Alphabet Praise

This morning I glanced through an old issue (May/June of ’07) of a Discipleship Journal (a fantastic NavPress magazine that ceased publication about six years ago) and read an article titled “The 20 Minute Worship Challenge” by Becky Harling. In it she describes how beginning each day with a concentrated time of praise transformed a difficult season in her life. Harling praised in different ways: singing along with music, “praising” through the alphabet, and reading praise Psalms aloud. Following her article was an inset titled “Praises from A to Z,” an excerpt from the book Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion by Debbie Williams (which, by the way, looks really good! Click on the title above to visit its Amazon page.)

I didn’t read the inset piece because I was about to head out for a run, and I wanted to pray my own praise alphabet during the first part of it. I can’t now remember all the words I came up with, but a few stuck with me long enough to write them down. I’m leaving the ones I can’t recall blank in case you want to fill them in for yourself.

My Running ABCs of Praise 

A: Awe. I was just starting the run, and the heavy humidity hadn’t yet drenched me. The light was hazy through the treetops, and I was in awe that God had created the waving branches and that specific quality of light that would so bedazzle my eyes.

B: ______________

C: Care. “He careth for you(me).” That phrase from my King James Version-steeped childhood chimed in my head. He—GOD of the universe—CARES for itty-bitty me.

D: ________________

E: Excellent. He is excellent—in all facets. Full marks in everything. Enough said. Come to think of it, “enough” is good, too. He is—enough.

F: Fair. “Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature/O Thou of God and man the Son/Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor/Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.” Old hymn—but still and always true.

G: Good. Wholly GOOD, no bad in Him at all. AT ALL. Good—to the core, to the very last drop, in all His beings/doings/imaginings. (Don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine being that good. Snotty thoughts of one kind or another pass through my mind on a very regular basis–sometimes most frequently when I’m trying to be most good!)

H: Healer. Oh, how I have experienced God’s work in my life as my healer, the great Physician who sees my brokenness and knows how to cure it.

I: Inimitable. Great word meaning “not able to be imitated.” Very true. Lucifer tried. Humanity tried. Both failed—with disastrous results. Only the inimitable God is completely uncorrupted by power.

J: ___________________

K: Kind. I tell my kids all the time I don’t want them to be merely “nice.” I want them to be KIND. Nice is a polite smile, an averted gaze, a penny in the bucket. Kind is a helping hand, a listening ear, a shared laugh–or cry, and a walking alongside. Kind can even be tough when it needs to be. Nice is focused on me; kind is focused on what is good for the other person.

L: Love. Basic but mind blowing. God is LOVE. Wow.

M: Mysterious. Not a tame lion, our Jesus, our God, but One Who must be true only to Himself. He doesn’t answer to me, the President, anybody. Just Himself, and He’s so big He’s unfathomable to us tiny-brained humans. That makes Him pretty mysterious.

M: Mine (I couldn’t resist a second one for “m” because, oh, my word, the mysterious God of the universe allows me to call Him “mine.”)

N: _______________

O: (Later I thought of “Omega,” but that felt like cheating. So I’m putting it here but also confessing.)

P: _________________

Q: Quintessence. Besides simply being a cool word, it’s a fantastic descriptor for God, and specifically for Christ. “The most perfect embodiment of something.” Christ is the ultimate quintessence of God.

R: Real. Not imaginary, not able to be disproved. He’s the realest of the real. He will exist though all else be stripped away. The scene in The Silver Chair when Puddleglum argues with the Witch about reality is a fantastic treatise on this idea.

S: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Wow—that word is in spellcheck! Thank you, Mary Poppins and P. L. Travers. If ever anyone deserves this most scrumptious and sing-able of multi-syllabic words, it’s God.

T: Tried and true. “True” as in “real”—see letter “r.” “Tried” as in “never failing” and willing to prove this to us time and again and again so we can know this through personal experience.

U: Ubiquitous. Honest, it really was the first word that came to mind (okay, maybe “unique” popped up first, but it was immediately rejected as being too blah). But then—more honesty—I thought, “You know, I’m not quite sure what ‘ubiquitous’ means.” Well, I looked it up later, and it means “existing or being everywhere; especially at the same time; omnipresent.” PERFECT!

V: Verity. Another word from the KJV. “The state or quality of being true; accordance with fact or reality.” Psalm 111:7 “The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.”

