Why I’m Competing in a Half Ironman

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Tomorrow my alarm will ring at 4:00 a.m. If all goes right me and nearly 3,000 other athletes will start our journey to finish 70.3 miles of activity in one day.

I’m racing in my first Half Ironman. And to many of you, I may sound a tad crazy.

You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. I’ve questioned my sanity often, especially considering the 5 a.m. wake ups, 4-hour bike rides, 10+ mile runs, missed social events, and many dollars I’ve spent over the last four months. So what would compel me to sign up to spend hours exercising?

I can boil my response down to one word: worship.

Being active has always been a sanctuary for me. It’s where me and God meet without distraction. It’s where He’s walked with me through some of my greatest victories and defeats. It’s where He’s reminded me that my identity isn’t in what I do or accomplishment. It’s where He’s taught me that suffering is a part of life and possible to endure when my sights are set on the right thing. It’s where He’s taught me humility. It’s where He’s rewired me to be for people even if they’re against me.

And for the last four months, it’s been the place where I’ve experienced Him most as a Father.

Our training times have been a sacred space. Though in motion, it’s like I’m cozied up at His feet. We get to talk for hours. I like to move through life fast, but I’m learning that it’s at this slower pace that His grace and truth sinks in and sticks.

Training is our tent of meeting where I’m drawn to worship.

“So, what is a successful race on Sunday?”

My Mama Sue poses the perfect questions with impeccable timing. I guess that’s bound to happen when you’ve prayed for wisdom since your early twenties. I sat for a moment before I answered. Then it came to me.

Starting.”

And my start for tomorrow happened months ago.

It started with early bedtimes and early alarms.

It started with the anxious nights wishing I could already move my body for longer distances than ever before.

It started with figuring out how to clip and un-clip into my borrowed bike without falling over.

It started with learning how to drink and eat on a long ride without taking down the person next to me.

It started with whispers to be patient when I wanted to blast out the front door at an unsustainable pace to get a run done.

It started with not brushing off a swim because that’s the one sport where I have some confidence.

It started with long Saturdays training in cold, wind, rain and hail instead of sleeping in or going to brunch with friends.

It started with remembering to run my race, not the race of the person who just passed me.

It started with traveling with my gear and training before celebrating the weddings of some of my best friends.

It started with learning that sometimes rest is what I need more than checking off another day of hard work.

It started with a support system I don’t deserve—at home, at work, at church, at the gym.

It started with saying “I’m sorry” to these precious people when I gave in to my exhaustion and snapped.

Needless to say, this race started long before tomorrow morning.

A lot can go wrong in 70.3 miles.

A lot of people don’t cross the finish line. Cramps, flats, weather and dehydration can cause “DNF” to label the most well-prepared athletes. And I could be one of them. There are a lot of things you can’t control in endurance races.

But regardless of what happens tomorrow, I can say with confidence that I started. With worship as my “why” and starting as my measuring stick, this race is already won. There is great peace and victory in that.

I have nothing to prove, so tomorrow I’m going to worship. And together—me and Him—we’re going to do this thing.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” -Hebrews 12:1-3

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Wilderness Wanderings

White Sands

Shimmering white sands for miles. Mountain silhouettes in the distance.

I was finally visiting the place I’d admired on Instagram and through internet searches. The glory and mystery of White Sands National Monument was a sight to see. And I was eager to explore it.

The Bard trio hit the sands, and I was at the head of the pack in search of the perfect place to sled the rolling dunes.

We followed the trail markers for less than a mile and all the warnings at the park entrance started to make sense. You could easily get lost out here. The charm of the white sands could lure you in and deceive you if you weren’t careful. A string of missteps and this playground could morph into a wilderness.

Fortunately, we didn’t get too far off-trail and had a blast. But I tell you this story to set the scene for a greater story—and one I think you and I can both identify with. A story about slavery and freedom and wandering and a good God in the midst of it all.

Today I invite you along the ancient path of Israel’s journey to the Promised Land. It’s here—in their wilderness—that I recognized I was in the middle of my own. It’s here in their wilderness that we can see the beauty of God in the wasteland.

