Running the Race

Our country is hurting. Nine people are dead in South Carolina from a gunman who murdered them in church. Freddie Gray is dead. Michael Brown is dead. Trayvon Martin is dead. And many others. People responding to these deaths have been beaten and injured—citizens of every kind and color, those wearing tennis shoes and those in uniform.

There is a thickening tension felt in various conversations and in neighborhoods that has manifested itself violently, as it has in Ferguson and in Baltimore, as it had in the Rodney King Riots, and those before. People are scared and mistrustful, and we wonder if the fabric of our nation will survive this.

The deep wounds in our nation’s history are deepening. Blood flows, without mend. Our forefathers felt them. It inspired them to rise up from every neighborhood and street corner and in brotherhood hold hands, to heal. And yet the wounds passed on to us, carving our hearts.

The fear of unrest and upheaval have reduced men to whispers and mist. The great spine on which we depended confidently up to this time is giving out as we struggle to keep our balance above a chasm full only of chaos. It is terrifying. Friendships are threatened. Strangers are afraid.

It is as if we were running this race asea, aboard a ship, heading in the same direction, with the same desire to survive, with the same heart for the far away shore. But this journey has gone on for so long that we have lost sight of our purpose as we sail. We no longer care about reaching the shore or what it promises – declaring mutiny, fighting to make ourselves the captain. It is the old story of Man, retold in the classic yarns, and in the Good Book.

As the violence spreads into the holds, our barriers thicken, so that we become so detached from life that we no longer think or hear or smell or feel or taste or touch or see, because we’ve withdrawn to the only spot on the boat still safe: a rotten cask.

But we were never meant to hide there. A ship cannot reach the shore without our handling of the sails and the sheets and the buntlines and so forth. Who else but you and me are equipped to go aloft to change out the sails? We were designed with a purpose, with a specific duty, on this ship bound for new shores.

In America, we have each been given a unique gift. Those born here had no choice in the matter; those who arrived by choice did. But now that we are here, there is a solemn duty given us, to each of us – one not slathered in greed or pride or addictions, nor in a rapaciousness to consume until we sink – but to love.

The only way through this storm is to work together to handle our beloved ship. Our journey does not care what we look like (unless to celebrate it), only that we respond to the heart in our shipmates, that great heart latent in each of us, in that chaotic pit we are so afraid to open.

A healing America is one who sees together, who imagines, who believes in the shore beyond the horizon, who keeps hoping, humbly, taking our bread each day with contentment, giving to others, loving them lovably even though they are unlovable, lifting, extending, encouraging.

Fear dissipates just like that. It’s never been easier to love than right now. Jesus promises that in this life we will have tribulations, and in a moment of pause, I discover the shalom He also promises, even in the midst of those tribulations.

His love empowers me to love at a depth I could not have discovered in my own strength. (I do not have the lungs to reach that treasure.)

The great leaders in our nation’s history inspired us to love in the spirit of brotherhood. Mr. Lincoln. Dr. King. The citizen soldiers. If all their stories were told together, if all our stories were told in the same, we would not need the sun. It could finally take that nap it is craving.

In our youth we were inspired to believe in their words and character – that one day the violence will pass away, leaving only a fading scar, soon forgotten. I believe that is true. But in Man’s fallen nature this is impossible. One nation, however strong, cannot manufacture enough character from itself to eradicate this violence. It is a cruel, pandemic illness remedied only by divine love. He is the only one who fully endured its wrath. From His own Spirit He manufactures His antidote to our pain, giving it freely to anyone sick enough to need it.

And because of Jesus, there is the promise of healing. Ablutions. Forgiveness. Humble words dripping in sorrow. Shoulders given to shoulders, hands to hands, eyes in surrender. Repentance. That is the spirit of the journey He offers us to enjoy as we sail with Him on our journey home.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

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The Scenic Route

Last year, almost to the day, my wife and I took a three-week vacation down Highway 101, starting from Astoria, Oregon and ending up on Catalina Island. We built a raft and drove our Focus across the ocean to reach the island. Just kidding.

When we reached Northern California, we drove from Jedidiah State Park, in the middle of the Redwoods (which is breathtakingly beautiful) and passed through Eureka and on down the coast, detouring onto Highway 1 to stay at a bed and breakfast in Albion, which is no longer there. Not Albion – the bed and breakfast.

