Three Years and Counting

Three years ago, I stepped out on to the rubberized track at Robert E. Lee High School and ran 200 meters – then walked 200 meters – one full lap.  Then we did it three more times.

Who was the we? Me and the lead pastor where I serve as Worship Arts and Student Ministries Pastor.  Somehow – and I’m still not sure how – he talked me into going running with him.  It took us 20 minutes to complete those 4 lap – one mile.  It was a very humble beginning.

At the time I weighed somewhere in the neighborhood of 265 pounds.  I really looked like I was pregnant.  In fact, there’s a picture of me and when I look at it, Pam asks me “when were you due?”

There’s a great little quote placed on a plaque in the park where I run.  “If you add a little to a little and do it often, soon the little will become great.” – Hesiod.  That really has described the journey over the past three years.  It really is hard to believe that it’s been three years since that August day – the day I thought I might never see my next birthday.

I remember how it felt.  Sure, I was sore and tired and yet there was something in me that wanted to do it again. And I did – the very next day.  I have no idea how it went.  I didn’t think to blog about it then.  As time went on, I did start doing those things.  Those are some great reads – at least for me.  Then finally about two years ago, I started logging my runs at http://www.mapmyrun.com.  This has really allowed me to track my progress.

The last year has really been amazing.  I checked my anniversary post last year and a year ago I weighed 220 pounds.  This morning, I checked in at 177 (which is where I’ve been for about the last six or seven weeks.) That is by far the largest jump I have had from year to year.  I was hoping to be at my goal of 169 pounds by today, but that’s ok and I’m alright with that.  I have begun to realize that these last 5 to 7 pounds are going to be the hardest pounds to lose.  My weight has decreased so much that my body doesn’t burn fat the way it used to — even the way it did three or four months ago.

While my weight has changed and I am much lighter, that is not the only transformation.  This year was a big year for me.  I ran in some incredibly difficult weather – I really transitioned from a casual runner to an avid (some would say crazy) runner – running in all kinds of weather – including rain and some pretty frigid temps.  I have seen my 5K time go from 31 minutes and some change to 24 minutes.  My pace per mile has decreased greatly from about a 10 minute mile to (depending on the day) 9 minutes (on a long run) to 8:15 (on a short, fast run.) I continue to make progress and what’s even more amazing is that I had surgery to go through during the summer, so I wasn’t able to slog through the summer this year.

This was a transformational year in that my blood pressure for the first time in many years is normal – without taking medication.  This is huge. I feel so much better physically than I did – even from a year ago, but even more so when you consider all three years.  I feel about 10 years younger.

The other thing that happened this year is that I ran my first 1/2 marathon.  That was truly exciting and I am looking forward to running my second this fall.  If all goes well (and so far it has) I should easily be able to break the 2 hour mark – that would be cool.  As you can tell, I am excited to reach this milestone.  It has been a matter of pressing on.  That really has been my mantra and my running verse is

 I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:12b-14)

Happy running anniversary – Pressing On!

The Daily Run

At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine…or air.  It is also a free pass to friendship.

Benjamin Cheever, Author and Runner’s World contributor, in his memoir Strides

Rise Up!

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 17 (22) (September 2, 2012)

Song of Solomon 2:8-13; Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Ah, I hear my lover coming!
    He is leaping over the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a swift gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he is behind the wall,
    looking through the window,
    peering into the room.

10 My lover said to me,
    “Rise up, my darling!
    Come away with me, my fair one!
11 Look, the winter is past,
    and the rains are over and gone.
12 The flowers are springing up,
    the season of singing birds has come,
    and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.
13 The fig trees are forming young fruit,
    and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming.
Rise up, my darling!
    Come away with me, my fair one!”

This is one of those tough passages.  I can only imagine coming to this point in the lectionary and having to work on a sermon from this passage.  As I think about this passage – it’s a great passage about young people in love.  Many of us know what that is all about.  There are times when I wish I could go back there, but There are many more times when I prefer our relationship the way it is now.  While it may not always be youthful and exciting – the spark is still there and we love each other very much.

A second thing I think about as I read this passage is the church.  The church is often – and rightly so — as the bride of Christ.  Imagine – as the bride of Christ – if we were so excited to go with our groom.  Sometimes it almost seems like it is a chore for us to be His bride.  No, it should be exciting – just like newlyweds.  My prayer for you this weekend is for you to evaluate your part in being the bride of Christ.  I encourage you to put some spark back into your relationship with the groom.

