Friday, December 7, 2012

Balance in Life and Running

Today I'm headed to Rehoboth Beach for the Marathon.  As I sat and reviewed my running for the past three months coming into this race, I feel good.  Everything was balanced for a change.  Work schedule, family life, running time and most important, time for my spiritual life; it all seemed so right for me.  I don't have a time goal or any expectation other than finishing the distance.  But given the balance that has been in my life, I am hopeful that it will all pay off as I take to the starting line tomorrow.

Stay tune, result will be posted...some time after tomorrow.  God Bless!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Making Commitments

I know it isn't not January 1, but then I'm not making a New Years Commitment.  After all most New Years Commitments are over by the 2nd of January.  I know...I've made many of them.  But over the years, I've learned that making a Commitment is about dedicating yourself to the truth of who you are and working at it daily.  I've also learned much about "Grace" in the process.  After all, we love baseball players who have batting averages over .300.  In other words, we like people who try and may only get it right 30% of the time...but I think its not the getting it right that we like...but the fact is they keep trying.

So...I'm going to keep on trying...and to help the process...I'm going to make it public...or as public as this Blog page.  My intent is to run a marathon in all 50 States by 2015...and I get to count the ones all ready done.  So I'm currently standing at 8 states, VA, PA, MD, MS, LA, TX, OH, and CA.  Can't count DC because its not a State.  So I'll pick up Deleware in December, that gets me to 9 States.  So from 2013 to 2015, I'm making the commitment to do 41 marathons in 36 months.  Okay...I guess its time to pull out the map book and the racing calendar and try to figure out how to make this all happen.  Oh and for you who are also interested...there is actually a club for this...50 States Marathon Club.  I know its an original name...but you have to have completed 10 states before joining.  Here is their link http://www.50statesmarathonclub.com/.  No I don't know if there is a cure for this kind of illness, but I'll keep running until they figure out how to cure it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Best Month of Running in 10 no 12 years

October 2012 is in the books, and for me it was the best month of running I've had since 2000.  What made such a solid month for me was the consistence of those runs.  In the past few months and year, I would have a good week or two in a row, then a few bad weeks.  When I look over the logs, I also noticed an increase in injuries because I tried to make up for the bad weeks by over running the following week.  So the difference was just being consistent and running 5 to 6 times a week, even if it was just a short mile run.  So this month was basicly four weeks of solid running of 5 or 6 days of running even if it was a short run.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mother

"But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, [518] let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Mt. 22:30)." - John Calvin

On th 8th of August 2012 at 9:01, I walked in the the large and empty Anderson Auditorium at Montreat Conference Center with my wife.  I walked back to the pew in the middle of the auditorium where 38 years before at this very hour on this very day my life changed and I shared the story of the moment with her.  And there in that darken auditorium the days from those years so long ago seemed so close and real to me.

On the 8th of August 1974 at 9:01, Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, began "Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office, where so many decisions have been made that shaped the history of this Nation. Each time I have done so to discuss with you some matter that I believe affected the national interest..."

At the end of the speech, the youth conference leader stood before the group of over 1,000 youth and read, "...then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the alter with a pair of tongs.  The Seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"  And I said, "Here am I; send me!"

In those last few words my life goals changed.  As I walked out the auditorium that night 38 years before all I knew was that I wanted to serve God with all my life.  The conference had been life alterning in so many ways.  At this I realized who I was and who I was going to be, had all been nurtured in me by my "mother."  The church was my mother.  The Presbyterian Church who had raised my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents back centuries had now given birth to me.  It had given me nurture and faith in Christ.  And it was something that was bonded to me forever.

That following week in 1974, I walked into my parents bedroom one morning around 10 and found my mother seated in a rocking chair reading her Bible and devotional.  As she looked up she asked me to come sit beside her.  As we sat there in the room, I shared what I had experienced and I thought I was going to be a minister.  Her response to me was that it was going to be a hard life, but if that was where I was to go, she and Dad would support me.  Those words were the only words of affirmation that I needed.

