One of the beauties of long-distance road-cycling is that you have plenty of opportunity to process stuff. Each wheel revolution oils the whirring of your heart, mind and soul to reflect, look forward, adjust and re-calibrate life and living. The gifts of Faith, Hope and Love, fed into the spectacular Scottish Highland scenery, further deepened, heightened and broadened my recent experience to intensify the sense of God’s Presence and Creative Power.
Songs of praise and Bible verses ring round on repeat as you pant up long hills and steep inclines, and deep draughts of joy overflow as you whiz downhill, grateful for clear ways and hand-breaks, when necessary. Strava (an app’ to track your distance, speed, height, calories spent, etc and connect you to a community of similar enthusiasts) encourages the use of an upward thumb sign to give ‘kudos’ to your friends as you recognise their athletic achievements. It’s nice to be applauded and encouraged by family, friends and acquaintances as you manage a 120mile cycle, but there’s a danger that your main motivation for completing such challenges can become the kudos and acclaim received, or not given.
It’s helpfully humbling to see one’s own achievements regularly eclipsed by others, but what really ‘calms my jets’ and grounds me is that any kudos received from my peers is a tiny drop compared to the vast ocean of acclaim due to our Maker, Master, Saviour and Sustainer, God Almighty: All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Always-Present and All-Loving. But such realisation of God’s greatness and goodness does not cower or press me down to keep me in my place, rather it lifts my soul and spurs me on to greater things, and a deep-seated desire to give God all honour, glory, kudos and praise. It’s about 35 years since I did the ‘North Coast 500’ and I’d forgotten how breathtakingly awesome is the rugged beauty of Scotland’s north wild-west. The loop from: ‘Lairg – Tongue – Durness – Kinlochbervie – Laxford Bridge – Lairg’ was astonishing, likewise: ‘Dingwall – Ullapool – Ledmore – Invershin’.
And so I return to ‘old clothes & porridge’ with fresh impetus to go forward to church (not ‘back to church’), apprehensive, but hopeful that God will open up fresh ways to prove and share God’s Love in down-to-earth ways as we re-open buildings, create new gatherings and follow Jesus wherever He leads. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I’m all too well aware that, like my 120miler, there will be awesome, gruesome and run-of-the-mill spells as God stretches our faith, hope and love. Here are some verses which sustained and spurred me on in my Highland foray:
Isaiah 40:25-31 (NIV)
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Someone said, “Love God and do what you like.” This song verse reverberated and resonates with my soul:
Let all my movements express
A heart that loves to say ‘yes’
A will that leaps to obey you
Let all my energy blaze
To see the joy in your face
Let my whole being praise you
And all Kudos, Glory and Praise be to God!