Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vacillation is a killer

I have entered into a new time in my studies. I have one final quarter here at Seminary and am taking two distance courses and one independent study, therefore I do not have any actual "in class" class time. I have dedicated Thursdays to my day of study where I will concentrate on my three classes, but discovered a challenging protagonist this morning, vacillation. This is not the first time that I have wrestled with this monster. Each morning when my alarm clock makes me aware of my morning run I go toe to toe with this beast. Do I get up and run, or do I keep sleeping? Can I make it through the day if I get up? Can I make it if I don't? "It would do you good to just get some sleep." "Get up you lazy bum and run."

As I sat on my couch this morning I entered the ring of battle. What should I go after first? Which of the three classes is most important? I should go for my run now and get it out of the way. No, I am tired and should just take a quick nap, it is still early (7:15 am) and I have plenty of day. Run first, then school, and nap in the afternoon. Nah, I will just watch some television while I eat and then get on my school work. Nap, run, school. Back and forth you go for minutes and minutes until you have spent an hour bouncing between the tasks for the day and have wasted an hour. I know I am not the only one who engages in this war of the mind on a daily basis and know that it is not a one and done deal.

Tomorrow I will certainly enter the same ring with the bell of my alarm. I think that a list and a plan that is devised the day prior would be a good move to game plan for this ugly antagonist that lurks around every corner. Press on!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hidden Hope

Cement gray and cold like a cellar.
Drops driven to the ground by an unrelenting wind.
Streams teaming with melt and foam.
Mustard yellow grass and charcoal tinted piles of snow linger.
Naked trees shutter in the absence of the sun.
Spirits yearning for renewal and hope.

Honkers chattering above raise one's eyes upward.
The orchestra of the wild filling the air.
Buds developing beyond our vision.
Turf thawing, yet hidden from our gaze.
Day light lingering more each day.
Tulip buds awaiting their turn.

Death has held it's grip long enough.
Life and new birth are preparing to reign.
Postures will straighten and coats will be shed.
The trees will be clothed in their spring time splendor.
Spring is the best time of the year.
Have hope, don't fret, it will be here before you know it, I bet!

Monday, March 16, 2009

What kind of bunny are you?

Tis the season for all things chocolate. Chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter, chocolate eggs full of the rich creamy white and yellow center... You get the idea. Sunday in church I began to think about Easter treats and two types of chocolate bunnies. Some bunnies look perfect on the outside, but when bitten into are nothing but a thin chocolate shell. (I know, I know, insert "Your head has a thick candy shell on it." line here!) The devastation that is felt when you realize that your picture perfect bunny is nothing by a thin layer of chocolate that when melted is the equivalent of three Hershey Kisses. Contrasts these wafer thin disappointments with their decadent, full bodied relatives! Contrast the devastation that accompanies the empty hares with the elation brought about as a result of the dense long eared creatures.

The reason why I began to think about this while sitting in church was because of the sermon that was being given on prayer. Out pastor has been working through the Sermon on the Mount, and this particular sermon focused on how we should pray. Jesus paints a vivid contrast between those who pray to be seen and those who pray to commune with our Father/Mother in Heaven. Many choose to pray when it counts so that they can be seen as somehow more spiritual than their peers, however, Christ condemns this. What good is it to look perfect on the outside, but be hollow to your core? What value is it to offer up elegantly loquacious words in prayer when they are nothing but babel devoid of actual emotion? Jesus teaches that we are to pray in private where we can focus on God and take the time to truly fellowship with Him. It is the things that are done in hidden that make one's relationship with the Lord truly matter. It is the content of the inner person that truly matters, not only in prayer, but in all areas of our lives. God does not desire perfectly shaped cotton tails that are hollow to the core.

