In my library at home there is a section of old books that were formative for me in my younger days. The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And a whole slew of small books of poems and poetry by Ann Kiemel.
For those of you have have never heard of Ann Kiemel, she was a popular author and speaker from the mid 1970's through the early 1980's. She lived and worked in Boston, working in a college and doing work among the poorer neighborhoods, which is where she chose to live. She was known for her simple (but not simplistic) faith. She knew that God loved her and everyone around her, so she would sing little songs to cabbies and people in grocery stores. She would write notes and leave them in hidden places for people to find. She talked to Jesus all the time, asking him to help her make "her little corner of the world" a little better. Though she was in her late 20's and mid 30's when she was sought after as a public speaker, she sounded like a little girl, almost breathless at the end of each sentence. Her writings were marked by never capitalizing "i" when referring to herself nor capitalizing anyone else's name. Jesus was the only capitalized name in her books. Every young Christian male in America wanted to find a woman like her, it seemed.
(Ann, it turned out, also had a darker side to her life, a part not revealed for many years, then painstakingly told in her book Seduced by Success. But that is not pertinent to this rambling.)
Last night, after posting my reflections on The Bible, I pulled one of her books off the shelf and read it again before going to sleep. I don't know why I chose this one, but it was I'm Running To Win, a book about her deciding to enter the Boston Marathon. I honestly did not realize that the marathon was today (April 15). I just picked it up, and read through it, remembering how I was inspired by her desire to do something "just for Jesus."
I have always wanted to run the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, I have never wanted to prepare for the Boston Marathon. And you have to have the second desire in order to complete the first one. I have stood in Copley Square and wondered what it would feel like completing the 26.1 mile run.
I thought about that today after hearing about the bombing. I thought about those who have tun thousands of miles preparing and did not get to finish the race. I thought about those whoa re grieving because of the death of friends and family, and those who are in the hospitals now recovering from the terrible act of evil.
In her book about running Boston, Kiemel talks about her setbacks. Shin splints, injuries, disappointments, pain, hurt. She talks about obstacles that she never thought about before, but suddenly- there they were. She writes about pouring out everything to Jesus and being honest with those closest to her, while still trying to help everyone she meets. The word is perseverance.
In the midst of all this that has happened, I pray for perseverance. Perseverance for those who have to "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Perseverance for those who have to learn to live with injuries that may never heal- physical, mental, and spiritual ones. Perseverance for the doctors, nurses, emergency workers, public safety people as they seek to find ways to prevent this from happening again. Perseverance for those who are working hard to find the responsible parties, so that they can be brought to justice (and maybe even, please dear God for their sake, repentance). Perseverance for those who realize that life can never be the same again, that (in the words of Stephen King) "the world has moved on." And perseverance for all of us who seek to find ways of living as people of the peace of God in a world increasingly filled with violence.
Help all of us to persevere, O God.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you."- The Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 4:7-12)