It was an unassuming evening. The day had been wrought full of teachings, interactive group discussions, soul searching, tears, laughter, and deep thought, wrestling with God. It was nice to wind down after a long day’s work at a recent Walking Stick Retreat (www.twentyfirstcc.org/retreats) called The Disappointing Messiah. The fire burned bright. I got to be ‘Fire Czar’ and stoke up that baby. After all….25 folks wanted to stay warm.
My friend Shelley brought out the hammered dulcimer and Steve, the worship leader, brought his guitar, and sure enough, before the next log could be put on the fire, the familiar notes of Rich Mullins echoed through the trees and lifted to the sky. And out of the dark – when I least expected it – one phrase from “Calling Out Your Name” pierced my heart. But I couldn’t figure out why. “Run wild with the hope.” It popped in my heart like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. And it stayed with me all weekend, and I couldn’t figure out the connection.
Fast forward through the rest of the retreat and the powerful things God did. Those surgical procedures will find their way onto this page in due time.
Sunday morning the leaders talked about hope. A verse often referenced is Philippians 1:6 (NIV) – “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Now remember what I stated in my last post. A word ragamuffins start out hating – absolutely ABHORRING – is ‘progress’ and this verse implies progress all over the place. I am one who hated that word…to the point the leader and I were talking about it and I was still commenting on it a day or so later and he joked ‘you still jawing about that?’ So Sunday morning when he again referenced this verse and used the word ‘progress’ he even looked directly at me and gave me ‘that look.’ It was funny.
But something had changed in 48 hours. I shared that morning that I went to the retreat half dead and in need of spiritual CPR and had instead been given a heart transplant. And with that heart came a full 180 on my feelings about the word ‘progress.’ I went from abhorring it, detesting it, almost getting angry over it, to embracing it and loving it! Why? BECAUSE it’s full of hope! It is PEPPERED with excitement! It is packed with forward thinking! It is full of….well…..progress!
And while I am still struggling with finding words to capture what God did to change my attitude, I have realized it is just that – an attitude adjustment – that has made all the difference in the world. In my previous world of secret perfectionism and ‘never satisfied until I get there’ – wherever ‘there’ is – the word ‘progress’ was used with a demeaning tone by others, as if to say ‘I’m ahead of you but you’re getting there…keep trying. Maybe one day you will make it to my level.’ That kind of message will make everyone hate a word! So I had a couple decades of resentment built up over that word and it showed every time it was used.
BUT GOD! I love that phrase in the Bible….I think it’s become my favorite phrase, because it means God interrupts the ordinary to transform something. BUT GOD made water into wine. BUT GOD made a feast out of a single lunch. More than once by the way. BUT GOD said Lazarus was just taking a nap and was all wrapped up because he just wanted to be sure he stayed warm. BUT GOD turned a grave into life!
And BUT GOD made a word full of degradation now full of hope. There are no words to describe it when God steps in. There is only change to be witnessed. And now….PROGRESS to me is EXCITING! PROGRESS to me is LIFE VALIDATING! PROGRESS to me is LIFE GIVING! And PROGRESS to me means GOD HAS MORE FOR ME TO DO.
And because of that – because God has more He needs me to accomplish for His kingdom – I can ‘run wild with the hope!’ No holds barred! No restrictions! Nothing being too crazy or off limits or out of bounds or too scary. Nothing ‘too wild’ for the imagination – or reality. ANYTHING GOES! God has thrown open the door and I get to run through it with hope – that He knows my heart; that He will catch me when I fall – or even fail – and will love the fact that I tried, even if I fall flat on my face a few times before I figure it out; that He will smile on me with every effort – simply because I am doing something and not sitting on the sidelines in fear. It can be anything humans would deem big or small. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is God is cheering me saying “RUN WILD……RUN WILD WITH THE HOPE! LET IT CHANGE YOUR LIFE, YOUR DIRECTION, YOUR EFFORT, YOUR FOCUS, YOUR HEART.” THERE ARE NO LIMITS! RUN WILD, RUN FREE….
Hope now means opportunity, not a cloaked way of saying ‘I wish’ which is steeped in doubt and hesitation. I HOPE means I look to Jesus and follow wherever He takes me. There are things I’ve always wanted to do: write a book (working on it now), do concert promotions (have done some but want to do many more on a regular basis, be part of the sending team of a missionary training school at To Every Tribe in Los Fresnos, be a national speaker…the ideas are limitless. And now I can pursue any – or all – of these – and more – simply because I have been set free and get to ‘run WILD with the hope!’
I am still figuring out what that looks like. There is SO MUCH that happened in my heart as a result of the retreat that I am probably spending too much energy trying to find a neat way to package it. Maybe God doesn’t want to be in my box of shiny words. Maybe He just wants me to run free in the fields with Him. So for now, I leave you with an excerpt from the song Calling Out Your Name by Rich Mullins. What can you do when you run wild with the hope?! Dare to dream!
From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope
The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in a song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name