And what we experienced during that drive, and for the whole trip, was a stunning ascent into a pacific paradise: views of manzanita and redwoods and deep blue oceans and friendly people, of cresting waves and warm sand and water, of sunlight so warm and promising that it seemed the summer would go on forever. It was a scenic route. It was so beautiful, and so overwhelming, that it took me a year to put that trip into perspective, and to understand how a trip like that could suggest how God views my life.

So often in my life I find myself rushing to get from Point A to Point B, to reach my destination before Calamity catches up to me (not hard to do in a Ford Focus – I’d say Calamity drives at least a 300 hp V6). I rush. A lot. So determined to get there. To sort of coerce God into following me in the route I’ve chosen for myself, to prove to him that I know how to get there, and that I can drive faster than Him.

But of course, I don’t. I never do. And so they say that a guy makes plans and anticipates and that when those plans don’t pan out, his friends and family say that he’s taken a detour.

But it’s not a detour. It never is. It’s a scenic route, like Highway 101. God’s decisions and actions and plans are always good. They’re not a detour from the main road; they’re the purposed road He wanted me to take in the first place.

And what, then, is my attitude on a scenic route? One of enjoyment. Relaxation. Contentment. Pure beauty. An attitude of “sitting back and soaking it all in.” The giant redwoods. The blue Pacific. The crescent beaches. The salty air. The kindness in the locals who treat us as vacationers.

That, hopefully, is my attitude when I take one of God’s scenic routes in my life. It’s a process of refinement and discipline, of sacrifices and repentance that all lead to those moments of peace and patience and love and joy during those drives.

They are designed to be slow and cumbersome and winding so that I never know what might happen around the next corner. Sometimes there’s an oncoming semi I need to swerve to avoid. Sometimes it opens out to a vista of sand and ocean stretching beyond the southern horizon on a perfect halcyon day, the sun high and the clouds misting over the coast.

So what about this country? Have we taken a detour? Or is God showing us some things we aren’t fully realizing, a sky dark and scary and threatening, until we recognize within them navigable stars? We have a choice of accepting His discipline, of seeking Him, of asking Him to guide us, or not.

But if we do, we learn to sit back and enjoy the ride, as He drives us through territory so unmentionably good that it might inspire us to invite others along.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you give you a hope and a future.’” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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Holiday Blues

It’s now, surprisingly, the end of February. A long time ago, sometime in 2014, I remember celebrating Christmas and New Year with my brothers and sisters, mom and dad. We saw a movie in Bend and went out for breakfast at a vintage café the morning after before parting ways. Since then I’ve been swimming in a fog, trying to lift myself out of a lonely malaise.

I miss my family. I’m lucky to share the day with my wife Christie, but sharing the holidays with my family creates such rich experiences that in the subsequent days and weeks I’ve sputtered in a hiccoughing spasm, like the misfiring engine in an old Model T. I’m craving another break.

I don’t mean a day where I get to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in succession, or hit two large buckets of golf balls on the range in balmy weather. What I’m talking about is a holiday. A vacation. A time with friends and family. One that lasts on and on, into the horizon.

I’m craving heaven. To worship Jesus. To glorify Him. To bend my knee before Him and confess that He is Lord. Just to have that day. Just to be totally free in that moment. To understand, fully, how forgiven I am. I’m craving the time when all of us will be in perfect union, free from pain or fear or doubt, throwing a party to begin all parties.

I’m weak. My eyes burn. I have a headache. I’m tired. When will that day come? How beautiful will heaven be? How beautiful is our life with Him now, this engagement period where the marriage of Jesus to his body is promised, not yet completely fulfilled?

My wife and I went into Fred Meyer earlier today. We walked around. I noticed the strangers. I don’t know anything about them. In our big city where we live, there are too many strangers. It’s very hard, I suppose, to throw a proper party with a stranger.

No, you throw a party and invite the people whom you know, who know you, because they’re friends and you love them, and they love you. Those friends, you think to yourself, are the kinds of people whom you would want to spend a few more days knowing, if you had the chance.

