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.)
 

Building on the Word of the Lord

We start a new year with a renewed emphasis as the Renew Church family.

worshipersartboard-4I’ll be preaching on how we can Build the Altar to God in our lives, a short three-week mini-series to commence 2017. We start with Worship (message for 1/1/17), and Community (1/8), and then our physical health (1/15). We want this to be Grace-driven effort, and mostly we want to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9).

As you consider your life in 2016 and lean into the new year, I invite you to ask the crucial question(s), and consider the direction you’ll take.

We can set goals, which can be a helpful exercise — for productivity, and any area of life, including exercise. If you’re a goal-setter, go for it.

Many people I know, mostly men in my anecdotal experience, roll their eyes when New Year’s Resolutions come up in conversation. Cynics say (or think), “I’ve tried that before … never again!” Or perhaps it’s best to keep one’s ambitions private?

In any case, let me suggest another route: envision your direction for the new year.

This way the mileposts are not bolted to the ground, but the trajectory of your life is set on course. What way will you go? What routines and habits will get you on that journey? Let’s call these routines and habits “rhythms”: ways of living and being and worshiping and serving. This is the “sacred mundane.” What direction will you go, and why rhythms of life will get you there.

When the Gospel is your reason for living, then you’ve have gospel reasons for how you plan out a life, a year, a month, a week, even a day or hour.

When I pause to consider my life’s direction, and ponder the simply rhythms it will take to stay on course, I’m at a posture of a worshiper. What in my life will worship Christ in the new year? And how will I go about it? Life becomes simplified, attainable.

From this perspective there are then a handful of essentials I’ll bring into each day, which when given priority, have the power to change me from the inside out. These are:

  1. Worship & Learn » how will I worship Christ through prayer and reading His Word?
  2. Serve & Be » how will I serve others and be in genuine relationship with them?
  3. Go as a Son » how will I please God the Father today in all I do?

These are the essentials, providing the values for the rhythms (routines and habits) I’ll pursue.

They flow out of an identity, for contrary to what Aristotle supposedly quipped we actually are not what we repeatedly do. WHOs come first, then DOs. Continue reading

 

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

 

More by less.

Every time we add something new to our schedule, we must take something out. Alongside your ‘to do’ list think about keeping a ‘don’t do’ list as well.

“Many times, developing the ability to spend time in the Bible and to hear what it’s saying is less about our aptitude for scripture and more about all the noise that exists around us. We all know we could use more Bible, but we often forget we could use less of everything else.”
—Jared Wilson, Abide

 

A Space & A Place: on being a Leadership Portrait.

“You may not think of yourself as a leader, but someone looks to you for leadership.”

This Summer our friend Lee Edward came to see us, set a microphone on the table, and interviewed Kari and me at our home. His stellar podcast is called “Leadership Portraits” [see SoundCloud or iTunes] and is worth a listen of each episode.

Leadership Portraits with Lee Edward

Thank you Lee for your care for us as people, for asking stellar questions, and listening with rapt attention. Your aptitude for reducing down our shared words to the most helpful parts is a gift you’ve cultivated well.

All are welcome to take a listen of episode seven:

Lee mentioned Kari’s e-books, found here. Next year her book Sacred Mundane will be published with Kregel, and her blog “Sacred Mundane” is karipatterson.com/sacredmundane. Some notes on my training and journey as a grace-driven effort endurance athlete (runner and triathlete) with Team World Vision can be found at renewjeff.com.

Some quotes and lessons Lee mined from the episode/interview: Continue reading

 

Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator.

One of the greatest challenges we have as parents is to keep our children from settling for less.

The world offers less.

The great lie is that our heart’s longing can be satisfied with the lesser things of this world. We attempt to make a god of created things instead of worshiping the creator. This is why we never find a sustained sense of satisfaction or contentment. Our hearts are longing for the more-ness of our Creator. 1

The beauty of the Creation story is that it paints a picture of the one we worship. The all-powerful, all-sovereign, all-loving, all-just completeness of our God. Here’s the opportunity:

Our struggle as parents will always be to keep the bigness of God in our homes. As parents, we get the enormous opportunity to help our children connect the dots of their deepest desires to the source: their magnificent God.

So let’s help them DREAM and let’s help them to SEE the realities beyond this world. Through it all, they just might develop a taste for the kingdom of God. God is and will always be the best conversation that you can have with your children.

Rooted in Scripture, this prayer of the Apostle Paul for us and with us:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being…
—Ephesians 3:14-16

SC-prayer-day-01

Story Catechism Prayer Challenge

  1. Day 01, Story Catechism Back 2 School Prayer Challenge
 

Until His love we tasted …

Our time in sin we wasted,
And fed upon the wind;
Until His love we tasted,
No comfort could we find:

But now we stand to witness
His pow’r and grace to you;
May you perceive its fitness,
And call upon him too!

Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before;
Since we have seen his beauty,
Are joined to part no more:

It is our highest pleasure,
No less than duty’s call;
To love him beyond measure,
And serve him with our all.

—hymn by John Newton, “We Were Once As You Are”

On Sunday July 3rd we (Renew Church) considered the themes of Duty and Dependence, whereby the beauty of God overwhelms our hearts and what used to be a mere duty receives a whole new energy to be joyfully performed, even with pleasure!

The following Sunday we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (original lyrics by Sir Robert Robinson) with added closing verses borrowed from one John Newton’s hymns, “We Were Once As You Are,” with the chosen verses from above emphasized (added at 3:21 in song). Listen …