When We Have Exhausted Our Store of Endurance

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In northern climates, spring is just beginning. Oh, how I welcome the signs of season change this year. Sitting in the warm sun without a coat, even if I am sitting alone on my deck, feels like the world is starting to open again. This has been a tough season – for nearly all of us.

As a student, I noticed a pattern in my educational history (because I notice patterns). I seemed to have seasons when learning new things came easily and seasons when study felt like slogging through hip-deep snow. The slogging season ended with new shoes and clothes, because in those seasons I grew physically. Another common season, the one my mother thought was my perpetual dwelling place, was the season of not much happening, not visibly, at least. Those times became the opportunity to enjoy relationships and put into practice and some of the good habits Mom tried to drill into us.

Years later, I read an article by someone else who noted the same pattern – and took time to research it properly. Children tend to alternate physical and mental growth spirts.

As an adult, I noticed that spiritual growth also came in spirts. Just as there are rhythms in nature, there are rhythms in the spiritual realm. I’m learning to ask the Lord what he wants to show me in whatever season I find myself in. I don’t believe we are all in the same place at the same time, nor do we all progress at the same rate. Sometimes change occurs suddenly. Some seasons do drag on. This has been a drag-on one for me.

A verse from an old hymn showed up in answer to my prayer about what this season is about and what provision the Lord has set aside for me now.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

(From He Giveth More Grace by Annie J. Flint)

It’s about endurance. Patient endurance. It’s about provision of physical, emotional, and spiritual strength fueled by hope and learning to run with it.

Our cross-country running coach back in high school trained us for endurance races by pushing us to go farther each time we ran. His was not my favourite class. Not even close. Undiagnosed exercise-induced asthma made gym class a miserable experience for me. I didn’t wheeze. I went directly to heart-pounding dizzy and sick. I just about puked on his shoes in an oxygen deprived moment one day, but even that failed to win sympathy. He tolerated no whining. If I dawdled, I got an extra lap. I didn’t die, and even though I often came in with the last stragglers, my endurance improved significantly that year. After I forgave him, I could acknowledge some gratefulness.

The writer of Hebrews talked about the necessary quality of endurance in running the race set before us. I want to whine that I’m hurting, that I’m tired, that this is too much. It’s as if the coach is indicating that another lap is required before this season of uncertainty is over. Really? I don’t think I can do it, but he thinks I can. And he is right. I can go a little farther in trust than I did before.

Seasons when I learned about God’s goodness and discovered his love and abundant grace and favour were more fun than this one has been, but learning that God is faithful, steadfast, and will provide what I need, when I need it (and not a moment sooner) builds endurance. Learning that pain is bearable siphons off some of the fear the enemy used to manipulate me in the past.

The discipline of running the race set before me, and not another person’s race, has helped me to stop comparing. I may take longer than others, but I make better time than I used to. That feels good.

There’s also something about patient endurance with focus on a goal that makes us willing to pare down and drop things that don’t matter as much as they once did. I’m travelling lighter.

The unexpected prize in this season of patient endurance is joy. Jesus’ endurance was a result of seeing the joy set before him. I’ve been praying for more joy. This joy doesn’t feel like giddy happiness, but it does feel like something inexplicably wonderful lies ahead. The joy I see reminds me of something as wonderful as new life awaking on  branches that appeared dead for so long. It smells like the scent of hope blooming in the spring sun. It feels like the certainty of sweet fruit.

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Jesus encourages, “Look at me! Eyes here! Come on. You can do it…”

One more lap. One more…

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2 NKJV)

Twilight Pear Blossoms

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When I first looked out the kitchen window as the sun set behind the mountains, I thought I saw snow on the tree. We’ve seen a lot of snow these past months.

But no. It’s not snow. This time the pear tree is covered with blossoms.

Flowers of your faithfulness are blooming on the earth.
Righteousness shines down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord keeps raining down blessing after blessing,
and prosperity will drench the land with a bountiful harvest.
For deliverance and peace are his forerunners,
preparing a path for his steps.

Psalm 85: 11-13 TPT

Frost

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In lazy apathy let stoics boast, their virtue fix’d:
’tis fix’d as in a frost;
contracted all, retiring to the breast;
but strength of mind is exercise, not rest.

– Alexander Pope

It takes courage to ponder, to puzzle, to wrestle with a new way of thinking.

It takes strength to fully engage feelings without fear of the overwhelming flood.

It takes wisdom to care deeply and still govern oneself wisely.

 

November Afternoon, Elizabeth Lake

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November twilight. The sun disappeared behind the hills by 4:45 in the afternoon today.

Haze from controlled burns faded distant colours. Now is the time to clear debris when the risk of forest fire is low.

Nearly all the birds have left the sanctuary. Only the crows remain, singing like an enthusiastic unpaid third-rate band willing to work for exposure.

Snow briefly gave a preview of winter’s intent, then melted in the sun. Some still hides in the shade.

Thin ice covers Elizabeth Lake like a sugary crème brûlée crust. A foot would easily break through and the mud underneath the shallow water is still soft enough to capture a shoe. On the water’s edge, kids smash the surface with sticks to see how far cracks will travel. Most of their make-believe spears pierce the ice and get stuck in the mud. Someone hollers that his feet are wet. He runs home.

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And then, before the sky is even dark, the moon glows in anticipation of its watch.

It feels like the sun is giving up on the day too soon. It’s hard to watch the ending of growing season full of colour and life, but there is still beauty in nature at rest — a subtler beauty, but still beauty.

 

 

Thank you, Lord, for every sunset because every sunset brings the promise of sunrise.

And the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands

 

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So it is when I declare something.
My word will go out and not return to Me empty,
But it will do what I wanted;
it will accomplish what I determined.
 
For you will go out in joy, be led home in peace.
And as you go the land itself will break out in cheers;
The mountains and the hills will erupt in song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands.

(Isaiah 55:11,12 The Voice)

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Forest Path

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“When I trust deeply that today God is truly with me and holds me safe in a divine embrace, guiding every one of my steps I can let go of my anxious need to know how tomorrow will look, or what will happen next month or next year. I can be fully where I am and pay attention to the many signs of God’s love within me and around me.”

~Henri Nouwen

 

In Appreciation

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And suddenly it’s springtime in The Rockies. The flowering almond is again flowering.

Thank you, Lord.

I appreciate your faithfulness, season after season.

I will betroth you to Me in stability and in faithfulness. Then you will know (recognize, appreciate) the Lord [and respond with loving faithfulness].

(Hosea 2:20 Amplified Version)