So as I sit in the quiet of my living room right now it’s about to turn 6.30pm. I’ve just got back from celebrating a friend’s birthday at church. I have in front of me the only possibly perfect combination I could muster in order to settle down for my first evening at home in a few weeks…
An oversized mug of Clipper Earl Grey tea (pretty much a stable). And a bowl of cornflakes with hot melted chocolate on them. Because chocolate is always better melted. In my very-personal opinion.
Last night we held the launch party for the Connec project that I blogged about a few weeks ago.
120 people came to celebrate with us.
The night involved everything from a professional make-up artist, a cocktail bar, and some live music, to my friends beatboxing and rapping, some more serious-style presentations and a whole lot of food.
It was a load of fun, and a load of craziness.
And tonight my plan is to drink tea, and watch a movie and then go to bed at a ridiculously early time, just because I can.
But before I do those things, I want to actually write about something that I’ve been praying over some friends of mine today.
I’ve been praying it over them because, despite all the fun and laughter and energy that’s flying about, they’re facing some darkness.
It doesn’t matter what. It just matters that for them, it’s feeling dark.
And so I’ve been praying and talking to God about them today. Because I love Him, and I love them, and so this combination spurs me to bring them together. And afresh He has just been pouring that age old truth and age old hope into my heart.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The light shines in the pitch-black-fear-invoking-hidden darkness, and that same darkness has never, can never and will never overcome it.
The light shines in the deepest darkest corners of your past, of your memories, of your sin and of your mistakes, and those things can do nothing, not one thing to make the light shudder for even a tiny second.
The darkness will never overcome the light.
The light is, for want of a better word, invincible.
Completely, and utterly indestructible.
If we go back to Genesis, it’s actually the first recorded act of Yahweh in the Bible. He said ‘Let there be light’, and that light penetrated the formlessness of the dark.
And darkness can only exist in the absence of light.
So today as I’ve been praying for my friends, I’ve been praying for the Light to pierce their darkness. I’ve been praying for breakthrough and healing and an ability to see above the mess. But I’ve also been praying that I could be a light to them in this season. That my friendship, would in a mirror of the heart of God, in some way bring light to them.
Ann Voskamp has blogged this story a couple of times and I absolutely and completely love the way she tells it! (You can find an original version here http://www.aholyexperience.com/2014/01/how-to-get-through-the-dark-places-thejesusproject-2/)
So let me just give you this inspiration, and some photos from my beautiful week.
I love you all so much.
The old cahoot ran in his boots.
Weren’t too many of anybody who believed he could.
The kids and I read about the old guy one night after supper and the dishwasher’s moaning away, crumbs still across the counter.
How the old guy ran for 544 miles. His name was Cliff Young and he wasn’t so much. He was 61 years old. He was a farmer. Levi grins big.
Mr. Young showed up for the race in his Osh Kosh overalls and with his workboots on, with galoshes over top. In case it rained.
He had no Nike sponsorship.
He had no wife – hadn’t had one ever.
Lived with his mother. Never drank. Never ran in any kind of race before. Never ran a 5 mile race, or a half-marathon, not even a marathon.
But here he was standing in his workboots at the starting line of an ultra-marathon, the most gruelling marathon in the world, a 544 mile marathon.
Try wrapping your head around pounding the concrete with one foot after another for 544 endless, stretching miles. They don’t measure races like that in yards – -but in zip codes.
First thing Cliff did was take out his teeth.
Said his false teeth rattled when he ran.
Said he grew up on a farm with sheep and no four wheelers, no horses, so the only way to round up sheep was on the run. Sometimes the best training for the really big things is just the everyday things.
That’s what Cliff said: “Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go run and round up the sheep.” 2,000 head of sheep. 2,000 acres of land.
“Sometimes I’d have to run those sheep for two or three days. I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”
“Got any backers?” Reporters shoved their microphones around old Cliff like a spike belt.
“No….” Cliff slipped his hands into his overall pockets.
“Then you can’t run.”
