run the suns | walk the shades

The heat is heavy – like a blanket you can’t crawl out from under. It runs in front of you and pushes in behind you and squeezes on all sides. The heat is heavy these days.

A few weeks ago, I was haphazardly training for the 4 mile trail run I ran with my family this past Saturday. The Coast Guard Trail Run is not just any 7K race – it involves dunes and trails and an enormous amount of steps that take you to the top of a dune where you can see Lake Michigan touch the horizon. It was worth every step and much more fun when you have matching shirts that say “Nichols family running team.”

I know, we look like a Christmas card. It was unintentional – we were a bit loopy after the race!

But back to my training.

The heat seemed to suck all the smart out of me in those days leading up to the race. I kept deciding to run in the middle of the afternoon when the heat was most oppressive. Running isn’t something I plan around in my day… it’s something that happens when the window appears. It may be at 5 pm or 3 pm or 9:30 pm, but rarely if ever at 7 am (which of course is the coolest time of the day).

After about a mile on a 100 degree day around 3:30 pm, I had that familiar thought, “This might not end well.” The heat was getting into my throat and my legs were resisting the steady movement pounding the paved path.  It was like my lungs knew things were about to get desperate. Good thing I had mapped out where all the water was on my route, because I don’t think I would have made it without the rusty fountain in O’Neil Park. Right about that time I realized how far I was from my front door and how long it would take to get back there.

I devised a survival technique called “run the suns, walk the shades.” I would sprint through the sunny parts of the trail and slow to a walk where the shade hovered over the sidewalk. As I made my way home in this pattern, I thought of G.K. Chesterton and Moses.

I know what you are thinking – I was delirious. This very well may have been true. But, I’ve since drank lots of water and slept many nights and the thought remains. Though Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to listen to the Lord, he did not sit down across the table to have afternoon tea. It was a frightfully powerful experience. When Moses wanted to see God, he was told to hide in a cave while the Lord passed by. An ordinary encounter is the farthest thing from God’s powerful presence. In Chesterton’s book, “The Man Who Was Thursday” we see glimpses (the backside) of the Sunday character (God). This character is meant (I think) to be the sovereign part of God and we cannot bear the weight of it.

Because the sun is too strong. Humans have a heat threshold and when we reach it, our bodies can’t function anymore. There is a point where the heat jumping from the sun is too much for our skin and our head and our lungs. The sun is too strong.

If the power of the Lord unleashed, our eyes could not bear it. Our lungs could not breathe the weight of glory that He would display in His fullness. Even a glimpse would lay us out flatter than the most intense heat exhaustion.

And I felt the power of the sun as I raced to the shade.
I’m a very steady kind of grateful because though the Lord could lay us all out flat with the weight of His glory, He gives shade. He provides covering in Christ that allows us to stand now in front of the Lord redeemed and under His shade until He returns.

That’s a mysterious combination of glory and grace and it makes me want to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the Priest who sat down

I was doing arithmetic to the rhythm of the running path tonight…
And things were adding up like this:

3 weeks
1 summer camp
1 missions conference
4 states
5 jobs
5 different beds
1 parent meeting
3 days of family reunion
hundreds of smiles, sighs, and near-tears

Arithmetic is not my thing, so I shook the numbers out of my head and thought about Old Testament priests. I thought back to their days full to brimming with activity – with messy, bloody, smelly activity. A priest’s job was never done. He would never get home at night and know that any real progress had been made. He would always, always have work and it would always, always be blood-drenched.

The entire vocation of “priest” was set up (in grace) because of man’s sin revealed through the law given to Moses. The people in Nehemiah 8 wept as they understood how far they had fallen from right relationship with the Lord. The distance was so far that there was no hope of recovery. The people listened to the Book of Law and looked at the chasm created by their sin and they knew – there was no way to reach right relationship with the Lord again. So they wept … and the priests worked overtime with blood-soaked hands because the chasm was so great.

The system was intricate and difficult to maintain, but the priests returned to work every day after blood-filled day because it was the only way that sin would find atonement.

And then there was Jesus. Oh, I love my Jesus.

Jesus, the great High Priest, stepped into the chasm that couldn’t be filled for thousands of years to accomplish what could never be bought by thousands of sacrifices. All those trips to the temple – all those long voyages – came to an end when Christ set his face toward Jerusalem.

He was the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices because His was sufficient.

The temple no longer needed to bustle with bloody activity and the work of the priests changed overnight… and Jesus sat down. Though Jesus is the great High Priest (a vocation that would mean work without end), He sat down at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19).

There is something about the Truth of what Christ accomplished on the cross that can be claimed when mornings look menacing and when minutes refuse to stretch a moment further.

Jesus accomplished what nothing else could to offer what nothing else can and there’s not a single shred of doubt about it. The weight of His confidence is measured in His sure, seated posture next to His Father.

And that is why all my numbers smashed in to all my days inside of weeks point to One blood-soaked sacrifice and all the peace of a seated King.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy