Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Don't give up! You've worked too hard..."

This past weekend was a memorable experience for me as I traveled with a group of friends to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon. This was my third marathon so far and each one has seemed to bring unique challenges both during the training leading up to the race as well as race day...and this was no exception.

First of all, I was overwhelmed by the size of the city and its beloved marathon race. With over 45,000 participants and spectators lining the streets for most every bit of the 26.2 mile is difficult to describe what it was like. I don't think there was ever a time during the race that I was not "heel to toe" with other poeple...dodging in and out of runner traffic...a sea of runners ahead of me, behind me, and all around me.

Just getting to the race itself presented some challenges...the weather was an unexpected 30 degrees at start (not bad though...certainly better than running in the heat), our hotel was 1.3 miles from the start and cabs could not get down there. Also, the starting line was so crowded by the time we arrived, we wound up climbing a fence just to stand shoulder to shoulder with a street packed full of runners in the starting corral.

Up until about 3 weeks before the race, I had been preparing myself well and quite frankly had several long training runs that went off without a hitch. I was poised for a strong marathon run ahead. Then, on my last long run before Chicago, I experience a foot injury. I went from being told by my doctor that I might be on crutches for 8 weeks to getting MRI results that led him to say I could "go try, but it was a longshot I would finish". I did have over 2 and half weeks to let it heal...the problem was NO RUNNING. I've not seen many marathon training plans that say COMPLETELY STOP RUNNING 3 weeks before the race (maybe I should write a book called "The Extreme Taper"). Anyway, I rode my bike a lot but my legs no doubt began to adjust to their new "no pounding" life.

I thought about a short run a few days before the race, but chickened out in the end...figuring I'd rather not find out until I was already up there and going.

I went into the race saying two things....1) just finishing would be an awesome privilege given my foot injury and 2) if I did finish...anything quicker than 4 hours would be great.

Well, for the first half of the race, things went great. I felt great...didnt run too hard but still had a good strong pace. I finished the first half (13.1 miles) in 1:52 minutes...on pace for a 3:40:00 or so marathon! No foot pain! As I kept going, I started going a bit faster...feeling good still. Then, around mile all just fell apart. I have no idea why, but for some reason, my legs simply locked up. I had cramps in my quads, calves, and basically everywhere. I tried for several miles to run through it, but things just kept getting worse. I stopped about 3 or 4 times trying to stretch, but couldnt even get my legs to stretch at all. One one of the last stretch stops, I walked over to the side and started looking around for the "assistance areas"...I was, in my mind, debating whether or not I would QUIT. It was about mile 23. As I'm standing there on the side, facing my moment of truth, one of the many spectators from the side comes up to me, looks me in the eye and she says..."don't give've worked too hard". Now I have no idea why she would take the time to come over and say that to me...better yet, why she or any of those other people take the time to come out and cheer for people running through the streets. Needless to say, I limped back in...running very slow and hating how it felt, but overall finishing the race and accomplishing the two goals I stated above. My finish time was 3 hrs 48 min...12 min ahead of what I said I would be happy with. Yet, since I finished so poorly, I was anything but happy.

As I've spent the last few days learning to walk again (ha ha), I have also been reminded of Hebrews 12:1-2. I think about all those people lined on the streets of Chicago (not like they knew who I was or anything)...and I think about this one person who took the time to stop by and say those words of encouragement to me. I think about my group of friends that I went with and how we encouraged one another.

You see, I think we often forget that we have a "great cloud of witnesses" all around us. I think we often face struggles in our Christian walks where we, just like I did, start looking around for the "assistance areas"...that's right...maybe even to quit. The difference our Christian lives, we may not always fully see or realize the great cloud of witnesses. We may not always even fully grasp who is encouraging us OR who we may be an encouragement to. You never know just who may be on the virge of quiting the race, until you offer encouragement to ways that you might not even realize. I know, it's not easy running this race, and sometimes we feel tired, weary, and, to keep the analogy going, we hurt all over. But remember, no matter what you're faced matter how you might Hebrews 12:2, reflect on the cloud of witnesses around you and DON'T GIVE UP! YOU'VE WORKED TOO HARD...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Get that weak stuff outta here...