My mother who had given birth to me, who nurtured me, and helped me grow into the young man I was becoming, believed in me enough to let me walk where and when I needed to go.  Now 38 years latter, I am who I am because of her nuture and love.  And I am who I am becuase of the nuture and love of hundreds, if not thousands of fellow Presbyterians and Christians.

John Calvin was right to say that the Church is our mother.  It is in her walls and rooms, that we find support and hope to live our lives.  Yes, many times I have been anger at her and disagreed with her.  But we are family and you don't walk away from family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remnant

Remnant...it is not much...just enough that allows something wonderful to happen. Residue...it is not much...just enough to change the appearance, giving it something more. Reminder...it’s not much...just enough to make you remember.

One of my favorite stories from the Bible has always been the one about the Prophet Elijah who goes out into the desert fleeing for his life. He goes out there, sits under a "solitary broom tree," ready to die. Then God sends him to Horeb the mount of God and he spend his time in a cave still bemoaning his situation. When God ask him what he is doing there he answers "I alone am left, and they are seeking my life to take it away. Poor God, apparently He is down to only Elijah as a faithful believer. Sad God, it really looks like everything is turning against him. Just like in that movie "Elf." His belief meter is about to peg out on the side of empty. And what is worse...God unlike Santa Claus in Elf...has no jet engines to propel Him forward.

There in this cave is the only man who thinks he is the final remnant of faith left in God. He is the only one left with any residue of faith.

And God tells him to go stand in front of the cave. And then there is an earthquake, a strong wind and a fire and in each of these things Elijah sees there that the Lord is not in any of these things. Then in the silence that follows he wrapped his face in his mantle. Then the question comes again..."Why are you here?"

Elijah thinking that God is hard of hearing again answers...that he only is there for God. He is the only one left.

I love what happens next. God gives Elijah a laundry list of things to do...basically telling him to get his stuff in order because Elijah doesn't get it. Then at the end of the “to do list”...God tells Elijah why.

18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Harper Bibles (2011-11-22). NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Kindle Locations 14774-14775). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

In other words...Elijah...Don...any individual who thinks they are the last true remnant of God, members of the PCUSA church...any church out there..."God is in charge." End of story. God rules...now get your sorry tail out there and do the work.

The church will always be a remnant. A small group of people...but it will never come down to one person on their own. There will be others...small in number who will do what God wants us to do. So if the policy of a church changes...big deal...God's word hasn't changed. So just keep doing what God told you to do.

Yes, I was one of those who thought I would have to leave the church because I don't agree with the removal of the moral policy...but...then again. God is in charge. Maybe, I should start listening to God and start looking for what God is doing in the midst of all this.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What is the Church?

Back in May 2011, I was interviewed for my new job. At the interview, I heard that the Presbyterian Church (USA) which is my Church finally had the last presbytery voted to remove the moral clause from the Book of Church Order. At first I felt hurt and offended. The argument was that each presbytery had the responsibility to determine for itself the moral character of its own members. It was a backdoor opening for homosexual ministers to be legally included on roles of presbyteries, and everyone knew exactly what it meant. Now nearly a year after the vote there have been a steady stream of local churches leaving the denomination...including the one that nurtured me over my high school years. It has been a sad and disappointing process. It has left me trying to understand once again what the Church is and what it is not. And it has driven me back to my roots as a Presbyterian and a Calvinist.

Over the past year, part of me debated the idea of leaving the denomination as others have done. But every time I gave real consideration, I kept hearing the voice of my father. Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's my father served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Southern Mississippi. It was the battle ground, and a very bloody battle ground for the Southern Presbyterians as they debated reunion with the Northern Presbyterians. Many churches in the southern part of the state left the denomination to help create the Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denominations. My father was knee deep in the fight as congregations and families were ripped apart. And several times over those years I accompanied him on his trips to visit these warring churches.

