Thursday, November 6, 2008

Running lesson #10

“…encourage the fainthearted, support the weak....” 1 Thess. 5:14

One of the things I like most about the race crowd is there is no pretense. Oh sure, there’s the occasional “strutter” who is better in his mind than he is on the road, but basically everyone owns up to who he is. At the water station folks do not act like they aren’t thirsty and no one is too cool to appreciate the cheering of the spectators. It is all very real. After all, if anyone understands it is your fellow runner.

And races are not always pretty. The gals don’t wear makeup and the guys don’t wear cologne (please don’t!) – this is a race after all! Sweating bodies, running noses, and various aromas reflect that the race, while often enjoyable, is sometimes a difficult proposition. Everyone struggles so no one acts as if they do not.

Life can be a struggle too, only we try to fake it in life. We put on a face like nothing is wrong and that we have it all together even when we know that we do not. Or, we need assistance and encouragement but we’re too proud to let on, so we just limp along in pain. We all struggle at times and we all crave encouragement, so why do we act like we do not, especially in the church?

Marshall Hayden wrote an article a few years ago entitled, "Would Every Non-Hurter Please Stand Up?" He pointed out that people come to church wearing their best clothes & their best smiles. Everybody looks happy, so we assume everything is okay. But he suggests that we need to look beyond the facade & realize that the pews are full of hurting people.
He wrote, "Over here is a family with an income of $550 a week and an outgo of $1,000. Over there is a family with two children who, according to their dad, are "failures." "You’re stupid. You never do anything right," he is constantly telling them. The lady over there just found a tumor that tested positive. The Smith’s little girl has a hole in her heart.
"Sam & Louise just had a nasty fight. Each is thinking of divorce. Last Monday Jim learned that he was being laid off. Sarah has tried her best to cover the bruises her drunken husband inflicted when he came home Friday night. That teen over there feels like he is on the rack, pulled in both directions. Parents & church pull one way, peers & glands pull the other.
"Then there are those of us with lesser hurts, but they don’t seem so small to us: an unresponsive spouse, a boring job, a poor grade, a friend or parent who is unresponsive ...on & on the stories go. The lonely, the dying, the discouraged, the exhausted, they’re all here."

Just like a long race, life can be tiring and messy. Without becoming chronic complainers we need to be more open with each other. Hayden suggests we should “look beyond the facade” and we should, but how much better would it be if there were no facades in the first place. If you’re running weak get strength. If you have a sin problem get help. If you are discouraged seek encouragement. We’re all in this race together so let’s drop the pretense because if anyone understands, it’s your fellow runner!

Gotta run!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Running Lesson #9

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” [Heb. 12:1]

Tomorrow (9/26/08) I head up I-77 through the beautiful Ohio farm land to run in the annual Akron Marathon on Saturday. This is not a last minute decision – anything but! I have been training for months and the event has been on my calendar even longer. There is no way I’m going to back out now.

> I have too much invested! There are many hours on my stopwatch and many miles (about 400) on my shoes. I will not throw that away!
> I am looking forward to the company! I love race day and the race crowd because we have so much in common. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and hearing new stories.
> I want to cross the finish line! I have often envisioned what it is going to be like to cross the finish line, especially during difficult runs. There were times that thought alone kept me going. Now I’ll finally get my chance to experience it.

As you would imagine, I’m not going to quit now! If I was ever going to give up on this goal it would have been months ago. In fact, I have discovered that people are more likely to quit early than late. I wouldn’t have thought it before, but early on I discovered that the urge to stop was greater after just a mile than it was after 5 miles. But after a little while you catch your stride and get in the groove and you want to finish well.

I have observed the same thing in new Christians. The same reasons I won’t give up on the race now are the same reasons long-time Christians rarely quit at the end. But new Christians are often different. They start out good: energized and running well. It’s great to be a Christian! But after a while the new wears off or they run into some obstacle and they want to stop. What they don’t know is that if they just keep running they’ll catch their stride and then they won’t want to quit.