This week we studied God’s Holiness. Before reading this any further, take a moment to read Isaiah 6:1-7 (click the link to read it) and then come back here.

Can you imagine what it would be like to in the presence of the Holy God? Our minds cannot fathom it! And when you do reflect on God’s holiness, how does that make you feel? (If you’re an old dude like me, you might remember Wayne and Garth from SNL’s Wayne’s World…where they said “We’re not worthy”).

When we think about being “Holy” (defined as being set apart…righteous), we often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. Thoughts like…”I could never measure up to God’s holiness”…which often leads us to “why even bother?” Faced with this overwhelming sense of guilt, we often choose to turn instead to more “happy thoughts” and, quite frankly, rarely like to focus on God’s holiness.

Instead, I’m here today to say we should be humbled in a positive way. Understanding God’s holiness should lead us to a clear understanding, realization, and admittance of our own sinfulness. But it should also provide the blueprint for what we should strive for in our lives. 1 Peter 1:13-16 tells us “…to be Holy as He is Holy”. Does that mean we won’t sin? Does that mean we can be perfect as He is? By no means! But, we can know that, as followers of Christ, we have been set apart…and equipped…to be a light to grow more like Him.

Also, reflecting on God’s holiness can shed some true light on some of the lame excuses we give to God each and every day for not following His will. As an example, if I (5’6” tall, kinda) dribbled a basketball, into the lane, and tried a layup on Shaquille O’Neal…he’d probably say “get that weak stuff outta here”, perhaps even a few different word choices, as he swatted my shot attempt into the seats. I often wonder if God says that about some of the lame excuses we use to convince ourselves its okay to follow our will, instead of His will. I know…you, like me, have just been “too busy” lately for those “God things”. I have made a conscious effort lately to NEVER use that phrase again…who among us is not “too busy” these days? But know this…if something is a priority to us…we find a way…we find the time to get it done. But hey, that’s another blog…for another blog day.

The point is this, go back to that scripture from Isaiah and imagine yourself in the throne room of God and literally telling God some of the things we tell ourselves in our minds when faced with following His will in our lives. Whether it’s going to Church or SS, talking to a friend about salvation, making better choices in our lives…whatever our moment of decision may be. Imagine saying out loud to a HOLY God, those thoughts we often tell ourselves.

Next time you find yourself on the fence about obeying God’s will, reflect on His holiness…and “get that weak stuff outta here”.

Room 127 Insider Tip:

A few weeks back, we talked in class about two types of fish in my daughter’s fish tank…Zebra Danios, that tend to stay at the top of the tank…and Pepper Catfish, that swim in the deeper waters at the bottom. The question I asked you was this…are you willing to swim in the deep waters for God, or do you want to stay at the top where things are safe and comfortable? You may have found yourself faced with various thoughts, and maybe even coming up with some excuses, when considering this question for yourself. I wonder if reflecting on God’s holiness, as we have learned from this study, can help you make your “fish choice”?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Stand Strong is to have a Strong House

As I was reading today, God impressed this passage to me: Proverbs 24:3-4. When a house is built, we lay a foundation, a strong foundation that will ensure a strong as I read this passage, the message I receive from it is as God is building my spiritual body and mind with his good and faithful words, so to should my household be built strong by my devotion to God's words and filling my soul on HIS word. As HIS word is filled my attitude, my actions, my speaking to my family, not to just my children, it "shows" how God is influencing the Holy Spirit to "mold" my family into what God wants for them and me.

