The Lord Provides…Even in Devil’s Gulch.

When I lived in California I became a bike rider of sorts.  There were miles of paved bike trails alongside the American River which is gorgeous.  Every once in awhile I would participate, with friends from church, in organized bike rides.  These rides varied in length- riders choice.  The first few times I chose to ride the sixty mile option.  However, any rider worth his salt is not content with anything less than a century (100 miles).  So that became my eventual goal.  A goal born in pride and laden with misery.

The day of my first (and only) century ride began with evil portents.  It was cold, cloudy and windy.  A wind so fierce it nearly prevailed in constantly pushing us back to the start point.  Every inch of ground was hard pedaled.  Fortunately, as the day wore on, the clouds parted and the wind finally arrived to wherever it was going.  It would have been smooth biking except for the fact I was already exhausted.

On an organized ride there are several points wherein a rider can either continue pursuing the century or choose a shorter path.  We arrived at the last such point shortly before three p.m.  Decision time.  All but two opted for the shorter route.  I foolishly decided to follow them.

The road leading to my first (and only) century went straight up a steep hill.  On our way up I noticed the green road sign declaring the way ahead to be Devil’s Gulch.  Like I said- evil portents.  I failed to see the poster board sign warning riders not to travel this way after two p.m.  It was now after three.

Devil’s Gulch tuned out to be devilish indeed.  Complete with demons.  The road narrowly snaked upwards in perilous fashion full of swithbacks and dead man curves.  Up, up and ever upwards.  To make matters even more discouraging resident demons were sitting on their porches to view the spectacle.  From one house they jeered, “You shouldn’t have come this way after two!!!”

I’m not kidding.  They really did.

Others hissed, “You’re not gonna make it!!!”

I’m not kidding.  Honest to goodness they did.

Still others snarled, “Your soul will rot in the bowels of hell where worm does not die and thirst is not quenched!!!!”

Ok, I made that up.

Speaking of thirst- we were out of water.  Soon my legs began to quiver.  Then they began to shake uncontrollably.  Like rubber.  I needed an energy boost- fast.  Having already depleted my supply of power bars (peoplefied dog treats) all that was left to me was an orange.  With one hand I fumbled it out of my bike pouch.  By now I was too weak to peel the silly thing so I ate all of it.  Peeling and seeds included.  Alas, it was too late.

My bike was wobbling.  Badly.  I was going down.  I had so little control of my legs that I couldn’t remove my feet from the the pedal stirrups.  I fell over as perfectly as you please.  In slow motion.  Because I didn’t want to get hit by a car traveling Devil’s Gulch I crawled to the side of the road- with my feet still attached to the pedals.

By now one of my companions turned around to help me.  The other one had pulled a Judas on us and was long gone.  So, there we were- no water – no food – drenched in sweat – panting like dogs – and me bleeding.  Need I remind you we were also in enemy territory.

About that time my friend said to me, “You know what I’d like right now?”

“An ice cold coke,” I replied.

He agreed.

Friends, I can’t make this up- not two minutes later a random car stopped next to us.  The drivers window came down and in his hand was the familiar red of a coke can.  He asked, “Would you guys like an ice cold coke?”

As we shared it we were grinning and singing the children’s song,  “Jehovah Jireh- the Lord Provides!”

And then an angel among demons left her porch to refill our water bottles with ice water.  Not to mention the best banana’s  I ever tasted.  They might as well have been manna from heaven.

I learned something that day.  “Surely the arm of the Lord is not to short to save, nor His ear to dull to hear.”  Or provide.  Even in Devil’s Gulch.

P.S.

In case you’re interested- I was the last rider back that day.  I arrived to cheers after completing my first (and only) century ride.

The Lord Provides

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The good life.


A little something we looked at in small group Sunday night. It’s the recipe for a good life found in First Peter 3:10-12.

v.10- For the one 1.) who desires life 2.) to love 3.) and to see good days

1.  Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.

2.  Must turn away from evil and do good.

3.  Must seek peace and pursue it.

I have a love/hate relationship with the straightforward nature of Scripture.  I love the idea that in most cases God has made His revealed will so easy to understand.  If you or I want to have a good life then we must do the following…  He is pretty clear.

On the other hand sometimes I hate that His revealed will is so plainly knowable. It makes it harder to blank them out of my mind when I’m knowingly avoiding them.  Like when I’m using my tongue to talk about a brother or sister.  Like when turning from evil would be as easy as turning the channel but I don’t.  Like when I’d rather nurse a grudge instead of seeking peace at all costs.

God has such respect for our autonomy.  He won’t even force good things on us.  It’s a choice on our part.  Do we want to have a God blessed life?  If so He says here’s what you need to do…

1.  We must keep our tongues from evil.

2.  We must turn away from evil.

3.  We must do good.

4.  We must seek peace.

For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer,

BUT

the Face of the Lord against those who do evil.

