In darkness: do you carry a lamp?

I like running in the dark. At first, it was unsettling to be surrounded by so much, well, darkness. Yet this happy discipline has grown on me. A habit of sorts, forged over these last few years (in patience), and I run early in part because that is the time of day when I’m not needed elsewhere. Four or five AM is well before responsibility gives a hug and won’t let go.

A question often comes up: isn’t it dangerous to run in the dark?

(You’d probably have to ask about the dangers the millions upon millions of women and children face while traveling miles upon miles every day to fetch water— six kilometers on average. Did you know that every day 200 Million hours are amassed in fetching water, mostly unsafe water, in developing nations? You can change that for someone, in just an hour. Join the 6K for Water. Do it!)

Running in the dark, where I live, is probably not as dangerous as running in the daytime. You see, there’s this phenomenon of being surrounded by massive bullets flying around, without much attention paid to where they’re going. (Cars, those bullets are cars driven by people.) That is, a daytime runner has to be constantly on the watch for inattentive drivers. Distracted, looking at devices, not looking for a runner, walker of cyclist. Pedestrians have the Right-of-Way, until they don’t and it’s too late. Plus, early mornings are quiet and peaceful, even (or especially?) in rain or snow; these are times I relish for moments to think, pray, BE. The lonely miles are always accompanied by LIGHT and reflectivity. Simply investments in rechargeable hand lights and headlamps make one seen and safe at the same time. Dark mornings are when one must bring a lamp. And a gift from our church family last Fall made capturing some of these moments quiet fun. “GoPro take photo,” is a simple voice command that later reveals a beautiful scene. Like this one …
Track Tuesday
In meditative moments like this, the Scripture comes into focus:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Let the reader understand: there is plenty of darkness even in the light of day.

Coupled with this reflection on that verse:

“We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way and see what lies in it. When darkness settles down upon all around me, the word of the Lord, like a flaming torch, reveals my way. Having no fixed lamps in eastern towns, in old time each passenger carried a lantern with him that he might not fall into the open sewer, or stumble over the heaps of ordure which defiled the road. This is a true picture of our path through this dark world: we should not know the way, or how to walk in it, if Scripture, like a blazing flambeau, did not reveal it.”
—C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David on Ps. 119:105

It must be asked: Do you use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that you may see your way and see what lies in it? (Find some good helps here.) 

Will you do this in the early hours, or in the “darkness” of daytime, even before discouragements and disagreements mount their assault? When all the good news and fake news and whatever news dissuades your heart from keeping up the good work of following Jesus no matter the cost? If you do this, in the darkness, your feet will not slip.

The most healthful thing you can do today is not so much run a mile, in darkness or daylight, but rather this: take the lamp of the Word of God and let it shine brightly on the world, on your mind, bringing light to your heart. Then you will be able to see clearly, to “capture” with the lens of the mind’s eye the beauty AND brokenness in each scene. Then you will be able to see reality as it really is. In His light do we see light. Even, and especially, in darkness.

Track Tuesday
(Photos by the author. Please do not use without my permission; happy to lend permission if you ask.)
 

More by less.

Every time we add something new to our schedule, we must take something out. Alongside your ‘to do’ list think about keeping a ‘don’t do’ list as well.

“Many times, developing the ability to spend time in the Bible and to hear what it’s saying is less about our aptitude for scripture and more about all the noise that exists around us. We all know we could use more Bible, but we often forget we could use less of everything else.”
—Jared Wilson, Abide

 

Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator.

One of the greatest challenges we have as parents is to keep our children from settling for less.

The world offers less.

The great lie is that our heart’s longing can be satisfied with the lesser things of this world. We attempt to make a god of created things instead of worshiping the creator. This is why we never find a sustained sense of satisfaction or contentment. Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator. 1

The beauty of the Creation story is that it paints a picture of the one we worship. The all-powerful, all-sovereign, all-loving, all-just completeness of our God. Here’s the opportunity:

Our struggle as parents will always be to keep the bigness of God in our homes. As parents, we get the enormous opportunity to help our children connect the dots of their deepest desires to the source: their magnificent God.

So let’s help them DREAM and let’s help them to SEE the realities beyond this world. Through it all, they just might develop a taste for the kingdom of God. God is and will always be the best conversation that you can have with your children.

Rooted in Scripture, this prayer of the Apostle Paul for us and with us:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being…
—Ephesians 3:14-16

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Story Catechism Prayer Challenge

  1. Day 01, Story Catechism Back 2 School Prayer Challenge
 

Until His love we tasted …

Our time in sin we wasted,
And fed upon the wind;
Until His love we tasted,
No comfort could we find:

But now we stand to witness
His pow’r and grace to you;
May you perceive its fitness,
And call upon him too!

Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before;
Since we have seen his beauty,
Are joined to part no more:

It is our highest pleasure,
No less than duty’s call;
To love him beyond measure,
And serve him with our all.

—hymn by John Newton, “We Were Once As You Are”

On Sunday July 3rd we (Renew Church) considered the themes of Duty and Dependence, whereby the beauty of God overwhelms our hearts and what used to be a mere duty receives a whole new energy to be joyfully performed, even with pleasure!

The following Sunday we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (original lyrics by Sir Robert Robinson) with added closing verses borrowed from one John Newton’s hymns, “We Were Once As You Are,” with the chosen verses from above emphasized (added at 3:21 in song). Listen …

 

Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

Courage: hearing and responding eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place.

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Continuing from yesterday

The same could be said for churches and religious organizations. We do not genuinely fulfill what God is calling us to be and do as a community unless we develop the capacity to hear together the voice of Jesus in our midst—His voice of assurance and comfort, but also His voice of call and guidance. It is easy for churches or religious organizations to look elsewhere for models or trends to follow. Some church leaders are easily attracted to attending a conference or reading the most recent how-to book to learn how to help their church or religious organization develop in the same way as some remarkable church on the other side of the continent or the ocean. Others, in contrast, are nostalgic about a tradition, about the way things have always been done in this particular community, and speak of it as “own way.”

Yes, we need to learn from others. And surely we are right to stress the value of the heritage we have within our church communities and organizations. But both our search for new models and our love for our own way of doing things can undermine our capacity to hear the new word that Jesus has for us as a community. We urgently need to develop a corporate capacity to respond to the voice of Jesus and have the courage both to hear the voice and to respond eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place. 1

» This seems to me a vital need among our leaders, for me personally, and in particular for the Renew Church family in the coming year.

 

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17-18. Emphasis added.
 

It’s too easy to live by duty, the expectation of others, the inertia of culture…

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For us as individuals, the danger is that we might never develop an inner life. It is easy to life by duty, the expectation of others, the routines of our work and the inertia of culture and religious traditions. Surely what we long for, though, is an authentic interior life in which we know to the core of our beings that the Spirit of God is present to us and speaking life to us — a life that is personally and dynamically our own. With a well-developed interior life, we live our lives in response to the Spirit. We choose to live that which we are called to live — our life, not someone else’s life. 1

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17. Emphasis added.