In this desert, we moderns and the ancients can empathize regardless of time or space to see that God delivers, dwells, distinguishes, and directs His people in the wilderness.

God delivers His people through the wilderness. 

You’re probably familiar with this story. Years after a season of fruitfulness in Egypt, the people of God are despised. Just as God promised, they’ve grown more numerous than the stars and sands and they were now a threat—or so Pharaoh thought.

“The Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country […] But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites…” -Exodus 1:9, 10, 12

Forced into backbreaking labor for the King of Egypt, Israel needed an escape from bondage. Ten plagues and a parted sea later, God delivered them from slavery and brought them into the wilderness.

Little did they know that the long, desert way was for their good. The journey through blazing heat by day and bone-chilling cold by night were God’s grace and kindness sparing them from other enemies until they were ready for battle (Exodus 13:17).

God dwells with His people in the wilderness.

As Matt Chandler would say, “God draws us out to draw us in.” It’s in the wilderness that God reveals His presence with His people.

It starts with a cloud by day and fire by night—both crafted to protect God’s people from the cruelty of the desert. The story continues with the building of the tabernacle, more commonly called the “tent of meeting” that is evidence of the “with us” nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.” -Exodus 29:45-46

Exodus closes with Moses outside of the tent, but Leviticus opens with Israel’s leader entering the tent again. God is committed to walking among His people, and He was just warming up to reveal how He’d make that possible (Leviticus 26:12).

God distinguishes His people in the wilderness.

The descendants of Abraham would bless all people on earth (Genesis 12:3). As God declares “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” He is echoing a promise made long before Egypt and long before their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 19:6).

They would be a kingdom full of priests mediating between man and God. They would be a holy nation reflecting the very nature of the one true God. Ten commandments, sacrifices, food and purity laws, festivals, all of it lined out in great detail, were marks of God’s people distinguishing them from the rest of the world. And they weren’t intended to condemn the latter but to deliver them too. To bring them into the dwelling presence of the Lord.

“You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” -Leviticus 20:26

Israel’s story of deliverance was out. It was known that the all-powerful God was with them. And their set-apart culture left no question that they belonged to Him. Yahweh gave His people their identity in the middle of the wandering.

God directs His people in the wilderness.

The people wandered, but not aimlessly, even though they often questioned that last sentiment. They were headed to a land that was promised, but the road trip went wrong—or so they thought. A two-week trip took over 40 years as they imperfectly followed God’s lead through the wilderness of Sinai, Paran, and Moab.

“In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all of their travels.” -Exodus 40:36-38

If there’s one lesson that seemed to mostly stick with Israel in their wanderings, it’s that they weren’t willing to move unless God was at the lead.

They wanted to go back to bondage. They grumbled. They questioned God’s goodness. They worshipped idols. They disregarded His holiness. They tried to overthrow leadership.

But they didn’t move unless He led.

I tend to be a lot like them. I often want the comforts of shackles over the unknowns of freedom. I often complain. I often have a running list of “whys?”. I often love created things over the Creator. I often forget I need to be made clean. I often resist authority.

But I don’t want to go unless He’s leading me.

What if the wilderness is actually a road trip gone right?

If you’re still with me, I want to tell you a story of another Bard family adventure.

Mom and I were in route to a swim meet in Austin, Texas—only a two-hour trip from our hometown. This was before Garmin and Siri and Google Maps, so we were navigating with the old-fashioned help of MapQuest and an Atlas.

Aerosmith and Elvis blasted through the speakers and all was going well, until it wasn’t.

Five hours later we were curving through rolling hills instead of fighting the infamous I-35 traffic. I was certain we were lost. Mom was certain we were on an “adventure.” We slid into the pool parking lot just in time for me to get a quick dip in the water before race day.

Days later, I’d go on to swim some of the best races of my life. What started out as a road trip gone wrong turned out to be a road trip gone just right.

I think the same can be said for our wilderness days.