I think that’s what heaven is like. Fresh mornings, hand-in-hand. All of us experiencing just how lucky we are, spending our eternity getting to know each other in a deepening intimacy. I’m craving that holiday.

It is on days like this one where the hope of being in heaven with Jesus comes home even more, hits me right in the heart, spreads through my soul, soaks into my spirit. I’m reminded of how difficult it is to endure in our broken world. But also, on this day, I am strengthened in my hope. I never thought I could go this far.

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  ~ Romans 5:5

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Improbable Wins

If you happened to catch the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers last Sunday in the NFC Championship, you would have witnessed an historic victory. After trailing 0-16 in the first half, the Seahawks won in overtime 28-22 on a 35-yard TD pass from Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, the largest deficit overcome in a conference title game,. It inspired me to wonder what improbable victories lay before me.

The Packers dominated the first half. Aaron Rodgers led his team down the field to score two field goals and then a touchdown, all in the first quarter. In the second, he led his team to another field goal to make it 16-0. Meanwhile, the Seahawks turned the ball over four times, three of them interceptions thrown by Russell Wilson intended for Jermaine Kearse. The Seahawks went into the locker room at halftime, and there was a feeling that the Super Bowl was slipping away.

Isn’t our day like that sometimes? Or our season? Maybe it’s been a whole year where we feel down. The game has walloped us so cruelly that it feels we can do nothing right. We’re outperformed at work and are inadequate at home. We ache to feel joy. On days like that our passion for life is gone. Our friendships are in jeopardy. Our families don’t understand.

But it is in that time when the very thing that drives us into the ground, is driving us to our foundation. It is on that rock where we stand. We may play games where we lose, fall short, fail, make mistakes, embarrass ourselves or worse, others. But there comes a moment when we realize we’re stronger than the oppression. Simply, stronger.

You and I may feel a bully on our backs nipping critical lies at our lobes. Let them. Those bullies are destined for oblivion. Their lies will go with them. But you and I, true sports, true Coach’s sons and daughters, are gifted with the skills and graces and talents to soar not in our own power, but propelled upward by Him. His rock springs us heavenward.

In the first half of the NFC Championship, nothing went right for the Seahawks. In the second half, everything did. With 4:44 left in the third quarter Jon Ryan, the punter, setting up for a field goal, faked it and threw a touchdown pass to make it 7-16, the first touchdown pass thrown by a punter in NFL playoff history.

With 2:09 remaining in the fourth, the Seahawks scored again to make it 14-19. Their subsequent onside kick bounced off the facemask of a Packer, and they recovered it, leading to another score and a two point conversion thrown by Wilson, which was lofted so high it was a miracle that it wasn’t intercepted. They went ahead 22-19.

In overtime Russell Wilson, after throwing four interceptions in regulation, pitched a perfect 35-yard strike down the middle of the field to Jermaine Kearse for  the game-winning touchdown. Seahawks won 28-22.

After the game, Wilson told a reporter, “The will and the drive of these men is unbelievable. We always find a way to finish.”

Great job, Seahawks! Way to battle, even when it was improbable, even when a win seemed impossible. Way to go!

Life is unbelievable so much of the time. It’s very difficult for me some days to get out of bed and go to work, thinking in the back of my mind about all the horrible atrocities our society encounters on a daily basis. It makes me pause to wonder if good is winning the fight, when it seems so improbable that it is.

But of course it is.

God has never lost. He never will lose. He always wins. Not from our understanding of how a football team might win, but on a field much deeper and much more spiritual. God’s victory is to claim you and me out of this terrible, harsh world. Your spirit and mine are so valuable to Him that He coached His team (Jesus) through the most painful of victories. Jesus lost nothing on the cross, because He gained you and me. And we are His, forever.

Sport is beautiful because it reflects God’s heart. Whether a team wins or loses, it’s the refinement, the testing of the game that matters. Sport drives us to excellence beyond our boundaries, to help us achieve in a dream that is God-sized.

If your team wins, as the Seahawks won, you might celebrate at how improbable that victory was. If your Packers lost, well, it stings, but over time there’s a sweet reward in it. Sometimes that reward is the very best thing you could hope to discover, far better than a gridiron win.

