Holding On

Holding On

Some of you dear servants of Christ have just put your son or daughter on a plane, to fly to a boarding school far away. You won’t see them for three months. You will repeat this two more times this year: first, the giddy anticipation of their arrival and straining for your first glimpse of them coming down the exit ramp. Few joys compare!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Secondly, the unfolding joys of being together again. Please, please lay aside a few of your “ministry” appointments for this short month. Revel in your mothering ministry. You won’t regret time spent diffusing the light of the gospel to the disciples you birthed.

Then there’s the third, and necessary strand to make the picture complete: seeing the back of her as she turns to face her future.

 

Holding On

She plays her music.
I quilt and listen
to the chords I hear
one month in four.

I let her music roll around in my heart
Because I know the moment will end –
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Not too long, lest I rob her of joy.

Unbearably hot, this weather.
I prepare iced coffee
which we share together –
a favorite of hers.

Conversation flows happily from serious to hilarious,
My daughter, my friend,
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Just short of “too long” lest she suspect my heart.

We stroll downtown
admiring the latest facelifts in our African city.
She is slender and strong
But I am not too old beside her!

Our feet in step, our hearts growing closer
as she becomes a woman.
How long can I cling,
hold on?
Not too long, lest she be forced to tear herself away.

It’s time.
She, anxious to put the long, bumpy miles behind her.
Me, anxious about the inevitable pain.
We embrace. I snatch at my breath
that escapes in a sob.
How long can I cling to her,
hold on?
Oh, mother, not too long – but long enough
to express what our hearts already know.
My daughter, I must let you slide easily,
Gently from my grasp.

How long can I cling to You,
hold on?

“Oh, daughter, cling to Me,
hold on.
I will never let you go.
You will never turn around to find Me gone.

Blessed are the mothers who let go …
and cling.”

January 3, 1999

 

Oh, don’t forget the rest of the verse. It’s the promise Jesus made to all those who carry His gospel to wherever He sends them – you to your village, your son and daughter to their dorm:

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.“

“I am with you to bear you up, to plead your cause; with you in all your services, in all your sufferings, to bring you through them with comfort and honor.” Matthew Henry

“I will not leave you or forsake you. I Am, the One with all authority in heaven and earth, your Friend who sticks closer to you than the sweetest relation —will forever hold on to you.

Matthew 28:18-20; Joshua 1:5; Proverbs 18:24

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On Pencils, Planes, and Prayer

On Pencils, Planes, and Prayer

It’s that time of year again. Back to school. Newspaper ads illustrated with colorful Fall leaves, rulers, and pencils. Phone calls to organise the car pool. Athletic fees, new jeans, a bigger back pack. But these are not my memories of my children’s back to school days.

My memories of the season are: not wanting to go to bed that last night of their month home, confirming they had the clothes they needed for the next 3 months at least, a two-day road trip to the international airport and lapping up every last minute of being together, sharing the Lord’s supper that final night, waving to them from the observation deck as they boarded the plane, and already longing for the day three months hence when I would see them coming my direction across the tarmac.

I had been one of those moms who vehemently declared she would never, ever send her children to boarding school. I was not THAT kind of mom. I like to redeem myself by saying that we did not send them— rather, they begged to go and we finally released them!

Our first SL was not yet ten when we made a quick stop, during a Kenyan road trip, at The School, that excellent ‘school in the clouds’ which perches perfectly on the edge of the Rift Valley. He then announced, “I will go to this school,” and his mom shot back, “I don’t think so”, but inside she said “over my dead body”. Thankfully for me, attending The School wasn’t even an option for us – our finances would not permit the expense. Relieved, I put the whole issue out of my mind. But the SL did not. The idea simmered there his whole, homeschooling/public schooling life until one bright day, when the circumstances of our family changed completely. This was the day we realized that the organization we had recently joined was the one to which The School belonged. And now, The School belonged to us, too.

We had been in our homeland, sweating through a transition for almost five years. All of our children were eager to return to Africa but the eldest was ready to enter his junior year of high school and we wondered. .. Would this one, almost ready to leave home anyway, want to return with us? “Will you? Would you [pleeeeease]?” (we were almost afraid to ask). And the response? “I will. But only if I can go to The School.” So we exalted together that what had heretofore been impossible, God had worked to make possible. God had known all along what we had never imagined. We had about three weeks to get our 16-year old ready, and then he was gone. This sudden burst out of the family circle that left a big hole that took my breath away. I didn’t think I could go through this four more times. But my husband and I were faced with the probability that we would, because the door had been opened – and now it swung both ways.

