What do you think about while exercising? I think about many things while running. For one, my thoughts are scattered in the darkness around, but eventually they take upon a new order as I turn to meditate on Scripture. Usually the passage from Sunday’s sermon (e.g., if on an early Monday morning) comes to mind, and I mull over what I said and should have said. Or the text I will speak on the following Sunday fills my mind, followed by its implications. I meditate on truth, and meaning, and beauty, and most of all, seek to loop back to the Father’s character.
To be honest, I don’t always feel like running, nor do I always feel like thinking. Sometimes I just want to “zone out.” But this is a sacred moment, perhaps an hour of uninterrupted personal space, the only of its kind that day.
Rise & Run
The discipline of running — and going for a run, whether I feel like it or not — is akin to other disciplines in life. Like the effort needed empty the dishwasher, fold clothes, listen to voicemail, or respond to that ill-timed email. These habits are hardly convenient, but daily necessary. Like getting in the rhythm and routine of opening the Bible to allow God’s thoughts to interrupt and intersect my thoughts. This is Letting in Light, the brightest Light shining in the deepest darkness.
An unfortunate side effect of repeatedly praying the same prayer is that, over a period of time, it can lose its sense of pertinence. One way to keep it fresh is to unpack the content with language that expresses what you mean in a new way. 1
For example, here’s an amplification of the I. O. U. S. prayer:
Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. That is, focus my affections and desires upon you, and eradicate everything in me that would oppose such a focus.
Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. That is, let your light shine and show me what you have willed to communicate through the biblical authors.
Unite my heart to fear your name. That is, enthrall me with who you are.
Satisfy me with your steadfast love. That is, fulfill me with the fact that your covenant love has been poured out on me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A prayer for each new day, and our new Family Verse for Renew Church:2
“Is it okay that I read your wife’s blog? Her writing challenges me every time I read.”
—recent comment from a man friend 1
Right now our kids are scurrying from the yard to driveway pretending to be a peregrine falcon and Thompson’s gazelle, respectively, so we’re safe to write for a few minutes. Until a playful predator comes.
That would be a crisis to their uninterrupted play time.
That’s what I want to talk with you about: crisis.Crises, in fact. Lots and lots of mini-crises, created from our own hands.
A crisis is when you need God to come through, because otherwise you’ll fail. You don’t have what it takes, so you take what He alone can give.
Of course, we cannot create anything ourselves, but all of our creative powers — our creativity — is on loan from the Creator. It’s borrowed to be used well. Whether we steward these powers for good or spend them foolishly on self, we better know what kind of power we’re dealing with. Too many people use their supposed “power” to play it safe, seek comfort, take no risks. That’s some kind of tragedy. A power failure. (Others create all sorts of drama for themselves and every moment seems like a crisis. That’s sad but not in view here.)
Humanity has been made in God’s image. We may not look like Him in outward appearance, or take a representative form too often, but our essence, our createdness, is in the similitude of God. Makes sense, since He’s our Father.
God has created us for crisis. We were made to shine brightly in dark situations. Yet a person will only know if he or she is ready to trust Him in the inevitable big, unplanned crisis, if they’ve first learned by experience to trust Him with many mini-crises.
That is one secret to Jesus’ life. He is the definition of true humanity, coming to recreate what has been broken lost in us. Yet He did not do it by Himself. Jesus the Son depended moment by moment on the love, approval, and power of God the Father. He imaged the Father well. Perfectly, in all manner of crises. Never hurried, ever-present, calm and collected to unleash the power of God on the situation of Their choosing.
On my wife’s blog Sacred Mundane (on which this post first appeared) she reflects on various mini-crises encountered each week. As crises help you consider ours, each can find perspective to keep on creating these crises and growing as people. It is because of her steadfastness in the face of these crises, forged in fact by each crisis itself, that each us gets to read on the Sacred Mundane. That’s why many men I know read her blog. There’s meat there, substance more than mere style. Using the mundane moments of each life, what seems at first so un-spiritual, she makes connections to the Gospel. Every man, woman and child can benefit from that. Kari makes public many private details, though each is processed in prayer and with her husband (me), and together we sense the Spirit’s leading for her to share. Frankly, it would be easier to not share anything personal. Just “write about God,” but while the words would be true, they would not be real.
