Thirty-nine words on the occasion of turning 39.

This Saturday I reach three bakers’ dozen, turning thirty-nine years old. Pausing this moment to contemplate the milestone (like at 38), and envision the road ahead.

Treating the occasion, and my life, as a race, with a purpose beyond myself. A summary in thirty-nine words:

Behold the moment, weigh your purpose.
Duty and beauty join as one;
Joy of obedience, whether together or lonely, man.
What’s a man’s legacy?
THEY are. Invest in the next generation.
Finish well.
In lieu of presents, give Hope!

 

For my 39th birthday on June 17th I’ll be doing a triathlon as a fundraiser for Next Generation Ministries (NGM), aka the Loneliman 39.3. It will be about three hours of grace-driven effort!

How you can join in:

How long will it take? Swim 1.0 mile, then bike 32.1 miles, then run 6.2 miles. Aiming for three hours.

 

Running their race for water with them

This week I read that every day, women and girls spend 200 million hours walking to collect water for their families. That’s 8.3 million days. More than 22,800 years. All in one day!

That figure is so daunting. Where can one begin to make an impact for these women and children? It’s not just the quantity of hours amassed, it’s also the dangerous treks for fetching poor quality water!I look at my eight-year-old daughter and ask why can she go to any faucet in the house and get clean drinking water on demand?

We get to be leaders in providing clean water, for the world’s future leaders. Every child deserves clean water, and those 200 million hours from each day can be better put to use in seeing families, villages, whole communities, regions and nations flourishing.

Families gather for Renew Church’s 6k for Water event in Oregon City, OR (April 2016)

Last year we hosted a 6K for Water in our city. The enrollment was gradual, and then some signups were rushed near end. While I tried to hand out flyers, I found that the real key was a personal invite. Known as a runner, many thought I would be able to compel other runners. Well, I’m here to tell you it is the unlikely ones who rise to the occasion.

6K for Water

The 6K isn’t really for runners; it’s not even for us.

My friend Dawson has two daughters, and is (or was, and used to proudly say) “NOT a runner.” That all changed last year, after he carried a five-gallon jug of water during the 6K for Water.

“How hard can it be?” he opined, later admitting it was the hardest physical challenge he’d ever endured. What’s more: young girls in Africa do this every day.

Dawson carried 5 gallon (40 lb) jerrycan full of water on the loop back

As the father of two daughters, he wanted to do it for them, and with them.

It wasn’t long until one step led to another as Dawson got motivated to change his life habits and patterns. We joke together that we who have so much comfort get most active when trying to get comfortable. It’s been fun to see him pursue discomfort. A few months into his running journey, accompanied with a plan of bodyweight exercises for whole health, and getting serious about the food the family ate together, Dawson asked if I’d select a course for a run test.

Taking last year’s 6K for Water signs, we set up a simple out-and-back course. He wanted to run at 6:00 AM on Monday morning, because that’s when his body wouldn’t feel like it. Plus, the early dark hours are when women and children must go the distance to fetch water.

During the effort, empowered by God’s Grace, Dawson reflected on his reasons to get healthy. I made him bark out the reasons: that he wanted to be healthy to play with his kids, and one day hold their kids. He ran further than he ever had before, beat his goal time, and afterward I knighted him, “You, my friend, are a runner.” 

My friend could change his life because someone came to run alongside him. And it hit us that this is what we get to do for those in Africa, Haiti, and India. Let us run with endurance their race alongside, for Jesus and all His saints attest it is worth it, and this life of faith can be run. In the most practical ways, clean water unlocks all their potential, and allows them to flourish in this life, learning of the One who offers them eternal life.

Setting audacious goals

Hunter family ready for the 6K for Water

Hunter family ready for the 6K for Water

Dawson and his wife Anna are now the 6K for Water host-site leaders for Team Renew for Water (join or donate here). We’ve set an even more ambitious goal, to more than double last year’s goal of providing water for 116 children. Let’s go for 250 or more! (Actually, let’s make it 500.) 

We’ve set an ambitious goal as church family. If we say “we’re a family of missionary servants,” that means we must also become willing to get uncomfortable and be inconvenienced. It starts with leaders who embrace and embody these truths.

Dawson and Anna now have the personal credibility to challenge everyone in the church to sign up, and offer a simple invitation for global change: we get to be a part of this! Of course, it’s just one hour for a 6K, and the inconvenience of fifty bucks. While I’m not convinced the imperative will work for everyone, we won’t stop the constant reminders, like a leaky faucet of clean water. I know the personal invitations offered with care and insistence will work.

Dawson’s oldest daughter Reagan asked if she could run with him. So one recent Saturday morning Dad delayed the day’s workout until she was awake. They laced up and ran a lap around the driveway. On the second lap Reagan stopped, revealing disappointment. What’s a matter? Reagan confided,

“I thought we were going running! Where are all the kids, where’s the face-painting, and the snacks?”