The lesson, especially for new Christians, is simple: just keep running. You’ll be glad you did! (Rev. 2:10)

Gotta run!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Running Lesson #8

I’m Willing to Look Like a Fool to a Achieve My Goal!

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness…”
Matt. 5:10

I previously did not know that about myself but it’s true. Please understand: I don’t want to look like an idiot any more than anyone else does, but it seems that when I’ve set my heart on achieving a particular goal, any desire to preserve dignity is overcome by the determination to reach the objective. Boy have gotten some looks and heard some comments!

One afternoon, shortly after beginning a run through town, it started to rain. Within seconds it was an absolute downpour. Well, I couldn’t get any wetter so I just kept running. That day I ran 6 miles in a monsoon so strong that it affected my visibility more than anything else. It just so happened that our secretary drove by at some point and later admitted that she thought, “What idiot would be out here running in this!” before realizing who it was. (Then she was sure it was an idiot!)

I have run in other less-than-ideal conditions where the looks on the faces of passing motorists have told the entire story. When people see you running in extreme cold or blowing snow or high heat they just don’t get it. While running in rural Tanzania (where there is apparently no social stigma against staring) the locals staring at me seem to be thinking, “who is this white man and what is he running from!” But the looks didn’t matter but I had to keep my training on target to reaching my goal.

And it happened again this week. It wasn’t raining when I started the run, but before it was over it was hard to tell which was worse: the wind or the rain. Then to my surprise, a thoughtful young woman turned around, pulled up beside me, and said, “Is there somewhere I can take you?” I said, “No thank you, I’m just running.” She said, “Are you sure?” You’ve seen the look: a crinkled nose and eyes that say “you gotta be kidding!” I reassured her, thanked her for her consideration, and took off again.

The lesson is this: when your goal is consuming you don’t care what others think! Sometimes we make the wrong choices in life because we’re afraid of what others may think. The teenager participates in an ungodly activity because she doesn’t want anyone to laugh at her for saying “no”. The businessman undertakes questionable practices to fit in with the crowd. We do something we should not or do not do something that we should do because we are overly concerned with the opinion of others.

The reality is that if we are not of this world we will never really be fully accepted by the world. The prophets, apostles, and Jesus were so despised by the world that they were persecuted. Their response? They kept doing right because they had a goal that was out of this world! Wanting to fit in and be accepted is a universal desire, but if it is causing us to make wrong decisions then we need to reassess our goals in life and eternity. When Heaven is our goal what others think doesn’t matter so much!

Gotta run!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Running Lesson #7


“A friend loves at all times…” Prov. 17:17

Having now logged 3 runs with my new running partner it is officially confirmed: I really like him! I don’t want to knock my old running partner, but he had become frustrating and disappointing. On cold mornings he would quit long before I did (wimp!), on long runs it wasn’t uncommon for him to stop before we were finished, and he had become increasingly stubborn. And no, I’m not worried that he’ll read this and be offended.

You see, my old running partner (and my new one) is an MP3 player. Busy, conflicting schedules and differing paces make running with a friend an unusual treat, so it’s usually just me, my music, and my thoughts. It’s not a bad second option, in fact I like the solitude and I like the music. But the frustration with my formerly-trusty running partner has reminded me of the qualities of true friendship.

A good friend is dependable! Not knowing if my old running partner was going to “show up” or if it would finish, left me with unfriendly feelings. Those really cold mornings, when I needed it the most, were when it most often left on my own. But a good friend is always there for you.

A good friend is trustworthy! The old player would often show “full battery” at the beginning of the run and it really was but other times it would be dead within 30 minutes. No matter what he said I could never believe him! It’s the same with a friend – if you’re not sure you can trust them then there’s nothing there and no reason to continue the charade. It’s no wonder honesty is the foundation of any relationship.