Realness is where the crises happen. Realness is what we’re after.
Actually, wholeness is the goal. Wholeness in Christ. We’re convinced real wholeness is only found in Him, and only on the other side of embracing realness.
There is a gap for each of us between the ideal and real, between what we say we believe and how we really live it out.
Most men I know … scratch that: every man I know likes to do things he feels confident about. Some only do the things they feel confident about. It’s why some don’t search for a better job, and why others like to fish. Confidence makes one work on their own car, and for the same reason others take it to the dealer to get serviced. Confidence. One can have the appearance of confidence with mere talk, yet to truly reveal one’s confidence, a crisis has to do it’s work.
On the first day of Summer, which happened to be Father’s Day, I competed in a sprint triathlon here in Oregon City. Here’s a bit about how I did, and especially WHY I raced in this fundraiser for Team World Vision. Some of you gave (Thank You!), and many have asked “How did the race go?” Plus, a new and different race is just around the corner.
This was my second attempt at a triathlon, as I did this same one here in our backyard in 2014. As one who has endured some acute and chronic injuries1 since high school, I found a cross-training balance has improved my life in immeasurable ways.
One of my brothers compelled me to start training as I observed his legit endurance. He’s competed in multiple cycling races and a few years ago became a triathlete. He’s conquered every distance up through Ironman2 and this Fall we’ll be there cheering him on at Ironman Arizona. (His new goal is to go sub-ten-hours, which means he will likely pass some pros.) We train virtually together from afar; swimming-biking-running has become an enjoyable triad, a shared experience for us.
This race was about much more than a triathlon, though. “Sprinting” for an hour or so was the easy part. The real challenge is the six kilometer plus daily hike women and children in East Africa have to endure just to get water for the day. Every day, multiply times for so many, hauling many gallons and dozens of pounds at once. All for un-clean water! It’s exhausting, dangerous, and yet this problem is solvable. Through the community development efforts of World Vision, partnering with countless local and national organizations, clean water can be accessible for the poorest of the poor. Lives can be rebuilt, children have new opportunities, women can flourish as made in God’s image. Their sufferings are ours to lean into, to be part of what God can do, if we will care.
In Africa they say, “Water is Life.” About 768 million people in the world lack access to safe water.
Lack of clean water is the number one preventable cause of death in the world. Women and children often walk 6 kilometers or more each way, two to three times a day, to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink; for water that could kill them.
It was an extraordinary experience doing fundraising while training, gaining confidence each time I told others about why I wanted, scratch that, they needed to give. At first I was apologetic about it, and then I realized that no apologies are needed, and I couldn’t be ah-shucks about it: kids are dying and through us be given a whole new opportunity in life.
I trained long and hard, enjoying it all. Besides thinking about and praying for the kids who will no longer thirst, the hour or two every morning is the highlight of each day. This was my second triathlon (sprint: 800m swim » 12mi bike » 5K run) so I am still a total newbie, especially on transitions, and I usually feel like I’ll drown on the swim.
Running with Heidi
The best part is how our kids got involved, cheering me on in training. Nearly all my training times are complete before 6:45 AM every day, so they usually don’t see me out there running, biking, even swimming. (They see me spent and sweaty afterward, though.)
But Dutch and Heidi asked me about it, and ask if they could “train” with me, so we’d go out front and run some sprints, or ride bikes a few dozen times up and down the block. Then it occurred to my wife Kari and I to connect our extra giving to this vital need. We decided that if I placed third overall we would donate $500, second place would be $1,000, and first place overall would have us matching the $1,500 goal.
I was the first one to cross the finish line, by a few minutes, which made my family think I won it. (Our kids were so enthusiastic!) Alas, I knew the athlete — another pastor named Jeff as well — I passed to start the 5K run not only beat me last year by a good margin, but he started behind me in a different wave by at least 5 minutes. I kept thinking, somehow I need to gain 5 minutes in these 5 kilometers. If only I could have matched my personal best in a 5K to end the race! Fatigue set in and the mind games started. Don’t slow down!