6K for Water kids bibsHer mind connected to the last time she ran with Daddy: amidst a big party, at a park where the 6K for Water started and ended. And while she may not (yet) grasp the whole run-for-others, it’s clear Dawson gets it.

Think about those 200 million (daily) hours noted above. These are women and children who matter.

They deserve access clean water. We can redeem their time and provide this water.

Would you give one hour to change that?

Since this week was World Water Day, you’re invited to use registration code WWD2017 for $10 off registration for both adults ($40 instead of $50) and children under age 15 ($15 instead of $25) — through Sunday night, March 26th).

originally posted on the World Vision Churches blog
 

In darkness: do you carry a lamp?

I like running in the dark. At first, it was unsettling to be surrounded by so much, well, darkness. Yet this happy discipline has grown on me. A habit of sorts, forged over these last few years (in patience), and I run early in part because that is the time of day when I’m not needed elsewhere. Four or five AM is well before responsibility gives a hug and won’t let go.

A question often comes up: isn’t it dangerous to run in the dark?

(You’d probably have to ask about the dangers the millions upon millions of women and children face while traveling miles upon miles every day to fetch water— six kilometers on average. Did you know that every day 200 Million hours are amassed in fetching water, mostly unsafe water, in developing nations? You can change that for someone, in just an hour. Join the 6K for Water. Do it!)

Running in the dark, where I live, is probably not as dangerous as running in the daytime. You see, there’s this phenomenon of being surrounded by massive bullets flying around, without much attention paid to where they’re going. (Cars, those bullets are cars driven by people.) That is, a daytime runner has to be constantly on the watch for inattentive drivers. Distracted, looking at devices, not looking for a runner, walker of cyclist. Pedestrians have the Right-of-Way, until they don’t and it’s too late. Plus, early mornings are quiet and peaceful, even (or especially?) in rain or snow; these are times I relish for moments to think, pray, BE. The lonely miles are always accompanied by LIGHT and reflectivity. Simply investments in rechargeable hand lights and headlamps make one seen and safe at the same time. Dark mornings are when one must bring a lamp. And a gift from our church family last Fall made capturing some of these moments quiet fun. “GoPro take photo,” is a simple voice command that later reveals a beautiful scene. Like this one …
Track Tuesday
In meditative moments like this, the Scripture comes into focus:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Let the reader understand: there is plenty of darkness even in the light of day.

Coupled with this reflection on that verse:

“We are walkers through the city of this world, and we are often called to go out into its darkness; let us never venture there without the light-giving word, lest we slip with our feet. Each man should use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that he may see his way and see what lies in it. When darkness settles down upon all around me, the word of the Lord, like a flaming torch, reveals my way. Having no fixed lamps in eastern towns, in old time each passenger carried a lantern with him that he might not fall into the open sewer, or stumble over the heaps of ordure which defiled the road. This is a true picture of our path through this dark world: we should not know the way, or how to walk in it, if Scripture, like a blazing flambeau, did not reveal it.”
—C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David on Ps. 119:105

It must be asked: Do you use the word of God personally, practically, and habitually, that you may see your way and see what lies in it? (Find some good helps here.) 

Will you do this in the early hours, or in the “darkness” of daytime, even before discouragements and disagreements mount their assault? When all the good news and fake news and whatever news dissuades your heart from keeping up the good work of following Jesus no matter the cost? If you do this, in the darkness, your feet will not slip.

The most healthful thing you can do today is not so much run a mile, in darkness or daylight, but rather this: take the lamp of the Word of God and let it shine brightly on the world, on your mind, bringing light to your heart. Then you will be able to see clearly, to “capture” with the lens of the mind’s eye the beauty AND brokenness in each scene. Then you will be able to see reality as it really is. In His light do we see light. Even, and especially, in darkness.

Track Tuesday
(Photos by the author. Please do not use without my permission; happy to lend permission if you ask.)
 

Racing for Water with urgency & not with haste.

Race day is here. The last few days have been restful work and play. Today we go for it.

#899, racing for Team World Vision

#899, racing for Team World Vision

This journey began the first of the year to attempt to raise funds for World Vision water projects as a noble goal much bigger than self-improvement. I enjoy physical training and yet the challenge has been much bigger than just waking up at 4 AM every day with intention. My initial goal was $5K, providing life-giving water for 100 kids in East Africa. Last month we surpassed that, and take we’ve gone further together to bring water to 128 kids ($6,402). I’ve since raised the goal to $7,030, which would mean two kids receive water for each mile I endure on Sunday. The more given, the faster I will swim, bike, and run.

There’s is the real endurance, and the true heroes must make the trek for water, unclean water at that,
In fact, every minute a child under five dies of diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene.