A good friend is available! One particularly cold February morning I thought, “I’m really glad I have the music today – I really need it” and within three minutes the old partner decided it was too cold for him! What good is a player that doesn’t play and what’s the point of having a friend who isn’t there for you? Prov. 18:24

A good friend encourages you! Studies have proven the motivational benefits of music during exercise. But I don’t need a study to prove it – I experience it several times a week! And that’s what a good friend does. He motivates me when I need motivation. And he doesn’t just blow smoke, because sometimes I need to hear what I don’t want to hear.

Yes, I definitely like my new running partner. So far he is dependable, trustworthy, available, and is a constant encourager. Sounds like the kind of friend I want. Sounds like the kind of friend I want to be.

Gotta run!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Running Lesson #6


“…a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” - Phil. 4:18

Having a very good sense of smell is not all it’s cracked up to be! Oh, it has its pros but it very definitely comes with a set of cons as well. For whatever reason, my olfactory system is highly charged and incredibly sensitive. I can smell the dead opossum on the side of the road when he’s still alive! It is nice when there is fresh-baked bread in the air or a nice scent in the room, but it can be downright tough at other times.

So you can imagine how I felt on a recent run when I got a snout-full of the scent of moth balls! Here I am, running down the road, inhaling deeply when it hits me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know how you feel about moth balls, but personally I will fold, wrap, and hand deliver my entire wardrobe to the moths before I ever try to repel them with the hideous and insidious smell of those marble-sized menaces. That’s how I feel about the smell of moth balls.

So you can image how I felt when just a few houses down, as I was trying to snort out the previous odor (literally), I got a whiff of someone grilling meat over charcoal! Oh have mercy did it smell good and was it ever a nice surprise! It was all I could do to not drop in and see what was on the menu. I suddenly went from running faster to get away from the stench to slowing down to enjoy the pleasant aroma. What a nice change.

The entire episode reminds me that we all have an “aroma”. As we go through our day and interact with others, they are getting a “whiff” of who we are. Sometimes the experience is pleasant and they like to linger, but other times the odor repels them. You know what I mean because you experience the aroma of other people every day. Some are good and some are bad – but everyone has an “aroma”.

Attitude, disposition, words, actions, body language, and facial expressions are all a part of our aroma. I can’t change all the bad smells out there but I can make sure that I don’t add to them. I’m thankful to the moth ball house for reminding to not “stink” and to the grilling people for reminding me that a pleasant aroma is a welcome delight for someone! What do others think about your “aroma”? Think about it.

Gotta run!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Running lesson #5


“I buffet my body and make it my slave…” 1 Cor. 9:27

A recent loss of 10 pounds has revealed veins, abs, and an overall muscle definition that I have never before seen, at least not in my mirror. Before you think this is an exercise in narcissism let me assure you it isn’t. While it is nice to be in the best shape of your life at a time when many of your contemporaries haven’t seen their feet since the first Bush was President; the reality is that when your age begins with a 4 (or more) all signs of progress are more about vitality than vanity.

The improvements were both unintentional and intentional. They were both unexpected and planned. Huh? What I mean is that, while I did not set out to lose weight, I did intentionally set and follow the plan that brought it about. I decided on a fairly rigorous fitness plan that includes lifting weights 3 days per week and running another 3-4 days per week. After sticking to this plan for several months I noticed something happening around my waist. And now if I don’t cinch up my belt to the last hole I may be embarrassed!

The nicest part is that these are just the fringe benefits. The best part is happening on the inside. My endurance is up and my blood pressure is down. My energy has been raised while my pulse has been lowered. The lean muscle mass is up and the body fat percentage is down. All these are signs of good health – the ultimate physical goal. Set a goal, stick to the plan, and enjoy the results.

The same has obvious, and more important, spiritual application. What is our ultimate spiritual goal? Do we have a plan to help attain that goal? Are we willing to stick to it even when it would be easier to quit? Are we giving something to the accomplishment of that goal every day? If we can answer these questions in the right way, then we will also experience the fringe benefits too.