SL2 began to set her sights on The School, too. So, I made a plan. Homeschooling moms have a broad job description, and I loved that. I incorporated my plan into their home education. It went something like this: Your dad and I will consider letting you go to THE boarding school of your dreams (but not before 9th grade) if and when you demonstrate you are ready. Before you are ready to leave home you must possess and regularly demonstrate these skills and habits (boys and girl alike):

  1. Be a leader, not a blind follower. Must not give in to peer pressure.
    2.  Must be in the habit of reading your Bible and praying on a daily basis, without being reminded.
    3.  We must observe that your faith influences every area of your life.
    4.  You must know how to scramble eggs, cook pasta, set the table and clean up       afterwards.
    5.  You must know how to mend seams and sew on buttons and put in a hem by hand.
    6. You must master the art of cleaning the house (and this will take lots of practice), including the toilet and even down to dusting the baseboards (if they exist).
    7.  You must be a good student in your home studies.
    8.  Finally, in those weeks before you leave, you sew the name tags, required by the school’s laundry service, on your own clothes!

I thought I had it fixed. After all, many young people today don’t even go into marriage with these requirements met! Yep, I was sure I’d have the remaining four SLs home for life! Well, you’ve already guessed that it didn’t happen that way. Here’s what did happen. I engaged in what has been the highest privilege of my life: to prepare the children God gave us to leave home. God generously showered us with wise counsel from His word, and blessed us with faith and His presence in order to use us as vehicles of grace in their lives. We became simply the tools He used for a season to fashion these children according to His plan.

Over the next ten years God was very busy in our children’s lives and hearts. And the tools He used got a good workout! SL2 was ready, as far as we were concerned. But she believed she needed one more year to establish Mozambique as her home before she left it. And she wanted to be engaged in a ministry apart from her parents before she left. God worked wisdom within her.

A couple years later, the next one was ready. But he said he had unfinished business with his Mozambican friends. Some had not yet heard the gospel clearly and he wanted another year to witness to them. God worked to form a leader after His own heart.

And so it went, with each one, God was working. What an honor, what an adventure it was to participate with our Heavenly Father as He set each one on the course of His choosing. Oh yes, at first I cleverly made plans to enjoy our teenagers at home until they went to college. But soon I saw clearly how God wanted to turn those plans into His own program to send them away to be a light and salt in other places. I am so grateful that they are His; that He has known all along how He will form their hearts. They belong to Him, not to me. And He does all things well.

Are you shopping for pencils and back packs? Maybe your students don’t go further than dining room table for lessons.  Did you just put your precious son or daughter on a plane.  Maybe, like me, you’re a grandparent now, observing from afar as your grandchildren enter the “back to school” season.  Whatever the case, this is a prayer for our children that the Father delights to answer:

“May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make them complete in every good work to do His will, working in them what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Hebrews 13:20, 21

Pizza Night

Pizza Night

There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless -a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil … Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them. When these celebrations ended – sometimes after several days – Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” Job 1:1-5

It’s Friday! I head to the kitchen to begin the ritual that has engaged me almost every Friday afternoon for the the past 30 years.

I begin by finely dicing a couple plum tomatoes.

Family traditions have eluded me over the years. I love tradition, but it’s hard to keep one going when you find yourself in a different country, a different culture, with different friends and different shopping options every few years. Seasons don’t line up right, either. That tradition we tried to institute in place L just doesn’t fit in location M. And then there’s my own mind that simply doesn’t remember, what with all the changes in our situation. SpoonLicker3 (see My Turn to Lick the Spoon) turns 13 and I ask myself, “What did we do for SL1 and 2 on this birthday?” Beats me. That was a continent and a language ago. But Friday night pizza? That has stuck.

The tomatoes slide into the saucepan where a tablespoon or 2 of tomato paste awaits to receive them, along with a bit of water, several heaping spoons of freshly minced garlic and an equal amount of Italian herbs and a bay leaf. Then, a spoon of olive oil. Put to the heat, it simmers gently. This is when the household members inhale deeply and I hear, “Yay! It’s pizza night!”

