is even more indescribable!  My violin vibrates with the ring of the cymbal crash behind me, white rosin dust puffs in clouds at our first bow strokes, and fifty people are swaying as one.   Nowhere else do I get the same pull of tension and delight that comes from creating and enjoying at the same time.  

So where are you sitting in the symphony God conducts?

Are you in the audience?  Appreciating God's mighty master hand as He works in the lives of others in the world?  Looking to the "professionals"--the missionaries, pastors, and leaders--to make great music, and being comfortable in your position of observer. 

Or maybe you're in the Merry Chair.  You're rubbing elbows with those through whom God is working.  You even look like you could be making music.  You're in the midst of the music-makers, but there is one key difference between you and them: you're not being led by the Conductor. 

So why not be a music-maker?  Don't just casually observe what God is doing, and don't just look like a music-maker to satisfy other's expectations.  Own the instrument God has given you.  Tune it well and play under the Master Conductor!  Be led by Him, and Him alone, through all the time changes and key changes and grand pauses that could trip you up.  He knows what happens after that page turn better than anyone. 

And while I still stand by the statement that where you sit matters, know that once you're a music-maker, it doesn't really matter anymore.  Whether you are the soloist or the violinist nearly hidden by the stage curtain, as long as the music you make is led by the Conductor, it is important, and it is beautiful. 




“Abandoned cinema 1962,” © 2010 phill.d, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.
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