I know the Scriptural admonition, "A warrior still dressing for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won." (1Kgs 20:11) I have a fairly good idea of what lies before me, but as we prepare to leave today for Alaska I thought I would set the stage a bit. The reason for the title, "Labor Pains", came from Ernie Rubi who was looking at the race profiles for the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge and said it reminded him of a woman in labor, hence....."labor pains"! The truth is you can’t escape this imagery in life or in the Bible. It’s been there since the beginning and the curse because of Adam and Eve’s sin. I have to admit to my sisters who are mothers, I know nothing about what you went through to give birth. I am simply using this as an analogy or metaphor since the image of a woman in labor or travail is a very familiar Biblical picture. Whether it is fear and pain taking hold of people "as of a woman in travail" or the prophecy of Jesus, the Messiah, who shall "see the travail of his soul" it is used often. Paul talked about the process of Christ being formed in people and likened it to "I am going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives." (Gal.4:19) Plus, we know that the signs of the last days take on this exact role because Jesus said "all these are the beginning of sorrows". They would be like a woman going into labor, the pains increasing in frequency and intensity until the actual birth comes. Birth, life, the Second Coming of Christ, or any accomplishment is preceded by "labor pains." Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes really had a handle on this truth. "What do people really get for all their hard work? I have thought about this in connection with the various kinds of work God has given people to do. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God." (Eccl.3:9-12) Labor, travail and hard work are woven into the fabric of life. There is no escaping this fact. But he says that there is a "connection" between these things and the overall work or plan of God. There is a "timeliness" to God-given labor, it is beautiful not only for what it accomplishes but because it fits into God’s time or plan for each of our lives. Also, it is connected with that sublime reality that God has put "eternity" into people’s hearts: a deep sense of knowing that there’s got to be more to this life than what we’re experiencing. Our work and labor is intended to point us to God! So, what is the conclusion he comes to? He says that people should be happy, enjoy themselves and the fruit of their labors, because ultimately these are all "gifts from God." This brings me to the race before me, the Sadler’s Alaska Challenge. I am going to try to have fun, enjoy myself (as much as possible when your heart rate is 140+ and you’re climbing a big hill), and be a witness to others of the goodness and glory of our God! If you happen to look at the race course and categories you will see that there are two basic categories for men: Men’s Kneeseat and Men’s Longseat. What we call "kneelers" are those who have full trunk capabilities or who are amputees. They are able to ride in a kneeling position using not only their arms but their entire trunk for power and speed. They are obviously the fastest hand cycling racers. The Longseat division refers to anyone who rides a hand cycle with their legs out of in front of them and usually in a more aerodynamic and reclined position (like me). In this year’s event the Longseat division is the biggest (23 racers) and includes some of the best racers in the world. Like I said in an earlier posting, I am really outclassed but I am shooting for the "old man’s division" which is those who are 55 years old and above (in the longseat division I counted five of us). So, there are definitely some "labor pains" ahead next week. The weather report for Seward, AK where the race begins calls for a high of 56 degrees and a low of 50. And it also calls for rain. So, I doubt if I will be singing in the rain, but I’ll try to be racing in the rain! There’s a promise I will lay hold of right here. Jesus talked about it relating to His presence in our lives. (Jn.16:21,22) "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." You’ve got to go through some "labor pains" with the goal of finishing and "giving birth"! But, that won’t come until July 26th. I will keep you posted.