Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Final Reflection from Running (for Now)

Okay, so I have been thinking quite a bit lately while running.

On Saturday, I was out running and praying again.

The sun helped to mitigate the snow and biting temperature. Originally, when I set out on the run, I planned to run seven miles. However, after a few miles, a quiet voice suggested to run an additional three miles.

As I neared the rec center, I was really ready for some warmth and thought it probably would be okay to run a few miles on the indoor track. Nope, the voice recommended continuing on the outside journey. So I turned north - directly into the wind - and the voice said it might be better to turn around to get a break from the wind. Not a bad idea!

So I'm running along and then the people that I had been thinking about during the run start popping in around me - not physically, but in spirit.

I was offering encouragement to a friend. Jenn swooped in and reminded me that cold toes weren't that big of deal. We were all there running together - offering each other mutual encouragement. The weird thing was that there was this other person running with us, too. He didn't really say too much. He offered an occasional laugh or comment. But there was something different about this runner - a certain lightness to his step, a certain radiance to his presence

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Reflection from Running

On Sunday, I was reading some more of Dan Miller's book, No More Mondays. I had to laugh when I came across this gem:

There will always be naysayers and whiners; avoid them. Find winners and spend time with them.

On Friday evening, Jenn and I set out for a three mile run in some of the coldest, windiest conditions I have ever experienced out on the pavement. We were running half mile laps in the neighborhood around our house. So every half mile, we were right back by our house - and warmth. As we approached the 1.5 mile mark, my toes were officially icicles. I said that maybe we should head for the warmth of the house. Jenn adamantly replied that we had planned to run three miles and that is what we were going to do. I was a little taken aback by the forcefulness of her reply. Of course, when we approached mile 2, the end seemed in sight. It is amazing the difference that half a mile makes. That is one reason why it is so important to be a part of a team of winners. Winners don't let other people stop early at the 1.5 mile mark just because of some cold toes. Winners encourage each other to perservere through those difficult half miles of life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


In the basement, a plaque hangs on the wall that is engraved with Romans 12:2.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I have had this plaque hanging nearby for the last seven years. I have thought about this verse and the preceding verse on numerous occasions. Eugene Peterson offers this transliteration of Romans 12:1-2 in The Message:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Three Sundays ago, I departed from home for my normal weekly long run. The long run is a time when many thoughts circulate around in my mind. The thoughts often become a jumbled mess with no clear direction or focus. However, as I set out on a chilly run, my thoughts went to a friend experiencing a challenging situation. I found myself asking, "What can I do to help him?" I was a bit surprised to actually hear a response to my question.

The response:


So I prayed:

"Strengthen him.
Encourage him.
Give him peace."

As the miles continued to pass and my mind began to wander, I returned to these three requests and just kept repeating them. Gradually, the run turned into something more. It transformed from a run into a mission. It transformed from my normal, ordinary run into something extraordinary. It transformed the coldness and the fatigue into a gift. Running became an opportunity to surrender the body to God's business.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chili Pepper Lights

Earlier in the week, I took this picture of the Christmas tree in my office but just didn't quite have the words in mind to go with the post. However, after a good work out and shower, the image of a hidden lamp emerged from the depths of a busy day. A hidden lamp is kind of absurd. Lamps provide light in the darkness of the night. It doesn't make much sense to hide a lamp. Yet, in some ways, the red hot chili pepper lights that emblazon this tree were hidden lamps.

These lights hung in the cafe during our days at Saint Joseph's. The lights always made me smile when I entered the cafe. (The smell of bacon wafting through the cafe also made me smile, but I'll save that for another day.) Something about those lights just humored me and grabbed my attention. I didn't hesitate to make this known to others - including the director of the cafe. The director ended up leaving the college. However, before his departure, he gave me these lights. The thrill of receiving the lights still brings a smile to my face. Of course, they proudly hung in our apartment all of senior year. Then, they went into a box for over seven years.

This past Sunday, Jenn and I visited my home church. The message involved light and darkness. My mind wandered a bit to Christmas lights. I decided that my office needed some lights. Later that evening, I went into the garage to get the Christmas lights for the other tree that did not go up this year due to the move. Much to my surprise, the chili pepper lights were situated neatly in the box of lights and ornaments. Unfortunately, when I plugged them in to the socket, they did not light up. Jenn noticed that a wire was actually cut. However, one strand of clear lights also emerged from the box. Furthering my surprise, Jenn and my brother, Troy, promptly sat down on the couch and began moving the chili peppers from one strand to the other. Meanwhile, I was dancing around and acting goofy.

Needless to say, I could barely contain my smile when I carried this tree into work on Monday. A supervisor greeted me with a smile and shaking head. I'm incredibly thankful for the chance to share these lights with others.

I kind of wonder how many other "lights" are hidden and waiting to be shared.

A verse from Mark came to mind as I was thinking about hidden lamps this evening.

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still Excited?

Last night as we were preparing for the Holy Walk, I asked, "After all of these years, is it still okay to be extremely excited for the Holy Walk?"

This year marked the 30th year of the Holy Walk in my home town, Bremen.

The Holy Walk and I were born the same year.

In fact, the first Holy Walk was at my parent's house.

I kind of grew up with it.

This year, though, was different. On Friday evening, Jenn and I packed the car after work and made the trek to Bremen so that we could could go through the Holy Walk before serving as angels on Saturday night. I have longed to go through the Holy Walk for the last several years but never had the chance due to serving as an angel or working with our youth group at the produce tent.

We arrived in Bremen and headed to the school. Last year Jenn and my sister-in-law snuck into a group at the start of the journey. However, this year, I asked if we could start at the school to gain the full experience.

Jenn obliged and we waited for about an hour and a half before catching a ride on a big yellow limousine to Bethlehem. The time, though, went by fast because we talked with a friend from Horizon and enjoyed watching the other people in the gym.

After the bus dropped us off at the site, we met our guide, James, from Caesarea. We were part of a family of 21 members on our way to Bethlehem to pay our taxes. On the hill outside of Bethlehem, we met a couple, Mary and Joseph. Mary was well along in her pregnancy. They were tired and cold.

As we left the couple, we were enshrouded by the darkness of night.

Soon, though, we came across some shepherds watching their sheep and were startled by angels proclaiming great news of a Savior to be born in Bethlehem.

We hurried on our way.

The innkeeper turned away our cold and weary family.

The Roman soldiers harassed us. I got in trouble for smiling too much.

We unsuccessfully tried to barter for rations and bedding in the village.

We paid our taxes.

Then, about 45 minutes into our journey, we found ourselves approaching the light of a lowly stable situated in the darkness of the night. The calmness of the stable contrasted significantly with the craziness of our journey. Even the wild 4th and 5th grade students that were in our family were completely quiet and still.

Some people were with the animals:



and a little baby,


The story has been the same for the last 3o years.

The story has been the same for the last 2000 years.

Yes, it is still a pretty exciting story!