So now that Super Bowl 49 is at hand. It is to be played on February 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. I’m hoping, not predicting, for a good game. I hope the Seahawks play well, and the Patriots, too. And maybe in my own little private Super Bowl I’ll discover my Coach is setting me up for an improbable win of my own. We are meant for glory.

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” ~ Luke 1:37

 

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I’m still in 2015

It’s only the second day of 2015, and already I’m having to remind myself that despite unforeseen circumstances, God is still good. Even though we’re having car troubles again, it’s still possible to rest in Him. Back in November my wife’s Taurus conked out, and it cost us $1300 in repairs. We have an emergency fund for these types of disasters, and it took all of it. We knew that it would be a long time before we would need to make any more repairs.

Well, welcome to a year of unplanned events. Just this morning, the Taurus again would not start. We were forced to call a tow truck. This time it’s costing us almost $700, draining our emergency fund once again. But we don’t have a choice. We don’t have enough money to buy a new car. In about a month’s time, we’ve dumped almost $2000 into a car with over a 150,000 miles on it. Every dollar we put into it is money we can’t save to buy a new one.

Ugh! It makes me question the year ahead, to think to myself, “I’m still in 2015?” even after only the second day of the year.

Isn’t life like that? We make plans and hope for the best and usually fail to prepare for the worst. Yet it’s the worst circumstances that often prepares us to experience the best.

God is teaching me about Him today. His love. His faithfulness. His heart.  But the thing he’s teaching me most, I believe, is to be still in 2015.

I forget how easily God has the victory over disasters, how His plan is far greater than poverty, disease, injury, pain and death, that even on a worst day He still sings our names privately in His heart, how we are safe in Him.

The start of a year inspires many of us to be optimistic about the months to come; for others, it only heightens our sense of dread as we think, Well, my life is hard. What makes me think life won’t be hard in the year to come?

I don’t have an answer to how this year will go. I imagine that some days it will be good. Some days will be bad. What matters most to me isn’t the quality of day that I have (although I hunger for good days), but how still I can be before God.

Only by being still in Him is it possible to hear His song that gives me life. To be broken and built up in the same moment is the best possible outcome to a searingly painful event, one that rejuvenates my spirit and fills my hope. Even in despair, when life is scalene, I can still hear Him, His love and mercy and truth, the hope of life He’s singing over me even now.

That song is singing today, a genuine expression of God’s promises. I’m thankful for struggle—not for the sake of struggle—but because by them, I see how God works His plan through the heart of them, changing the heart of me. Thankfully, I’m still in 2015!

“Be still and know that I am God.” ~ Psalm 46:10

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Heavenly Secrets

This weekend my wife and I went to a Christmas party where we sat around talking and eating and playing Canasta. It was a time of catching up and of laughing, of celebrating the season with friends. I’m horrible at Canasta, so my wife and I lost miserably in the first round, and there was no hope of catching up. But we enjoyed ourselves.

As I sat there listening to our friends share their lives together, I became contemplative and pondering, hearing them, thinking about this strange joy God has given us—one of release and freedom and happiness.

And my thoughts turned to Jesus, wondering what He would have done and how He would have acted in a party like the one we went to Saturday night.

I mean, what went through His mind? I’m not thinking necessarily about the wedding at Cana where He performed His first miracle, but before, long before—when He was still very young but burgeoning with life and maturity and love.

What did He think about? How did He act? I couldn’t help myself listening to something very old and good that belonged to God: It was the hope of Him. The life He’s given us. The anticipation of living eternally free in joy, and of sharing our stories together.

But what did He think on at parties? What kind of secrets did He keep?

Could He have not sat there like any of us, pondering life, the things in His heart and in ours, as the children laughed and the men and women ate and drank?

Or if the moment must have made Him ponder them individually—their future hopes and their lives in heavens, loving them achingly?

How rich His joy must have been! How rich His ache for life, that His people would live out their lives in happiness, experiencing the depths of joy, on earth and in heaven!

And He of course wouldn’t have prided himself that He was their lord. He wouldn’t have had any thought about it. I suppose. For wasn’t His secret, His deepest secret not that He was their lord, but that He would die for them? Isn’t that the joy that He pondered so often in his youth?

At that party last Saturday night, I was rapt with happiness as my wife and I shared in the happiness of our friends, and I thought of how rich our lives would be in heaven. I thought of telling their stories and lifting them up and blessing them, of lifting them up to God, of showering them.

