singing in the rain

A cloud rolls over the distant valley and shadows the pine trees below. The onset of spring fades back beneath the mountain and the clouds claim victory to the afternoon's sun. One drop leads to another, and before long, the dirt path under my feet begins to shift. The rain is light to the touch and warm on my face; it's the kind of rain you hope for in the hot spells of summer. But the chill in the air prevents me from enjoying God's gift from above.

Have you ever thought of the different kinds of rain? There are the tropical rains of Haiti which pound upon the banana leaves above. There's the rain you find in the Alps which conceals the mountain tips in a dense blanket of fog. And there's the rains of Lancaster which roll in across acres of farmer fields before arriving at your front doorstep.

Some rain you run out to welcome while others send chills down your spine and encourage you to keep the fire burning inside.

But regardless of the kind of rain, it can often result in loosing sight of what's to come. No rain lasts forever, but when we're in the middle of it, it sure seems otherwise. In the warm rains of life, we joyfully loose ourselves in the moment and forget about the worries of tomorrow while the rain pours down. Water washes over our face and cleanses us of the regrets and fears of yesterday.

But there are also the cold rains of life. The rain that beckons the storm clouds and hides the sunshine from our face. And rather than erasing the worries of tomorrow, the cold rains seem to amplify the pain of today. The skies darken and it can be easy to loose hope. With no source of light to guide us forward, we have to look internally for that ray of light.

That's probably the hardest test of all, finding that light within.

As I mentioned a few days ago in a previous blog post, I have a friend of mine who has been fighting in the rain cloud for quite some time now. And when to all others it seems like there is no light ahead to give direction, she manages to take one more step forward, guided by a light within her that never seems to flicker. It may be a simple step, but in the midst of the cold rains of life, that step seems like a life's journey.

MercyMe has a song called "Keep Singing" with the following lyrics:
"I gotta keep singing; I gotta keep praising Your name; You're the one who's keeping my heart beating."

That last line, keeping my heart beating, has taken on a much more literal meaning these last few days. I don't know how some people keep singing, but the more I see others continue to sing, the more I find the desire to continue to pray. While they sing, I'll pray.

There are some people in life who we are called to walk the entire road with. For others, we join them on their journey in the small steps within the rain storms. With no history or knowledge of the road that has been forged in the past, we join them in their song. If you've followed this blog at all, or randomly stumbled on this site, would you mind sending an extra prayer up tonight for my friend. Pray that the sun will begin to peak through the clouds and that God will smile down on those who have joyfully continued to sing despite the storm clouds around them.

soaked in the now

Let the blowing litter and spinning tires pass me by as my feet float down alleys and sidewalks of concrete. The noise of the city lights lulls my mind into a constant state of alertness, and time slips from seconds to hours. Bar doors swing open and the life and heat within escape onto the rainy streets outside. The city has a life of its own, one with hidden jewels and distractions around every corner. Central Park miraculously defends its limits against encroaching buildings of steel and glass on all sides. Flowers populate the medians and the scent of tulips slip past the falling rain drops. A flash flood begins to form on the street and the plastic umbrella canopy provides safety to those darting past the natural beauty scattering the sea of gray and artificial light.

This past weekend I traveled to NYC to talk and hang out with more people passionate about re-vitalizing and re-energizing the world around them. They work in a variety of fields and are driven by different aspects, but they share that common goal of creating a better place for those around them. They create opportunities, foster openness, and leverage others. As I met with all these different people, I quickly realized that in NYC, for every hour spent meeting with someone, it takes two hours to simply get to the meeting. Seconds slip to hours, and you begin to value the time you do have with people all the more.

But sometimes, the time spent moving from one meeting to the other is vastly overlooked. As I rode the subway from uptown to downtown, I would talk with the guys I was traveling with about how great the previous meeting was and what we needed to talk about in the next one. We naturally focus on the past and future - and forget to live in the now.

This is a byproduct of our culture, especially that in NYC, and we get swept away from the 'mindset of now' as quickly as the subway train speeds away from a platform. But as I walked the streets of NYC in the pouring down rain with no umbrella and a poorly chosen jacket which prefers to absorb water rather than reflect it, I started to soak in (literally) the here and now.

With water pouring off my shoulders, I started to reflect on how extremely fortunate I am in life. Here I am wandering the streets of NYC in the rain, pursuing a passion of mine to create a dream company which would improve the lives of countless people around the world (at least that's my hope). Who cares if it's raining. Who cares if my jacket works better than the sponge on my sink at home. God has entrusted me with so much - what a blessing and privilege!

And not only has he entrusted me with responsibilities, but He has surrounded me with friends who support me at all costs. I can't say how thankful I am to all those who have specifically offered their couches, blow-up mattresses, and floors over the last few months. I wish I could properly thank each and every one of you for the piece that you play in my life - you have made aspects of my faith come alive!

I'm learning to trust in what God says about not worrying about tomorrow. Just as the birds in the air are fed and the flowers in the field are clothed, God always provides. I may not know where I'm sleeping next week, and I may not have met some of the people I previously have stayed with - but I do know that tonight I have a place to stay, friends to surround me, and a passion planted in my heart that God continues to water. Let God's love and purpose for my life rain down and soak me from head to toe; there's nothing more that I could ever want!

the soldiers

I've met the soldiers. I've heard their stories, their tales of persistent endurance and steadfast determination. And I've watched as they fight through the trials of life that would bring any one of us to our knees.

