Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand Up Straight!
Examine yourselves…” [2 Cor. 13:5]

It’s likely that we have all seen basketball players taking advantage of a break in the action to bend over and hold their shorts while someone else is shooting free throws. Perhaps we have even done the same thing. That’s because the natural tendency is to lean over when you’re tired.

The same is true in running. As we tire, we gradually begin to bend at the waist and the move is so subtle that we seldom realize it. The problem is that that is the worst thing to do! When you bend at the waist it constricts your diaphragm and limits your breathing, making it more difficult to get the air that you need. It feels like the natural thing to do, but it is actually the worst thing to do!

I’ve noticed a similar reaction in our spiritual lives. When we begin to tire we often lean in a way that actually hurts us. Maybe we’re tired from the stress of a particular issue or some hidden burden that no one knows about or just the cares of everyday living. It is at that point that many make the unconscious choice to lean by forsaking the church assemblies, by not being with other Christians, by not reading and praying and by not taking advantage of the strength around them. It feels like the natural thing to do, but it is actually the worst thing to do!

It is in those moments we need to check our posture. While running, I look for any reflective surface (windows, mirrors, etc.) to see if I need to straighten up, literally! Spiritually, God’s word provides the mirror (James 1:23, 24) and we are to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) and make positive changes in our life.

Have you been leaning lately? Look in the mirror to see if you need to straighten up.

Gotta run!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. [Pro 27:17]

My favorite running route is a trail I have named “Serenity and Sweat”. A 5 mile trail through the wooded hills, it is serene. The beauty of the trail follows the seasons so its appearance is ever changing and you’re more likely to see wildlife than people. And the sweat flows freely because it is a most challenging run composed of 5 miles of hills and constant elevation change.

Near the end of the run there is one last hill that both defies and discourages me. After having already run 4 miles of hills I often convince myself that is it understandable to just walk it. But not on a recent run. The difference was that Kyle (our oldest son) was running the trail with me. Kyle didn’t know that I sometimes walk that last hill (he has run the trail with me only once) so he kept running. So I kept running because he was and because I didn’t want to look like the Dad who couldn’t keep up! We both made it to the top still alive and finished out our run.

On the way home he said, “When we got to that last hill I didn’t think I could make it. I wanted to walk but since you weren’t I just kept running.” A wry grin crossed my face while I said, “Let me let you in on a little secret…” Later I told him, “If we play this right, we can make each other better runners!”

And that’s the way it works, doesn’t it? Exemplary companionship is a win-win situation. It is a never-ending circle with benefits both. Solomon said it this way, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. [Pro 27:17]. It is true in running (if you want to run faster, run with someone faster!) and it is true in even more important aspects of our life.

Remember this principle whether you’re choosing friends or running partners and you’ll be sharpened as you sharpen. Think about it.

Gotta run!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Enjoy the Journey!

Enjoy the Journey

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ [Phil. 3:8]

To train for a big race you have to be willing to invest many hours and be ready to put in many miles. One shoe company ad says, “Because we know that 26.2 is the easy part!” That’s so true! To prepare for a marathon you spend 12-16 weeks running between 300-500 miles. That is more than 10 times the distance of the actual race. And inevitably there comes a point when you begin wondering if it’s worth it and then the little voices begin telling you to quit.

Every runner knows that race day makes it all worthwhile, but what do you do when race day is just too far away to provide any real motivation?

That’s when I decide to enjoy the journey! That’s when I choose to focus on the beauty of the scenery or on the fun of being outside and moving or simply on the joy of discipline. These are the fringe benefits that add another layer of payment to all the training. If I don’t enjoy the journey I’m sure to quit!

The same principle applies in Christianity. Sometimes in the course of running the Christian race we begin to wonder if it’s really worth it. It seems like we’re making big sacrifices to be in the race while others are just lying on the couch and we wonder if we should join them. The temptation to quit is great!

Every Christian knows that Heaven makes it all worthwhile, but what do you do when it just seems too far away to motivate?

That’s when you remember that there is SO much more to Christianity than looking forward to Heaven! That’s when you decide to focus on the fellowship and support of brethren, the joy of Christian living, the hope you have for both the present and future, and the many other fringe benefits of living for God. Paul said that he was willing to lose everything now to be with God later and even if that happened it would be worth it all! (Phil. 3:8) If we don’t enjoy the journey we’re sure to quit!

Stay in the race! Enjoy the journey! It’s worth it…now and later!

Gotta run!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009



For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” [2 Cor. 4:17]

If you’re like me, you don’t have the flattest terrain on which to run. If you do run on level ground I can assure you there are many of us who are at least a little envious. Without hills the running is so much easier; so much more predictable. And while there is a downhill for every uphill, it has been proven scientifically and experientially that the down-side of the hill never gives back all that the up-side took.