W: Whirlwind. I know it’s a weird choice, but one of the things I most appreciate about God (after the fact, at least) is that He is willing to come into my life and heart at times with a gust-like force that disturbs me, that makes me take inventory, that makes me change.

X: Xylophone didn’t fit. If you come up with any, let me know.

Z: Zenith. “highest point or state; culmination.” A good descriptor for God and a proper ending for this list.

Note: I have also used the alphabet for intercessory prayer for others. I just pray for a person/situation/organization/place I know that begins with the letter A (or several) and then move on to the rest of the letters.

 

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‘Tis more blessed…

If “‘Tis more blessed to give than to receive” is true–and I believe it is–then on Saturday night I was doubly blessed.

It seemed unfair to use the Christmas gift I gave him before he had a chance to even try it out…

But I did.

Up early and gone all day for one child’s wrestling meet, driving to and from the girls’ soccer practice in the late afternoon, I lost daylight time for my run with the dog.

So I strapped on the headlamp I’d given Dave so he could run in the early-morning dark…

and drove myself and Chai to the dog park so I could try it out in the late.

Snow glittered before me. I ran on fairy dust. In the light of the headlamp, the dog’s eyes glowed weirdly–orange from the side, green head-on, and red when she was close. Pleased with her first off-leash run since before Christmas day, Chai sprinted past me. For a moment, as snow fell in front of me, spotlit in the lamp’s circle, I thought the forecaster’s prediction of next-day flurries had come early and sudden. But when it stopped just as quickly and then happened again when Chai did another fly by, I realized she was kicking it up with her paws.

A siren wailed in the distance, and deep in the woods, the coyotes echoed. Ahead of me, Chai paused to listen. Then–they must have been too far away to awaken either concern or longing–she bent her head and chomped up some packed snow, the canine version of shaved ice, flavored with who-knows-what.

The trees’ tops were lost to the night, but in my peripheral vision, their trunks floated like gray stripes on a dark suit. Hit with the direct light of the headlamp, though, they appeared almost white, bleached of color.

I felt no fear, except that my rule-keeping mind expected a policeman any moment to remind me that the dog park closed at dusk, and it was well past.

When Dave got home from cleaning up after the wrestling meet, I told him I tried out his present. “Thank you,” I said.

“How did it work?” he asked.

“Great!” I told him how beautiful the run had been. “It worked wonderfully. You’ll love using it.”

“Well, then, thank you,” he told me.

‘Tis better to give than to receive.

True.

But perhaps giving and receiving, when done wholeheartedly, are more connected than I’d realized.

 

Marathon Meanderings

First sight of him at mile 17.

First sight of him at mile 17.

He did it.

My husband, Dave, along with 45,000 others, ran the Chicago Marathon Sunday. He finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, well behind the speedy wheelchair racers and the first-placing Kenyan runner—who broke the Chicago Marathon record and nearly broke the world one—and well ahead of those persevering souls who finished after marathon officials took down the barricades along the roads and picked up the timing mats at the finish line. (To read about the final finisher, Maickel Melamed, who took 17 hours to complete the course, follow this link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-final-marathon-finish-20131015,0,3488441.story.)

And here's when Em saw him!

And here’s when Em saw him!

The kids and I, along with some friends, took the blue line down to mile 17 on the course and camped out at the spot where I’d told Dave we would be. We were ahead of schedule, but that didn’t keep us from scanning the crowd for his orange-and-white World Vision jersey. We cheered for every other World Vision runner we saw as well as those who ran for Ronald McDonald and A Cure for Cancer and Leukemia and Autism Awareness and…

Our boys got tired of holding the “Go Dad” and “Go Undy” signs we’d made, so I told them to stand on the curb and hold out their hands. As soon as they did, runners began veering by them to slap their palms.

And he was off again.

And he was off again.

PJ turned to me. “Why do they do that?” he asked.

“For one second they know they will be thinking about the joy of connecting with a little boy—of putting a smile on your face—and in that moment, they won’t be thinking about their feet or their legs or all the other parts of them that hurt.”

“I can do that for them?”

“Yes, you can.”

When we saw runners who’d printed their names on their shirts, we personalized our cheering. “Nice work, Carlos!” If they wore anything distinctive, we referenced that as well. “You rock, Superman!” “You can do this, Lady with a Tiara!”

People smiled, gave thumbs-up, got a little perk in their step, made it round the corner a little easier.

It was fun.

But the entire time, we were looking for Dave.

And here he is after the finish.

And here he is after the finish.

