Friday, November 28, 2014

Negative Splits

Yesterday, I ran in the Erie Runners' Club Turkey Trot 5K.  This was either my 4th or 5th time running this race and it's become an annual tradition, as much a part of my Thanksgiving holiday as turkey dinner.  I'm not fleet-footed, as my race times bear out but I enjoy being outdoors and the physical challenge.  And as I tell my running partner Adiel, at least we are out there and not at home on the couch.  Yesterday, I read a quote that presented it better.  It said "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping the people on the couch."

During today's run I was thinking about this (when you run as slow as I do, you have a lot of time to think).  Sure, some of the people lounging at home are lazy, but a number of them have very legitimate reasons for not running.  Health issues, finances, responsibilities, child care.  I was not better than they were for having raced.  Nor were those across the finish line sooner, better than me (though they were better runners, for sure).

The verse "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."  (Hebrews 12:1) came to mind. Though we were all on the same course running the same distance, the race ahead of me was different than the other 3,100 people there and it was God who decided who should do what and when.

My goal is to someday run a 5K in under 40 minutes.  My official time was 44:25.3 I knew at the 2.6 mile mark that I wouldn't make my goal but then my phone app informed that my most recent split times were faster than those earlier in the race.  I was running negative split times; running faster at the end of the race than I had at the beginning!

While training for this race, I was much more intentional.  I followed a particular training schedule and even downloaded music that had the beats per minute that would help me achieve the pace I wanted to meet that sub 40 minute race time. Running negative splits was quite an accomplishment for one of my limited skills and the news encouraged me to put forth the effort to run the rest of the way to the finish line rather than walk.

Negative splits seem to be happening in my spiritual race, as well.  My spiritual pace seems to have picked up, with God blessing me with insight and (dare I say) wisdom. Sometimes the Spirit throws so many nuggets my way I can't catch them all; it's overwhelming. Yet, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the "training days" of my past.  Many of those "training sessions" were very difficult, tortuous in fact.  I slogged through some very difficult situations that taxed me and darn near drained my emotional and spiritual stores.  Many times I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and just living the life I wanted, running my own race on the course of my choosing rather than the one God laid out for me.  To His glory and by His mercy, He didn't let me stray off course and by His grace I kept plodding on.

I believe my spiritual split times have improved because, like my recent training regimen, I'm more intentional about my relationship with God.  Because I've come so close to giving up at times and was given a glimpse of how terrifying that would be, I concentrate on the center of the course, staying away from the edges when I can.

Spiritual training can take many forms - church attendance, meditation, prayer, sacrifice, etc.  But performing these acts doesn't produce any spiritual stamina unless the soul is engaged.  Going to church or Bible study without involvement of your heart and an active faith is like buying running shoes and jogging pants but never going for a jog. You might look like a runner but you'll never make it through a race and when the weather is bad you might not even show up, choosing to stay home on the couch.

I've made it this far because I believe God's promises; promises like "I will never leave you or forsake you.", "He will make your paths straight" and "He will grant you the desires of your heart"; there are hundreds of them.  Some of those promises will be fulfilled along the way while others won't be experienced until the end of the race.  But I keep my eyes opened, looking for those answers, whenever and however they appear.

I don't know if I'll maintain my current pace or what the path ahead looks like; what twists, turns or hills lie ahead.  I don't even know how far along in this race I am!  Fifty-three years?  One hundred and three years (my grandmother made it to 102, so this is entirely possible)?  Regardless, I will continue plodding along on the race God planned for me at the pace He set for me.  The pace He established - sometimes a fast run, other times a slow walk - He established with the intent of my finishing.  He promised. 

 "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."  Philippians 1:6

Monday, November 17, 2014


I come in from the cold
Shivering. My nose and toes
Numb from frigid temperatures.
The sound of the furnace kicking on
Greets me, calling me deeper inside.
My fingers sting; the heat hurts
As my hands begin to thaw.
But the sound of the fan blowing
Warm air reminds me
Comfort lies in the future.
I need only wait.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thou, Oh LORD, are a Shield for Me - Thoughts on Singleness, Part 2

In my lifetime, I’ve been the recipient of a lot of bad advice on being single. Some of the most common:
  1. “When you stop wanting it, it will come.” (If I stop wanting it, when it comes I won't        want it, so why stop wanting it?)
  2. “Be yourself.”  (This one isn’t bad advice.  It’s just that some of the same people who told me this 20 years ago have since told me I should lose weight, be more feminine,  show more cleavage.  So I guess they were really telling me “Be yourself, but change”?)
  3. “Marriage is a lot of work.” (I’ve never shied away from hard work, and I’d like to add being single is a lot of work, too).
  4. My personal favorite, and thus the focus of this post -“God is protecting you.”
From what exactly is God protecting me? The implication is by keeping me single, God is protecting me from a bad relationship and heartache.  But I experience heartache every day and I know many faithful believers who have been in bad relationships.  Has God not been protecting us?

