Web

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A foggy mist hung over Valley Forge park last Thursday morning as I pulled in and got ready for my run. Thankful for the cooler temperatures and shade, I set off on the Valley Creek Trail.

Though I was running by myself on an empty trail, I soon realized I was not alone. That foggy mist I was telling you about had revealed to me that I was in the company of hundreds of spiders! Yikes! All along the sides of the trail, in bushes and in trees, condensation had collected on webs and made what was not normally visible to the average passer-by apparent to the naked eye. I’ve been on this trail many, many times, but I had no idea I had so many *friends* joining me!

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One of my favorite stories from the Bible is the story of Naomi and Ruth. During a time of famine, Naomi, along with her husband and two sons, moved from Bethlehem to a foreign region to find food. Though they found what they were looking for and remained there for several years, Naomi’s husband and sons all died, leaving her alone.

A widow in that time had little chance of surviving on her own, so Naomi decided to return to her home land and her own people, hoping to find a support system there. Though her sons had been married and her daughters-in-law offered to come with her, Naomi knew they had no obligation to be her support. Their chances were much better if they went back home and remarried, so even when they offered to come with her, she insisted that they not.

And though Orpah gave in and “kissed her mother-in-law” goodbye, Ruth “clung to her” (Ruth 1:14). Seeing Ruth’s determination to stay, Naomi “said no more” (v. 18) and the two set off for Bethlehem. This unexpected show of support from Ruth during a foggy time not only encouraged Naomi, but led her to discover that her web of support was even greater than that. Back in Bethlehem, a kinsman-redeemer was revealed who married Ruth, committed to care for her and Naomi, and provided an heir for their family.

In our busy, busy, always-on-the-run world, it’s easy to feel alone. But our God, who has promised to provide for us, is working a web of support – it just might not be visible until we’re in the foggy mist.

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This summer, while returning to Tim’s family cabin after a beautiful hike in northern Vermont, a car pulled out of a driveway without stopping and drove straight into our car. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but our car was not able to make the return trip home. Naively trusting the other driver would follow through on his promise to get in touch with us about his insurance and assuming that his insurance would cover our rental, we kept the rental for a full week after we got home, racking up a $1000 bill.

Unfortunately, this promise remains unfulfilled and, in hindsight, we see our mistake. We didn’t call the police on site and left the scene of the accident without even getting the driver’s full name, let alone his insurance information. And we’ve been learning all of this as the beginning of the year sports team fees and several other large expenses were due.

But last week I received an email from the director of our swim team informing us that an anonymous donor had covered all three of the girls’ team fees for the season. That’s $835. And though I’ve already cried every time I’ve told the story, I’m tearing up again writing this. It’s been a foggy time, but we can see now that our web of support is bigger than we realized!

Thank you, whoever you are, for supporting our family in this way. You have no idea how much it means and how loved we feel. And thank you to everyone who gives to Hope Community Church – you have no obligation to give, but your generosity makes it possible for us to put our full-time into ministry without having to work other jobs. Thank you to everyone who has loved and supported our family over the years – you’re part of a beautiful web the Lord has been building up around us!

God’s provision is always perfect and His most often employed method of meeting our needs is each other. The church is always being built up as a support system, even when we can’t see it. So if you’re in a fog and feeling alone, look up – you probably have more friends than you realize!

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Mud

Nothing beats running in a pair of new shoes. So fresh and clean and bright. Sometimes you just want to take them off, hold them, and marvel at their beauty.

And when you’re a trail runner, nothing beats the day you ‘baptize’ your new shoes on the trail!

This week Tim and I embarked on a 9.3 mile trek of Evansburg State Park. Having received some significant rain in the past week, we knew this was a little risky, but our minds were set and we headed out.

With half of our course being multi-use horse trails and the other half winding along the edges of the Skippack Creek, our shoes were doomed. Though at first we tried to make our way around the giant mud pits on dry ground, we soon realized it wasn’t worth the effort and gave in to the mess!

By the end of the run, our shoes were barely recognizable and, even after a good hosing down, will never be their fresh-and-clean-and-bright selves again!

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But that’s actually the best thing ever.

I love that my shoes are dirty because it means I used them for what they were made for! I hope when people notice them they’ll think: “Wow! She must be a trail runner!” These shoes were made for a purpose and the signs that they were successfully used for that purpose bring glory to their makers and wearers!

As a human being and follower of Christ, I was made for a purpose. There are times when figuring out that purpose seems confusing, but Isaiah 43:7 makes it clear:

“…everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

I was created for God’s glory and it’s tempting to think that if my purpose is to glorify God, I do that best by staying fresh and clean and bright. That by putting on a smile and polishing up my lifestyle, people will marvel at my ‘beauty’ and be drawn to Jesus. But the previous verses of Isaiah 43 say otherwise:

But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.” (v. 1-2)

It’s not on the safe, swept, and predictable sidewalks that we bring glory to God, it’s in the deep waters (and mud pits!). We weren’t created for polished and perfect lives – we were created for the mess. We can smile all we want and say how “good” God is, but maybe we don’t really know how good He is until He’s pulled us from the muck. Maybe we don’t know how able He is until we reach the full understanding that we aren’t able to rescue ourselves. Maybe His unconditional love can only be understood when we’ve stepped in a big pile of poop (yep, we were on horse trails, remember?).

As I was reading through the Psalms this summer, I noticed a pattern – maybe you can pick it up, too:

Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (Psalm 6:4)

Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 9:13-14)

For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. (Psalm 25:11)

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory [my being or heart] may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12)

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. (Psalm 67:1-2)

Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! (Psalm 79:8-9)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:3-4)

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7)

All of these “for the sake of’s” and “that I may’s” point to God’s glory and they only exist because there is also pain, suffering, and sin. All that mud on us shows a watching world what our God is made of. We may feel dragged along a flooded horse trail, but because of it, we get a chance to show off His steadfast love, His power, His forgiveness, His joy, His ways, His compassion, His salvation, and His freedom!

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At the end of 9.3 miles, Tim and I were convinced of two things. First of all, mud is more dangerous than we realized (as proven by our turned ankles and pulled muscles). And second, running through miles of muck can leave your feet feeling soggy and gross!

The biggest danger of committing our lives to Jesus and following His trails is not that we’ll experience hard times and turn away from Him completely. Yes, there will be injuries and detours, but most of us will stay the course.

The greater danger is that we’ll become soggy. That we’ll absorb the muck and mire and let that become what defines us. That, rather than God’s reputation, it will be about ours, and pain and puddles will be all people see when they think of us.

I wasn’t put here to be an admired specimen of perfection or a pruned-up pity-party. I am here to bring glory to God and even if I’m waist deep in the flood, I’ve still got a face to look up, a mouth to cry out, and a hand to point up to Him!

Our trail run yesterday was a Virtual Run of the Superhero Showdown for Super T’s Mast Cell Foundation. Taylor, life dragged you through the pit, but you never got soggy. You never stopped pointing to Jesus and giving God glory! It was such an honor to know you. Thank you for all that you taught us and all the lives you touched.

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