Cliff looked down at his boots. Does man need backers or does a man need to believe? What you believe is the biggest backer you’ll ever have.
The other runners, all under a buffed 30 years of age, they take off like pumped shots from that starting line. And scruffy old Cliff staggers forward. He doesn’t run. Shuffles, more like it. Straight back. Arms dangling. Feet awkwardly shuffling along.
Cliff eats dust.
For 18 hours, the racers blow down the road, far down the road, and old Cliff shuffles on behind.
Come the pitch black of night, the runners in their $400 ergonomic Nikes and Adidas, lay down by the roadside, because that’s the plan to win an ultra-marathon, to run 544 straight miles: 18 hours of running, 6 hours of sleeping, rinse and repeat for 5 days, 6 days, 7 days.
The dark falls in. Runners sleep. Cameras get turned off. Reporters go to bed.
And through the black night, one 61-year-old man far behind keeps shuffling on.
And all I can think is:
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
The light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.
καταλαμβάνω Katalambanō – Comprehend. Understand. Master.
Cliff Young runs on through the night and there is a Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not master it.
The darkness doesn’t understand the light, doesn’t comprehend the light, doesn’t get the light, doesn’t overcome the light, doesn’t master the light.
Darkness doesn’t have anything on light, on hope, on faith.
The darkness that sucks at the prodigal kid doesn’t have anything on the light of his mother’s prayers.
The black of pornography that threatens at the edges doesn’t master the blazing light of Jesus at the center.
The pit of depression that plunges deep doesn’t go deeper than the love of your Jesus and there is no place His light won’t go to find you, to save you, to hold you.
That low lying storm cloud that hangs over you can’t master the light of Christ that raises you.
“Darkness can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that,” Martin Luther King had said it, had lived it.
Only words of Light can drive out worlds of dark.
Only deeds of Light can drive out depths of dark.
Only lives of Light can drive out lies of dark.
Darkness can never travel as fast as Light. No matter how bad things get, no matter how black the dark seeps in, no matter the depths of the night — the dark can never travel as fast as Light. The Light is always there first, waiting to shatter the dark.
You can always hold His Word like a ball of light right there your hand, right up there next to your warming heart.
You can always count on it: Jesus is bendable Light, warmth around every unexpected corner.
Cliff Young runs on through the dark — because he didn’t know you were supposed to stop.
The accepted way professional runners approached the race was to run 18 hours, sleep 6, for7 days straight. But Cliff Young didn’t know that. He didn’t know the accepted way. He only knew what he did regularly back home, the way he had always done it: You run through the dark.
Turns out when Cliff Young said he gathered sheep around his farm for three days, he meant he’d run across 2,000 acres of farmland for three days straight without stopping or sleeping, without the dark ever stopping him. You gathered sheep by running through the dark.
So along the endless stretches of highway, a tiny shadow of an old man shuffled along, one foot after another, right through the heat, right through the night. Cliff gained ground.
Cliff gained ground because he didn’t lose ground to the dark. Cliff gained ground because he ran through the dark.
And somewhere at the outset of the night, Cliff Young in his overalls, he shuffled passed the toned runners half his age. And by the morning light, teethless Cliff Young who wasn’t young at all, he was a tiny shadow — far, far ahead of the professional athletes.
For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight, Cliff Young ran, never once stopping for the dark – never stopping until the old sheep farmer crossed the finish line – First. He crossed the finish line first. Beating a world record. By two. whole. days.
The second place runner crossed the finish line 9 hours after old Cliff.
And when they handed old Cliff Young his $10,000 prize , he said he hadn’t known there was a prize. Said he’d run for the wonder of it. Said that all the other runners had worked hard too. So Cliff Young waited at the finish line and handed each of the runners an equal share of the 10K.
And then the old cahoot in boots walked a way without a penny for the race but with all the hearts of whole world.
While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance.
While others impress, you can simply press on.
While others stop for the dark, you can run through the dark.
The race is won by those who keep running through the dark.