Calamity or lack of is not the best indicator of God’s protection.  Far too many Christians experience tragedy – illness, death of loved ones, persecution and even torture.  Is God not protecting any of these people? Of course He is!

The Word speaks of many examples of God’s protection.  The word “protect” appears over twenty times in the Bible.  Add in the words protection, refuge and fortress and the number is higher than I care to take the time to count.  Suffice it to say – a lot.

That God is protecting me, or any of us, is not in question.  It’s the question that is under review.  I asked “From what is God protecting me?” when I should have asked “What is God protecting?” 

As I was saying the LORD’s Prayer the other day, I was struck by the words “lead me not in to temptation”.  Thousands of times I’ve prayed that prayer and repeated that phrase.  The temptation I was thinking about was along the lines of lying, cheating,  and stealing to name a few.  I was praying I would not succumb to the temptation of impatience, anger, gluttony or vanity.  This time a different temptation came to light “Lord, let me not be tempted to make any one or any thing more important than You.”  Then I understood what exactly God has been protecting; He’s protecting my relationship with Him.

Everything He does (or doesn’t do), everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) to me was carefully designed and planned by God to keep me with Him; to keep me reaching for and relying on Him.  The world is filled with distractions good and bad.  Work, finances, and friendships can all divert my attention from my God, when in fact He wants to be intimately involved in every one of those and more. 

In that oft quoted verse, the Apostle Paul described singleness as a gift.  I haven’t been able to fully wrap my head around that yet.  If it’s a gift then its socks and underwear; singleness is “good for me” like lima beans and Brussels sprouts when what I really wanted was wedding cake.

But I now have a clearer understanding of God’s protection.  Instead of standing behind that invisible wall, looking out at the world and all I’d like to have but can’t, instead of trying to break through that force field I need to turn my back on it and towards my God and embrace Him.  It’s not easy.  It’s really hard.  Yet, the alternative – banging myself against that wall – is exhausting.  And the possibility of living outside is protection is too frightening (a story for another time).   So I will try.  God’s grace has gotten me this far, in spite of myself. And for those times when I screw up, because of Jesus, His new-every-morning mercies are readily available until He leads me home


Sunday, November 09, 2014

It Keeps You Runnin’ – Thoughts on Singleness, Part 1

Since the early 80’s I’ve tried running for exercise.  I love hiking and walking so running seemed a natural progression.  I wanted to run because it would up my fitness level in less time than walking and there were races where I could get great t-shirts.  But where running was concerned, I never hit my stride.

I’m a heavy walker and so I’m also a heavy runner.  Therefore, I doubly felt the impact of every stride.  The jolting waves would begin in my feet, travel up my legs, jostle my insides (rearranging internal organs in the process), move up through my shoulders, to my head and abruptly stop.  The resulting headaches and other pains were manageable.  It was the discombobulation that I found most uncomfortable.  After a run I was disoriented and my insides felt like jiggly jello.  For those reasons, my attempts at becoming a runner would stop.  A year might go by and I’d try again for a month or two with the same results and so I gave up the sport.

A few years ago, my walking partner, Adiel asked me if I’d consider training with her for a 5K fundraiser for a local crisis pregnancy center.  Though I still didn’t like running I agreed,  just to be a supportive friend.  During our training, my insides still felt as though they’d gone twelve rounds with Mohammed Ali, but for Adiel’s sake I continued training and on race day, I finished my first 5K – dead last, but I finished.  And somewhere in all that training I stopped feeling the impact of every step.  Somewhere along the trail my body adapted to the jolts. I now run semi-regularly and have completed a number of 5K races.  I have the T-shirts to prove it!

Quite often, my days feel like those early attempts at running.  I feel the impact of the world strike my heart.  There’s crime, politics, world affairs, work squabbles.  I wield my armor of God and dodge sin’s swipes at my soul. But Satan knows my Achilles heel - my marital status – and routinely wages his attack.  A coworker gets flowers from her lover.  Another shows pictures of her new grandchild.   All these strikes hit me at my weakest spot. And Facebook is downright excruciating with announcements of engagements, births, and romantic vacations.  Work and other responsibilities offer some distraction, but by week’s end I’m battered and bruised and in need of some R&R.

