Friday, September 25, 2015

I'm a Runner

I'm a runner. That's what I call myself when I'm not running. When I'm running, I call myself a jogger because it rarely feels as exhilarating as I imagine really running would. When I can't keep up with my nine year old son on the downhills, I call myself a poser. When I pass someone on the trail I don't call myself anything. I just work really hard at running fast without looking like I'm working really hard...and then I make fun of myself and gasp desperately when I'm safely out of sight.

Some people really are good runners. I know because I run with them, for the first half mile or so. Then I just watch them disappear into the distance ahead of me. It's nearly impossible to sort out who they are by appearances. I've been humbled (that is to say unexpectedly and severely beaten) by runners whose stride looks like a gimpy tyrannosaurus and others who look like their prime was two or three centuries ago. But what they have in common is, well, if I knew that, I probably wouldn't get beaten so much. So I admire them anyway and take it as inspiration while I spend a lot of time running alone where it's much easier to feel good about myself. That's what you have to do when you're very competitive but not very good.

Still, take it all together and I really do enjoy it, every bit of it, though some more easily than the rest. But success without challenges is less satisfying to say the least, even if I have to lower the bar sometimes or just shamelessly kick it to the side and "do it for fun". I'm a runner.

So, the spiritual angle on this one is pretty easy. Just swap the word "christian" for "runner" and you have the story of my faith without changing too much else. A simple word search for "race" results in a good bible study that will go as far as you care to take it. But I do have a separate point to make. When I said I didn't know what the people who beat me have in common, that wasn't entirely true. What they have in common with me and most others who choose to run the race is that, even while they're competing with each other, they're also rooting for each other to finish, to the last one. And the ones who run in front are often the most encouraging of others. This behavior is especially good because running is generally short changed in the department of cheering fans. Not that I blame them. Who wants to stare at the trees for an hour after all the contestants disappear around the first turn? My dad wrote a favorite song of mine called, Weirdos Are Welcome. Thank God they are. Besides making the race a lot more fun, I don't think I would be allowed in it if they weren't.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Body Like Christ's: part 1

Have you heard the stories where someone gets lost in the snow, decides they're actually in the Bahama's, strips down to their underwear and enjoys the last minutes of their life like a tropical get-a-way? That is unless the camera crew finds them and they end up on a survival show explaining how rational it seemed. I think there's good reason to take those accounts as a divinely arranged preview as much as a physiological phenomenon.

It's obvious that in our mortal bodies these instances represent a delusional state of mind that we can scientifically explain. Though some of us don't need to be that cold to be delusional.

It's interesting that we enjoy the sensations of hot and cold even when they are a danger to us. Just watch a kid play in the snow until their lips are blue and still refuse to quit, or an achy person in a hot tub until their worried about waterlogged body parts falling off. It's in our nature. But what if there was no mortal danger? What if hot and cold were just dynamic sensations that we could sense and appreciate to their extremes without discomfort or fear? Let me justify this train of thought before we get too much further. Consider a couple statements from the Author of science and creation himself - more precisely from Paul and John, but I know God as an accomplished ventriloquist. There's plenty more but these will get us going the right direction:
-"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." - Philippians 3:15
-"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." - 1John 3:2

Christ flaunted this a little bit for our sake and the potential is far beyond temperature tolerance (though my wife might be happy with just that). A couple biggies were hanging out in a super-heated furnace with his friends and inviting Peter out for a walk on the water. And I think he probably enjoyed our reactions more than he let on. But I still think he might laugh out loud the first time he sees my bare butt making a naked snow angel. That's probably not what they really look like though.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Miss Kitty's

I was on my way to a friend's party at Miss Kitty's.
"Do you need directions?" he asked me on the phone just before I left the house.
"It's right on the main drag, right?" I asked knowing there was only one major street through Williams.
"Yeh, It's easy to find. It's right next to the Inn just after the road splits. There's a billboard right out front."
"Alright. I'll see you in about an hour."

I can't explain how I missed the sign on the side of the building, but I did. I'm blaming it on a dark, cloudy evening and the fact that I was looking for a billboard. Either that or the presumption that, on occasion, Murphy blinds us to the information we need most for the sake of a good story. Anyway, an hour and a half later, I was completing my third or fourth pass of the downtown loop, two one-way streets running opposite directions, and not feeling like my chances of finding the illusive Miss Kitty's were improving. We had surveyed every building that could possibly serve the purpose. How can you get so lost on a half mile strip? I called my friend who didn't answer his phone. Apparently he was already partying in the covert location I was still trying to discover.

