About this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to encourage your personal, daily walk with Jesus Christ, by seeing Him through the eyes of Mark Rodriguez. Updates will be made regularly so please subscribe. Most posts are taken from Mark's private journals or written by his mother unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What to do when the Hill becomes a Mountain

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:   
That you, O God are Strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” 
Psalm 62:11-12b

It was going to be our “easy” day. Acadia National Park, Maine was beautiful, but our flatlander Virginia Beach legs were hurting from the mountainous hiking the day before.  So today we were going to rest.  We planned to leisurely bike ride along carriage trails until we got to Jordan Pond.  Jordan Pond brags the best Popovers and blueberry lemonade in Maine.  That was the kind of day we signed up for.   

At the Bike rental shop, a very strong rustic Mainer (Maineiac) woman told us we had just missed the shuttle to the carriage trails.  “No problem,” she assured us.  “It is just an easy 2 mile bike ride to the carriage trails.  Once you get past the little hill, you will be fine.” 

Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the bike shop but I knew to clarify.  “Hill?  Define ‘hill’ please.  We are from Virginia Beach.  It is flat there.” 

“Oh,” she nodded with understanding (pity?) in her eyes “…so I should say mountain, little mountain…once you get past that you will be fine.”   Of course we will. 

Our group was relatively young (ahem), in shape and prideful enough to think we could handle this challenge.  One small issue was our daughter, Maria, did not know how to ride a bike.  So, not to be stopped by such a small hindrance, Carlos decided to rent a tandem bike.  They practiced around the parking lot and we set off.  

Did I mention the small hill mountain?  
I don’t know what our friendly Maineiac was thinking to entrust this task to us.  Before we even started up the small hill mountain we lost one of the wiser of our group to a coffee shop.  The complaining began.  We joyfully yelled, “Hey, this is the worst part, kids.  Just around that corner….”

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Carlos, Maria’s bike seat was up too high and her knees were whacking the handlebar. Over the sound of his own labored breathing he heard her start crying. He felt terrible and immediately pulled over.  

He gently removed her helmet and he told her that Daddy would get her to the top of the mountain where she could have popovers and lemonade.  He kissed her knees, gave her water and this is when I fell in love with my man all over again.   

If I had been riding with her I would not have been able to make such a promise.  There was no way I could bike her up the mountain.  But the most humbling thing is I also realized I was nowhere near as patient as he was.  I would have been frustrated, asking her to keep pedaling because I couldn’t do it alone.  And most likely, I would have quit. I would not have been able to get us where we both wanted to go.   

But her Daddy was able. 

The small hill mountain that was supposed to be 2 miles ended up being a 10 ½ mile mostly uphill climb. And while Carlos suffered to lug Maria (who did not peddle AT ALL) and her half of the tandem bike up the mountain, Maria was perfectly content.  Her Daddy was strong enough and kind enough to get her safely to their destination. 

In that moment, Carlos showed me in the flesh what Psalm 62: 11-12b tells us about God:
“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:   
That you, O God are Strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

When Maria was unable to make it up the mountain, she could rely on her Daddy because he was strong enough and kind enough to get her to the top.  When my life goes from hard to impossible, I need what Maria needed.  I need a God that is both strong AND loving.  

Can you imagine if God was either one or the other, but not both?  

A God who is just loving would be like a kindly old granddaddy who is good for a hug and some candy, but not able to fight off the bad guys.  He would comfort us perhaps with “I’m sorry that happened to you.” But a just kindly God would not avenge us or be able to change anything.  

A God who is only Strong would not necessarily have the kindness necessary to handle my weaknesses and insecurities. He might say “Suck it up” or get angry with me.   

But a God who is both STRONG and LOVING is the perfect God, who like a good Father not only has compassion on me, but is strong enough to get me through the incredibly hard times I cannot and do not want to go through.   And He does this because He desires to share the destination with me. 

We will never, ever forget the feast of Jordon Pond popovers and blueberry lemonade that awaited us at the top of the mountain.  And as we enjoyed full tummies and the sugar coma that set in, we told stories of how we made it up the mountain.   I think that was a little slice of heaven right there.  When we arrive at Heaven’s banquet table there will be stories to share and victories to celebrate, but in the meantime, I want to be sure that I am not suffering out the mountain alone.  Just as it would have been ridiculous for Maria to tackle that mountain alone, it is crazy for me to think I can handle what this day holds.  God, the strong AND loving God, is more than able.  And He avails Himself to me and to you.   

