"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back in the Saddle - Finally!

After two looooonnngg months (sixty-three days, 7 hours and 41 minutes to be precise), consistent training runs have commenced. In a like way, a blog post draught of over three weeks will end today. For both, it's been the longest interruption in almost four years--it has not been fun.

What started with a tweaked knee in West Virginia, was followed by a mid-summer, mid-semester load of reading, writing papers, and on-site residency. Throw in a few recreational runs here and there,  primarily to test the knee, when along comes move-in day at Auburn and the resulting back pain due to setting up a college sophomore daughter's third floor dorm room, without the assistance of working elevators no less. Key words - daughter (yes, it makes a huge difference), third floor, and no working elevators.

But it's all good. Classwork is momentarily lighter, knees and back seem fine, and the late summer / early fall weather is upon us. Plus, as they often say, injuries and rest can sometimes lead to better performance down the road. So, here's to better performance and to heading on down the road ... one foot strike at a time.

Here we go. Giddy-up.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Beach: Only Two Reasons I Go

This summer has been a blur of pick-ups and drop-offs. From school, to school, from camp, to camp, and, literally, from one camp to another camp!  Throw in the college tours and it becomes painfully clear that we have spent a good bit of time on the road for these little pony express “vacations.”

This past week we decided to take advantage of yet another of these pick-up appointments. Our youngest spent a wonderful week at the beach with a close friend. However, due to a schedule conflict (yep, volleyball practice), she had to return to Winston-Salem a few days before her friend. So the most reasonable option was for us to drive down on Wednesday, spend the night at the beach, celebrate our anniversary and return on Thursday. It’s not that far, and given that the beach is my wife’s happy place, it seemed like the perfect date.

Notice, “my wife’s happy place.” See, you might ask me if the water was warm, to which I would reply, “I don’t know.” You might ask if the sand was clean, and to that, “I’m not sure.” In fact, my goal at the beach is to avoid the sand at all costs. And to the water, I look to the fact that my daughter was stung by a jellyfish and was ordered back to the beach after spotting a four foot shark--enough said!

Now you might be wondering why it would seem like the perfect date? Two reasons. First, and again I’ll say, it is my wife’s happy place. She loves it, so I love going with her. Second, and you knew I would get around to it, running along the coast is outstanding. Flat, straight roads with so little traffic in the morning, make for some of the best routes. I also actually enjoy the heat and humidity; good training weather.

So, on Thursday morning, Christy hit the beach, picked up some shells and waded in the “shark infested waters” along her walk. As she totally enjoyed this time to herself, I laced up the Brooks and headed out Ocean Blvd. Morning greetings to my running kin, a little breeze blowing through the breaks in the oceanfront condos, and a return back up highway 17. Best of all, my knees did really well. Six miles and I felt reborn and ready to go. Best run in several months. I absolutely LOVE the beach--just not the actual beach!

Back at the hotel, we sat on the balcony and shared our adventures, while spending some quality time together, before ......

...... it was time to pickup our daughter and drive back to Winston. Although this particular pickup trip was by far the most relaxing to date. Next week, it’s back to Auburn.

Oh, and it was definitely a perfect date. Happy 23rd and here’s to 23 more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Sower - A Painted Parable

    “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt 13:3-8)
    “Hear then the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matt 13:18-23)

    In the chapel at Gordon Conwell Seminary is a painted fresco, by NC artist Gerald Steinmeyer. A large work--approximately 17' x 20'--that depicts the parable of the sower in a very powerful way. The seed falls along the various soils while different individuals represent the ones that rejected, fell way, proved unfruitful and grew in the message of Christ. The faces of each give much to consider, as does the "evil one" scurrying way down the path, as referenced in 13:19. There is nothing like viewing in person, but hopefully the image below provides a sense of what a great creation this fresco is, and what a great passage it portrays.
    (click on for larger view)


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“Rejoicing to Run His Course” - Psalm 19

In week #2 of Run for God each year, we take a look at the various references to running that are found throughout Scripture. Most word searches yield a total of 105 +/-, depending on the translation utilized for the non-physical acts of running; i.e., “rivers run,” “oil running down the beard,” “run through with a sword.” And of these 105 usages, approximately 75% of the references actually speak to running in the sense of moving from point to point at a pace faster than walking.  So, unless we have those 80 verses memorized, it’s no surprise that we ‘run’ across one from time to time that we had not considered prior. I did that today.

