At the table

Tolerance is weak
Love is power

We’ve been the ones having the door opened for us
We’ve been the ones pointing the finger at them
It’s they that have been silenced
It’s them that we have ignored
It has been about us and not them

We’ve spoken words that do not leave us uneasy
And tolerated their presence all around
We’ve consumed our time struggling to satisfy our appetites
For things we do not need
Our focus has been on the mirror instead of the light source

In God’s family there is neither rich nor poor
No one is labeled Jew or Gentile
The slave and the free are all one
None are tolerated
But all are accepted

What if when we leave this temporary place of lodging
When we exit these temporary bodies to travel home
And we receive our invitation for the Great Feast
The insatiable appetites of the temporary world will receive their full
There will be no mirrors, but only The Light

And at last when we think we are receiving our great reward
When we are directed to walk forward and open the door to see
As we turn the knob and slowly open the door in anticipation
It turns out we aren’t opening the door for us but for them

Sounds begin to fill the Great Hall
These sounds are quite unfamiliar to us, but somehow we understand them
For they are the sounds of every tongue and every tribe
The beholders of these words pour through the doors and fill the room
Our dismay is written on our face

For it is them that fill the seats
It is they who sit down for the Great Feast
What if I only see they
What if I’m just the one in a room full of them
And finally I find my seat, not at my table, but at theirs
I look around, feeling quite alone in my skin

The Light spreads throughout the room
He is also the King and he himself is our Feast
His presence removes all hunger and thirst
Under the illumination of his Light all look lovable and free

For then I finally realize that love is power

His power, which drew men unto him
Men who knew the darkness of their souls
Souls that were silenced by this world
Full of greed, and hungry for love

Now each one’s appetite is satiated
With an eternal love
That excites every sense within
And we are finally satisfied

Trails and Trials

7.7.07 was supposed to be the "most blessed" day ever, or something like that. Woops. I guessed I missed the memo.

As the sun was peering over the mountains in the East on the seventh day of the seventh month of 2007, my friend, Marla, and I drove my friend's Ford Taurus down the campsite driveway toward the race headquarters for our big event of the day: the Leadville Heavy-Half and Full marathon (Marla running the latter and I the former).

Leadville, CO sits at 10,100 feet above sea level. The air is thin, the whiskey runs free and the mountains surround this little historical mining town with majesty and power. Doc Holliday and Jesse James both inhabited this mountain town back in the 19th century, and I visited the historical saloon where they gambled. Leadville has a couple of famously hard trail races and I had the privilege of participating in one of them: the 15 mile "half" marathon. 7.5 miles uphill to 13,200 feet and then back down. I was neither prepared, nor feeling confident about this race. Four hours? Five hours? I had no idea how long this race would take me. Would I even finish? I was truly placing my faith in God to bring me to the finish line without collapsing on the 13,000 foot peak.

Despite the fact that I tried to convince myself that I was merely going to attempt to competitively hike this 15 mile race, my nerves were jittery. I made a couple runners' stops at the john and we were on our way. With the sun shining incredibly brightly directly in my line of sight, I was exiting the driveway very slowly and cautiously. Not cautiously enough, apparently. I failed to notice a telephone pole directly in front of the car. I turned the car right into it. Marla yelled "stop" but it was too late. The damage was done. So, with an hour to go before the race, I had to deal with the reality that I just drove my friend's Taurus into a telephone pole (a pole, mind you, that was litterally within the bounds of the driveway we were driving on). Of course, my mind immediately wandered to the financial damage that I had just done. I nailed the bumper, fender and headlight. But, I put it behind me and we made our way to the race starting line.

As I looked around, I noticed that nearly all of the other runners were decked out in the type of gear that only experienced marathoners, trail runners and ultra-racers would be wearing. I figured I was in over my head and was just praying that I would be able to finish the race respectably, but after having the fender bender and a less than adequate night's sleep the previous night, I wasn't so sure. The gun went off and all 500 of us started making our way up the mountain.

At about mile three, after Marla and I parted ways for our respective race courses, I was running alone and I noticed a couple women running ahead of me. "As long as I don't let any more women pass me, I'll be just fine," I thought. Immediately after those words filled my mind, two women passed me, one to my right, the other to my left. Dangit. There goes that. I was just running to make it to the first water/aid station. It appeared at about mile 3.5 (there were no mile markers). The entire race had been uphill so far, but to my surprise, I was running about a 10 minute pace. I snagged a couple snacks, some drinks and my confidence boosted a bit. I started to find the runners high. The worries of the morning were long gone and I was feeling saturated by the beauty of the environment and the freedom and clear mindedness that comes with running. I began passing a person here and another person there. At about mile 6 we were making out way up a very steep switchback, with about 1200 feet of elevation to go before we peaked out at 13,200.

Sooner than I expected, I arrived at the halfway point (7.5) and slipped out a "hallelujah." I was really surprised by my own time (1:55). This meant one thing and one thing only in my mind at that point: I could somehow break 3 hours. I downed my drinks and banana and began my controlled fall down the mountain. One hour later, I crossed the finish line, breaking three hours and somehow obliterating my modest goal of 4-5 hours.

So, despite the trials of the morning, I somehow dominated the trails. Stealing a quote from Eric Liddell, I genuinely felt God's pleasure during that race.

10 questions

John Werst, a pastor from Oregon, visited LT last week and gave two high-impact talks on being "Peacemakers" and another on "Life Management for the Long Haul." He had some highly relevant thoughts for us and God really spoke to me in many areas. I wanted to toss a couple of his thoughts out there for the world wide web.

"Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional."

In communicating with others, "commit to understand, then to be understood."

10 Questions to help you discern if you are maturing in Christ:

1. Are you more thirsty for God than ever before?
2. Are you more and more loving?
3. Are you increasingly sensitive to the Holy Spirit and aware of God?
4. Are you governed more and more by God's Word?
5. Are you concerned more and more with the physical and spiritual needs of others?
6. Are you more and more concerned with the Church and the Kingdom of God?
7. Are the disciplines of the Christian life more and more important to you?
8. Are you more and more aware of your sin?
9. Are you more and more willing to forgive others?

10. Are you thinking more and more about being with the Lord Jesus?