So I challenge you this Lenten season to evaluate not only your prayers, but also all areas of your Easter celebration. What type of bunny are you? Are you going through the routine and not really reflecting on what Lent and Easter are truly about? Think about the commitment of Jesus to his prayers in Gethsemane. When you pray this season do it not to be heard, but to truly communicate with our Savior who has given us the sign of Jonah on Easter weekend.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Beyond the Epic Run"

This past Saturday, as I cracked open the cover of my new Runner's World, I notice an ad for a new film that is coming out this spring entitled "Beyond the Epic Run." I immediately hopped on the imac and hit up their website. I soon discovered that they were going to be having a pre-screening in Minneapolis before the official release, and it was this week! So, last night was that screening.

This film is absolutely phenomenal. It is the story of a Swiss couple who set out to "run the world." Nicole and Serge sold all of their possessions and set out from Switzerland with a Yamaha motorcycle and more grit and determination than anyone you have ever met. Fueled by the desire to raise money for a Swiss charity and the excitement of pushing one's self beyond the limits of human ability, Serge started placing one foot in front of the other in March of 2000. Serge ran while Nicole rode their Yamaha and filmed their amazing adventure.

The couple encounters a myriad of challenges, joys, and sorrows along the 25,000 mile route. They were present in west Africa when the uprising in Sierra Leone was killing hundreds of people every day. They were in Cairo Egypt, among the great pyramids when September 11th went down. Many they encountered in east Asia were lost in the Christmas tsunami a few months after they had tread on the same soil that was devastated by this horrible disaster. The video that the couple shot is masterfully mixed with excerpts from Nicole's journal and interviews from a variety of experts in their particular fields. Malaria, blisters, hunger, depression and many more ailments could not deter this couple from achieving the goal they set our to accomplish.

Rather than giving you a complete recap of the moving and deterring you from getting out to the theater and seeing it for yourself I will simply provide you with some of my thoughts on why this film is a MUST SEE. This film is about far more than an endurance athlete's desire to shatter the ceiling on how far the human body can be pushed. In the midst of dooms day headlines that have people burying their money in their back yards, "Beyond the Epic Run" is a ray of hope that pierces our overcast climate. The love and passion that Serge and Nicole have for one another is not outdone by their desire to help those who are in need. At the core, this film is a love story that will warm your heart and bring a tear to your eye.

Running, like smiling, is a universal language that binds people together without the need for words. As Serge would run through the towns, cities, and villages all over the world he was joined by countless children and men who would run alongside him smiling, laughing, and sweating. Nicole says, "The world is so big when you set out to see it, but so small when you choose to stay at home." The lens of their camera is your eye to see what a wonderful world we live in. The sights, sounds, and smells that make up our world are something that we should all have an opportunity to experience.

We in America sit back and fret about our 401 K's and whether or not we will be able to go on two vacations or three this year, while millions of people who have nothing and are joyous beyond belief. This film will make you re-evaluate what you are doing with your life and resources to affect the rest of the world. Our lives are so short, but can have such an immense impact on those who are hurting and in need. You don't have to run around the world to impact a little piece of the world. Check out "Beyond the Epic Run" and you will not be dissapointed. In fact, I would be willing to wager that it will inspire you to do something that you have wanted to try for a long time. Don't just let life pass you by. Cease each day and make it count. You can do far more than you think you can!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm a sucker...

for kitchen gadgets!

I may have the best stocked kitchen per square foot in Minneapolis. I have enjoyed cooking since the 4th grade and consequently have been amassing kitchen "power tools" and gadgets for a number of years. As a sophomore in college I had a griddle and espresso machine in my dorm room. I have found that the joy of cooking is increased all the more by having the right gadgets and tools. This passed weekend my wife bought me some egg rings that have revolutionized my egg frying. I can fry bacon and eggs in the same pan or on the same griddle without either of them affecting the other. These rings are not complex, but they sure are effective. For all of you who do not like to cook, go out and by a new gadget. Just like those who buy new running shoes to motivate their fitness aspirations, half hearted chefs can jump start their culinary adventures with a simple gadget purchase. Trust me, you won't regret it!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Running with the bulls...