I remember one time driving home after a church meeting, there were tears in his eyes, and he said to me. "We never leave the body of Christ...we might get kicked out but we never leave Him." As we talked about this on our drive home, he shared his very strong belief that the Church was always a remnant. Going back to Israel and the prophets, God always kept his chosen few, faithfully plowing, and always doing His work. He also expressed the idea that we are called to work for reunion and reconciliation; the moment we decided to divide ourselves from our roots, we were creating division inside of our own very being.

As I have reflected on this and other conversations that I had with my father. I am convinced that I have no choice but to remain a minister of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I may disagree with stands the Church may take, but it is Christ's Body and it is my "mother." I will not walk away and I will keep faith. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to reflect a little more on this subject, not because anyone really wants to hear what I have to say, but because I have something to say...and I have to say it.

To my beloved little Presbyterian church that left the denomination...you will always be in my heart, but I without a doubt believe you have simply made a wrong turn... I pray one day you will be able to return again home to your family.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Leaves of Gold...Almost Forgotton

I am preparing once again to move, and I have started the traditional process of throwing stuff away. In about 3 weeks, we will be moving to Georgetown in Washington, DC...and the house we are moving into is smaller than our current home. So...my thinking is...let's get ready of the stuff we don't need and haven't used in several years. Easy process, but I almost made a huge mistake.

Last year my mother gave me several of my father's old books...some I've looked at and used, others I've passed on to individuals who might benefit from them...and some of the really old ones that are damaged and in bad condition I've actually thrown out.

Just about an hour ago, I was going through the old books again. I came across an old book entitled "Leaves of Gold." I flipped through the pages...and it a collection of old prayers, poems and inspirational stories, but nothing I felt was worthy of keeping. As I walked to the trash can to throw it out, I flipped to the front page. Written on the page was "Presented to Maggie and John, October 25, 1950 on their Golden Wedding Anniversary" signed by Pearl L. Walker.

I recognized the Maggie and John as my father's parents and this was one of the gifts presented to them at their 50th Anniversary. But the real value was on the opposing page on the left side. There was a list of signatures...signatures of family members who were present for the celebration. As I looked through the signatures, there were several uncles, aunts and other family members most of them now gone from this life. As I looked through them...there was my father and mother' signatures.

The book means little to me...but, the signature page...priceless.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Midnight on South Mountain (Part III: The Finish)


Finish!  The last few strides and the passing of the slap bracelet and it was over.  I found myself fighting for air, but my part was done.

A few weeks ago as I lay in bed talking with my wife, she turned to me and told me that she was proud of me and how she thought I was so successful.  I responded…no sorry, but I’ve failed so many times and in so many ways, I couldn’t be that successful.  I then shared that it was like the Pittsburgh Steelers.  They might win this game and that game…but then they might lose the next.  They won the Super Bowl only to lose another…so success was too fleeting of a term.  I’d rather be known for what I was doing, rather than what I did.  I would rather be a good husband, good father, good chaplain, or good runner.  And I would rather leave the word “success” for someone to mention of me after I finish my life.

This last remembrance of the Ragnar race of September 23 and 24, 2011, has been difficult for me to write.  Difficult simply because it is about the “finish” so let me continue.

When I originally signed up for the race, my three legs were the combination of a 6 mile run, then a 6.6 mile run and a final leg of 6 miles.  But the race like life changed and changed without my permission.  Due to parking issues, the race organizers moved the relay zone to an elementary school were there was parking.  So they shifted my last leg about 2.8 miles in the wrong direction.  About two weeks before the race I had learned that my final leg was to be a 8.8 miles section of Rock Creek Park and the Georgetown Branch Trail into Bethesda, Maryland.

