Saturday, May 24, 2008

Protection along the path

Isaiah 26:7-8

The path of the righteous is level; O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

"The church is the only cooperative society that exists for the benefit of non-members."
-William Temple

Those of us who live in beautiful Southwest Virginia sometimes cock our heads and give a blank stare when we hear about the battles in Richmond over the "Transportation Funding" bill. It seems crazy to spend all of that money for roads. Except for congested I-81 and a few issues here and there, our roads are fine. What's the big deal?

Well, I have to ask you - have you ever driven in NOVA? Tim and I visited Richmond recently to attend a real estate class. Whoa. As soon as the congestion started, the bone-jarring potholes and cringe-inducing cracks began. We were borrowing our mechanic's car, as ours was in the shop, and we instinctively slowed down, not wanting to injure the car simply by driving on the road.

Now, a lot can be (and has been) said about Southwest Virginia and Northern Virginia being two totally different places, with totally different needs and concerns. But every time we get around Richmond or Washington, D.C., we have a new awareness of the importance of good roads ... and are happy to return to good old 581, 460, and even I-81. Seriously, folks, it's good to be home. I hate to pay more taxes, but if it will make my roads smoother when I visit NOVA, I'll have to say I'm happy to consider it.

In our small group (we call them "Watering Holes" at Living Water) this week, one of the guys in our group led us in prayer. God spoke to me in that prayer, and I did something I don't normally do when someone else is praying. I opened my eyes and started writing. He was thanking God for the protection he gives us by preparing our path. He thanked God for going ahead of us, filling in the potholes and directing our paths. He also asked for a deeper understanding of what other people go through because their paths are not as smooth as ours. Whoa. God convicted me of my smooth-path goodness in that moment. Yes, thank you, Father, for directing and protecting my path. Thank you for that provision and special care and forgive me when I do not appreciate it enough. Above that, though, Lord, open my eyes to the potholes and cracks that fill the pathways of those around me. Help me not to look down and shake my head, but extend my hands and heart and help them find the One who can direct their paths!

When I immersed myself in learning and public service at the American Studies Program in the spring of 1995, my teacher Steve Garber said something I just had to write down. "How is it possible to see into the meaning of one's moment in history, and to act responsibly - rather than be overwhelmed by either cynicism or sorrow, because the brokenness seems so deep, the pain so profound?"

As Tim and I minister with the small groups of Living Water Christian Church - the GROW aspect of our discipleship process - I pray that I live in gratitude for the blessings God has given, yet work tirelessly to bring people to a saving, life-changing understanding and love of Jesus Christ, no matter how messy and broken-down their path may be. May I point them toward the upright One who makes the way of the righteous smooth, not turn away from their brokenness and pain, overwhelmed by sorrow, cynicism and despair.

I'm not saying that choosing to follow Jesus makes everything perfect ... thorns and roots still find their way into the path to trip us up and cause problems. But fixing our eyes on Jesus sure takes away a lot of the potholes, cracks and distractions.

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