Psalm 19 is a hymn of David’s that speaks to God’s creation as giving witness to God without words or voices. The first verse is more familiar to us than the remainder of the chapter, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands” - Psalm 19:1. But as I spent some time in these 14 verses, I came away with another “favorite” verse that will most definitely make its way to RFG IV next spring.

In verses 4-6, David speaks of the sun. God has made it a heavenly tent (the nighttime hours), but each morning the sun comes bursting out of that tent like a bridegroom heading to the altar to meet his bride. And the way that the sun makes its circuit across the sky each day is like a champion, or a runner, “rejoicing to run his course.” He runs from one end of the route to the other, while shining its light and its heat on all.  WOW! That’s pretty good stuff. David was quite a poet, huh?

As a runner, I often feel like this coming out of the starting gate. Released to meet the course, with the enthusiasm of one rushing to meet his love (of course, sometimes I should probably not rush out with quite as much enthusiasm, but you get the point). Rejoicing along the route, running steadfast from start to finish. Maybe that’s a bit of the runner’s high, and my view of race day is certainly biased, but I am hopeful that everyone finds a similar joy in running, while finding God’s glory in His creation.

Psalm 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat7 The law of the LORDis perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Uh-Oh ... I Might "Kneed" More Recovery!

A funny thing happened on my first post-race run. The pain in my left knee, which during the race was on the outside of the knee--I really thought it was IT Band--moved to the inside of the knee and I have no clue what it is. What I do know is that it has been just over two weeks since Hatfield-McCoy and I had hoped to be back into the training plan for the fall starting today.

The bright side is that I have now had three sessions of aqua jogging to maintain some semblance of running shape. If you haven't tried this, it's really a pretty good exercise, albeit even more boring than a treadmill. Simply grab one of those swim belts, buckle around the waist, jump in and start running. You'll be surprised that your running motion can actually propel you forward in pool. You will definitely not be moving at Michael Phelps-like pace, but keep turning those legs over and you might just cover half a pool length in less than two minutes! Oh, and half the pool, especially at the Y, as it sort of defeats the purpose when you can touch the bottom. So you turn around and head back to the deep end. Keep that up for 30-45 minutes and you'll feel it the next day--in the muscles, but not at all in the knees. It's a great "no-impact" exercise.

Ok, so we'll see what happens. I do sort of think stress fracture, and if that's the case, I'll probably need about three-to-four more weeks. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. The worst part is the training plan for Indy. It's likely that I will need to pull away from any thoughts of BQ if I can't get at speed work soon, but you just never know. Of course, if I don't push away from the training table a little more, I can forget about BQ this year anyway.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“Surviving the Feud!" Hatfield-McCoy Marathon Recap

It took all of about 3 minutes to decide that I was ‘all in’ for the Hatfield-McCoy Marathon, when I happened across it back in April. I can’t recall where exactly I saw the article, but since this 50 state bucket list deal is about the experience, there was no way I would miss this opportunity. And I am so glad that we made it work.

Swinging Bridge - Mile 20 +/-
Just over four hours away, in a sleepy little state line town of South Williamson, WV, stands the finish to one of the more beautiful and most difficult courses that I have run. Beginning in Belfry, KY, the course climbs over Blackberry Mountain, moves along famous “feudin’ sites” (yes, there are famous ones), across a swinging bridge and through various hollers and farms.

Swag - Mason Jars and Feud Theme
Of course, the feud history is part of the fun, which includes a real live Hatfield as the race director, and a fine director at that. One of the nicest, most sincere directors that you will come across. The communities have worked hard to fill aid stations practically every mile and create a warm and friendly packet pick-up event that is top notch. Mason jars to every finisher and a “No Feudin’, Just Runnin’ themed shirt and medal. And yes, the shotgun start guys are probably the most photographed starters in all of marathoning (see above - we got them later around the finish line).

A list of highlights and key thoughts:

* Christy and I drove up on Friday, ran Saturday and made it back for a high school graduation that evening. The drive was pretty and it was nice to have a Saturday morning race for a change. Having Christy run the 5k that morning was exciting as well. We had a great time together.

