Category Archives: faith
I am paused for a sip of refreshment from the Swell water bottle I’ve pulled from its cage which is mounted on my bicycle. I have chosen this spot for a water stop because it is nicely shaded under the highway overpass. Here I can shelter from this Florida sun I’m not used to — it is January, after all. Overhead, gigantic cement girders support a six lane highway. I can hear the traffic whizzing by… at considerably more-than-highway speed.
No, I do not lament the pace of life that it is passing me by, ever at breakneck speed. Rather, I am perfectly satisfied to pause and sip in this shade as the other cyclists pedal by. I acknowledge some with a nod. Others pass without even a glance. A few alert me that they’re coming. “On your left,” they say. And they are for a fleeting moment and then grow smaller and smaller in the distance.
Suddenly alone with my thoughts, I let my eyes travel upward to the giant grey girders over my head, silent and strong but massive. For a very split second, I imagine what might happen if they came crashing down. But I dismiss this thought quickly. I am confident that a capable architect, an accurate building engineer and a diligent construction crew erected this structure. Certainly, all necessary precautions have been taken and the required inspections have been made to guarantee its structural soundness and assure safety.
Standing here alone astraddle my bicycle saddle, a cycling helmet the only form of protection I have, I suddenly realize I’ve put a lot of trust in a whole host of humans I’ve never met.
In this moment, something inclines me to look upward and past the girders.
When I do, the dazzling, impossibly-azure sky peeks from beyond the bridge’s span and compels my gaze. “Why,” it seems to say, “if you trust these chunks of cement to protect you, why do you not trust me?” The voice-that’s-not-a-voice goes on. “I am the architect of all that is, the designer of all that will be, the builder of all that is becoming. Why, if you trust the work of human hands, do you not trust me?”
The Lord of Universe now has my full attention.
Why don’t I trust the Lord of the sky to protect me as I go along my way?
When I look around at all that has been made, why don’t I trust?
When I survey all that has been given, why don’t I trust?
When I recall the many instances from which I have been rescued, why don’t I trust?
In that moment I turn my eyes again to the ghostly white of the cement girders, ominous in their row-by-row alignment overhead. I notice the rumble of traffic which now echoes in thunderous tones on all sides. I permit the thought which had been holding itself back: if I heard the structure of this bridge crack and start to give way, would I be able to extricate myself in time? Could I dive to safety? What about the other cyclists? What of the unsuspecting motorists?
No, I decide, I could not save myself. No, we could not save ourselves.
Slowly, I take a final swig from my Swell, carefully screw on its top and slide it back into its plastic cage. Looking to left and to right, I ease my bicycle back onto the trail and propel myself into an easy rhythm.
I probably won’t stop here on my return trip. I’ll pause in the shade of a nearby tree, greened by the sunny days and watered by the summer rains. And I’ll listen.
Here in Florida — the land of palm branches a-plenty — one can actually find them scattered about to wave for Palm Sunday. Even if it’s only one palm frond you find in your backyard and you wave it as a personal worship celebration, and incidentally, for the amusement of your two young pups.
It is so much fun to watch their delight as you wave it to and fro. “Hosanna,” you say. “Hosanna.” You say this quietly, hoping the neighbors are not bothered by your odd behavior. But wave it you do and wave it some more as you see how delighted your pups are to play with it. Like kittens with a ball of string, Brittany Buddy and Retriever Lily, jump and frolic and lunge for the fronds. Finally, you give in and toss it in the air for them to catch. They each grab an end and tug and tussle, happily pulling it from each other. What fun! A new toy!
Ah, but then Lily gets a strong grip; she grabs and runs. Buddy gives chase. Lily spins, Buddy misses. Buddy grabs, Lily latches on and tugs it away again. Buddy gets frustrated and growls at Lily. She romps away to sit with her acquisition and rip, rip, rip the fronds. Buddy snarls and bites at her back. Not so playful anymore. Lily protects and defends what’s left. The palm branch is now in shreds.
On any other day, these two are inseparable. Where one goes the other follows. If one leaves, the other whines in protest. They share a common water bowl. They will eat from the same food bowl without complaint. They take turns when snacks are offered, never denying the other his due. And yet… when there is one treasured prize, the mild manner is left behind.
This is mine. Not yours. Because this is mine, it cannot be yours.
Somehow, this seems an apt and unfortunate metaphor for what can be divisive and ugly interactions between Christians in our day. As if there weren’t enough palm fronds to go around. As if Jesus were a limited or scarce commodity. As if my claim on Him meant you couldn’t have Him.
Nope. Today’s palm branches signify the welcome of a humble king and invite a willingness to follow. Wherever He leads us. No one said that Christ-following would be easy, not the least of all Jesus who rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, knowing for certain what lay ahead. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)
So soon they would ring out, “Crucify him!” (John 19:15)
As we enter into this Holiest of weeks and follow Christ through the most harrowing of circumstances, let us give grateful thanks for His life, His ministry, and the way He made for us to follow. A way that promises abundant life with plenty to share.
Let’s not fight over who gets to wave the palm branch.
A dear friend received a new heart today. Literally
Not a Valentine’s Day heart. Not a sappy, sentimental heart-shaped gift. Neither construction paper cut-out nor “heart”-shaped facsimile, the heart he received was an organ. A life-saving, life-giving organ. This heart is a living, pumping cardiac-muscle of a heart. Sewn into the opening left when they extracted his old heart that wasn’t working well, really it was failing, not strong enough to pump life support to his body that was still young and strong and virile.
Yes, today God replaced his old heart of (nearly) stone with a heart of flesh, and it is beating in his chest right now. Receiving blood, pumping blood, delivering blood continuously, obediently, constantly to all the places in his body that were desperate for it.
Just twenty-four hours ago, this heart was perfectly happy to beat in someone else’s chest. To receive, pump and deliver blood there. What of this? What of these? What of him?
Why must someone die so another might live?
I cannot fathom this. Cannot explain this. Certainly cannot condone this. Yet.
Yet, one man of old did just such a thing. Died, giving Himself up for us. This is my body, for you. This is my blood, for you. This, I will give you. This is what you need. This will give you life.
Day by day, we’re offered a new heart, signed by God. A heart offered without price, save what was paid on the cross.
There for us when we need it. Before we know we need it.
This is no Valentine’s cut-out and no slobbering sentimentality. This is God’s own heart, work horse of our effort, unsung hero of our inner workings, grinding out our days supplying the lifeforce of our very being.
Day in and day out.
Awake and Asleep.
Conscious and unconscious.
So reliable, we don’t even remember it in our prayers.
So trustworthy, we don’t even think to question its methods.
So diligent, we don’t even begin to doubt its lastingness.
Yet, sometimes when we cry out for a new heart, God complies. Our heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh, rock of ages past, usurped by flesh and blood. Gift given. Gift received.
And in gratitude, we pray: May the heart of Christ fill the space left behind. May the soul of Christ occupy this void. May the mind of Christ show the way to this generous spirit whose life ended too soon and yet. And yet.
There is life. And in its name, in His name, we rejoice.