Thursday, April 26, 2007


Rain of Kindness

I told my boss that Friday would be an emergency sand sculpture day. He's used to it. I got up that morning to clouds and damp. Rain had passed through, and storms often have trailers. I got the mountain bike out of the garage and headed north instead of the beach.

Offshore were clouds in many layers with some patches of blue visible. Little tufts here and there caught attenuated dawn light. Yah, chance of rain but slight. I quit thinking about it.

Of course, I hoped. We're way short on rain for the year. I haven't been able to take a single walk in the rain. I thought of my standard offer: "OK, God, you make it rain, I don't mind getting wet. I want rain."

North along the beach, into a mild offshore breeze. Then east up the canyon to various back roads. Pedestrian bridge over the creek and then a short spin along Sunset. Then I walked partway up the road to Will Rogers Park because it's pretty. I drank some water at the fountain by the parking lot and rode on.

It's a nice, simple ride. Having been a while since my last long ride I've been sort of easing my way back into it. I had new tires on the bike, hoping for better grip than the FireXC Pros it came with. I went the steep way and liked the way the tires hung on but not the way the rear picked up sand and tossed it into the heels of my sandals. Well, yes, I shouldn't be riding in sandals but it's irresistible.

Eventually I got to the top of the local maximum, a little hillock standing out from the rest of the ridge. Off to the east Los Angeles was getting rained on. Through clear air I could see all of Santa Catalina, 40 miles away across the water. It looked huge. Straight west was the same layered cloud. I sat on the picnic table and listened to the birds.

Distraction. I suppose the main reason I haven't been riding very much is that it's too much quiet time. Nothing to do out there but keep the pedals going, and the mind freewheels. That means it usually lands someplace near God, and He still scares me. He should be the first I run to when hurt, but I still have the habit of running away from everyone. People, yes; they love to kick the down player. God never does that. Still, I know what a failure I am as a follower of Jesus and don't want to hear about that from God. He has never done so, but still. Some day my number will come up and I just don't want to know about it. So, I sat on the picnic table and thought around the issues, sometimes going to their heart in a quick pass. Calming. I definitely needed the time up there, alone.

After a time I moved on. I decided on a whim to ride partway up the Backbone Trail, singletrack that leads to the farthest ridge, a few miles up. I didn't want to go that far, but wanted some practice.

Shortly after starting up the trail I got a feeling. Turn around. Hmmm. Makes no sense. I kept going, but the feeling wouldn't go away. Definitely a sign of God's quiet voice. So, I turned around. I'd been quiet enough to actually hear Him. Back down to the park entrance, for some more water, and then on down the hill. I retraced the route over the ped bridge and down the canyon to the beach. Under PCH through the ped culvert and then I had a chance to look around.

Oh, my. The western horizon was gone. Just a grey wall out there, and I know from experience what that means. This storm was rolling right down the alley. A few miles away the hills near Malibu faded into the rain. I worked my way south into the storm-brought opposing wind and felt the first few drops as I approached the Santa Monica Pier.

I still had time to run a quick errand and then go on home. Five minutes later the rain hit, and kept going for three hours. It was nice. Everything smelled good. I like rain.

Well, naturally, my first thought was "Why me?" There are people out there far more deserving of hearing God's voice, and they're doing things more important than mountain biking. There are people out there begging God to make Himself known to them, and here I get this casual comment that basically keeps me from getting wet.

I've been wet before. I've ridden in snow, rain, wind and 20-below-0 cold. I raced a thunderstorm in Nebraska and barely got home in time, uphill and against the wind. The answer seems to be that I listen. God speaks to everyone but I pay attention.

Then I got into the wider implications. What would I do if God told me to do something I didn't want to do, like Ananias being told to meet Paul? The thought that came to mind is one I've heard a few times in military history: a commander who gives commands that won't be followed doesn't stay in command for very long. God could dragoon me. He has the power. He just doesn't use it.

He waits to melt my heart. I can feel it changing.

Sounds to me like you made enough sense of your journey today, what it was about.

It should be natural to fear God. After all, look at how much he is capable of. And yet, despite his power he uses a gentle touch. As a contrast people with power often can't weight to wield it and lord it over someone.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Did you not seek some assurance? Perhaps you can take it as being told someone cares, even over the little things. It may not be a thundering voice from the heavens, but perhaps a spark of something divine.

As to God telling you to do things you fear, does not the bible say his commands are not burdensome? We are offered a chance to share our burdens, even to cast them on his shoulders.

There are many stories in the bible of things that seemed extreme. The sacrificing of Isaac comes to mind. No doubt much of it didn't make sense at the time, but with the vastness of God's power surely death could not stop God. Though it sounds difficult, sometimes we just need to trust God.

These days the faith of many is misdirected. Wars arise all over, and every army and soldier is left to believe that God is fighting for them, on their side.

"It's not dying for faith that's so hard, it's living up to it."
~ William Makepeace Thackeray

Think of the day like a journey. You started out looking for answers and after finding them you were guided back to a place of safety, a place you can call home.
What a beautiful post! It is amazing how we can just set the world down and be with God, isn't it? You do it with your bike; I do it with my camera. There are times I take the camera down from my eye after an hour or more of shooting and seriously wonder if He'll be standing there in the middle of one of my shots.

He almost always is...
Ah, Stray, you've said it quite simply. There is no justification, just God's promise making things conceptually simple but having interesting ramifications. A simple process and belief allows no room for men and their sophisticated beliefs and foundations. Those of us who just want to live need to find very sharp swords, or teeth, to bite through the thicket of thought grown up around God's beautiful life-saving simplicity.

Thanks for commenting, man.

Jules, thanks for your encouragement. Camera, bike, paintbrush, take your pick. All require some slowing of mind... and that allows God's voice to be heard, which probably explains the busy-dependency of today's world.
"Why me?" There are people out there far more deserving of hearing God's voice, and they're doing things more important than mountain biking. There are people out there begging God to make Himself known to them, and here I get this casual comment that basically keeps me from getting wet.... The answer seems to be that I listen. God speaks to everyone but I pay attention.

Geez, this is just too wild! I've been having the same conversations and realizing the same thing.

The people I know, like you - and even me - earnestly seeking God and willing to hear Him and respond regardless of how difficult are the ones who hear. I think that is because we are desperate for Him, even just a piece.

The ones who aren't willing to hear difficult things won't hear His voice. Its not that He's not speaking to them, its that they aren't willing to hear. And that unwillingness acts like earplugs - maybe even its what the enemy uses to dampen spiritual "sound" around them, so they can't hear.

And it seems to be tied more to hearing the difficult than doing it.... I know lots of people willing to "go the distance" for God, so-to-speak who don't hear His voice no matter how much they cry out. But after knowing them I realize they aren't really willing to hear difficult things; things that challenge their paradigms about themselves or the world or God. You always have been willing to hear. And respond.

I think this is what Jesus meant when He said, "those who have ears to hear, let them hear."
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