We discovered that, especially when living cross-culturally, good family times don’t always come naturally. After a rough week of language learning, or repeated failed attempts to meet with that key person, or when you don’t have running, the roof leaks and the power lines have been bombed again … an intentional “good time” tradition is essential to spiritual health. Thus began pizza and game night. We, and our friends who had the same kind of week, needed to have fun together.

I start chopping and slicing. The toppings all depend on where we are. Today I’m in northern Namibia. Local fresh produce available: tomatoes, onions, squashes and root vegetables. A grated carrot periodically finds its way onto my pizzas but a squash or potato has yet to appear there but …

… I’ve frequently allowed left-overs to sneak onto a pizza. After all, given enough garlic and cheese, who’s to know? But fish from the day before wouldn’t be concealed. That Friday, in Nampula, Mozambique, we took the pizza to a friend’s house for that “good time” we’d waited all week for. Jacob, a dear missionary friend who likes to call my cooking “earthy”, took one bite of the pizza and hollered, “This is horrible! What’s in this?” I think it’s the only time one of my pizzas was declared an abject, unredeemable failure. That threw some cold water (or maybe I should say cold fish) on our Friday Fun Time. My SLs have their own homes and ways to “do pizza” now.  I wonder if any of them are baking one tonight, or maybe picking it up in a box?  But my hubby still prefers my pizza, thankfully. Probably the person who likes my pizza best, though, is … me!

Some great Portuguese sausages are sold here; I thinly slice a link. Most food is imported from South Africa so I have mushrooms and green pepper to slice up, in addition to a sweet onion. I like a lot of toppings. (You know the pizza wasn’t hearty enough if the kids want a bowl of cereal for dessert.) Oh, the sauce has simmered down to a spreadable, but not runny, consistency. It is set aside to cool.

I ponder good times in hard places. We have a SpoonLicker who very frequently prayed: “… and God, help us have a good time.“ This SL hoped for a life a little less hard, and with a lot more fun. Living in a war-torn, foreign country meant that home life was more about building character than having fun. We tried to teach our children that God could and would use the stresses for his good purpose’ to make them holy.  Another SL, gone from his Africa home and not having fun adapting to western culture, bellowed: “I wish God didn’t care so much about making me holy!”  He had learned to recognize the holiness training ground.

Now for the crust. I like to use as much whole wheat flour as possible in the hopes that it will be more healthy and filling. Making dough is simple: a couple teaspoons yeast sprinkled into 1 1/2 cups of warm water – add a tablespoon of olive oil and gradually stir in four or more cups of flour plus a couple teaspoons of salt. I turn the dough out onto a floured counter top and begin kneading.

Fold, press, turn. Again and again and, for some weird reason, Job’s children now come to my mind. Apparently, they liked to have a good time too. They were grown, each with their own home and families, but the guys would take turns having’”pizza night” at their house. They always included their sisters, too. These grown kids just enjoyed being together. They had fun, I’m thinking. The Bible seems to indicate that Dad Job didn’t go to these events. Maybe he knew they’d have more fun without him.

I roll out the dough and lay it in a sheet pan that I’ve liberally sprinkled with cornmeal. Building materials in place, construction begins. I spread the sauce, then carefully place the vegetables, sausage and kalamata olives evenly, out to the very edges. In other places gouda was the only cheese available. But here there is mozzarella and feta, and both go onto this one. I powder the top with a little parmesan, carried over in our suitcase as we can’t get it here. Ta-daah! Another work of art is displayed on the counter top until the dough has risen and it’s ready to bake.

I don’t think Job was at all opposed to his kids having a good time. Parents like to see their children getting along, desirous of each other’s company, especially as adults. But he was more concerned that they be holy, that the way they live would be acceptable to God. He didn’t pray, “Help them have a good time”, or “Help them be happy” but “Make them holy.” He offered sacrifices on their behalf towards this end. Old Testament sacrifices all pointed to Christ – to his person and to his work on the cross. They illustrated that being holy and accepted by God is a gift offered only by Jesus Christ’s own sacrifice. If Job had lived on this side of the cross, his prayers might have been something like this: “God, may my children know their sin and go to Christ for forgiveness. Cover them with the blood of your sacrifice. Make them holy. Keep them from careless, thoughtless words and actions while they’re having fun. Cause them to want you, to love you and be hungry and thirsty for intimacy with you. Protect them from the evil one and his lies that tempt towards atheism, agnosticism, humanism and fatalism. May they be more Christ-conscious than Self-conscious.”