But is it possible that Jesus’s joy wasn’t that He would be lord over them or us, but that He would suffer excruciatingly for all? That while we were laughing and drinking and being merry, He too was sharing in it, His mind solely focused on the horrible death He would face?

It’s a comforting thought to think that in Jesus’s humanity He celebrated his friends, and all their hurts and hopes and loves and joys, and treasured them intimately in his heart, even as He knew the moment was coming when His very heart would be rent from Him by a mechanical claw.

How does one ponder this joy? How can our King have been so happy in His pending terror? Simply because He thought of you.

What better joy would He need to sustain Him on the cross?

“… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12:2

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Free Life

America is a great place to start a business, and a great place to sell things, though it’s not easy to do so sometimes. People sell anything from Thanksgiving dinners to buy-one-get-one-free oil changes. But there’s a problem that I see when people try to sell God as one of those products.

I’ve worked in both indoor and outdoor sales. I’ve sold binoculars, telescopes, clocks, books, compasses, Christmas decorations, maps, charts, ad space on public benches, cars, journals, and more. I’ve had little success in selling them. I hate feeling pushy. Or the feeling that I am trying to coerce and manipulate someone into buying buy a product that he doesn’t need, one that is over his budget. I am not a good salesman. And I’m not a good salesman for God.

In my training I’ve heard salesman speak of the mythical “golden egg”—the product that sells itself. If you’re selling the golden egg, they say in theory, you don’t have to do anything but stand there and people will marvel at how wonderful and timely this product is, and will realize they need the product now even when they hadn’t thought about needing it.

I suppose some people, when they try to sell God, think of Him as that great golden egg—the product that will sell Himself. That if we just show up and smile, God will do the rest.

I’m not sure this is true. Truly God has His own agenda when it comes to saving souls. The life that He offers has little to do with me or my skill, but everything to do with His righteousness and love. God asks from me obedience, not results. How He saves someone is up to Him alone, something only He will receive credit for. What Jesus accomplished on the cross was by His own power, not by anyone else’s.

But it’s tempting, isn’t, to do a good deed and to think that you earn credit with God, that if you lead someone to Christ, you get some kind of spiritual badge of honor? The thought festers the deathly greed in me. Thankfully He saved me not out of my works, but out of His grace. Thankfully God used no gimmick or sales tactic when He brought me to Him; rather, He extended His love and grace to me—far enough that I could reach it with my shriveled hand.

I believe someone who thinks he can sell God to people hasn’t fully been bought himself. God isn’t selling anything; He’s offering it. Freely. God knows we don’t have the power to buy our way into heaven. His Son already paid the price on the cross. The selling and ransoming and buying of it is done. The whole debt is paid. For someone to try and sell free life is not only wrong—it’s theft. God won’t tolerate that in His children. Thankfully His love is greater than our sin, that He readily forgives, that we don’t have to earn His life; we simply receive it.

And if we humbly do, we become as free as the unbounded life He offers. Forever.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

~ Romans 6:23 ~

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Why I Can’t Quit on My Dream

It used to be in high school I had a dream to play in the NBA, and I worked hard to make that happen. I practiced all the time, dribbling out the passenger window of a moving car, dribbling my basketball to football practice, forcing myself to shoot free throws in drenching rain and blanketing snow–on some nights I practiced so late that the ball became covered in snow and ice, and I could no longer feel my fingers.

Those behaviors are the kinds that might make a dream like the NBA possible, and anyone who aspires to such an end might replicate those, or exceed them. There’s nothing wrong with having passion. But I made basketball the most important thing in my life, above God and family. My life teetered out of balance, and although I knew I was headed down a destructive path, I lacked the courage to choose something better. But God pursued me.

When I injured my knee my junior year in football, He used that time to heal me both physically and spiritually. He led me to His Word, which for the first time I read regularly. For some, playing in the NBA is a worthy endeavor, something he can glorify God by doing. But for me, by letting go of it, I learned that God loves me and has a better dream in mind.

I believe that people are searching for healing—from abandonment and abuse, from divorce, from injuries, from bondage and fear, from bullying and intimidation and disrespect, despair and insignificance, from hatred, angst and death, from all the terrors of war. I believe that people are craving to discover real love. That we find it, and the freedom it gives, is my dream.