Remember that the best things are happening on the inside. Benefits such as more peace and contentment. A better outlook on life. A heavenly perspective that allows us to see beyond the temporary. The joy of forgiveness – both received and extended. The blessings of living a selfless life. The list goes on and on and I encourage you to make your own list.

The principle is simple Set a goal, stick to the plan, and enjoy the results.
You can do it!

Gotta run!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Running lesson #4


“May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” [Gal. 6:14]

What a memorable run! I don’t believe I’ll ever forget my run through Washington DC. After a few days of driving, sitting, and walking I was ready for a run. And making my desire burn even hotter, hundreds of my fellow runners were enjoying the beautiful weather and matching scenery. I could no longer stand it and finally satisfied my craving by going on a 7 mile run in our nation’s capital.

I ran up the National Mall to the Capitol and over to and then down Pennsylvania Ave. After winding around through various streets it was back to the Mall, past the Washington Monument, beside the reflecting pool, and up the steps up the Lincoln Memorial (I felt like Rocky!). From there I ran over the Potomac to Arlington and then back across the bridge and eventually ended up where I began.

What a run! There was so much history and significance. There were monuments honoring Washington and Lincoln whose decisions were so meaningful to our country. I was vividly reminded of the sacrifices of so many as I ran past the monument walls. Then there was the beauty of this spring day. The cherry blossoms in the Tidal Basin were in full bloom and their brilliant shades of pink were reflected off the Potomac as I made my way back across.

There was only one difficulty: I often didn’t know where I was! Between being caught up in the run with its accompanying thoughts and being in an unfamiliar place, periodically I had no clue where I was or even which direction I was headed. But it wasn’t a problem because there is always the Washington monument! No matter where I was, I could look for the 555’ obelisk and get my bearing. As long as I could see the monument I would never be lost.

The figurative cross of Jesus has the same ability to keep us centered as well. As I see Him there and consider all that goes with it, I cannot get lost if I keep my eyes on the cross.

When we are tempted to promote self, the cross calls us to promote Him – Gal. 6:14

When we are tempted to divide and splinter, the cross calls us to unite – John 17

When we are tempted to call our own shots, the cross calls us to deny self – Mt. 16:24

When we are tempted to teach our will, the cross calls us to be true to His will – 1 Cor. 1:17, 18

It’s so comforting to always be able to find your center! As we run through life, let’s always remember to look to the cross for the direction that we need. As long as you keep the cross in sight, you can’t get lost!

Gotta run!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Running Lesson #3


Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” – Col. 4:6

And where you say it and to whom you say it and how you say it. Those are all things that we know but sometimes have to be reminded…the hard way! Not too long ago I was running in one of my favorite places. It’s a place that I like to run because it’s pretty, occasionally there are a few nice old people out walking (from the assisted living home where my ole buddy Mary lives), and, most of all, because it’s flat. As a result the “runners high” usually hits me somewhere on that stretch.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know what that means – I begin to sing along with my MP3 player. Out loud. And, if you know me, I’ve never been confused with Pavorotti, Placido, or even Bob Dylan for that matter. But that’s OK because there hardly ever anyone around and the residents don’t hear so well, so I usually let it rip! But this day was different.

As I was running on this beautiful, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky day and enjoying just being out, I began to sing along. I knew that I was getting closer to the home but what I didn’t know was that there was a woman, who appeared to be in her forties walking in the parking lot. But the peripheral vision in my right eye caught the movement of her head violently jerking around as I belted out, “She’s a lady!” I immediately knew what she must be thinking so, being the quick-thinker that I am, I just kept on singing the “Whoa, whoa, whoa” along with Tom Jones so that she would know that I was singing and not making cat call on the run. How embarrassing!

You would think that I would have learned from that, but you’d be wrong. Just yesterday, while in the middle of a 13 miler, I was caught up in a song and you know where I was when it happened. This time I did scan the parking lot and with no one in sight, I cut loose on the chorus of a great song: “That woman I’m in love with, has got to go!” It was then that I saw him. A man who was obviously a visitor was frozen in his tracks with his right hand on the door and looking over his left shoulder to see what the fuss was all about. All I could do was smile and wave and hope that he didn’t know Kim and go warn her!