Maybe the wilderness isn’t really a road trip gone horribly wrong. Maybe it’s actually the scenic route God uses to remind us of His miraculous deliverance, dwelling presence, distinguishing marks, and perfect direction. Maybe it’s a hard journey filled with other travelers who are wrestling with some of the same things. Maybe our time in the wilderness is designed to give us greater delight in who God is and what it means to be one of His own.

Maybe He uses the wilderness to draw us in. Maybe He uses the wilderness to show us He makes life flow in the most unexpected places.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her […] See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Hosea 2:14, Isaiah 43:19).

The Promised Land came. The Promised Land is coming. Take courage, dear heart.

Am I surrendered?

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This picture might not seem like much, but it speaks volumes. You see, that is the picture of the Philippian jail. Now the stop on a tour, this cell held captive those who opposed the law of the land—or threatened to flip the law on its head.

Insert Acts 16.

Paul, Silas, and crew were walking through the local marketplace under the constant barrage from a slave girl to the tune of “these men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17).

Patience wearing thin, Paul turned to the girl and cast out a demon (#casual). In doing so, he ruined her owner’s side business and he wasn’t too happy about it. The whole encounter landed Paul and Silas in the above pictured slammer.

And that didn’t even rain on their parade, which is one of the things I admire most about Paul. He and his team were so surrendered to the gospel—a surrender founded on a deep trust in the Father’s heart—that they could sing in prison.

The result? Powerful witness.

As they sang, their cellmates listened, the earth shook, the prison doors slung open wide, and a suicide halted. Overnight, a household was saved and baptized. Joy filled their jailer as he came to know God. Paul and Silas encouraged the family of faith and moved on to establish beachheads for the Church across Macedonia, Greece, Asia, and beyond.

Side note: A wise friend once pointed out the potential impact of the jailer’s new life. He had a whole different sphere of influence among Roman soldiers. I can’t wait to hear more about that one day.

I tell you all this in hopes of working through some of what I’m learning about gospel surrender.

To start, it doesn’t make sense because giving up your life means actually finding it.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” -Mark 8:34-35

I could give you my polished up “amen” sentiments on Jesus’ words, but that wouldn’t be real because surrender is hard and scary.

True, whole-hearted surrender could mean…

  • Staying up late and getting up early
  • Getting less and giving more
  • Choosing conviction over comfort
  • Living off the support of other people
  • Giving up time with friends
  • Staying home when you really want to go
  • Making the conscious decision to live where it’s not “safe”
  • Moving to a new country
  • And the list goes on and on

This is the reality of surrender that has been staring me down. It’s caused a few ugly cries because regardless of what you see in me, I can guarantee you that too often I still want my Kingdom over God’s Kingdom. He and I are often at odds.

There’s a constant tension running through my bones, vying for my affections.

Because surrender isn’t commitment. It’s way more. I’m comfortable with commitment because it lets me call the shots on what I do when. Surrender beckons me to hand over the controls of my life to someone else. And though I know theologically God is a trustworthy, good Father who gives me bread not stones, true surrender tests if I’m living in that reality.

It’s been said before that God works through surrendered people. And what I see in scripture convinces me that’s true. Jesus is right. When we lose our lives for Him, we find something better—a true treasure worth our all.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. -Matthew 13:44

And I think that’s what I see most in the empty ruins of a Philippian jail cell. Stories led by the Spirit of Jesus and legacies that have inspired millions, maybe billions, to find joy in bearing their own cross—a spiritual dichotomy that only somewhat makes sense because it’s been modeled by our own Savior’s surrender.

Stories like this are still being written in your home, across the street, and around the world. Through the surrendered, slaves are set free, captors become family, and real joy is found and passed on.

“May we claim more than just Your name
May we be Yours
May we trust more”

Of the Land

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

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I like the outdoors.

I like to sweat and lift a lot.

I like to win at all the games.

I have a lot of opinions and like to voice them too.

I’m 5’11” and still wear 4-inch heels. In doing so, I’m not trying to overpower you. I genuinely like them and they make me feel like a lady.

