Saturday, December 1, 2012

iFinish Strong

iPray eVotionals

The gun sounds as the race begins. iPray eVotionals exhorts the runners on the path of a prayerful lifestyle.  It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn.  It's for the runner who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.  

iFinish Strong 
(Approximate reading time: 8 Minutes)  

It's Hard!
This past Thursday morning was a Disneyland morning.  No, we did not visit Disneyland park, but I call it that because of the joy and wonder every little moment held.  The day started with all kinds of happy giggles, singing songs, making jokes.  It was like we were walking around Disneyland, at every turn we were laughing and admiring what the moment held.  For my son it was the way his shirt went on, the way I combed his hair, greeting our dog on the stairs and sliding down on his rear end.  He greeted his sister with smiles who was in the middle of her own Disneyland morning.  

As I got breakfast ready I asked the kids a question.  "Can you please go pack your backpacks?"

They skipped off like it was a joy to do such a thing.

All of a sudden I hear moaning, frustration and groaning.  Out of it all I hear my son's voice, "It's too hard, it keeps falling!"

I walked in saw that my son's demeanor had completely changed.  Where did that happy face go?  He was carelessly shoving books, pulling the zipper in all kinds of unnatural directions and physically lashing out at his backpack.

"Honey, your lashing out is making it harder," I said.

I helped him stop all of his wild movements and two seconds later his back pack was zipped up and ready to go, but something about my son had changed.  He moved over to the breakfast table only to find that his breakfast was all wrong.  His sister's morning songs annoyed him.  The fact that she looked at him was a disaster.

Fighting to keep her Disneyland morning alive my daughter responded, "I'll try not to look at you."  And all she got back from her brother was a grunt.

At that point I could feel my son's demeanor affecting my own Disneyland morning.

I got his attention and asked, "What happened to your attitude?  Ever since I asked you to pack up your backpack everything has been bothering you."

"But it was hard!" He exclaimed.

"Yes, things are sometimes hard.  Just because things are hard, why should that change the way you choose to live life?  You were full of joy until your backpack.  Every day you are going to have to do hard things.  The way you look at challenges will either make it harder for yourself or help you finish strong.  God's joy does not leave your heart when things get hard.  Let's finish this morning strong."

Right away my son's face softened.  This was not the first time my son has had to face hard things.  (See Rainbow Promise)  Hard is hard.  There is no reason to pretend like hard is easy.  My son's backpack was a bump on our morning ride.  It made us all a little unsteady, but having the right perspective got our balance back and I'm happy to say that my son finished the morning strong.

2 Corinthians 4:18 "While we look at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Bird's Eye View!
When I step back and really think about having a peaceful heart through the ups, downs and surprise life turns; even when things don't always feel peaceful, I think about Mr. Toad's Wild Ride!

That's right, a Disneyland ride that happens to be my son's favorite in the park.  Mr. Toad, a character from Disney's 1949 "Mini-Classic" version of the tale The Wind in the Willow's, takes you on a crazy ride through town in his new found love... a motorcar!  After Mr. Toad discovers this motorcar he becomes completely fixated and obsessed with a new and exciting adventure of driving it.  Unfortunately his motor-mania driving is quite reckless.  As a passenger in his motorcar you are subjected to his uncontrollable turns, near crashes and a few moments of driving right through the pit of hell.  Only to come out alive and well with the magical sounds of Disneyland's Carousel across the way.

The summer before last we visited the Disney Museum in San Francisco and in the store my son found his most treasured book ever.  A collectors book that features Mr. Toad's wild ride.  In the middle it has a wonderful bird's eye view of the whole ride.  He has studied every turn and close call the ride takes.  He knows what is to come and how it ends.

Life is like this ride.

We are on a ride that has many unexpected turns, near crashes and at times we can even feel like we are traveling through the pit of hell.  My son's life has been no exception.  At birth he was rushed to the NICU.  He lived for years with pain that no one knew about or understood.  At 3 he was so sick from failing kidneys that the pit of hell seemed to lurk outside of his hospital door.  Before he was 5 he had endured 6 surgeries, endless procedures and numerous lab tests.  This was not a ride he stood in line for and looked forward to riding.  He had to jump aboard whether he liked it or not, forcing him to face unknown twists and turns of a crazy motorcar.  At times it seemed hopeless and too much for him to bear.

In the hardest of moments God's present voice whispered in his ears just what he needed to hear.  Hope placed on his young heart at just the right time.  "Only a few more turns and you are going to come out saved!"  He may not have had a bird's eye view, but I believe that he learned to trust the One who did at a very young age.

 Jesus, Take the Wheel!
Not everyone has the same approach to this life-ride as my son has.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of fear battles and unknowns that wage war in his heart.  I'm talking about life riders that travel unsteady terrain without any hope.

My son and I were on Mr. Toad's Wild ride one time only to hear cries from the car behind us.  A little girl was distraught with Mr. Toad's reckless driving.  After waiting in line, I'm sure she was excited to get on a wonderful Disneyland ride.  One that would make her smile and laugh just as It's A Small World did, or like Storybook Land.  As the ride ended, she was visibly shaken by what she had just endured.  My son and I watched as her anguish drowned out the sound of the carousel and nothing her parents said gave her comfort.  This was not the fun ride she waited in line for, anticipated and looked forward to riding.

Looking at me my son said, "She can't see that she came out saved."

He knew the secret to enjoying the ride.

Our ability to see this life for the ride it is and know that when we come out, there are a host of angels welcoming us into an eternity with sounds of worship and praise far better than we can even imagine.  Heaven is waiting for us.  In the end, we come out saved.

While we are still on this ride we face a fork.  That's right, a fork in the road.  There are two ways we can ride this ride.  Without the option of getting off we can let our "backpacks" destroy our life attitude or we can cast our "backpacks" on our Lord so that He will sustain us (From Psalm 55:22).  At this fork there are two signs:

1. "Bumpy road ahead... Try to stay in control! Be terrified! Be anxious!  Resent the ride!"


2. "Bumpy road ahead... Let Jesus take the wheel.  Be strong! Be hopeful! Enjoy the ride!"

When I read Matthew 7:13-14 I conclude that the second sign points to the road less traveled.  Both roads are bumpy, but Jesus is the better guide as Hebrews 2:8 tells us that nothing is outside His control.  Not one "backpack" bump, including all struggles, disappointments, failures, losses, and wounds.  With His birds eye view He knows exactly where we are and He stands sovereign over our circumstance.  Why try to hang onto the wheel ourselves?  Hebrews 2:8-9 reminds us that "we do not see everything" but we do see HIM, Jesus.  We can trust his vision as ours is limited.  As long as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the tension, pain, and frustration of the present are put into redemptive perspective.

Finishing Strong!
The Advent countdown has begun.  God the Father sent God the Son to us as a babe on the very first Christmas morning so that He could take the wheel.  As we ride, He is only a prayer away.  

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

"Come to me," He said.  Choosing to take the road less traveled is choosing a prayerful lifestyle and eternal life.  

iPray... that every "backpack" bump endured and every corner turned brings us closer to Jesus.

iPray... that Christmas is not just a passing holiday, but the reality of Him coming to take the wheel so that we can "come out saved" changes how we live life.

iPray... for more Disneyland mornings where joy and wonder comes at every turn.

iPray that we ride with an eternal perspective; that we will finish strong!


Michelle Fozounmayeh
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