Saturday, October 31, 2015

One step at a time

Every morning she walks out of her cluttered apartment and painstakingly makes her way to the elevator. Three stories down she emerges, ready for her trek across the street, through the parking lot and into the public library. The walk is less than a city block but it will take her nearly fifteen minutes. Each step is labored, slow and stilted. She wobbles and wavers. But she makes the journey.
Her name is Teresa and she is my elderly, frail neighbor with missing teeth and a bandaged leg. She lives alone on the top floor of my apartment building. I've never seen her welcome a visitor or get in a car. Her days consist of her home, the library and the one single street in between.
For Teresa that journey across the street is a physical feat. She could just sit at home and avoid the labored walk across the road in the sweltering ninety degree heat. Or she could get a motorized scooter to take her to the library and maybe even a bit further to explore the buzzing downtown shops and restaurants. Even a cane would help assist her in staying upright without swaying back and forth, making the onlooker sick with worry that the next gust of wind will blow her little frame right over! But Teresa doesn't rely on any of those aids. She goes about her days on her own, making small steps towards her intended destination.
Watching Teresa I can't help but see a little bit of her in all of us. Our spiritual walk with God is a lot like her walk to the library. It is slow. It is labored. Sometimes it looks terribly wobbly and precarious. We have to make that walk in all kinds of conditions - unbearable heat, a winter's blizzard. Yet, if we fix our eyes on our destination and go forward with determination, we can overcome every obstacle.
The journey won't necessarily be easy. In fact, we shouldn't even be surprised by all the hurtles we'll have to climb over, difficulties we will face and obstructions that will be placed in our way. 1 Peter 4:12 says, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you." When we struggle and suffer and our every step is painful and slow, we shouldn't be surprised. We have been given fair warning. While walking with Christ we can expect fiery ordeals and trying times. But we can rejoice in them because what we are experiencing is a taste of what Christ endured. We are sharing in His suffering and one day we will share in His glory.
As we labor along our road of life we need not look too far ahead. Teresa doesn't. She just looks across the road, to the library, to her very next destination. If she can make it there she can rest. She'll worry about the strength needed to return when the time comes, but for now she has one mission: make it across the road.
I could use a bit more of Teresa's spirit, attitude and outlook. I don't need to see the whole year ahead or even the whole day ahead. I just need to take the next step. God will see me through the rest. But if I can make the next step, no matter how painful and difficult it may be, He will provide me with the strength and endurance needed for the rest of the journey.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Love thy rain

Sitting on my couch surrounded by comfy pillows, soft light and an apple cider scented candle, I hear  the beating of the rain against the side of my apartment building, making gigantic puddles outside in the street below my window. Few sounds rival the bliss of an evening rain with the door wide open to let in the fresh, clean air. The rain does the spirit good. It brings with it refreshment and calm.
Now send me a rainstorm on a Saturday morning when I am hoping to get in a run or a visit to the outdoor farmer's market and my view of rain takes a dramatic turn. I want rain when I want it (while I'm warm and snuggled up at home) and not when I don't want it (while I'm enjoying time outdoors). This is the rain paradox. It is a love-hate relationship.
But the rain is a necessity and it does the earth good. It contributes to the vital hydrologic cycle. This basic earth system contributes to so much of what I take for granted. Every fish that swims relies on the rain to maintain their aquatic habitat. Plants need it to grow and thrive. We need it to for drinking water and our very survival. The rain seeps into the earth, maintaining the health of the soil and life itself! Oh, how different would our world be without the rain! It would be lifeless. It would be dry. There would many more parched throats. And many fish with useless fins.
This must be why God gave us rain - he knew we'd need it. In Isaiah 30:23 it says, "He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful." I may not always appreciate the timing of the rain or the way it makes me look like a wet dog when I get caught in its onslaught, but it is a necessity of life. Without the rain my world would look so drastically different; less vibrant and lifeless.  Without rain I wouldn't enjoy the soothing sounds as it lulls me to sleep.  And I would never, ever see a rainbow. I need the rain. The earth needs the rain. This world needs the rain.
When God made the rain He knew He was creating something that wouldn't always be welcomed with open arms. He knew that rain would come and disrupt picnics and proms. He knew that rain would get our clothes all wet and make our hair look like we just stepped out of the shower on our way to a job interview. But He made the rain anyway because He has a plan bigger than our hair, our picnics and our proms. He has a plan that includes rain. All kinds of rain. Rain that comes in the form of precipitation and rain that comes in the form of trials and tribulations. He's created them all with a purpose that is for the long term survival of our very being - body, heart and soul.
Sometimes rain comes in the form of an unwanted circumstance. Like the falling of big fat water droplets, we get pounded by something terribly trying and troublesome. It can be an illness. It can be a break up. It can be the loss of a job or the loss of a friend or perhaps simply a set of lost keys. These troublesome circumstance come upon us like rain on our wedding day (think Alanis Morissette). If only the rain could have come on a different day!
But just like the rain that falls from the sky, our rainy days of trials have purpose. They are necessary. They provide us with the testing we need to increase our faith. Without some rain there is little growth in the spiritual life. Without the pouring down of God's good precipitation we wither up and die like a plant parched for water. We need to be drenched with difficulties if we want to see our faith increase, grow and thrive.
Today I was thrilled to see the rain outside my window. It was a welcome change to the days on end of ninety degree heat with high humidity and sticky air. But when I encounter rainy circumstance in my day can I say that I always have the same upbeat, positive, welcoming response?
The emotional rains that call into question my faith and reliance on God lay before me a choice I alone can make: rejoice and dance in the rain...or lament that I can't go out and have a picnic.
I alone can make the decision to put on my rain boots and do some puddle jumping. It is my choice to embrace the rain no matter how hard it falls or how many days on end those dark storm clouds linger overhead. I am compelled to learn to love the rain because it is the rain that has made me who I am and who God intends me to be. I will wither up and die without the rain that God sends my way. So instead of cursing the rain and pulling a blanket over my head in an attempt to escape it, I'm going to go out and dance, sing and jump around. I am going to learn to love the rain.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A little step forward

You may not always get the next ten steps all plotted out for you, laid out in a nice little row with color-coded arrows. More often than not the steps come one at a time and the arrows aren't bright and flashy. And you want to know what I'm finding out about those arrows? They are enough. Taking just one step in the right direction is enough. We don't need to leap. We don't need to run. We don't need to cover lots of ground in little time. We just need to take each obedient step forward that God shows us, as He shows, when HE wants to show us. I know as well as anyone that His time table will not look like ours. We might take one step and wait quite some time before we see the next arrow. Sometimes we wait longer than we need to because we are looking for a series of red, flashing arrows when all the while a little one painted in black and white is right in front of us all the while. It might not have been what we were anticipating, expecting or hoping for but it is what God has given us. So take the step, even if it is just one. Go on God's timing, at His pace, in His direction. He will bless that obedience. Your faithfulness and trust will not return void. Your obedience will never be for nothing. God has a plan and a purpose for every step of obedience He has for us to take. So take it. Own it. Love it. Embrace it. This is a step made for you, plotted out for you, specifically designed for your foot to land on. Don't miss the blessing in the smallest steps. Because God hasn't overlooked you. On the contrary, He has so detailed out your every moment that He even crafted little steps. What is your next step going to be? Get excited. Because I know it is going to be good.