50 State Club Reunion
* By chance, the HMM was a 50 state marathon club reunion race--they do a couple a year. It was also my first race sent meeting the criteria for joining the club (you have to complete 10 states first). What a great couple of hours on Friday afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed the introductions and discussions. Informational and inspirational. Loved it (even Christy enjoyed the time at the meeting). Oh, and because it started in KY and ended in WV, I can choose which state to count. I’m going with WV since there are some other good KY races down the road and I’m not sure the courses in WV get any flatter!

* Speaking of flat ... The elevation chart is crazy. You can certainly see Blackberry, but even beyond that, those hills rolled, and kept rolling. There was a bit of flat in the first few miles, then again near half, and finally for the last few miles, which was nice.

Mountain Highway - All to Runners! 
* Because you really are out in nowhere, the nice four lane highway, and even the country roads, felt like they were closed down for runners. Eventually, traffic picked up on the mountain roads and you had to watch it, but most cars knew what was going on and took it slow.

* What a difference a conversation can make! I have experienced this before, but it really is amazing how much a little encouragement from others, and a little talk to take your mind off the pain, can actually help. For most of the last half, I was definitely running on a flat tire (knee pain - not sure?). So I would run a few minutes at pace, then shuffle / race walk for a few seconds, then run at pace, then ... you get the picture. After passing one another back and forth over about 8 miles, a young lady from Charlotte finally asked if we might could push each other for the last 2 miles--what a great idea. So the earphones came out and we started to talk about training, and races, and all things running. Before we knew it, the finish line was in site and the push had kept us going. It’s that camaraderie deal that’s pretty unique to runners. I really appreciated it. Congrats Karla on a new PR and best to you in Chicago.
Foggy Mountain Morning - Beautiful Run

Well, the goal for Hatfield-McCoy was survival, and survive I did. I wore a sleeve for the knee, just in case, and really lathered it up with some bio-freeze. I actually think speed work from the past few weeks was just a bit much, but I’ll be good in a few more weeks of rest. Anyway, the knee held to at least halfway and then it was just a matter of gutting it out. Coming in around 4:45 was only slightly worse than what I had projected, but it wasn’t about clock time on this one. See, there’s a reason that most marathons don’t run in June, and a why most don’t go over the KY-WV mountains. But with the scenery, the people, and the all out fun of HMM, maybe more of them should. Besides, they said we could take as long as we wanted, but to be careful after dark, cuz that’s when the shootin’ would start ...

Next up: Indianapolis Monumental on November 1st with our good buddy, the Kentucky Keflezighi - Paul Brantley. And we will be looking to go flat and fast in Indy! See you then.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Recommended Resource

As evidence to the critical eye that I am applying to the following recommendation, let me provide a little perspective.

I am now a couple of semesters into my seminary career. I am loving every minute of it, and that includes the number of papers, a handful of exams, and some 25 completed books--officially 5,433 pages--not that I am keeping count or anything (well, actually I am, it's a requirement).

For the most part, all of these books have been really fascinating. I can honestly say that I have learned more about theological research, pastoral counseling models, spiritual disciplines and many other similar subjects, than I could have ever imagined. Ninety-five percent of these books have been page-turners. I promise.

That said, if you asked me which single work thus far has been the favorite, it is without doubt a book that I am currently using for New Testament Survey. The title is The New Testament in Antiquity, and it was written by Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick and Gene Green (470 pages). There are chapters on each of the NT books, plus dedicated chapters on Studying the NT, The Historical Setting of the NT, The World of Jesus, The Mediterranean World of the Apostle Paul, The Story of Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus, and Sources for the Story of Jesus.

What makes this book so interesting is that these are not simply commentaries on the books of the New Testament. Rather, they are in-depth looks at the historical context, the literary form and structure of the book, the authorship and date. Filled with hundreds of photographs, maps, and added details that make the New Testament come alive. It's almost as if I am reading it for the first time.

And yes, the story of salvation is still the same, but our understanding of context is so critical to our understanding in general. We, or at least I, speaking for myself, have missed so much of what Jesus meant when he said .... or why Paul would have written ...  or even how cultural norms would have been impacted the idea of ... it's incredible.

So, once I'm done, you are free to take a look. Or if you happen to find this textbook at a good price (or even at the regular price of $49) out there, it is definitely worth the investment. Enjoy.