Oh, the tongue gets us into so much trouble, doesn’t it? We say things without thinking or in the wrong way or to the wrong person. You would think that we would have learned something, but once again you’d be wrong. James said that no man can tame the tongue (Jas. 3:8) and we are inclined to agree with him, aren’t we? So what can we do?

►We can think before we speak - no blurting or belting.
►We can be sure to speak with the right tone, for it communicates more than the words.
►We can refrain from saying anything. Not every thought or opinion is needed.
►We can speak words that are kind, helpful, encouraging, and appropriate.

I plan to keep on singing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But in the future I’m going to be more careful about what comes out of my mouth and how it comes out and when it does so. That’s something that we can all do.

Gotta run!

Running Lesson #2


Do all things without grumbling…” – Phil. 2:14

One particular day I came home from a run griping about the fact that “there isn’t a level road in this whole county”. It seems like I may have added “stinkin” somewhere in the discussion too. And it is true. It’s either uphill, downhill, or side hill when you live in Pike County. That’s just the way it is, but on this day I was extra frustrated and so I came in growling like an old bear. This wasn’t my first rant (as you might have guessed) about the level-deprived topography of our fair city and I suppose it was just more than Kim wanted to hear. It was, you might say, the straw that broke the wife’s back. **Note: I am NOT likening her to a camel!

I can still hear her response. She calmly and kindly said, “Well, you can quit running, move, or stop complaining!” Ouch! That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but that wasn’t it. But after I had time to reflect on the wisdom I knew she was right. Those really were my only choices and no amount of griping was going to change the reality.

Complaining doesn’t accomplish anything. Dissatisfaction can be a positive but only when it is coupled with action. Venting doesn’t help either. In fact, I have noticed that by the time I finish venting about anything I’m angrier than I was before. With all due respect to psychologists, I have concluded that all venting does is make mad people madder!

Speaking of less-than-ideal situations, Paul wrote the book of Philippians while under house arrest in Rome. His privacy and freedom were taken away based on a trumped-up charge, and yet it is he who is reminding us to not complain! Was he ever frustrated? Certainly. Didn’t he feel like complaining? He had to. But what good would that do?!

Instead, his perspective allowed him to see the best in the bad. He stated in Phil. 1:12 that actually things have worked out for the better this way. There weren’t crowds at the Coliseum, but there were soldiers next to him (1:13; 4:22). He couldn’t go anywhere, but neither could they! He would not have chosen to be in that situation but it did embolden his brethren in other places (1:14).

Is there something in your life that you can do something about? Then do it! Is there something that you’ve been complaining about? Then do something about it! Griping is passive and unproductive. Just think how much better our families, schools, and churches would be if they just followed Kim’s advice.

So, let’s all do something or stop complaining…no, better yet, let’s do something and stop complaining!

Gotta run!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Running Lesson #1


I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13

I can still remember where I was and the satisfaction I felt the first time I ran 8 miles. That doesn’t seem like a lot anymore, but at the time I was so happy and relieved that I let out a great big “YEAH”! What I didn’t realize was there a group of people across the road who were now looking at me like something was wrong. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I did it! Not many weeks before I wondered if it was really possible for me to run 8 miles as a part of my half-marathon training; but that day proved that it could be done. And I figured that if I could run 8 then maybe, just maybe I could run 13.1.

What you need to know is that I have never been a distance runner. In fact I had always claimed I was certainly and most definitely not capable of running for any lengthy period of time. In school I was fast but only for short distances, so I ran the sprints and relays. The longer races were for others who are capable of that sort of thing. I was so apprehensive about this whole distance running thing that the first time I went out to run 3 miles I wasn’t sure I would make it and had already developed a plan for how to get back home!