I’m okay with going days without showering, especially if there’s a good reason for it. You’ll catch me all dolled up one day and makeup-less covering my 4-day-old hair with a hat the next.

I don’t like to cry in public and stuff my emotions so that you don’t see my weaknesses. And I’m working on that because there’s beauty in tenderness and that’s in me big time, I just don’t like to show it.

I’ve been approached by an acquaintance and asked if I’m an athlete. Yes, I am. His response, “I can tell. You have alpha in you and are willing and ready to take charge if needed.”

He’s right. And a lot of times I fear that is pretty off-putting because I don’t match the make on a magazine. But then I remember my Bible doesn’t have pictures.

I don’t know what the women I admire most in Scripture look like, and that’s a good thing because what makes me want to meet them most is their zeal, boldness, drive, leadership, sacrifice, and passion for the things of God.

I admire women like Deborah who led a nation, and Jael who took out Israel’s enemy with a tent peg and hammer (Judges 4:1-24).

And Mary, mother of Jesus, who intimately witnessed God’s redemption plan unfold and stopped to take note (Luke 2:19).

I like the other Mary too. She followed Jesus with the rest of the first disciples and disregarded her household duties because she was welcomed to sit and glean at His feet (Luke 10:38-42).

My favorite lady may be Lydia—the first European convert—who opened her home and served as a catalyst for a movement that spanned from Philippi and beyond (Acts 16:11-15). Lydia and the church in her town supported Paul and his traveling missionary band throughout their journeys to see the gospel spread to new places (Philippians 1:3-6).

And there’s Priscilla who partnered with her husband, Aquila, to make tents, follow Paul on mission, disciple Apollos before sending him off to Greece, and serve the church in their Roman home (Acts 18:1-28, Romans 16:3).

Have you heard of Phoebe? She was a deaconess of the church in Cenchreae and didn’t usurp power to gain the position. Deacons were appointed to this serving role (Acts 6:1-7). She was chosen and entrusted to deliver Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (Romans 16:1-2).

When I grow up, I want to be like them. And maybe you’re a woman reading this and you do too.

Ladies, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably backed down.

Maybe it’s because your single and don’t want to be and fear being too intimidating if you actually pursue all the things God has laid on your heart. Maybe it’s because you’re afraid to step on toes because when you’re a woman gifted in leadership a different “b” word that isn’t “brave” is used to describe you. Or maybe it’s because you’ve been told to sit down, be quiet and look pretty.

Some of you reading this may bring up 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I’ve read it and I’m 27 with a lot to learn and don’t fully know what to do with it. But I do know that in context the church in Corinth was a hot mess and its meetings were divisive. God cares a lot about unity among His people (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17). Prophesies and tongues were flying left and right and women weren’t submitting to their husbands (a big no, no based on Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18). So they did need to sit down and shut up. I’m okay with that.

But I’m afraid that maybe we’ve used a couple verses to make women feel second-fiddle in the Kingdom all the while knowing that the Great Commission isn’t gender specific. It’s also not for the most educated theologians in the land. It’s for all believers everywhere at all times.

Women get to be a part of building God’s Kingdom too. And ladies, you represent over half the church, so that means the lost world desperately needs you to live boldly in tandem with other believers to get the gospel out.

God sees you, gifts you, and empowers you for the work of making His glorious gospel known from the east to the west. What a privilege it is to be His daughter and messenger of His grace!

In the words of one of my childhood country music faves, “Let’s go, girls.” What are your gifts and where can you use them to start growing the Church?

Walking on Water


This is a fictional retelling of a true story. Click here to read the original text.
 
We’d been bashed by the sea for nine hours, and all 12 of us had left most of our last meal in the water. Our vision was limited by the night sky, but streaks of light from the heavens collided with earth for miles, declaring the storm’s end was nowhere in sight.
 
To make matters worse, our Leader sent us off without Him. We were now miles from shore with no plan of meeting back up with Him. I held onto the splintering wood for dear life and thought about how our boat seemed more like a floating tomb than fishing vessel.
 