Nothing topped this hug at the finish line …
Yet we were so stoked with the finish, and I couldn’t say ‘no’ to our kids (nor to those kids in Africa!), so we happily matched the $1,500 to make it $3,000 for clean water. That made the whole race so much more enjoyable. Announced at Renew Church that morning when I arrived late, thankfully not preaching a sermon that day. Best Father’s Day I can remember.
Afterwards a few of the sponsored triathletes I passed asked about my Team World Vision race kit and if I was “sponsored by World Vision.” Got to explain how it works the other way around (!) and share about the project.
Which brings me to another race I was just asked last week to join. This one is more ambitious, and I get to do the easy part of training and running, and you get the joy and challenge of providing life-changing water for more kids!
The New Race: On August 28-29th I’ll be running, fundraising to provide life-changing water and resources for the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan. Working with the 4 South Sudan organization (founded by US Olympian Lopez Lomong, one of South Sudan’s “Lost Boys”), Team World Vision has ten teams participating in Hood-to-Coast, the world’s largest relay running race.
How about we aim to support 200 now?! $10,000 will provide water for TWO HUNDRED children FOR LIFE!
In joining a Team World Vision running team during the Hood-to-Coast relay, a total of 120 runners on ten teams are seeking to collectively raise one million dollars. Most of my new teammates are raising $10,000 each. Since I’m new to this party, let’s try to catch up. Okay?
(p.s., Many companies have programs to provide matching gifts.)
World Vision works with communities in desperate need to help provide things like clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care, and economic opportunity.
World Vision has the largest privately funded water initiative on the continent of Africa.
Clean water is a problem for which there is a solution. World Vision is the leading organizations bringing clean/safe water to communities in Africa in a sustainable way. When a community gains access to clean water:
Child mortality rates can be cut in half
Children enrolled in school can increase by as much as 80%
Women can begin working to provide for their family
Individuals and communities are changed in almost every way
A couple challenging injuries include: a broken vertebrae at age 16 (never completely healed), and later ran over left foot in Jeep Wrangler a decade ago. ↩
An Iron-distance or official “Ironman” triathlon is 140.6 total miles in three legs: starting with a 2.4 mile swim, transitioning to a 112 mile bike ride, and then capping it off with a marathon. Yep, run 26.2 miles to finish. ↩
In Africa they say, “Water is Life.” About 768 million people in the world lack access to safe water.
It is the number one preventable cause of death in the world. Women and children often walk 6 miles or more each way two to three times a day to gather water that isn’t even safe to drink, water that could kill them.
Through Team World Vision, $50 will provide clean water for one person for a lifetime!
Last weekend a bunch of dads and daughters ventured into the great outdoors, endeavoring to build lasting memories together while camping, eating, s’mores-ing, fishing, playing, giggling, et cetera. The thing is, each of the fathers had to at one point recognize their ambitious plans for a great weekend had to step aside for the joy of whatever their daughter(s) wanted to do at that moment.
Plans that would need to be as fluid as the changing weather. And they were.
We didn’t catch any fish, though some newts became instant pets (before returning to their marshlands safely). Meals and bedtimes and dietary restrictions were merely guidelines, not rules. We had a ton of fun.
When the rain subsided, a beloved activity of this group of giddy girls was riding razor scooters and bikes around the campsite loop, with some rolling hills. It was a challenge to maintain speed all the way around. At least one of us dads needed to accompany, and I’m glad to say most of the dads joined in with their daughter(s) at one point or another. Since I’m no use in food prep nor in cooking a large-group meal, I instead volunteered to join these impromptu wheeled adventures.
The biking and scooter-ing were way more fun when it wasn’t raining, and that’s when one of the girls asked me how long the loop was. “I don’t know,” I responded, “how long do you think it is? Definitely less than a mile; maybe a half mile?” She then asked if I had my GPS watch to “keep track.” Yep, it’s in my bag as usual. So I put on my Garmin, and we all started out again on our loops. There were the inevitable bumps and bruises when one of the riders did a yard sale over the scooter bars, yet those girls are tough and within minutes each time were back at it.