I'm not talking about soldiers of war, but soldiers of another kind of battle. A battle that happens internally and is often a one-on-one struggle. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a strange heart condition and given only a few months to live. I've never physically met this friend and I've only heard tales of her battle - but from those stories, I've come to know a person who is relentless in her fight and manages to take each next step with the biggest smile on her face. I'm not sure where she draws her energy from and I'm not sure the conversations that happen inside her head - but from the bit that I do know, she has inspired me beyond what a simple blog post could express.

She has given me the energy to fight my own battles.

Over the years, I've been blessed to meet all kinds of soldiers. Ones that fight cancer, others that fight depression. Some that fight oppression and others that fight injustice. Some have won their battle in this life and others have taken the fight with them to the grave and overcome it on a spiritual battleground. And through it all, God has stood by their side and never left them. What the soldiers sometimes don't realize is the impact they have on everyone else around them. The true inspirations, the ones who stand out among the rest, are the ones who are willing to share their struggle with us. They open their hearts and let us walk alongside them, and without knowing it, they rub off on us and encourage so many in the struggles that we often keep closed off from the rest of the world.

One of my closest soldier friends was a teacher of mine in High School. One day, years before he would come to fight his own battle, he took us out to a cemetery. As we walked from tombstone to tombstone, he lead us to one and had us read the inscriptions. He paused and then noted how on every tombstone, there are three things in common: a start date, an end date, and a tiny dash that separates the two. Of anything on there, the only thing we have control over is that tiny dash. A scratch in a rock is the legacy we leave behind - what we choose to make of that dash is up to us. A couple years later God called that soldier back to be with him, and I can honestly say that of anyone I've known, his dash has had one of the greatest impacts on my life. He made a difference and he walked in love.

We all have those people, those soldiers, in our lives. Take some time to sincerely thank them for what they've done. And if you wouldn't mind, send a prayer up for the current soldier in my life, may she overcome her fight and continue to inspire those connected to her.

last will be first

I am afraid that one day I will learn to grow accustomed to the uneasiness and discontent within me. I fear that I might become numb to the world around me, and forget to distinguish between our current reality and future possibility. Passing from room to room, news stories flood past me illustrating accounts of hurt, suffering, selfishness, and violence that pound outside the walls of my safe home. Within a matter of a few steps, I walk out my side door and into a car which comfortably carries me onward. The world seems so safe behind these shields of glass.

I am becoming familiar with the culture and structure of the world I've come to know, and it takes all that I am to deviate from that comfort.

I've been aware of this frustration for some time now, but it hit me today while I was at a lawn-mower dealership. While my dad was signing the paperwork, I was out in the showroom and began talking with one of the salesman. Without intending to, our conversation started to focus on my time in Haiti and some of the work we were doing down there with New Leaf. And more than once, he made the comment to me, 'thank you so much for everything you do, the world needs more people like you.' And while I was extremely grateful and humbled by his comments and gratitude, I was also upset. That uneasiness in the pit of my stomach came back, and I wasn't entirely sure why at first.

This evening I was reading through some thoughts by Shane Claiborne (from a Christian perspective, he's got some awesome stuff) and I came across a quote of his that summed up what I felt earlier in the day.
"Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. Usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of my favorite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: "Don't call us saints; we don't want to be dismissed that easily"
I don't know the life story of the gentleman I was talking with today at the lawn-mower store, and simply from our brief talk, it sounded like he truly was concerned about the pain and suffering that people felt in Haiti. But I get concerned when people begin proping others up as saints. We so quickly label those who do extra-ordinary acts as saints, angels, or blessings in disguise. Without knowing it or intending to, we distance ourselves and put them on a pedastol that makes us feel ok with the way our lives are lived. It's similar to how we view Olympians - they are simply super-athletes capable of things we could never dream about. But every Olympian gets to where they are at through practice. And every saint is capable of achieving the extraordinary through discipline and love.

I have been blessed to be given opportunities to stretch my comfort zone. But I never want those opportunities to set me apart from others who are capable of the same and so much more.

When I talk about my trip to Haiti, I don't want people walking away thinking how great it was that I took the time to travel there and help out. Rather, I want people to walk away thinking about the residents of Port-au-prince, the ones who live there day in and day out beneath a sheet of plastic and on nothing more than a thin blanket. They are the angels in disguise and ones who God loves with all his heart.

In Matthew, Christ says "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Our culture has come to put great emphasis and praise upon those who are first in the world, and they are the ones rewarded with comfortable walls and comfortable cars. But as humanitarian and charitable activities receive greater and greater attention in our media, may those of us who find ourselves in that work be careful not to remain content with being labeled 'first.'

Shane writes "Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful."

Continue to look for ways to be last, for it is in those places where God truly begins to work miracles. Humility is more than modesty - it is a discipline of placing ourselves 'last' and being ever wary of the comforts of being 'first.'

Like? Repost it...