Water-Effect-every-5-min_1024x530

With the collective efforts of donors and workers with World Vision, the water effect has been huge: every thirty seconds water is provided for another person! So, the gap is close, and we can go there with more urgency.

$50 = clean water for 1 person

Many have asked about the race on Sunday. It’s called Ironman Arizona 70.3 (IMAZ 70.3 for short), and the “70.3” notes the total miles. It’s a Half-Ironman (which are 140.6 miles), and I hope to cover the 1.2-mile swim in 30-35 minutes, the 56-mile bike ride in 2:40—2:55, and the 13.1-mile half-marathon run in about 1:40-ish. It will be a hot day out there, and an optimal race will have me finishing about the same time as my brother John, in about five hours (we hope).

Processed with VSCO with 4 preset Continue reading

 

Enduring even further, for their sake (IMAZ 70.3)

I’m participating in IRONMAN Arizona 70.3 on October 16th, 2016, racing for Team World Vision to help provide clean water for kids and families in Africa! The needs are real, and there is something we can do!
Water-Effect-every-5-min_1024x530$50 = clean water for 1 person

I believe that Every Child Deserves Clean Water!
Do you? If so, please consider a donation of any size!
Thanks for your support!

Father-son joy! We did it, son.

Father-son joy! We did it, son.

Last year we set a modest goal of $1,500 while I trained for a sprint triathlon. In hopes of staying motivated I personally promised to match the amount raised if I finished the race in first place. (What happened? Read about it here, but suffice to say it was the best Father’s Day I can remember.)

We did much more than I even dreamed. Together we teamed up to provide life-changing water for more than 100 children in Africa!

Let’s do it again this year!

I’ll do the training and sweating, more than quadrupling the distance in this year’s race. It’s called a Half IRONMAN — or “70.3” (seventy-point-three) for the total miles. For about five hours I’ll endure and push my body to full exertion.

What drives me forward is thinking about those children who long to have life-changing water. Let’s provide it for them!

» Give CLEAN WATER!

every-child-deserves-clean-water Continue reading

 

Punching Monday in the face. (Why your pastor might be depressed today.)


Mondays are the worst, right? They just punch you in the face.

Unless you punch Monday in the face first.

(Not advocating violence per se, except that winning your heart decisively — and winning their hearts — is the key to finding joy, even on a Monday.)

Fight the good fight Winning the battle on Monday starts with surveying the land: What. Just. Happened. (?)

As a preaching pastor, I can wake up with a “case of the Mondays.” You ever feel that way? Lethargic, not wanting to move. Tough to get motivated. In a malaise, mentally and emotionally. 1

This experience is not confined to pastors, and it’s not just a spiritual thing. Rather, the root of this Monday feeling comes from what Archibald Hart calls “Post-adrenaline depression.” He describes it this way:

“…what I was experiencing was a profound shutdown of my adrenal system, following a period of high stress or demand. It was as if my adrenal system were saying, ‘That’s enough abuse for now; let’s give it a break,’ and shut down so that I had no choice in the matter.”

While this might seem like a mini-crisis, this slow-down provides a helpful clue to something we all need: active rest. Have you noticed that when you lay in bed all day you  feel achy later, while going for a brief walk actually energizes your body? Your body needs rest, but active rest is better.

The impetus (and partial title) for this post came from Mike Leake, who points out:

“This really isn’t unique to pastors. Even if you aren’t a pastor I’m guessing that you have had times of a great spiritual high, only to find yourself the next day feeling like a total schmuck.”

I’d say if you’re never honest about when you feel like a “schmuck,” then you have other problems.

Yet we need not be surprised or sidelined about needing to work at a slower pace in our jobs. While we seem to naturally swerve between over-confidence and despair, let us find a new rhythm to combat the inevitable fatigue and mental battles. Continue reading

  1. Surprise: not all pastors preach regularly, and so until the last three years hit me I didn’t realize the weight of the day after Sunday. Until this new season with Renew Church I was just as much a pastor/shepherd, but I did not preach regularly so this is all new-ish to me.
 

Do you only run when you feel like it? (And where do you run?)

Most mornings I wake up and go for a run, creating a mini-crisis.

Every run in 2015, visualized.

Every run in 2015, visualized.

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

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. 

[Video: God Wrote a Book from Desiring God.]

In chapter nine of When I Don’t Desire God, John Piper introduces a memorable and helpful acronym for what to pray before reading Scripture: I. O. U. S. »

  • Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. (Psalm 119:36)
  • Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. (Psalm 119:18)
  • Unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11)
  • Satisfy me with your steadfast love. (Psalm 90:14)

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

Psalm 90:14

  1. I.O.U.S. Devotional by —Jonathan Parnell of Desiring God.
  2.  Psalm 90:14 Scripture artwork by Hand Lettering Co.