Somehow I missed him until he was almost upon us. I had the camera perched on my left palm and was scanning the crowd to the right, wondering if he hadn’t received the text that told him which side of the road we would be on. Then, suddenly, he was there, just a couple steps in front of me. I jerked my camera up and fired off a couple fuzzy shots, but I failed to capture the brilliant smile that jumped onto his face when he first caught sight of us.

He came around the barrier and joined us for a minute, telling us he was feeling “good, just sore in one calf.” We gave him a hard candy to suck on and handed him the roller massage tool to work on his calf, and then he was off to finish the final nine miles.

We waited for a break in the flow of runners, hopscotched our way across the street, and cut straight across to the finish line. We stopped for ice cream, knowing that several blocks south of us, runners were slogging it out, and we still made it in time to find a shady waiting spot beneath a tree at the reunite area.

I got a text from the Chicago Marathon telling me that Dave’s microchip had crossed the finish line (presumably with him attached to it), and then another shiny smile when he came down the steps (oh, the cruelty of having marathon finishers walk DOWN steps) and saw us.

So many great memories from the day! Emily, our 13-year-old, gave me one when she said, “Mom, it’s really cool watching people push themselves to accomplish something really hard. It’s inspiring.”

One man, running for cancer research, gave me another when I looked at his back and saw he’d pinned a couple dozen ribbons on his back, each one in memory of a person.

But I have to say the best ones have to do with my husband. The moments of seeing him at mile 17 and just after the finish are memories that sparkle.

Great job, Babe! You did it!

You can still donate to World Vision on Dave’s personal page. Proceeds fund clean water initiatives. Here’s the link: http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120

Thanks for reading!

Jen

A big reason to run

Fourteen years ago I ran my one and only marathon. My husband, Dave, ran his first that day as well. It was November, and we were living in Okinawa, Japan. The course was incredibly hilly, and the weather was unnaturally hot for that time of year. With the constant high humidity, the effects were brutal. More people dropped out of that race than finished it, and several were rushed off in ambulances due to heat stroke.

I finished well beyond my expected time and thought, “That’s it. I’m done.”

I’ve never run another since.

Dave however, ran several in the next few years.

Then he had an eight-year gap.

This summer, he decided to try it again. But he needed a really good reason, one bigger than his desire to drop a few pounds and increase his endurance.

So he decided to run for World Vision.

I offered to do some of his training runs with him. One weekend, I even ran a 14-miler (he says it was only 13, but I’m adding the distance between the end of the trail and the parking lot–and padding it a bit.)

School started then, with all its weekend activities, so the next weekend, when he ran 16, I ran only 8 of it with him. The next week, only 6. The last couple weekends, a friend of his ran the first half or so with him.

But after his friend or I called it quits, Dave would grab his iPod and head back to the trail, slogging out more miles.

 

He tells me that when his hips ache, when his knees burn, he remembers two little girls from our last trip to Uganda. The first is little Comfort, abandoned in the Katanga Slum by her mother and father, placed in Dave’s arms by neighbors who didn’t want to watch her die of starvation. In recent pictures we’ve seen of her, her eyes are still somber, but her cheeks are full, and her arms have the plump roundness they should have at 10 months of age. In every picture, she’s cuddled in the arms of the nurse at Mercy Children’s Home, who looks pretty darn proud of her progress.

The second little girl is Scovia. She’s six but about the size of a four year old. She was born with damaged legs; her mother died; and her father left her locked in their shack for days at a time while he looked for work. When she was rescued by Mercy Children’s Home, she had pressure sores, malnutrition, and severe developmental delays. Now she walks pushing a wheeled contraption, she babbles happily, and she has unending, overflowing JOY.

Comfort and Scovia are healthy today because of child sponsorship, because people who are not worried where their next meal is coming from have concerned themselves with those who do have to worry about such basic needs.

Mercy Children’s Home and hundreds of other orphanages around the world benefit from child sponsorship. Two of the largest sponsoring agencies are Compassion International and World Vision.

So even though Dave is running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday specifically for World Vision, in a way he’s running it for all the orphanages in the world, for all the children who need a safe place and someone to love them. He’s ultimately running it for Jesus, who welcomes children and holds them in His arms.

If you would like to sponsor Dave, please visit this link:

http://team.worldvision.org/site/TR/TeamWorldVision/TeamWorldVision?px=1375760&pg=personal&fr_id=2120

All proceeds go directly to World Vision.

Thanks,
Jen