Monday, June 01, 2009

Le Tour

I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live (Psalm 104:33).

I was twenty-seven years old when I finally faced the truth. I would never be a runner.

I had tried. More than once I purchased the shoes, confident that decent gear was what I needed. More than once I hit the streets or the track and chased that elusive picture of myself: sleek and trim . . . almost skinny . . . perfect blood pressure, a well conditioned heart and not a fleck of gunk to be found in my arteries. I ran after that picture of what my life could be, or at least what my body could be. What I ended up with was back pain. I really didn’t enjoy it at all. Better said, I disliked it immensely.

And so, having failed on my feet I turned to wheels. Twenty years ago this summer I purchased a bike. I still have that bike. It hangs relic-like from the ceiling of my garage. By today’s standards my bike is to cyclists what a slide rule is to NASA engineers. Twenty years ago it was a respectable bike and, most importantly, it was all I could afford. What I could never do by running I hoped to do by cycling. The fact that the bike hangs on a ceiling hook these days may be a clue as to the depth of my commitment, but that’s another story for another time.

With the purchase of my bike I discovered cycling as a sport, especially the main event that unfolds over a three week period every July: the Tour de France. The Tour de France is probably the only cycling event that gets media attention in America. The race takes a slightly different course each year around the country of France, covering roughly 2000 miles. A 2006 article in the New York Times likened the event to running a marathon several days a week for three weeks. Runners will scoff at that, but you get the idea.

I’m not a cyclist, but I’m captured every summer by the physical demands and the competitive drama of “Le Tour.” It is fascinating in itself, as sport and high athleticism. But it is also powerful as metaphor. In ways that may be obvious, what happens on the roads of France has much to say to us about the life of faith, the daily drama that plays out on the streets of Atlanta, in homes and in airports, in the ordinary comings and goings of people like you me.

I’d like to suggest that the Psalms are to the life of faith what “Le Tour” is to cycling.

The Psalms place before us the varied and expansive terrain of life experience. The race around France is marked by long grinding stretches, grueling climbs through mountains, thrilling descents at high speed, individual time trials where a single rider races the clock. You live the same kind of stages every day: The long daily grind, the uphill climb when everything seems to be working against you, the thrill of coasting effortlessly with ease and excitement, pressure filled days when you race the clock and barely get it all done.

This summer we will embark on the Tour de Psalms. The Psalms take us though every stage, every experience of life, and give us words for placing our lives before God. Unlike the great race in France, our journey will be leisurely. We may linger with one Psalm for several days. We may focus on an entire Psalm one day and then meditate on a single verse or phrase the next.

Along the way we will learn more about prayer and how to pray what we live. The Tour de Psalms will truly be the ride of your life. I hope you’ll take time every day to do some training – and then hit the road and embrace the journey to which God has called you.

What kind of terrain characterizes your life journey today?

Gracious God, I want to praise you with all of my life. I want to place before you all of my days, whatever they bring: Every joy and every challenge, every plan and every surprise, every laugh and every tear, every question and every complaint. In the weeks ahead use the Psalms in my life and teach me how to live this way, I pray. Amen.


Nancy said...

Definitely a lot of teeth rattling pot holes! Some days I long for the paving crew to come with their trucks and smooth things over. On those days I totally get what Mother Teresa said when she commented “Sometimes I wish God didn’t trust me so much!” Other days I cherish the challenges because I know they’re preparing me for something awesome to come. I don’t even know what those things are going to look like, but that’s OK. And I’m not sure I even remember what the pleasure of the downhill glide feels like. But I’m looking forward to a summer of the Psalms!

Victoria said...

Thank you for focusing on the psalms - they are so frequently a forgotten part of the Bible, rarely studied. That's why I loved Beth Moore's recent study regarding the Psalms of Ascent.