Later we figured out each loop was about a third of a mile, and one girl noted she had done twenty-five loops. A bit of math scratched out in the dirt led her to realize that day’s bike riding added up to more than eight miles around that campground. Whoa. Solid effort. That is active play.
I took a little flack from some of the men for “measuring” the play time. I quipped back that I had been the one running the loops with the kids, gathering the wounded, and bringing them back, while (some of) the other dads sat around. (Men can take jabs at one another like this, and still remain friends.) Yet the remark about not measuring has some merit, because an unmeasured life has significant qualities to it.
Like the Calvin and Hobbes comic above, we grown-ups don’t often go outside and play. Our lives are rigorously measured, with many goals and timelines, so when we get some down-time we seek out other ways to set aside responsibilities for a breather. (Ahh. Let me just sit here in peace.)
I wonder what happens to us adults as we lose our “childlikeness” (not childishness, which is foolish and immature, and many keep). Rather, like a child, when we do give ourselves permission again to be overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder when out and about in nature?
Why do we glue ourselves to gadgets to be amused, rather than go muse about out in creation?
(I’m not talking about the difference between using an exercise tracker versus playing “free” of any devices.) Continue reading →
In recent months a few friends have asked me to help them get in shape. Mostly through “friendly” encouragement, but sometimes more directly (and firmly) as a coach would. Various requests came in the form of invitations to run together, so we formed the Arch Bridge Running Club (Tuesdays, 5:00 AM running in/between Oregon City and West Linn). 1 A couple of us are training for a triathlon. Mostly we’re just running buddies.
One friend — not a runner nor desiring to become one! — asked me earnestly one day in mid-January if I would help him get in shape. Sure!
It took 86 days for his verbal desire to become “day one” of action. This month he began the journey through physical fitness. His resolve is now taking the shape of a new habit. (Don’t give up. Habits are usually stronger than desires.)
The key for him? Probably many things, like being disillusioned with getting older and sedentary. The inspiration of others on the journey, and a commitment to eating healthier has helped. Probably, like me, saying “no” is a challenge for him, so that there’s little left for cultivating a whole life.
Yet the key factor was this: beginning a new routine alongside his wife. (Yes!) This meant saying no to the customized fitness plan I had sent him (85 days prior) in order to say yes to a better and more realistic plan. (Principle: It’s good to say no to your friends for the sake of your wife.)
Personally, I default to doing just about anythingalone. Which is precisely why I must not do so. Sure, there are times of solitude, and out of six runs in a given week, five usually are alone before the sun comes up (though with Strava you’re never really alone). Tuesday mornings are a reminder that I am both known and needed, and not just because I’m the one who usually sets the week’s running plan.
Being known is about vulnerability, where others can see you as you are: whether fit and fresh or fat and fatigued. In physical terms that means getting up early, when no one else will (especially yesterday’s you), to hit the road or gym hard. It means showing up to give your best, while not looking your best. It means turning on screens in order to get needed sleep. It means running slower on recovery days, since that’s wisdom. It means asking someone significant to check on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve spent, giving personal access to someone to see the behind-the-scenes of your life. The same holds true spiritually, relationally, emotionally. This is the pursuit of wholeness, where we see God’s love at work it us, whether fit or fatigued. Continue reading →
The Arch Bridge Running Club is open to all, though for your enjoyment some basics and baseline fitness are needed: 1) Be able to run continuously for thirty minutes, 2) sustain sub-9:00/mi for three miles, 3) a desire to be challenged. There are no dues, nor t-shirts (yet). ↩
We gather in reflect in the dark, without the cultural decorations (and relative obligations) of Easter Sunday, for each day needs the other. Without the resurrection Jesus’ death seems heartless, yet, through the cross the eternal life He offers carries the weight of God’s love.
When He cried out, “It is finished!” Jesus accomplished far more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.
I encourage you to find a Gospel-centered local church and participate in a Good Friday gathering, sharing this day with others near the foot of the Cross.