One of the enjoyable things about running is that every time you go out it gives you the opportunity to do something you have never before or to do something you have done before better or faster. I had never run 10 kilometers until I ran a 10K. Then a half-marathon was followed by a marathon. Then came a better time in a 10 K and the list goes on. The point: I have learned that I am capable of more than previously thought!

Is there something that you want to do or see the need of but you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t? The truth is you can if you really want to. Is there a habit you need to break? Maybe there is something in your life you need to change? You can do it! Maybe you think that you couldn’t possible talk to your friend about God, but you can. Perhaps in the past you have said that you are certainly and most definitely not capable of teaching or going on a mission trip, but I bet you are!

These kinds of goals are challenging but those are the only goals worth having. Someone once said, “Why not go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is!” Worthwhile goals are not easily accomplished. There will always be some uncertainty in attempting anything new or as yet unaccomplished but those aren’t good reasons to never attempt. With God’s help we can do more than we think! That’s the point that Paul is making in Philippians 4:13. Paul is describing his overcoming some obstacles that he had never faced before and he credits the strength he received from God as the enabling force in his life.

I am not suggesting that running is on par with what Paul was going through, but I am saying that with God’s help and our determination we are certainly and most definitely capable of more than we have ever imagined. Try something big. Attempt something new. Never give up and be sure that you can do it!

Think about it! Gotta run!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Why Do You Run?

Why Do You Run?

Hmmm, that's a good question and it's one that I’ve been asked a number of times; most of the time by others and occasionally by myself. Most of the time the answers are easy to come by but there are days I wonder why. Only recently have I reluctantly admitted that I am indeed a runner. That title always seemed to belong to someone else but the reality is that I’ve always been a runner! In the neighborhood, on the playground, in the house, on the track team, up and down the field and court, or in the backyard – I’ve always run. But not this kind of running!

But I don’t run just to run. In fact, if I had to run a few miles worth of circles 3 times a week at the track I would quit! Maybe those folks are the "real" runners, but I can't do it. I like to run different neighborhoods, wooded trails, and new places. In fact, I make it a point to try to not run the same place, pace, or distance any consecutive runs. Variety is the spice of life, you know!

But why this kind of running and why now at this age? Why 12 mile runs and 30 mile weeks? Why would anyone run for 2 hours? I know, I know - we look like we’re in pure misery running down the road and it does beg the question “why”? I recently heard, “Why would anyone want to run a marathon?!” Why would I risk ferocious fidos, distracted drivers and endure the pains, aches, injuries, and blisters? Why run in the ice (tricky), snow (kinda fun), and torrential rain (strange looks)? Good question and believe me I asked it a few times myself!

Well, I don’t run for the health benefits. I am in the best shape of my life, but there has to be better ways to stay healthy than endurance running. It isn’t for the endorphins. The fabled “runners-high” does exist and I can tell when it hits because I begin to sing aloud (and loud) with my MP3 player! But that doesn’t last long enough to make it a compelling motivation.

I run because…

I enjoy being outside! I have yet to find weather bad enough to make me prefer the treadmill. Rain, cold, and heat are all better options than running nowhere. Even when the weather is "bad", this is still a beautiful world!

I enjoy peace and solitude! People with annoying or silly questions will seldom expend the energy it takes to chase me down. Telemarketers can't get me out there either.

I enjoy being alone with my thoughts! It’s amazing how running opens up the mind and the thoughts flow so freely.

I enjoy self-discipline! When I am disciplined in one area of life I am in all.

I enjoy racing! I fell in love with the competition and camaraderie of a race my very first 10K.

I enjoy seeing new places! Running is the best way to get the lay of the land in places like Chimala, K’Songo, San Juan, Joburg, and Lakewood.

I enjoy goals! To set goals for training and racing and then working towards them keeps me motivated with worthwhile ambitions.

I enjoy learning! Pushing yourself may be the best way to know self and to learn the lessons of life. Mile 24 will teach you lessons that you didn’t know existed.

I enjoy being in motion! I am happiest when I am moving, being, and doing.

Yes, I am a runner and I do enjoy it!

That’s all for now - gotta run!