I stared through sheets of rain in complete despair. That’s when I saw it—or Him.
 
I blinked to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. I wasn’t. Something—or Someone—gravitated toward us on the water. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
 
“It’s a ghost!” erupted simultaneously from the other brothers—James and John. In an instant, their claim was confronted by a familiar Voice, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
 
Could it be? I squinted for a better look. I recognized that browned skin and wild hair. Jesus. Before thinking, I cried out, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to You on the water.”
 
“Come.”
 
That familiar lure overwhelmed me just like the moment we’d met. He’d said, “Come, follow me” then, and here He was again, using that same simple invitation to call me out of the comforts of the possible.
 
I just had to be near Him.
 
The storm around me was a minute detail as one leg followed the other and dangled over the boat’s edge. A moment later I left its illusion of safety and stood up with my eyes locked and level with Jesus. As the world raged around us, we stood on the stirring water as if it were as solid as the ground we dined on just hours before. I began to move toward Him.
 
One step. Two steps. Then steps three and four. I wasn’t just standing on water; I was walking on it.
 
I looked back at the 11 whose wide eyes gawked at the sight of the impossible playing out before them. That’s when the rain and the wind and the waves came back into view and panic overtook me.
 
Their eyes declared what I knew to be true—I shouldn’t be upright out here. It didn’t make sense. I was breaking all laws of nature.

And then I wasn’t.
 
I sank and the waves fought to take me under for good. Arms flailing and gasping for air, I was helpless and surely at my end. The waves broke and I used all my strength to shout, hoping my cries rang out above the pounding rain.
 
“Save me!”
 
And there His hand was—firm and calloused from years’ worth of carpentry. An offer of salvation from an unexpected place paired with a compassionate challenge, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
 
It’s then that I remembered the character of the One who called me to walk on water.
 
I’d seen His kindness heal the sick, refute the Pharisee and feed the hungry. Foolish me. I should have known to trust Him when He called me to defy the wind and waves.
 
As we hoisted ourselves back into the boat’s grasp, the storm stopped in submission to Jesus. Seemingly in tandem, pastel bursts of pinks and purples accompanied the morning sun’s march over the eastern hills … casting a reflection of celebratory colors across the now glassy waters.
 
We'd witnessed lepers cleansed, meals multiplied and now this. Even the forces of nature danced according to His command, and it was time we did too. The 12 of us fell to our knees in worship.

Jesus was who He claimed to be—the very Son of God. And I wouldn’t doubt Him again … or so I thought.

A Day in Ephesus

Before reading this, I’d encourage you to read the true story from Acts 17-19.

It was a normal day in the port city. Except it wasn’t.

Shouts erupted from the theater. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” I headed that way. It was packed, so I pushed my way to one of the last high seats. I couldn’t make out many details of the man on stage with Demetrius, a local silversmith who specialized in making shrines to our city’s goddess, Artemis. Word slowly trickled up. The other men were followers of Paul of Tarsus, one of those people of the Way. There had been a scuffle in the streets that led them to the big stage to settle the matter.

I’d heard of Paul’s teachings that were leading a stir throughout Asia, including my city. Others like him were learning more about the Way and growing in boldness because of him. It was starting to be a real threat to our lifestyle, challenging our commerce, morality and government.

What was this troublemaker up to today?

Before Paul’s followers could defend their side, the city clerk piped up to end the dispute. “If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. You’re dismissed.”

I leaned forward and watched closely. They turned left from the theater and I followed suit as unexpected curiosity compelled me through the streets.

I’d lost sight of Paul’s men, but I charged forward and knocked on the door of a man I knew had been meeting with him.

There Paul was.

To my surprise, I was welcomed in. I crossed the threshold filled with an unshakeable feeling … everything was about to change.

And oh, how it did.

Finding home … again

With the flick of a switch, headlights illuminate the dark county road. 

A minute later gravel crunches under the tires where the pavement ends. After a long left curve, the lit sidewalk is in sight.

Everything else is a familiar, beautiful black.

