How old does an oak tree have to be to dwarf a van? I came across this behemoth at the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center in Blackstone, Va., a quaint town that dates to the Revolutionary War. I wouldn't doubt it if this old beauty predates the Revolutionary War. The tree that is, not the van. I made the trek to Blackstone for a retreat for Calvary Chapel pastors; I'm still amazed I got invited. About 20 of us from Virginia and North Carolina gathered in Blackstone Monday and Tuesday to hang out and encourage each other and seek the Lord. It was in many ways a most difficult time and an amazing time. A time of agony and restoration. I won't get into the details, but let's just say our God is a healing God.
When I was in 8th grade I played junior high school football. I was a runt of a kid and nearly got myself killed throwing myself under a bus posing as a running back from Prineville, a cowboy town nestled in the Ochoco Valley in the shadows of towering rimrock jutting up over the Crooked River. My dad was there to witness my near death experience and promptly signed me up for cross country at Bend High School. I didn't like to run, hated it in fact. But dangit if the Lord hadn't given me the gift of speed and endurance and I turned out to be a runner. I took a liking to it eventually, particularly cross country. Anytime I crunch through leaves I think back to running through Drake Park in Bend, Ore., along the banks of the Deschutes River. We had all of our home cross country meets in Drake Park. I don't know how many times I raced there, but the memories are ingrained in my memory: A nip is in the air, the smell of chimney smoke is wafting through the park, the lungs are aflame, the legs are burning and each labored stride brings me one step closer to the end of all this torture. For some reason I like these memories. They're pleasurable, even comforting.
I say all this because when I stepped out of my room Tuesday morning and saw that oak with the carpet of leaves underneath it, I knew I had to run. I headed out underneath the oak, marveling at its girth, the leaves crackling like I was running on potato chips. I ran all over the grounds of the campus, taking the time to pray and be with the Lord. I had one prayer in particular, a prayer for the Lord to heal the root of my sleepless nights, the source of all too much anxiety and anger. Often when I pray I ask the Lord to help my unbelief. My small mind can't picture my prayer being answered, as if the circumstances of whatever situation ails me are too big for God to overcome. So that's why I pray for my unbelief. Five hours later, the Lord answered that prayer. Truly I felt as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Before I left Blackstone I took this photo of the massive oak on the campus of the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center. I like this photo. It reminds me of how amazingly beautiful and awesome God's creation can be. He's a God of big things, a God of power and might. And it reminds me that God answers prayers. Every day.