As I ran the last section, I could feel the accumulative effect of the sleep deprivation that I had imposed upon my body.  Having only 3 hours of sleep in the last 24 hours, and that little sleep delivered while lying on a bench seat of a van, did very little to aid my body in recovering.  My left knee was still sore from the first leg, my body ached from the excretion over South Mountain, and my mind was now numbed by the lack of sleep.  To be honest, I was even more aware that now in this last section, I would end up walking and crawling to the finish.  As I stood once again at the relay zone, my team mate gathered around.  All expressed to me a confidence in me that I knew I lacked.  As I took the slap bracelet, my simple prayer was “Lord, don’t let me let them down.”

As I headed away from the starting line, I saw Lt Colonel David Vernal.  His leg still bloody from his first leg fall, but he had run so heroically despite the bruised foot and knee. I couldn’t let him down.  And so I pushed on.  As I turned into Rock Creek Park I thought about Jason Dugan, our speedster…he had run his three legs hard and fast.  He had such an easy stride and was a last minute replacement to help out our team.  I couldn’t let him down.  As I ran through the park along the trail up and down the little rises, I thought of Captain Mary Garavelli, she had been handed the hardest of the legs, the monster 3rd leg that was the first major mountain climb.  We had cheered her every step as she climbed the first mountain of the race.  And at the top, she was just bouncing with energy…I couldn’t let her down.   As I ran up and onto the Georgetown Branch Trail, I could feel my body going…and I thought of Captain Michael Johnson, who at the last leg fell asleep right before his leg and we had to go find him to get him to the starting line.  We then watched him fly like he had jet wings to make up the time he lost and gained back several extra minutes, I couldn’t let that sacrifice he made go for not, so I pushed on.   As I ran along the Georgetown path, which was an old train line, I realized that this was going to be a lot tougher than I imagined.  But Ken Myers didn’t let down on his first, second or last leg.  He had pushed it into me every time he made his hand off of the bracelet to me and I couldn’t let him down and so I pushed.  About this time I started to pass slower runners who now were falling apart.  They were walking and stopping to stretch.  These were team that had been beating us…I couldn’t fail my team.  I thought of those in the other van, Captain Brian Viola and his wife Cynthia, who I had been handing off to, Master Sergeant Tom Harmon, Master Sergeant Cozette Teasley, and our team captain, Senior Master Sergeant Jorge Laurel, and our anchor runner Captain Markenson Dieujuste. They had been there cheering me on…and now I had to run.  As I left the trail heading the last mile uphill into Bethesda I pushed…I only had one mile left to run.  And if I had too, I would lay it all out here on this hill and die, I would not be passed, and I would finish…no so much for me but for them.  I would run for them who had kept faith with me and did their best.

As I finished my leg and passed the slap bracelet on to Mrs. Viola, it hit me…we weren’t home yet.  There was still the other van of six runners who had to finish.  So our six runners left and headed for the finish line in DC Harbor.  Around three, the other van came in and we gathered together about 300 yards from the finish line and we waited for Captain Markenson Dieujuste to arrive.  On his arrival we all joined him that last 300 yards and together we all finished the race.

After the team received our finisher medal and had a group picture taken, we went to a pavilion were there was pizza and beer for the finishers.  As we sat around a table we talked about our adventure and the twist and turns that come our way.  We shared the pizza and beer.  As we celebrated the end, it was heaven to me.

Heaven, because in my theology, and in the practice of my faith…it was heaven.  I honestly believe that when this life is done and my final race has been run, I will gather together with others who have been a part of my life and we will sit around a table, stand behind chairs, we will slap each other on the back and high five each one another.  We will share stories of the road and will celebrate life.  And Jesus, will be there and he will take a piece of pizza and hand it to us and say this is my body, and then he will take up a cup of beer and hand it to us and say drink this is my blood.  And we'll celebrate…

So…am I successful…today…tomorrow…I might lose, but in the end…I guess it doesn’t really matter because it is the journey….  It’s the journey that’s the important part.  (Oh…by the way…last leg, 8.8 miles was done in 1 hour 18 minutes and 18 seconds…which is a 8:55 per mile pace, I never did those 9:45 mile legs that I had plan on doing.)