Barriers

Several weeks ago Dale and I were at FLAME.  Dale led the worship along with several other talented worship leaders.  During the worship times my job was to run EasyWorship (which takes care of putting the lyrics on the screen and the various videos and logos and PowerPoint presentations that were used during the week.) Normally the persons running sound and video are in and connected to the worship space.  During our last visit, it was set up differently.  We were in the large tabernacle at Frankfort Camp Ministries.  When full the tabernacle can seat close to 900 people.  We only had about 150 people at FLAME, so you can imagine how a 150 worshipers would have felt in a building set up for 900 worshipers.  In order to create a more intimate feel, we set up a row of stacked chairs to create a barrier and to make the tabernacle “feel” smaller.  Unfortunately the tech booth (sound, lights and video) is in the back of the room. During Wednesday’s worship, I leaned over to the Kevin, who was running sound and said, “Do you get the feeling that they do not want us a part of the service?” It hit me. How many times do we put up barriers for those who want to be a part of the church?

The first barrier that I thought of is the barrier that says, “We are a friendly church.”  What that usually means is that we are friendly to those who are already a part of our church. We expect people to act a certain way when they come to church.  Or we expect people to dress a certain way, or wear their hair a certain way, or any number of other behaviors that are expected.  One of the areas that many churches struggle with is the ability to minister effectively to multiple cultures.  I think it is still probably true that the worship hour on Sunday is still the most segregated hour of the whole week.  Think about it we work with those of other cultures (I know Dale works with several people of different cultures at Chick-fil-A.) We shop and do business with those of other cultures and yet when it comes to Sunday morning we are separate.  I know one of our Wesleyan churches (Kentwood Community) in Grand Rapids, MI that has been very intentional about reaching out across cultural lines.

While I was writing this article, I thought I would take the thought one step farther.  What are some of the barriers that we put in place to separate us from those who need Jesus?  This really is related to the last point.  We like to stay where we are comfortable – we like those who are just like us – we like to stay in our safe cocoons.  It’s tough (at least in our minds at times) to touch the lives that really need Jesus.  There were those who resisted the walls being rebuilt in Nehemiah’s day.  Nehemiah and his people were trying to do a good work – with the blessing of the king.  It is the same today – there are those who interfere with others who are trying to spread God’s message.  There are some who say we shouldn’t minister to so and so or such and such a group.  Really???  Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations.  He didn’t say to clean them up first or just go to those to whom you are most comfortable.  e get so busy in our lives that other people’s lives are not important to us.  Sometimes we expect people who are not Christians to be perfect (Or to do things that we think are important, but in the grand scheme of things are not important to God.  that we think are important not what God think are important). W

Lately my favorite song has been “Jesus Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crown. There is a great line that says:

Jesus Friend of sinners
The truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You
But they’re tripping over me

The chairs in the tabernacle were put up for a good purpose — to make worship better for the students at FLAME. I totally understood the reason and they were not there to keep us out – we were part of the worship team and we were helping the worshipers worship.  And yet, because of the chairs and the distance to the worship team on the platform, there was a disconnect between us and the worship team on the platform. We were part of the worship team and our jobs were to help the worshippers worship.

I challenge you to check out the barriers that you are putting up – intentional or otherwise that are keeping you from reaching others for Jesus.

Birthday Reflections

Well, today is my birthday.  It has been a good day.  Throughout the day, I have been checking Facebook and all of my wonderful friends have been wishing me a happy birthday all day.  My phone and Facebook are having a failure to communicate, which means not all the notifications came through on my phone, but I have gotten them on Facebook.  Thank you!

I’ve thought about the various things that have happened on and around the date of my birth.

Today is the date that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  I was reminded of that this morning while listening to our Christian radio station.

Seven years ago, on August 29th, Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.  As I write, Hurricane Issac is knocking on the door of New Orleans.  Last year, Hurricane Irene was making itself known over the Shenandoah Valley.  It was primarily a rain event.

Six year’s ago I wrote a short and funny post about the “Smell of Love.” In just a few days, I will be celebrating my third anniversary of running.  But I think about how I felt three years ago.  I literally thought my body was falling apart. Now, I feel younger than I did 6 or 7 years ago.  I’ll share more about that on Friday.

Again thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes.  Pressing On!