The same can be said of the wind. The difference the wind makes when it is blowing into you is nothing less than amazing…and disheartening! It slows you. It strains you. It actually discourages you. And so often it seems that the wind is in my face the entire run regardless of the direction I am running. It is so much easier to have it at your back. And when the two are combined, running uphill and into the wind, the run can be very tough.

But here’s the part of the story that’s so easy to miss in all the huffing, puffing, and sweating: running uphill makes you a better runner and better prepares you for the next hill! There will be hills on the course. At the 7th mile of my first half-marathon there was a 1¼ mile stretch that was a 7% grade uphill. While competitors were dropping like flies I never missed a step. The reason was simple: I was accustomed to running hills!

It would be nice if life was always downhill and with the wind at our back, but we know that simply isn’t possible. There will be hills and strong headwinds and, at times, it will seem that the universe is conspiring to combine the two simply for the purpose of making our run tough. But it is during those times that we are actually being made stronger.

Occasionally we have to deal with setbacks and disappointments in the course of life. Health issues, family troubles, job concerns, and the like are the uphills of life and none of us wish for them, but God tells us that they are actually making us stronger (2 Cor. 4:17). He also says that they are temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) and that we can look forward to one day coasting on the downhill. So remember, when the going is tough just keep running, taking comfort in the fact that you’re becoming stronger and that the tough times won’t last!

Gotta run!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

I press on toward the goal…” [Phi. 3:14]

As the old saying goes, one bite at a time! Our goals must be big; they must be ambitious because no other kind motivates. So make goals big…but not so big that achieving them seems impossible. So how can we have large goals without becoming discouraged? The key: divide the journey to your goal into achievable steps. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

While running the 2008 Akron (OH) Marathon I learned the need to divide big goals into small bites. I distinctly remember thinking to myself, after completing mile 5, “OK, 5 down, only 21 to go…21! I’m already tired and sweating profusely and I still have 21 miles to go?!” Bad self-psychology! Later in the race my mind said to myself, “Great job, 16 down and only 10.2 to go.” To which myself replied, “What!? Are you crazy? Who in their right mind runs 10 miles after 16?!”

I’ve learned my lesson, so in my next marathon (2009 Kentucky Derby) I will be running only 4, 6 mile laps followed by 2.2 mile. That’s all. Doesn’t my mind know better, you ask. Well, it does and it doesn’t. The key is to break the goal down into manageable steps and then take them one at a time. "It is amazing how much you can progress week after week, month after month, year after year if you allow for gradual training increases." [Bob Glover, The Runners Handbook]

The same holds true in the “races” of life. We have those moral issues, bad habits, and destructive vices that we’d like to eliminate, but the job just seems too big. And there are those virtues that we’d like to see in our life but it just seems impossible. Looking at the entire “elephant” it is; but break it down into bites and you can do it!

I once counseled someone struggling with addiction with this advice, “You don’t have to stay clean the rest of your life, just today!” It is precisely that mindset that will help us achieve any goal. You don’t have to control that emotion, destroy that vice, or eliminate that problem for the rest of your life, just for today. You cannot adopt much-needed virtues for the remainder of your years, but you can add them today!

Break that elephant down and keep chewing!

Gotta run!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Running Lesson #11

Permanent vs. Temporary

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call…” [Phi. 3:14]

It’s that time of year again when you find out how badly you want to run. Chilly temps, wind-chill factors, and icy spots all remind you ever so rudely that it is winter and you are outside! While being outside beats the treadmill any day no matter the weather, it does have a way of making you sort out your priorities. There’s an adage that says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only weak people.” I don’t know if that is true but I do know that conditions will force you to decide how permanent your goals are.

I run when it’s time to run and not when all the conditions are just right; the only exception being dangerously hot weather. (My entire plan will be put to the test while I’m in Montreal the last week of January!:-)) After many hours of running in less than ideal conditions, I have concluded this: the nature of my action is determined by the nature of my goal. If my goals are permanent then my actions are too; if my goals are fleeting my actions will be as well.

For example, if I am suddenly inspired one beautiful spring day to get out and enjoy the beauty of our Creator, as many are, I will do so. And while that is a worthwhile goal, it won’t get me out the door on a nasty January morning when His handiwork isn’t as obvious. My goal was temporary (perfect days don’t last) and so was my action.

On the other hand, if my goal is a spring marathon I will head out the door regardless the current weather because my objective is still ahead of me. I have short term goals (races) and a singular long term goal guiding what I do (good health). Because my goals are not affected by weather, neither are my actions. The conditions are temporary but my goals are not.

Now, let’s make this practical for the Christian race. If we forget our permanent goal, we’re going to make some bad choices that are based on temporary circumstances. Pleasure, popularity, and possessions do not last, yet how many times do we short circuit our long term goal by placing priority on these very temporary actions? With temporary goals, temporary actions work; but if our goal is enduring we’ll have to think long term. Why did Paul “press on”? Because of his goal to have “the prize”. We too will win the race if we do the same. Think about it and press on!

Gotta run!