IT’S STILL A MARATHON

By Lisa Huddleston

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Heb. 12:1-2).

I know you’ve seen them, too.  Euro stickers on the back windows of every third or fourth car on the interstate (it seems):  13.1 or 26.2.  The sticker announces to the world that the owner of the car has run a half- or a whole marathon!  26.2 miles!  I can’t even imagine it without getting worn out.

I know some of these amazing people, and while I am greatly impressed by their determination and endurance, I am surprised that they set and accomplished such a lofty goal.  They are ordinary people–not super heroes.  Ordinary people who persevered through long months of training regimens and the actual race itself.  Their ordinariness makes the accomplishment even more incredible!

Recently, my husband and I were pondering why the desire to run a marathon seems to be on the rise.  Ours is a day of leisure.  Most people don’t seem to be into deprivation or hardship.  So why run a marathon?

We were inclined to think it had something to do with the definition of the event.  No matter where you run a marathon, it is always carefully measured and clearly marked–26.2 miles.  No more.  No less.  It can’t be dumbed down.  It can’t be achieved virtually or through an on-line gym.  It must be run one step at a time until the entire length is completed.  No variation allowed.

Maybe that’s what people want today.  A true standard.  A rule or a measure that never changes.  A clearly defined course to conquer.  And a marathon is just that.  As is choosing to become a follower of Christ.

No, there are not mile markers to follow or specified distances to cover; yet, I do have One who runs before me upon whom my eyes are fixed.  And He who endured the cross knows what it means to persevere.  He understands my weariness and encourages me not to lose heart as I run.  He is both the source of my faith as well as its perfecter–starter and finisher–and He never leaves me behind in the dust.

Help me run, Lord!  Not for a sticker or for the applause of witnesses (although a large cloud surrounds me), but for the joy that lies at the end.  One foot after the other.  Drawn forward, ever forward, with my eyes fixed on You.

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IMMEDIATELY, RIGHT AWAY, AND ASAP

By Lisa Huddleston

I am devoting this day to wearing comfy clothes (yoga pants), drinking coffee, and studying for my last (hope so), fast-paced, J-term class–New Testament I.  You got it.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts all in a month!  I have to admit to having already learned much in the three classes I have attended as well as in the enormous amount of reading I have been doing.  I do wish I could slow the train down in order to savor more, but we have a deadline to meet so … chug, chug, chug.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I hope I can.

This morning, I read The Gospel According to Mark in one sitting–something I don’t think I’ve ever done before.  As I read, I almost laughed at how closely Mark’s writing style matches the pace of my studies.  “Immediately …”  “Then …”  “As soon as …”  “Right away …”  Whew!  What was his rush?

Just this.  People who knew Jesus were dying for their faith, and others were dying without knowing Him.  Mark’s friend, Peter, may have already been martyred by the time of Mark’s writing, and persecution was increasing.  Even if none of his fears came true immediately, Mark knew his days were numbered, and he had important information to share.  Therefore, he wrote with wild abandon careening through the highlights of Jesus’ life and ministry in order to arrive breathless at the most important news a writer could pen–“This man really was God’s Son!” (Mark 15:39).

As soon as, immediately, right away, Mark did what he could to tell the good news.  Not Mark’s gospel but THE gospel according to Mark.  Others would write their accounts as well, but Mark (perhaps the first of the evangelists) led the way with an urgency I would do well to follow.  And I wanted to slow down for a minute to acknowledge that fact before necessity pushes me past the thought and onto the next thing.

Right now, immediately, and forever–Jesus is Lord!  Thanks for sharing, Mark, and reminding me to do the same.

TILL I AT LENGTH AM FREE

By Lisa Huddleston

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

–“The Chambered Nautilus,” Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

It has been several weeks since I have had the time or inclination to write—more lack of time than inclination—but the outcome is the same.  No writing.  And I feel the urge.  In fact I felt it so strongly last night that I could not sleep.  I think even the dog sensed my unrest as she would not lie down in her cozy bed but preferred to wander around my room and poke me with her wet black nose from time to time to let me know that she felt my pain.  It was a long night as I pondered and strained to link my thoughts together.  It’s New Year after all—how hard could it be to come up with a topic?

My brain toyed and teased the topics of the past.  New Year’s resolutions.  A Word for the Year.   Changes for which I give God praise, and modifications that have still not been made.  Transformation, reconstruction, evolution, restyling and remodeling.  Whew … it was a very long night.  And as my brain ached, a verse began to run through the chaos.  “Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul …”  And the repetition soothed the sore struggle of my brain.  The melody of the words and the crescendo of the thought helped my cramped ideas to expand into a more comfortable space, nobler and more vast, till I at last could sleep.

And so, here we are.  Drinking my second cup of coffee and remembering the struggle which is yet to be resolved.  No New Year’s resolutions.  No Word for the Year.  No lists to check or promises to break.  Just a certainty that I must continue to grow and outgrow my earthly shell as the swift seasons roll and beyond.  Till I at length am free.

May this year bring spiraling growth in incremental inches—one step and one choice at a time—until we break the confines of the past and have our feet set in a very spacious place indeed.  Happy New Year!