I was a little embarrassed about it when I finally took my wife's advice and stopped at a hotel to ask for directions.
"Miss Kitty's?" the lady behind the desk looked at me quizzically. "They're not open anymore. They went out of business a while ago."
Judging by the expression on her face, the expression on my face must have been worth quite a bit as I struggled for how to proceed.
"Well...I have a friend who said he's having a big party there tonight."
"Oh! Miss Kitty's!" she exclaimed like a profound mystery had just been solved rather than created.
My first reaction was to study her face and see if the joke was on me. I'm not sure if I was more or less at ease to see that she was completely serious.
"It's just a couple buildings down the street from here. It's right next to the Inn just after the road splits. There's a billboard right out front," she offered cheerfully.

My heart sank as I began to question the laws that govern the space-time-continuum in this strange place. With a fake smile and a thank you, I got back in the van and we drove slowly toward our possibly fictitious target. When we were about to pass the last major building and head out of town for the fifth time, I pulled over and contemplated the cars in it's parking lot. This has to be it, I decided as I looked at the large sign in front of it that bore no mention of Miss Kitty's. There was no evidence of a big party there either but I pulled in anyway and looked for a place to park. I found a spot near the large, unhelpful sign.

When we filed out of our vehicle, we found ourselves looking at the sign from the opposite side than what was visible from the road (unless you would have been trying to find it by looking backwards while driving forward on a one-way street). There on the billboard in letters that had been weathered to near invisibility were the now disdainful words, Miss Kitty's.

I feel like that about scripture and faith fairly often. You read or hear about something that you really want to be part of. The directions seem very clear and straight forward. Then you set about the business of actually getting there. One of those things in scripture that I aspire to is to "rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and careful instruction." I didn't rebuke or correct anybody (not too severely at least, though my friend did apologize for not answering his phone) but, on the receiving end of things, it was encouraging to finally get there. Sometimes great patience is required because of the careful instruction you didn't get.

But, to its credit, scripture is actually very good at looking backwards on a one-way street and alerting you to where you are and where you're going. It points out helpful signs we wouldn't otherwise see (like the one on the side of the building I drove past four times). It's right next to the Inn just after the road splits, I promise.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Diamond Machine

It seems easy to get caught under the weight of the world right now. Politics are crazy, economies are crazy and people in general are crazy. It's enough to squash anybody! As much as we would like things to be different, God promised exactly what we're seeing. Worse than that, He said "stand up under it." Under it?! I'm more interested in the way OUT from under it most of the time. Seriously. What is He thinking?

I'm gonna say, "diamonds." It takes the weight of the world to make them, literally (unless you're made in a lab, which can be equally traumatic). A hundred miles of earth piled on top of some carbon in the molten mantle of our planet presses it into those little gems we buy on special occasions or put into tooling to cut stuff that's too hard for anything else. They are also the best heat conductor in the world, good for taking heat from the things that can't handle it. Call them treasure buried in a field... really deep. That is until their natural home, a somewhat turbulent environment in the first place, gets tired of carrying the weight of the world and decides it should ride on top for a while, an eruption. Ever been caught in one of those? Thought so. That's often how we got where we are. Less extreme versions of the same process form many other precious stones if you don't feel like being a diamond.

Whatever gem you're becoming, I'd call it logical to feel like a stranger here on the earth's surface? Some people really are going back underground these days. There's some justified speculation that diamonds are not as rare as they seem, but try telling that to the diamonds. They can be a bit hard headed, like Christ and the apostles who were willing to live and die as outcasts for their cause. That's why they get used the way they do. It's encouraging to know you're not alone at least, even if our environment keeps us from seeing each other as much as we would like. And what do we see when do get together?
Most diamonds are opaque black because they are polluted with too many impurities to see through. And guess what it takes to purify them... that's right; more heat and pressure. Yep, I can relate to that one. Something about a plank in my own eye comes to mind. Not to worry though. Rough diamonds are no less useful as an abrasive (that comes naturally). And even if you remain a diamond in the rough, you're still one of the most durable substances in the world. It's never more than we can bare. It's the very thing that makes us. He'll put you through the pressure and the heat, but leave yourself in his hands and you might be surprised what you actually get used for.