I have felt very "influenced" by what God has been accomplishing in my life here lately...well I guess I really need to say is that ever since I "enrolled" myself into the study "Experiencing GOD" lead by Andy, I have experienced GOD! In fact, I just have to share the following email I sent to the Kevin...
(I'm writing this to Kevin) selfish with my time instead of being on God's time...listening to the ole devil just fill my ears full of things to do OTHER than what I should be doing with God's word...I have been having a hard time with this devotional, every time I get going and really HOT ON TRACK with God, praying, reading, feeling good praising his name, thanking him for my blessing I don't deserve....then BANG!! Stupid devil! I had a moment last week were I was really feeling down, then finally the great and forever Holy Spirit took over me and NAILED the devil in his tracks! WOOOHOO!! I felt like I was laying on the ground with all these arrows stuck in me and there was the Holy Spirit standing in front of me pointing his fingers at the devil telling him to BACK OFF! This is one of ours! If you think you can even remotely think that you can steal him from us, then you’re WRONG! I'm telling you Kevin, I have never felt ANYTHING like that before! So there the Holy Spirit was, just kicking the devil right in front of me! (Here I was driving down the road; I could barely keep my eyes dry for the love I was feeling from the Trinity!) I just can't get over that feeling every time I talk about it…

So as you can see, and I will say it again, "I have never felt something like this in my life, THIS STRONG!" I hope that you can see, GOD LOVES US IMMENSELY! HE PROTECTS US AND GUIDES US! Don't forget that when you fall, because we all fall, Romans 3:23 and I fall, but God renews our soul, washes us clean and sets everything back if you’re wondering, I have been doing some serious foundation repair work…see you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ALL who are thirsty...

Just to wet your appetite (no pun intented for what's to follow) for our upcoming Gripped study, I'm thinking today about an amazing passage we find in Isaiah 55:1-3 (click the link to read it).

I know when I am running, NOTHING can quench my thirst like water. Even sports drinks like gatorade seem to make me even more thirsty! What do we learn from this passage? ANYONE who is thirsty can come to God and have their eternal thirst QUENCHED. And for what cost? NOTHING...without money and without cost!

So why do we "spend money on what is not bread"? or "labor on what does not satisy"?

If you're like me, you get "thirsty" quite often and time after time you reach for something MUCH LESS than God's ETERNAL WATER. Yet, nothing ever satisfies. Nothing. I don't know about you, but "your soul will delight in the richest of fare" sounds pretty good to me. Better than most of what I find on my own.

I have tucked these verses away and plan to keep them quite handy. Next time I find myself thirsty, I'm headed for some water. And oh yeah, they'll be plenty of water available this Sunday in room 127 as always.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Born Again

This coming week our SS class gets the privilege of witnessing one of our very own experience the public profession of faith known as baptism! What a great day that will be!

Take a moment and listen to the Third Day song Born Again (click on the triangle in the "Songs of the Week" section on the right).

Whether you're in line to experience baptism for the very first time or, like me, you just sometimes find yourself a little too far from home, isnt it great to know that being born again is just a "call" away? What about you find yourself needing a ride home? Make the call...

BTW, Way to go Jay!


The following info is from one of our classmates...thanks Lisa!

This week, we started a new study called "Gripped by the Greatness of God" by James MacDonald. Wow, the title says it all. We started the first lesson by watching the video. Next week we will have dicussion about it. For those that was not there, I wanted to just give you an overview of what he discussed and some scriptures that you can read during the week. The lesson that we are about to enter into, he asked three questions.

1. Who is Isaiah?
Isaiah 9:6, 7:14 and 53:4

2. What does it mean to be gripped by God?
Isaiah 6:5, Luke 5:8 and Revelation 1:10

3. How will this affect my Life?
Ephesians 2:1, 1Corinthians 2:4, Romans 3:10-11, 2Corinthians 5:17

He also taked about phsyical being and your soul. Meaning that your soul lives on forever and how your spirit is made up of three things: Mind, Emotions, and will. With his teaching this lesson will transform you at every level.

Are you ready to be gripped? See you Sunday!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Again

Here's what I'm thinking about this week... Press the triangle on the playlist to the right and hear the song of the week. If you've never heard it, you'll be moved and well prepared for this special weekend.