My daily and continuous prayers for my own children when they were young was that they would believe and trust Jesus Christ as their Savior, the One who died on the cross for the ungodly – them. As they grew up, I added, and continue to add to that prayer: when they are sinking in despondency, I pray they will experience Christ their Hope and Counselor; when their heart is hurting, that they experience Christ the complete Comforter; when they need guidance or direction, that they find in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I pray that they will be more conscious of Christ’s sufficiency than they are of their own deficiencies. I pray that they will look less at themselves and more at Christ.

J.C. Ryle of the 19th century said, “In all true saving religion Christ is all: all in justification, all in sanctification, all in comfort, all in hope. Blessed is that mother’s child that knows it, and far more blessed is he that feels it, too.”

Pizza’s done! We snuggle up side by side with the computer in front of us on the coffee table, large slabs of pizza on our plates. We’re hoping to find something good to watch on YouTube and that internet will be fast enough to stream it in tonight. We’re ready for a Friday Night Good Time!

Recommended link:   http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/christ_is_all.htm

Canary in the Cart

Canary in the Cart

Counsel in self-awareness from Psalm 131

“You can be anything you want to be! You’ve got it in you! The sky’s the limit! Go for it! A little bit of hard work and it’s yours! Remake yourself into whatever you want to be!” So shout the magazine covers, the book titles, the therapists, the parents to their children … so insist those who have a thorough belief in human capability, who scorn boundaries and limits as mere hurdles in the road to be cleared. Our world, especially my western culture, holds faithfully to this view of the self.

It is important to be aware of your self, your heart and your soul. But if you share my same faith in Christ Jesus, your awareness is not based on human philosophies. You know that God, the maker of your self, also instructs you how to think about that self. David, shepherd, warrior and king, made himself vulnerable to us, laid his heart bare within the pages of scripture. His intent, second to ascribing all praise to God, is to instruct us on a proper self- awareness – – seeing ourselves from God’s point of view. So let’s take a look at one of his songs that has instructed me down through the years.

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.

David does not make much of himself. He does not desire to be significant to anyone but his sheep. He is not impressed with himself or with his influence. He is not proud of his accomplishments nor think himself above others. He is humble, seeing himself through God’s eyes, oriented towards loving God, not himself. His focus on God puts his view of self in its proper place.

Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.

What might these “great matters and “things too profound for me” be? David didn’t try to be what he wasn’t. How much are we tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought; as indispensable or deserving or invincible? How foolishly we build up our children’s esteem in themselves, only for them to discover later that we built on shifting sands. It was all a lie. No one can have all they want, do anything they want and be anything they may want to be. David, in his humility, knew his limits. We are wise to study ours.

Secondly, how taken is your mind with speculations? Do I let my thoughts go round and round with speculations about other people, what they think of me; with the future and the “what ifs”? Such ponderings either serve to stoke my pride, or fan the flame of my fears into a blaze that singes even those around me.

A third great matter, things too profound for us, are the great mysteries of God. Not even our neatly packaged, instructive catechisms, statements of faith and systematic theologies can contain Him. David praises God whose thoughts are very deep and can’t be fathomed. Isaiah tells us God’s thoughts and His ways are above ours, His designs too deep for our understanding. And Paul labors to explain how it is that our slavery to sin enables God to show mercy to us all. How do I wrap my mind around that? The apostle himself is astonished. You can just hear him finally raise his voice and declare, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” [from Romans 11]  Do I humbly admit that God has purposefully placed the full extent of His deep thoughts and divine wisdom beyond my reach?

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

A nursing child is a restless child in his mother’s arms, banging his head on her chest, twisting this way and that, until he gets what he’s rooting around for. But a weaned child will sit contentedly.