It’s possible; I know it is. Just as I was fought for by God even when I was pursuing a wrong thing, we are being fought for in the same way. God loves us. He’s pursuing us with all His heart—with His heavenly host, with His Word and the unbounded, everlasting, unchanging, joyous, freedom-blessing love of Jesus Christ. And He will not quit until He has gathered all His children into His arms.

I can’t quit. I can’t. Even when my dream seems impossible, even when hoping for it is painful.

We live in a great country. We have freedoms in America unparalleled in history. We can assemble peacefully, question the government, and vote. We have prosperity; we can drive to a supermarket and buy whatever food we crave. As long as we don’t hurt someone else, we can do pretty much whatever we want.

But it feels like the heart of our country is rupturing, that our nuclear family is shattering. Increasingly, our children are entering into a hostile world. Their need for love is being compromised. With violence in schools, as in Marysville, Washington, and with our cities and towns soaring in drug use, with illiteracy and hunger and homelessness, with more and more people living below the poverty line, with divorce and abuse rampant, it is grueling to believe that our country will last long enough to return, wholeheartedly, to God.

But I can’t quit on my dream.

When I was playing basketball in high school, I played in a gym rarely attended by more than a few hundred spectators. But in this new dream I have, I’ve found myself inside an arena so vast its dimensions are unfathomable. Among countless spectators, I’ve found myself in a battle testing me in every dimension I possess—through every facet of my character, in every facet of thought, in every action, from my innermost soul to the tips of my fleshly body. Whether I use my courage, or fall back into cowardice, determines not only whether I win the moment, but on an epic level, it determines how my life is impacted eternally. I am purged and flensed, bruised and scarred, failing to keep hoping. I suffer angst and crushing fear. I’m so afraid of facing my struggles that at every moment I am tempted to quit.

But I can’t.

And my encouragement to anyone reading this is that if our dreams are good, then don’t quit. Though it’s painful, keep going.

The motivation to keep going has nothing to do with me, but God’s pursuit of me. If I am still in an arena, then God is my Coach. And if He is my Coach, how do I behave on His team?

I remember that He forgives. That He knows all my strengths, the areas where I need to spend extra time developing. He knows exactly how to push me. And He’s promised never to push me beyond what I can’t endure. And if I drop the ball, as I so often do, what does my Coach ask of me? A humbly whispered, “Sorry, Coach.” And then I’m back in the game.

Why can’t I quit on my dream? Because my Coach won’t let me give up—not on myself, not on others, not on Him—until I finish the race. His death and resurrection, His life, His victory on the cross gives me the freedom to keep hoping. It doesn’t seem possible that I can keep going, or that our beautiful America will return to serving Him alone.

But as an athlete conditioned daily in the season of the impossible, I have to bow my knee to Jesus and let Him do His mighty work, believing that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). So I’ll keep fighting to believe that America will return to Jesus, that it can find healing from its wounds, that our children can grow up in safety, and that our families will be restored. Very soon He will bring us all to Him. It’s what He fought for in the arena. It’s why He died. Even in His death, and now in His resurrection, Jesus refuses to let me go. So I can’t quit: He won’t quit on me.

“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:6

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Tribute to Robin Williams

I was shocked when I learned from a small TV monitor at the gym that Robin Williams died today. A preliminary investigation ruled it suicide due to asphyxia. He was battling depression, and a month before had been in a rehab center to treat a recurring alcohol addiction, which he’d been sober from for 20 years. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family.

His role as Sean in “Good Will Hunting” touched me profoundly. I watched the movie tonight with my wife as tribute. His honesty and openness is as apparent on screen as the deep pain and sorrow which plagues him. He deserved the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. I also enjoyed him in “Dead Poet’s Society,” how he inspired me to believe that people are meant to be themselves, ultimately free, and that the purpose of an education is to learn to carve from a dark world the sparks of light in people’s lives, and in our own.

I will truly miss Robin Williams. Thank you for all the joy you brought to people!