I’ve never felt better thankyou.

I feel so blessed. In my post “Where I was on 9/11” I wrote about issues with my health. It was awful. Only now, as I begin to truly gain good health, do I see how terrible I felt for many long years. I lost so much. Opportunities. Relationships. Time. Fruitfulness. Squandered possibilities. If I give myself to it I can experience profound sadness. And naturally, anger is lurking on the periphery of my tears.

Yet, day by day, I’m astounded at the me which is emerging from the clouds of gray which darkly shrouded the person I was meant to be. I find myself delighted because I’m finally beginning to like myself. I discover peace knowing many past defeats were birthed in the woes of unknown physical limitations. They were not issues of character. I had despaired- convinced they were.

Over the last several months I have been busy, busy, busy. At home. Which pleases my wife. I have undertaken projects that have lain dormant or half-completed for years. I won’t bore you with a list. Let’s just say most of the work has been physical in nature. Very.

The act of swinging a hammer, in my not too distant past, was enough to lay me up for weeks. To cripple me in ways for which I saw no connection for the longest time. Any event which required physical exertion or endurance unleashed unholy hell in my body. Weariness beyond words. Sadly the blame for most of this was laid at the door of chemical depression, bi-polarity, ADD and things I can’t remember. At times I was taking enough psychotropic drugs to either stun or stimulate an elephant. Even so I would tell my doctors and therapists “I still feel weary. I still feel depressed. I still feel bad.”

Their solution was to play with the medicinal cocktail they prescribed or to try the latest anti-depressant. None of it helped so finally they accused me of making it all up. As if I had nothing better to do or wanted to waste hours of my life in their insufferable waiting rooms.

If swinging a hammer was enough to do me in you can imagine the effects of a week at camp, or a weekend retreat, or a work week, or a mission trip, or a ski trip or to simply peck away on a key board as I am doing now. Most days I could hardly get out of bed. On too many I didn’t.

That’s why the last several months have been a personal victory for me. They have been the longest sustained period of physical work I have ever been able to maintain. And I have never felt better. I’m giddy with joy over it. And grateful beyond words. They are proof to me that something has greatly changed within my physical body. The surgery, the chiropractor, the stretching night after night have worked a miracle in my life. God has been so good to me. During my time as the youth minister at Memorial I couldn’t tell you how many times I went to the doctor. I saw so many it’s a blur. Since my surgery, three years ago I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve been. Again- it’s a miracle.

So, what do I do with the creeping anger or sense of loss concerning my past? The “why” question? Or wondering where I may have been today only if…? Here’s what I’ve learned reading through First Peter with my small group – I must submit to the unfairness…the injustice…the loss. Only there will I know peace. Only there will I know Jesus.

Instead of dwelling on past hurts I prefer to think God was pleased by what little I was able to do in spite of my circumstances. Perhaps He might say, “Craig, I always believed you and I knew you were sick. However, I’m proud of you for not blowing your brains out…proud of you for serving in spite of the hurt…proud of you for surviving.” That’s enough to make my cry. That’s enough to give me relief. That’s enough to help me forget the past. That’s enough.

If you are one who never feels well yet has no answers – who sees the look in your doctor’s eyes, or your therapist, or your family, or your co-workers – if you are one beginning to doubt yourself – if you are tired of being sick – if you grieve over lost opportunities because of health – I want you to know that my heart hurts for you. And does His. I want you to know that I believe you. And so does He. Every day you survive – don’t blow your brains out – get out of bed – go through the motions – are monumental acts of faithful courage. He is proud of you for surviving. Don’t quit surviving.

For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. I Peter 2:read the whole book.

And remember- there is nothing pleasant about “bearing.”

We’re so blessed to live in the United States.

I won’t hide my true feelings.  I believe this country is the greatest place to live in the world.  For lots of reasons.  Today I was reminded of just one.

On my way home from work I witnessed the tail end of a near accident.  Apparently a young man was run off of the road.  All I saw was the cloud of dust kicked up by his car as it left the pavement.  It was a major highway so he was traveling around sixty-five miles an hour.  Thankfully I could see he wasn’t hurt.  Meanwhile I saw something else which made me proud of our nation.

In a heartbeat, simultaneously, six or seven cars pulled off of the freeway.  Including the woman who had accidentally run the kid off of the road.  In a blaze doors popped open and people ran to see if everyone was alright.  It was so cool.  As I pulled away the last thing I saw was the woman hugging a white faced teenager.  Everyone was okay.  Let me tell you why that means a lot to me.