David sent his soul to rest in the God he totally trusted. No head banging to sort out thoughts that circled in his head; no rooting around for what wasn’t his; not flailing his arms in self-assertion. He cried, he questioned and in the end, he was content to let his soul restfully trust in the God he hungered to know. He seems to say, “Let me know God, and He will tell me all I need to know about my self, my circumstances, and in His perfect timing, too.”

“Thus does a gracious soul quiet itself under the loss of that which it loved and disappointment in that which it hoped for, and is easy whatever happens, lives and lives comfortably, upon God and the covenant-grace, when creatures prove dry breasts.” M. Henry

Canary perched on the seat in the grocery cart. I rolled us down the aisle of the store while the little guy sang clearly, sweetly (that’s why I called him Canary) the chorus he must have heard repeatedly at home:  “No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.”   He cared nothing for himself, or what other shoppers might think. Shamelessly, he sang what he knew about Jesus.
These had been tense months. We were waiting for all of the financial support we needed before we could go to Portugal for language study. Any day now we would be closing our suitcases for the last time and getting on that plane. But the days stretched to weeks, and to months. We moved from one temporary house to another. Uncertainty and change were the norm in our home. And yet, our Canary sang. He was not concerned with these great matters before us. He did not bother his soul about the moving, the leaving, becoming a third culture kid or any other profound thing. His soul was quiet and at rest for he trusted God.

Oh Israel, [oh Church, oh Christian,] put your hope in the Lord now and always.

Canary has outgrown the cart, but not the hope in his heart;
regarding his “self” in small measure, to know Christ is his treasure.

 Photo: grocery store in Namibia

Someone’s Hometown

Someone’s Hometown

A Lesson In Joy

I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.
Yes, your joy will overflow! — Jesus to his disciples
John 15:11

My Spoon Lickers grew up in Africa. But they left there and began to establish themselves in the U.S. once they graduated from high school. One of them, dismayed and bewildered in the university environment, cried, “No one knows me. No one here has any comprehension of my past. I feel like the real me is a total stranger here.” He had many friends, an active social life. Yet, his life lacked a friend with a shared history.

We crave the society of those with whom we have a history. To know, and to be known, is human. Knowing and being known is an activity of the soul, part of God’s image stamped on us.

This is brought home to me as I meditate on Jesus’ words recorded in John’s gospel, chapters 14 – 17. Knowing and being known is a characteristic of the Godhead. What a privilege to listen in to Jesus as He talks to His Father (chapter 17)! There is a transforming truth here and I’ve tried to memorize it to facilitate my meditations but there is so much of “what’s yours is mine, and mine is yours, and they are yours, so they are mine …” that I can never get all the words perfectly straight! That is reason enough to ponder deeply.

Just think. God the Father and God the Son share the same story, the same history. There is a profound “knowing” between the One that is beyond words. We can not comprehend such eternal shared history, eternal fellowship and oneness. The Godhead, within His nature, is fully known, and knows fully. Now here is where our joy bursts forth. Jesus says to his disciples:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

And in His prayer to the Father:

“These things I speak in the world, that they [those who love me] may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

His joy is the Father’s joy. The Father’s joy is His. He is in us, us in Him. We share the perfect joy that is also His. This joy is mine. God, by His Spirit, has given it to me and will never take it away. I rest in it. This joy that comes when the Joymaker has made His home with me – this joy that is the response of a soul that is known by God – this joy frees me to know the joy of others.

Some of us live in a faraway, foreign place, where we are not really known by anyone, nor do we really know anyone. The gifts and blessings that are normally associated with joy are few and far between. Excluded from shared history with the locals, we can be included in God’s forever story. Our gift of joy is to know and be known by the Author of Knowing.

Thus, our hearts respond joyfully to the temporal gifts received by those around us. We may not be blessed with that particular gift, but we have a joy unspeakable and full of glory, that will never end. We are not missing out. Our joy is full.

Galatians 5:22; John 14:23; Romans 12:15

Someone’s Hometown

A car passes by my house and I think
“To someone inside, these streets are familiar.
This is their hometown.”

Young students laugh and call to each other in the street, and I think
“They’ve been laughing with these same friends, in this same place, all their lives.”
This is their hometown.

They’re firing up the grill across the fence. Any minute the kids will arrive –
They don’t have far to come.
This is their hometown.