The place where I should naturally be able to lay down my armor and be refreshed would be at church but that has not been the case.  Let me say that I go to a wonderful church with godly teaching and leadership. The people there love Jesus and love me – in that order (very important).  But church is where what I want (and lack), marriage and children are fully on display.

Going to church is like walking a gauntlet. I am always taking glancing blows at my most tender spot.  I turn my head and see a couple holding hands during prayer – WHACK.  A husband puts his arm around his wife’s shoulder – BAM.  A baby cries – WHAM.  Pastor says during his sermon “you might want to discuss this sermon as a family at lunch today”– KAPOW.

Sunday after Sunday I either steel myself for the next punch or I take every hit and cry throughout the service.  Weary from doing battle all week, it’s usually the latter. Conventional wisdom would ask if I’m that upset and hurt at this church, why not go to another? Or why go to church at all?  Good question… with a good answer.

For one thing, there are married people and kids and family life at other churches.  There’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have the same problem elsewhere.  And I can’t be sure a new congregation would be as patience with my emotionality as my current one.  Next, when I joined this church I made a commitment to those people, and they made a commitment to me, as well.  No one intentionally hurts me.  People are living their normal, God-given lives and I’m just getting jostled in the crowd, the bruises on my soul invisible.

I don’t go to church because it looks pretty, has good music or suits my learning style (yes, that was a swipe at Donald Miller). I go to church, in spite of my pain, to worship God.  I go to church, in spite of my pain, because He commanded it. I go because I truly believe He blesses worshipers with some imperceptible change during the service.  I go because I believe some day He’s going to do some really big thing and I don’t want to miss it!

All this said, during today’s service J & M still held hands. R put his arm around his wife’s shoulders.  Babies cried (and there were more than usual in attendance).  During his sermon, Pastor used the words husband, wife, children, and family all within seconds…and the sermon wasn’t even about family!   Yet, throughout I never felt a single hit.  Not once!  I never felt the need to brace myself for an impending blow and I didn’t shed a tear.

Just as I no longer feel the pounding of the pavement when I run, maybe those imperceptible changes from all those worship services have added up and I will no longer feel the attacks on my heart. Granted, it’s only been one week.  During a particularly challenging run on Friday, though  didn’t feel the jostling of old, my feet really hurt; they’d taken a beating.  Future worship services may be similar. I don’t know.

But I do know that I plan on completing the race God has set before me.  I may complete it having never been married.  Whatever my marital state when I cross the finish line, I will receive the prize.  Jesus s will be waiting there for me.  And He will be holding a t-shirt that says “Well Done Good & Faithful Servant”.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Battle Cry

The battle belongs to the LORD.

Be strong and courageous.

Put on the full armor of God.

Shield of faith.
Sword of the Spirit.
Helmet of salvation.
Belt of truth.
Shoes of peace.
Breastplate of righteousness.

I'm trying.
But my fighting skills are poor
and my armor doesn't seem to fit my frame well.
It chafes.

I'm battle weary
and in need of some R&R.

Drink Offering

This page is my drink offering.
Words flow like tears upon the page.
My heart bleeds in ink and pixels.

I am an empty vessel   laid upon your altar.
Will the steam from my blood sweat and tears
Rise up to You as an acceptable offering?

The Lantern

On the basement shelf sits an old kerosene lantern,
The finish touched only by time.
The globe is covered by dust, collected in it’s curves.
And rust is beginning to mar the base’s seams and edges.

Cobwebs hang in the corners of the shelf
And dust that’s landed evenly over the surfaces
Show no activity here for a long time.
No fingerprints or scrapes in the layers

This lamp was placed there long ago
With dreams of adventures and trips to come
But newer models came along
Lighter, sleeker, easier to use, brighter.

Its charred mantle gives evidence
Of having once been lit,
That once it brought forth a soft glow;
But it sits forgotten and replaced.

There’s still fuel to be burned
Still able to provide warmth and light someone’s way
It waits expectantly,

Ready for a match.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


It’s harder for old, broken hearts.
Antiques are worn, weathered, fragile;
And parts are harder to find.

Care must be taken when handling.
Only skilled craftsmen should even try,
But they’re rare and in short supply.

None appreciate their character,
Their strength or soft lines,
The beauty of their intentional design.

There’s still useful  life remaining!
Love untapped!  Waiting to be
Wanted.  Desired.

Needing only minor repairs,
Hidden fortunes sit overlooked!

Wondering. Dreaming. Hoping