I call myself a runner, but I always feel the need to qualify the statement.
I’m not built like a runner. I’m not a fast runner. My mileage wouldn’t impress you.
But I get out there, onto the trail several times a week. And other than the last few months of four pregnancies plus a couple injuries which sidelined me for a time, I’ve been a runner as long as I can remember.
When I run, I’m usually smiling. It’s a strange habit, but I smile in part because running is my alone time. I walk out the front door, ready to move, and it’s like a big, deep breath. Plus a lot of panting, but still.
I smile because the finish line is always on the horizon, and I’m a hoper and a dreamer. I smile, because I need the opportunity to think my own thoughts for a bit. Thoughts about something other than school and the next meal and a million little tasks to do around the house.
Give me some fresh, quiet air under a big blue sky and the opportunity to think my own thoughts–and it feels like being home. Not so much like being in my home, but at home with myself. 🙂
Last week, out on the trail, one of my thoughts morphed into a pressing question:
Have you heard of circus slaves?It sounds odd, I know. But, it is a horrible and very real thing.
Imagine the music. The applause. The fanfare.
Children are led in, smiles taped on. A woman grips a rope with her teeth and spin herself around. An odd one, a short one and, perhaps, a misfit one, under age 10, contort themselves on stage. In India, they’re trapped. Perhaps, beaten. The rings, nor the stakes to perform, couldn’t be higher.
Deep calloused pain sits heavy for circus slaves.
The Show Goes On
I sat in megachurch, thinking, “Maybe the Pastor will notice me.” Maybe he’ll look over and say, “That one. I want to meet her. She’s something special.”
I tried extra hard, declaring, “The harder you work, the bigger you rise and the better the chance of going noticed and getting ahead.”
I sat blogging, praying, “If only (insert big name here) would help me. If I had her endorsement on my book that would mean everything. It would get my message where I only dreamed it could go.”
I sashayed as a child, planning, “I’ll sing. I’ll sing and dance. Surely they’ll see and adore me.”
Cutting the Music
There’s this pull for me to enter the grand tent of the circus–flying colors, flips and all.
Do you feel it too?
It’s an invitation to wow the crowds, to stand tall and to swing above the fray – up to the places where a platform is set just for you.
It’s the call to rise to greater heights. Do you know it?
It lures us with the thoughts like: I have to meet certain numbers. I have to appease publishers. I have to be the best dressed mom. I have to drive that car. I have to do as good as that person.
It plays out in our lives like: Checking in on where others are. Keeping an eye focused on the crowds. Getting consumed with self-tactics. Filling yourself up with either pride or self defeat.
After many shows, a girl gets tired of the big show. She starts to see that the tent really is full of hot air and it always falls down at days end.
The floodlights nearly blind me with truth: When we look for man to see or save us, we miss how God does. We miss God all together. And, if Jesus isn’t there, what’s there — is slavery.
“For freedom Christ has set us free;
stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
A girl stands there. A girl who realizes, “I am not performing, I’m just enslaving and depraving myself from God’s very best.”
She looks left and right and sees the others who are enslaved and depraved just like her. She sees ones trying and fighting, pining and clawing, hoping and dreaming to maybe be seen. Not all, but some, and her heart breaks for her fellow playmates who have been forced into hard labor, by themselves.
She calls out to them, “Let’s sneak outta here. I know the secret for us circus slaves,
want to hear it? It is the words of Jesus. . .”
“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.” Luke 14:10
Take the lower seat.
Let him recognize you.
When we sit with the other unseen and uncared for, we suddenly find that we are seen and cared for. We find that Jesus recognizes us, calls us friend and invites us to dine in his “best place.”
What could be better than that? It is called being freed to dine and delight in God. It is called your place to spin, sing, dance–a place where Christ sees and loves your every move made just for him.
Is Jesus inviting you there too?
Take the lower seat– that ends up being called the honored seat. It looks nothing like a flashy tent called slavery, because it is much more a heavenly seat called sitting right with Christ (Eph. 2:6).
Let’s go ladies, let’s go. Let’s go and remember it is not about how high we can rise, but really about how low we can go in service to Christ.
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For a long time, I believed a lie which is threatening the very heartbeat of our church. It sneaks in like a slow poison and its symptoms are often loss of joy, endless business and little time for meaningful relationships.
It doesn’t announce itself with brazen warning signs or even seem evident in the sanctuary on Sunday morning. But it’s there, and it’s threatening the gospel message Christ was crucified to bring to the lost and weary.
It pollutes the hope of our Redeemer and plants the seed of doubt. It says we can never do enough, be enough or work enough. Our salvation is not free, but is bought with a price.
It’s the message of striving.
Most of the time it’s presented with splashes of so-called grace along with it, but at the core it’s the same.
Because grace cannot be watered down. The gospel doesn’t say it is by grace plus works that you are saved through faith. No, God doesn’t need us, but through his love he chooses to use us.