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Sailing Away Forever

America is sailing through a terrible storm. We’re foundering in national debt. Burdened by current affairs abroad and at home. Tossed and turned by injustices in every stratum of society. Violent men increase, punching holes in the hull, and in each other, with jagged harpoons. And meanwhile our beloved family, the engine of our vessel, is breaking apart. Books like Fifty Shades of Grey reflect how muddied our morals, and our waters, have become.

While we wander aimlessly, the winds howl. Massive swells roll along, one after another, with no end in sight. Waves are crashing over the bow, swamping the deck, filling holds. The sails are shredded. The skies are so turbulent we can’t hear ourselves think. We’re somewhere we’ve never been, with hidden rocks all around, and no sense of direction. We are powerless. Any moment we’ll be dashed, and sunk.

What we once held in high regard as our duty to carry out our various responsibilities on deck, we’ve now abandoned through mutiny, trying to possess a vessel that is not ours, one too powerful to steer. So we’re hiding below in a pitchblack hold, ashamed, afraid, unwilling to fetch our Captain out of the water. Vainly, we’re trying to loft belay pins at the helm thinking we can steer the vessel ourselves. Where are the calm waters? Where is the hope? Who will save us from the storm we’ve led ourselves into?

It comes with apologizing to our Captain, Jesus Christ, for throwing Him overboard.

He’s there, waiting.

Ready to forgive.

God is greater than any little storm. His plan is greater than our mutiny. He not only allowed for our ship to sail into stormy waters; He made it possible for us to sail out of it. Our hearts may be raging and empty, tossed here, thrown there, without Him. The storms may come, worse than we imagined. We may feel a terror so overwhelming that we’ve lost our propriety, trying to salvage only ourselves. But even now, there is hope.

The hope is in our Captain. He has a handy ability of walking on water. He also is the exceptional Seaman—splicing lines, splicing frayed spirits. He can mend the largest holes in a ship, the largest in a heart. His purpose is an unfailing binnacle, guiding us due west to the horizon, and beyond. He’s deft aloft, mending haggard sails so our lungs can be filled again. He is the bravest Helmsman, unafraid to take on any storm, even the one that destroyed Him—to know the path out of our storms, into peaceable seas.

Also in His list of skills is saving the world. He’s sort of cornered the market on that one.

We did throw Him off, and He was attacked by sharks—not by the ones in the sea, but by His best friends, you and me, as we fought to drown the very life from Him, succeeding at it.

But Jesus is of the Deep, of an Ancient Glory. He goes farther and down, deeper than we imagine. And what was down and lost, burst into life again. And He will never quit on you or me. This is the impossible, made alive. He is impossible. And He Is.

He rescues imperfect sailors and throws them into the wind where they must learn courage and grace to swerve with Him in and through the waves. He can helm anything—even a man. The language of His seamanship is perseverance and fortitude, strength and valor, kindness and joy, and love, speaking direction patiently into His crew.

At His finest, He is the Captain in duress, waiting for you and me to invite Him aboard. Out of free love, out of the unfathomable power of His love, He calls us again out of the bilge to see the view: of an unbounded sea. And His ship, driven not around the storm but through it, is to destroy for all time the scrim of chaos on the high seas.

He is perfect. He is the One and Only Son of God. The Alpha and Omega. The I Am. The Perfect Sailor. He is doing what a sailor does best: grabbing hold: One hand for the ship, one hand for all of us. He is full of compassion, ready to forgive. And He is not quitting. He will not quit. He won’t quit on you and me. He will not quit. He won’t quit. He will never quit. Never. Ever. Not ever.

He will not quit. His faith is so great that He makes His Words true when He speaks them. And He’s promised to helm any man willing to surrender to Him—his heart, his ship, his wayward direction—that is profoundly at peace only in Him. He knows where you’re headed. So go there with Him. Let the impossible happen. Let Him handle your fears. And all those terrible waves that never seem to end. Let Him fill you with perseverance to run in the wind.

America is struggling along like a damaged vessel, badly in need of repair. The storms come mercilessly, and it is terrifying. But if we just call Him, Jesus will be the Captain of our souls.

Starting Today, He’ll take us on a neverending journey into His kingdom, into His deepest paradise of a hidden realm with waters sheltering His most secret imagination, just for you and me, this eternal life with Him—you and I His, sailing in calm waters, sailing away forever.

“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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition form sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-3

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