Beads of sweat, heart pounding ... I was but one person on a team to the finish line.
A light sprinkling of rain on and off for the past week has turned dry, dead grass into living blades of life. Droplets of water splatter vitality upon barren land. Celtic songs of lore ringing tunes across the province. They call us to the past and to the present in a whimsical melody in honor of those that have gone before and those yet to become.
It is a passing of the baton from one generation to the next; men and women who carry the gospel deep within their souls as lovers of the King.
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 it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and loose heart. Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... So that you will not grow weary and loose heart. I think back to the grandmothers that went before me. Their faith carried them through a journey and so must mine but how do I keep my faith and my hope strong?
Life has chiseled enthusiasm into humility and I seem to know less than when I started.
Like a voyage ship, her sails are set to weather life's storms. God loosens her grip to an open hand and the promises he has set as a compass to solid ground; he will never leave nor forsake.
I was recently treated for a frozen shoulder - nothing that requires surgery but something that requires working through the pain. So true in life.
As I downloaded the NCAA basketball brackets for the first time, I sketched my winning combinations. 64 teams - I made a phone call.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that entangles. Self-sufficiency sanded down, I am not as tough as I seem. Sure - strong and independent but still human; my open hands close tighter the tattered silk cloth that makes me a woman. How do I remain strong as a mother and servant of Christ but reconcile my dependence on a holy God?
The sin that entangles and strangles my faith is the judgement of my father.
I was "frozen" in my own self-absorbed concept of who I thought he was. Only faith could perform a miracle. The problem I faced? The subtle nuances of not forgiving meant I couldn't entirely trust God with the plan.
God, through the power of the cross and the name of Jesus, broke through scar tissue and an inflammation of ego, and I ... must continually work through the pain.
I called my dad impressed with myself that I had completed the NCAA bracket selection for the first time and had something to talk about. I said my final two out loud. I read into his momentary silence; in my mind, I said aloud the "wrong" prediction. God wasn't concerned about the game of basketball but in the humility of reaching IN and reaching UP.
I learned something about him that day ... it wasn't about who won but in the dream lived out on a court for those young college-aged guys. The underdogs - the ones that nobody expects to get into the finals but are there anyways. Forever their lives are changed for it is a place where anything can and does happen on the court. Upsets and valid predictions, it is a twist of ups and downs.
I am pretty certain the prayers of an Irish grandmother permeated through the dew of a sincere heart through the generations. Irrespective of her absence, the prayers offered up in the last generation filtered down like sunlight streaming over water.
Our culture is set on the things we can see and control but faith calls us to trust the behind the scene practice shots nobody ever sees. But as I step out, God steps in and lifts up the underdog in unexpected shots. Miracles as a result of the power of prayer and the lifting up of one name.
That phone call was an invitation to enter the game.
Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)
Do you see what this means - all those pioneers who blazed
the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better
get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit!
No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sin.
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished
this race were' in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost
sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in
and with God he could put up with anything
along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and not grow weary and not give up.
The green hills of March. Is there anything so glorious? Dry, dead grass being changed with a bit of water into something new.
There were upsets this year. The lowest seeded teams beating the highest seeded ones. Because a little effort on my part, I was now invested in the conversation. March Madness, where anything can ... and does happen. The Madness spills into April.
Spring break - a 13+ hour drive to drop my daughter back at college.
While classes resumed, I needed to kill some time. I Can Only Imagine, film was playing; it is a current movie about redemption and the relationship between a father and his son and the faith that connected them. Coincidentally, the NCAA finals was later that night. Not a sports fan, I asked my daughter to go to a sports bar with me to watch the game. She brought a book; her presence, however, was a reminder that I was not alone on this journey.
Sharing the conversation with the bar owner opened the door for him to be invested into the story. He told me little facts about both teams. On text message with my two youngest brothers (about my son's ages), the spectators were growing. I called my dad during half time.
A quick chat, we connected like never before during the NCAA finals.
But that wasn't the end of the story - it was just the beginning.
As the "Bells of Ireland" rang throughout the generations, faithful men and women pray. Three point, all net shots, being played out throughout the years where anything can and does happen.
There is a name, One name and his name is Jesus. I pray with the depth of my being that you will hear the whisper from the one that calls you by your name.
Like the teams being eliminated, so were my judgements. Game time continued. My father had always wanted to visit the Egyptian Pyramids. My brother texted and began a symbolic basketball shot of his own. What if we flew my dad to Los Angeles for a surprise visit to the King Tut exhibit? Sure, it wasn't Egypt in person but on an IMAX theatre in the company of three of his five children.
What should have been a simple flight for a man who rarely leaves his home, turned into an exercise in perseverance where everything that could go wrong, did. After hours on the bench, 1/2 the flight exited the plane but my dad bore the heat and endured. it was his chance to play.
I now had the opportunity to sweat; would I allow God to change me?
Rather than be who I wanted, needed or thought him to be, I had the chance to take the shot - would I allow God to show me the good things, the everlasting things, the team uniform of faith, hope and love? Love is the great stripe worn on our behalf.
It is in the symbol of the cross and the blood shed that changes lives.
It represents the last supper, where ordinary men were changed. On the third day, Jesus rose again.
Jesus rose again! He exited the tomb. He conquered death.
God does not leave us to do life on our own but in the company of himself (through the Holy Spirit) and in the company of other believers of the faith. Men and Women transformed into something better where their stories are resurrected from the depths of our own judgements and perceptions into something newer and fresher. You and I have the life-giving ability to pull other people's stories into our own, weaving a greater story of redemption and transformation.
Perhaps we all need a little Madness of March to remind us of a promise for it is in the resurrecting of our souls through the washing of water IN and AROUND us that we live our lives in such a way that anything good and right and whole can happen. It is an invitation to get off the bench. Will you?
Inspiration: Song: Do It Again - Elevation Worship
May you feel God's presence
A fellow point guard for the faith; a writer, deep thinker, music loving, jeep blazing ... follower of Jesus.