People next door, in the shops, on the streets, regard this place as home.
It’s where they return to when they’re all done going.
It’s where they have friends, family, school, work, church –                                                       It’s where they tell jokes their friends get, tell stories their brothers remember;
It’s where they have history.

When I ponder this, Rundu and it’s people seem a little less foreign,
a little less threatening,
a little less intimidating,
a little familiar somehow,
Because, though it will never be mine,
It is someone’s dear hometown.

Runner, Not Victim

Runner, Not Victim

He was wearing a light blue shirt, shorts, and his new cowboy boots. We stood by the driveway of our beloved little Cape Cod style home, purchased less than two years before.

I had explained to our son, barely four years old, the meaning of the “For Sale” sign planted in the yard. This little man looked straight at me, his eyes telling me he understood more than I gave him credit for. Articulate, to the point, he punched out every word of his question: Does this mean I am leaving all my friends?

The memory is poignant, often pushing itself into my conscious thought, and even more so since my husband and I accepted the call to return to Africa last year. Just as my son, with all the concern of a child, looked into my face over three decades ago, I now look into my Father’s face. And I punch out every word: Does this mean I am leaving all my children, my grandchildren and my brothers?

Oh, my soul, and my dear colleagues, and precious MKs, run immediately and quickly to Jesus. Seek Him early in the pain of separation, of alienation, of aloneness. Don’t even glance at the suggestion that you are a victim. Reject the philosophies of our culture that tell you the right to choose is sacred and undeniable; that you know what is best for your own well-being; that you can choose your own “best life” and attain it — and if someone else denies you that right, you are destined to second-best, and that ‘God certainly wouldn’t want that’.

Our comfort in this trial is no more and no less than His very word, which gives life. The Holy Spirit counsels and comforts us with his life-giving word found in Hebrews. He tells us:

You are not a victim. You are a runner.

Let us run with endurance the race set before us.

This is your race, and it is now, whether you are four or forty. God is the One who has set it before you, complete with circumstances, trials and what the world disdains as “second best”. God engineered each rise and bend for His glory and your ultimate reward. Jesus set a race before Peter, for example, putting him in the lane of His choosing. Peter turned his head aside to see what was going on in the lane next to his. “That runner, that lane, is no business of yours”, Jesus told him. “Here is your lane, yours alone. I ran it before you. You follow me.”

Yes, but how can one endure it? We haven’t left home for a vacation to soon return to intimate fellowship with friends and family. Such uninterrupted intimacy is not part of our course. Here, also, the word of God instructs us:

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

Let the Holy Spirit instruct you as you reflect on the race that each of those witnesses ran. Ponder Isaac, the son who was born into pilgrimage but embraced God’s promises; consider Joseph, who was thrown into a slavery no one would choose, yet he is not portrayed as a victim; learn from Moses, who actually denied a first-choice world and chose suffering because he considered Christ a greater treasure than all the riches of Egypt.

let us lay aside every weight,

Matthew Henry’s amplification clarifies and convicts. “All inordinate concern and affection for the body, this present life and the world is a weight.” The victim occupies himself with his grieving. The victim rehearses injustices done to him. Sadly, most of our counselors are likely to caress and embellish these weights. They encourage us to run towards self-fulfillment, self-esteem and self-assertiveness. Jesus said to deny our selves, and follow Him. Throw off the weight of self and find you are strengthened!

and sin which so easily ensnares us,

Just as we each have been set in our own lane, there is a temptation that particularly entices each of us. Search your heart. With what sin is your heart most familiar, that you can almost predict will trip you up? Pride, fear, sexual sin, anger, unbelief? It is not the actions or decisions of other people that disqualify you, and I, from the race. It is the sin in our own hearts. Toying with sin saps our strength.

looking unto Jesus …

And finally, we endure by fixing our gaze on Jesus, the Runner before us, the designer of our lane and the one who planted faith in us. He enables us to reach the finish line. In fact, unless our faith be in Him and His gospel, we are not even in the race.

“Does this mean I am leaving all my friends?” By faith, I knew Jesus was planting faith in my son; that he would come to believe no treasure is worth more than life in Christ, that pain is not second best and that he is not a victim, but a runner.

I answered, “Yes.”

By faith, I run with my Father’s answer to me ringing in my heart: Yes.

Psalm 63:1, 119:50; Hebrews 11 and 12; John 21:20-22