The car’s now in park. Needing nothing more than a crack, the hot, humid air greets its visitors. 

Bags are grabbed, doors are shut and then there’s a long pause to look up.

They say Texas stars are bright at night but most of the time city lights steal their show.

But not here.

There they are … shining bright in all their glory. A borrowed glory fashioned on purpose to point even higher.

In the looking up, home is found … again.

“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore…” -Genesis 22:17

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”‭‭ -Psalm‬ ‭8:3-4‬

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.‭‭” -Romans‬ ‭1:20‬

This is Our God

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Behold, this is our God…

He covers blood red sin and makes it white like snow and wool (Isaiah 1:18).

He doesn’t smite the sinner, He lets them collapse in awe at His presence (Isaiah 6).

He illuminates the dark with a great light (Isaiah 9:2).

He is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

He prepares a feast of fine foods for people from all places who have pledged their devotion to Him (Isaiah 25:6).

He gives peace to those who trust Him (Isaiah 26:30).

He cradles close those He cares for like a shepherd tending his flock (Isaiah 40:11).

He strengthens and helps (Isaiah 41:10).

He doesn’t break bruised reeds or blow out smoldering wicks (Isaiah 42:3).

He walks near and casts out fear (Isaiah 43:1-2).

He provides water in the wilderness and the wasteland (Isaiah 43:20).

He stretches his light and salvation far to reach the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6).

He loves without fail and cannot be shaken (Isaiah 54:10).

He says “come” to all who are thirsty (Isaiah 55:1).

He sends his people out with joy and peace (Isaiah 55:12).

He proclaims good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, frees captives and releases prisoners from darkness (Isaiah 61:1).

“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:9

 

What I Love About Mountains

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If you’re anything like me, you like mountaintop experiences … but maybe not so much what it takes to get there.

To reach the summit, you work your way up from the valley. And before you even get to the base, you endure months of training to get your body ready for an ascent that’s furthest from easy.

Your alarm goes off early and you want to snooze. A friend reaches out with a more social option than an evening spent with your pack on the gym’s stair stepper. You want to throw in the towel, but you know you won’t reach the top unless you put in the time and effort to train.

Then the time finally comes to climb.

You drive to the base, strap on your pack and start to trek. The higher you get, the thinner the air and heavier the pack on your fatigued legs. It’s only views of the summit that pull you forward when you consider turning back.

Looking up keeps you going. Looking up keeps you going. Looking up keeps you going.

A few hours spent going straight up and you’ve made it. Your eyes fill with wonder at the clouds and peaks that remind you that though you’re small and insignificant, Someone deems you as more valuable than the finest wines and metals and jewels.

He’s even sacrificed His most precious Gift to prove it.

Then you look down. You see the valley and the walking in between from a fresh perspective. Suddenly it hits you … the sights and sounds and smells from the top aren’t what makes the experience, it’s the sweaty, exhausting, heart-pounding journey that brought you there.

It’s hard and beautiful and treacherous and rewarding and unpredictable and consistent and a lot like life.

This. This is what I love about the mountains.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” –Psalm 121:1-2

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation … For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.” –Psalm 95:1, 3-4

A Foe Turned Friend

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Rain, you’re a familiar foe.

You’ve ruined a lot of things for me … like my play and my plans.

I’ve never liked you much. Okay, maybe that’s not fully true. I’ve like you a little, especially on those lazy Sunday afternoons when golf is on the sports channel and I’m convinced God’s wired me for the couch.

Rain, I’ve got to let you know you’re growing on me a little.

You force me to hit pause when life is busy and I want to prioritize physical over spiritual training.

You are an instrument adding new sounds to creation’s song.

You refresh and revive weary and dry soil to bear life.

You relieve us Texans from the summer heat (can I get an “amen”).

You wash away earth’s dirt and grime, and you point me to the One who’s done the same for my soul.

Rain, you’re a foe turned friend.

“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
    let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
    let salvation spring up,
let righteousness flourish with it;
    I, the Lord, have created it.” -Isaiah 45:8