I lived in Mexico for a time as a missionary.  Under their form of law a person is assumed guilty until they can prove their innocence.  Oftentimes they must do so from their prison cell.  One of the results of this is that people are hesitant to stop to render aid at an accident scene.  All too often those who have are arrested for causing the accident.  Even if they had nothing to do with it.  One night we passed a man who had been hit crossing the freeway in Toluca.  I think he was dead but there he lay for all to see.  Hundreds of cars passed by as if this child of God was nothing more than a dead possum.  Some of us pleaded with our driver to do something.  However, we could have been arrested for killing a man.  Easily.  So we drove by a fire station and alerted the firemen there before speeding off into the night.  It made me so sad.

In our nation it’s illegal to not render aid.  The story of the good Samaritan had been codified into law.  Isn’t that awesome?  Not that any of those folks I saw today needed a law to do the right thing.  The law of Jesus was ingrained in their spirits because it’s part of our national fabric.  Even if they don’t realize it.  When I saw the woman hugging that child in a literal ditch today, surrounded by good Samaritans, it made me want to cry.  With pride.   With gratitude.  And with joy for the blessings of our nation.  And now I am crying.

May God continue to bless this country.

Sunday

At first I believed we were under attack by a UFO.  Then I realized the large yellow orb pulsating high in the sky was merely the sun.  The glorious sun.  All weekend long.  Thank you Jesus.

When I first moved to Tulsa our bright beautiful days were punctured once in awhile by rain.  Of late it’s been the opposite.  If it doesn’t change Tulsa will be able to bill itself as the new Seattle.  But this weekend the old Tulsa made an appearance.  It was great.

Can you tell I’m adversely affected by long weeks of adverse weather?  It makes me SAD.  Now I know some people like the rain.  Like my friend Tucker.  He’s a farmer.  They need rain.  I once ministered among a bunch of farmers.  This was in Sudan, Texas.  I was their youth minister for about a year.  They lived or died by rain.  Which meant I did too.  Farmers have no money = Craiggy have no money.  So I prayed for rain quite often.  As did the rest of the church.  And when it did rain I felt so proud (and relieved).  However, I quickly discovered that farmers are VERY PICKY about the KIND of rain they receive.

More than once I said to a farmer friend, “Well, it rained this week!”

To which farmer friend would reply, “Yeah, but not the kind of rain we need.”

What’s this?  “Kind of rain?”  I soon learned that asking would lead to a discussion regarding how exactly the rain fell, when the rain fell and for how long the rain fell.  It’s very complicated and too farmish for me so after awhile I quit asking.  I even became too nervous to pray about it as I didn’t want to mess anything up for them.  So, I just said pretend prayers.  My feeling is that even the Lord gets exasperated when dealing with farmers.  They are nearly impossible to please when it comes to the weather.  Not at all like me.  Bright blue cloudless sky – 95 degrees – All day- Everyday – Perfect.

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Sunday at Memorial was wonderful.  Wish you could be there.

Killed two more snakes in the yard today.  Ugh!

May your Monday be blessed

Rain, Rain Go Away…

A favor to ask…Whoever is praying for rain in the state of Oklahoma- please stop.  The drought is over.

love,

craig

Sometimes You Have To Pay To Work Hard.

Amy and I feel so blessed to have a nice place to live.  However, when we bought the house the previous owners must not have been fans, as I am, of the Home and Garden Network.  They did absolutely nothing to “stage” the house, nor had any idea what “curb appeal” was and failed to “update” anything.  Yet, we bought the house because we saw it’s “potential.”  Plus there were some cool features.  Such as a swimming pool.  (Which is pointless to own now because Tulsa Summers are becoming cooler and wetter due to global warming.)

Lately I’ve been working in the backyard. (When it’s not raining due to global warming.)  Many years ago the previous owner hired a landscaper to create different levels in the backyard. Then railroad ties were used to shore up each level.  Thirty years later I’m un-landscaping the railroad ties.

So, I dug, scraped, pulled, yanked and cried until I had thirty or so railroad ties piled up in the backyard.  They are heavy- that’s for sure.

That’s why I decide to hire somebody to haul them off for me.  And I did.  The guy told me he charged anywhere from $85 to $185.  I hired him.  Over the phone.

When he showed up the man was not a day under seventy-five.  He looked at my pile and said, “The hard part is getting them on the trailer. When I get them to the dump all I have to do is push a button and the trailer lifts up.”

Meanwhile, the old and frail looking gentleman was by himself.  He planned on moving the railroad ties via dolly.  There was no way so I helped him load that blasted trailer.  And the guys was right- the getting them on the trailer part was hard.  Real hard.

When “WE” were through with the “Hard part” the old man looked at me and said, “That will be $185 dollars.”

And he didn’t even pay me.