God is, after all, Super Good.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

In Case of Fog, Turn Back!

I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag if my life depended on it.* I have no sense of direction. No internal compass. I am completely handicapped in the spatial arena and am totally dependent on my GPS. It is humiliating how I have to memorize landmarks and keep a notebook in my car with directions to good friend’s houses. I walk out of hotel rooms and don’t have a clue where the elevator is, and still have to look at the directory in the mall I have shopped in for 16 years. As someone who is generally competent, this is embarrassing. But truth be told, if you dropped me down in the middle of my neighborhood it would take me a very long time to find my way home.  Keep this in mind when I am 80 years old and get lost.  This is my baseline. As long as I know my name, I am probably okay.

Last week I took the kids for a glorious visit to my parents’ house in the mountains outside of Roanoke, Virginia.   
Roaring Run Waterfall

As I left to come home I decided to take a commonly used “short cut” that my Dad loves along the Blue Ridge Parkway (mistake #1).  As we pulled on to the parkway my sister called and I started chatting with her about our visit with mom and dad and caught up on her new job.  (mistake #2…If I am directionally inept off the phone, I am completely an idiot on it) I drove along mildly aware that I am supposed to be on the parkway for approximately 15 miles.  But the fog was so dense (mistake #3…parkway+fog=trouble)  I couldn’t see 30 feet in front of me.  It was terrible.  I’m creeping along still chatting with my sister, and the kids are starting up with the “I’m hungry!” “You promised us breakfast in 15 minutes” business. I lose cell signal with my sister and keep going, but at this point I am starting to realize that an unusual amount of time has passed, even for a foggy drive.  

Suddenly, we get a break in the fog and a sunny stretch of clear visibility and I realize I have never seen this part of the parkway before in my life.  I ask Will to check navigation and he reports we still have no service.  There are no exits in sight and the woman walking along the parkway looks creepily like she is out of a zombie movie.  They teach you in Parenting 101 not to show panic to your kids, so I am deep breathing and pressing acupressure points while trying to find a safe place to stop or turn around on this incredibly windy road.  And then I hear the very worried voice from the back seat,

“Mom, do you know where we are?” 

How many times have I heard that?  When Markie was 6 years old he would lead us through the airport because he didn’t trust I could find the gate.  My kids have learned to remember where the car is parked in the Target parking lot.  I am untrustworthy, unreliable, unsafe, and a horrible fail as a parent...okay, not really, but I feel that way at this moment.  But then it comes to me.  I can get us out of this situation.

“No, I don’t know where we are, but I know how to get to Grammy’s.” 

And I turned the car around.   

“No matter how far down a wrong road you are, turn back.” Turkish Proverb

No Service

I gave up on the cell service coming back, and gave up on finding an exit that would take me back to a main road.  I decided to go with what I knew and what I knew was I could find my parents’ house.  That meant going back through the fog and past the zombie woman.  And worse, it meant swallowing my pride that I had added an unnecessary 2 hours to our already 5 ½ hour trip.  I kept hoping the kids wouldn’t really notice but as we passed my parents’ church they all yelled “Mom, are we really back in Roanoke? So basically we are just starting the trip????”  Yep, we sure are. 

I think I pouted for the next hour at least.  I felt so angry with myself that I had “done it again.” And I would pay the price of being stuck in the car with three unhappy children for even longer than the already interminable trip.  But as I stewed and sulked, I was aware of a greater truth lived out in this merely inconvenient circumstance.  When I am not sure where I am or how to get where I want to go spiritually, emotionally or relationally I need to turn back and go to what I know.  And what I know is that I can find God when I go to His Word.  And there is a lot of  good instruction and wisdom there, and more importantly there is Truth.  There is truth about His character (He is Good and Sovereign) and truth about me (I am flawed but greatly loved).  When I have screwed up and have brought down consequences on myself and those I love, I need to turn back and go “home” and not continue to race down a foggy path in the hopes that I’ll figure it out.  And at home, in that Secret Place with God my Father, I will find grace and forgiveness and the hope that I can start the journey anew. I hope this encourages you to turn back.  In those areas of your life and heart that you sense that you might be heading down the wrong path.  It can be really embarrassing to admit you have no idea where you are or where you are going, but it also can be such a great relief to just admit it and head back home.  I’d rather take my chances with God than the zombie woman.  And home feels really good. 

* So I found out a similar idiom states that one can't "fight their way out of a paper bag."  So, to set the record straight, I could fight my way out, but once out, I would have no idea where I was.