Proving His Faithfulness

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God is still looking for circle makers. Drawing prayer circles isn’t about proving yourself to God; it’s about giving God an opportunity to prove Himself to you. God is for you. I can’t 

promise that God will always give you the answer you want. I can’t promise that He’ll answer on your timeline. But I can promise this; He keeps every promise. That is who He is. That is what He does. There is nothing God loves more than proving His faithfulness.”
Mark Batterson

Back-To-School Survival Kit

This past Wednesday we had our annual Back-to-School Kick-off.  As part of that event, we gave our students a Back-to-School Survival Kit. Here’s what was included:

toothpick: to remind you to pick out the good qualities in others
  Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.
rubber band: to remind you to be flexible, things might not always go the way you want, but it will work out
  Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
band aid: to remind you to heal hurt feelings, yours or someone’s else’s
  Colossians 3:12-14 – 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
pencil: to remind you to list your blessings everyday
  Ephesians 1:3 – All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.
eraser: to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s ok
  Genesis 50:15-21 – 15 But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.16 So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us 17 to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. 18 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
chewing gum: to remind you to stick with it and you can accomplish anything
  Philippians 4:13 – 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
mint: to remind you that you are worth a mint to your heavenly father
  John 3:16-17 – 16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
candy kiss: to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug everyday
  1 John 4:7 – Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.
tea bag: to remind you to relax daily and to go over that list of God’s blessings
  1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Jesus Paid It All

We played this song during worship yesterday.  The lyrics really got to me as I thought about the great price that Jesus paid for our sins.

O praise the One who paid my debt

And raised this life up from the dead.

The team did a great job following through especially since all I did during the verses was played and listened to these beautiful lyrics.

Sunday Night Thoughts

A Cloudy Weekend

This has been an interesting weekend weather-wise.  We woke up on Saturday morning to cloudy, sort of muggy, yet cool weather.  That weather was the order-of-the-day — I ended up sweating and yet the sweat made me cold with the breeze blowing.  It started raining last night and this morning the rain continued – right into the afternoon, threatening our baptism service (more on that in a moment.) The rain has been making the grass grow like crazy.  I’m cutting the grass more now than I did in the spring.  On the other hand, we have the greenest grass that we have ever had at the parsonage.  The grass looks really good.

The Driveway Project

For those of you who have been to our house, you know about our driveway – there is field on either side and over the summer the field has encroached on the driveway making it difficult to see much of the wildlife that likes to cross our driveway.  Over the last week, I have been working on widening the margins on either side – first by weedwacking the worst of it and then mowing what’s left.  In addition, I have been trying to level the driveway stone and pulling it back away from the shoulders.  I still have about 100 feet of field to tame, but it is looking so much better.  I enjoy the extra calorie burn it gives me.  I know James appreciates the effort.  In addition, James and I have been trying to keep the weeds at bay in the flowerbeds.  Sometimes that feels like a losing battle.

An Awesome God Day

Over the past week, we have been preparing for today.  We were planning on participating in both sacraments that our church recognizes – communion and baptism.  Communion was planned to be part of our morning worship service and the baptism service was planned for this afternoon.

This morning’s service was one of those more complicated services with scripture readings, responsive readings, unison readings, prayer, music and video elements.  It had the potential of someone forgetting where they might need to be, but none of that happened – what happened was a wonderful service of worship that focused on “a table prepared…” from Psalm 23:5.  During “Jesus Paid It All,” I became overwhelmed at the price that Christ paid for each one of us and it became difficult for me to sing.  There was a wonderful spirit of worship this morning.  God deserves all the praise for this service.

Like I said, this afternoon was supposed to be a baptism service.  We were invited to a picnic before the service and it began to rain, just like it had on and off all morning.  Around 2, our pastor said, “This is just a quick shower, by 3 it will all be gone.” I wasn’t so sure, but amazingly as the time for the service approached (at about 2:55) the rain stopped, the clouds separated and the sun came out. It was awesome!  We began the service with the sun out and no rain which was unbelievable, considering 5 minutes before it was drizzling and cloudy.

We read several passages of scripture, sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone),” examined the candidates, baptized them, and then Pam prayed for the child who was baptized and I prayed for the teen.  Then we hung out and ate cake and chips and then helped clean up.  It was cool because then James and I went swimming.  It was just an amazing day over all.  Thank you to all who participated and were part of this day.  Thank you to our Lord and Savior – for paying the price for our sins so that we might have life and be raised with Him.

Pressing On!