I mean the cars! This is a posting that I have been thinking about for a few weeks now. Whenever it snows here in Minnesota running becomes a real challenge. It is not only challenging because of the reduction in traction, but as a result of the laziness of those who choose not to shovel their sidewalks. The biggest fear that I have while running is that I will be hit by a car. I am sure many of you have been frustrated by runners who seem to be running in the middle of the road. As a runner, I have to say, "RELAX!" Runners are different than bikers in that we are still pedestrians and far more vulnerable than one who sits atop a two wheeled chariot.

How is it that a business can neglect the shoveling of their sidewalk when it is clear that we have received more than a couple inches of snow? Is it not your responsibility to maintain the condition of the sidewalk so that pedestrians have a safe environment to move along? Two weeks ago we received five inches of snow on Friday night. On Monday I plotted out my run so that I would be able to use the sidewalks of business that certainly had ample time to clear their walks. As I turned south on a very busy road I discovered that my assumption was false. The walks for over a half a mile were covered with a combination of deep and packed snow. What is more dangerous, running on the street or trudging on uneven snow that may cause you to break an ankle? I thought the snow was the more dangerous option so I took to the road. Running on the road is nothing new to me, it is just that I do not make a habit of running on extremely busy streets with 45 mph speed limits.

About half of the vehicles that I encounter on the road make a concerted effort to move over so that they do not run the risk of hitting me, but that still leaves a large number of people who act as if they do not see me along the side of the road running straight at them with my LED headlamp shinning through their windshield. To those of you who move over, THANK YOU! For those of you who do not, I often would like to greet you with the third finger on my right hand. To all of you who are too lazy to get out and shovel your walks, either get off of your Lazy-Boys or get out the checkbook and pay some twelve year old kid to clear it for you. You are not only making it difficult for those who are walking/running, but you put their lives at risk.

The next time that you see a runner, or walker, headed towards you and your vehicle, MOVE OVER! Also, please don't stop your vehicles on the cross walk. There are more things that you need to be aware of than if you are clear to go right on red. Just some thoughts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


This past weekend I was the speaker at a high school/middle school retreat in northern Minnesota. It was not only an honor to speak with these students about the Kingdom of God, but to have my family there with me for a little time of retreating. I have taken some time to really think about what a "retreat" is and how much all of us needs to take some time to retreat from our daily lives. Shortly after moving into our cabin, Mattie, our four year old, wondered where the T.V. was in our cabin. This struck me as funny at first, but then saddened me upon further reflection. Our we that into T.V. and technology that we notice when it is not there? I think about myself tonight when I was wanting to type this post, and am shocked by how connected we are to our technology. When my internet does not work I am on the verge of flipping out. How is it that we have become so attached to technology? What would happen if we turned off our cell phones, blackberries, lap tops, T.V.s and the like for one week? One day? What would it mean to really retreat from the madness that is the American life?

As the amount of cell phone towers out numbers towns and as wi-fi hotspots pop up on every corner it is harder and harder to remove technology from our lives. People have moved from daily blogs, to mobile status updates to twittering about their every step and thought. Do we really need to know when Lance Armstrong has lunch or what he has for lunch? Do you care that I just wiped up my children's vomit? American evangelicals cry out to hear the voice of God, but will not take the time to unplug the trendy white ear buds to open their auditory receptors. The noise and light pollution that taints our cities has robbed millions of people of the joy and beauty that is found in the starry night sky that can be viewed only in the wilderness. The silence that can be found in the vacant space of undeveloped wilderness is a priceless treasure that all should have the opportunity to experience.

In this Lenten season I have heard a variety of things that people have chosen to refrain from. My challenge to you is not to give up something, but to embrace something. Find time to retreat. You do not have to drive to Trout Lake Camp to have a weekend retreat, but you do need to unplug. Turn off the cell phone, unplug the computer, and refuse to give into the lure of technology for a period. Be intentional about what you are looking for and go get it. "Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find." Jesus retreated time and time again while he was here on earth so how much more should we be following his lead? It is hard to hear a voice in a crowded room. Take some time to retreat, recharge, and re-encounter our Savior.