Running: Greater Cause, Higher Purpose

my fascination for running began in high school. as a freshman, i was persuaded by friends to join the cross-country team. everyday after school, we would lace up our shoes and hit the streets, running anywhere between 2 and 6 miles, depending on what our coach had planned for us on that day. i remember completing a 6 mile run back then, and feeling like i had conquered the world.

as i got older and moved on from organized school sports, i always seemed to go back to running as my main source of exercise. the distances may have varied, as did the rewards afterward, (if you're really curious about the rewards, ask me about it sometime) but the motion itself stayed the same...one step at a time.

like i said, running is a fascination, but certainly not a love. quite often, i find it a chore to run...to train. the one thing that seems to keep my legs moving is the desire to accomplish a goal that i've set for myself. last year, as i was training for my first marathon, it was very difficult to wake up before 5:00am and run. nothing about me wanted to leave the comfort of my cozy bed for the humid mornings and stray dogs that the dark streets had to offer. i got up and ran in the morning for one reason, to accomplish that goal...to cross the finish line after 26.2 miles.

so, last year on november 15th, i crossed the finish line...i got a medal placed around my neck...i ran a marathon. when asked immediately afterward if i'd ever do it again, my quick response was "absolutely not". well, apparently time makes for cloudy memories. sure, i will remember the pain my body felt, and my mental strength running on fumes as i ran the last miles, but i've witnessed something else since then...i went to africa and saw starving, diseased, dying children without electricity, heat, or running water...and i now realize that a few hours of suffering on my part is nothing compared to the constant despair that they call everyday life. if by me running a few painful miles helps make a difference, it gives each of those aches and pains a purpose far greater than any medal could show.

true, there is much to do, but i believe there is something i can do, one step at a time.

want to help, click here and donate, or sign up and run with me.

click here for a video.


Thoughs on What Matters More

I recently watched this video (click here) which was linked from the Amplify Facebook Fan Page (click here). Yes, while the Facebook post did ask for our thoughts on the song, what followed was not much more than some Christians debating with each other over the musical content, the use of the word “shit” in the lyrics, and some thoughts on homosexuality. Perhaps that did satisfy the question at hand, and their thoughts that stirred from the song….but it didn’t satisfy mine. I woke up in the middle of the night with thoughts swirling around in my head about this song, and what I feel the true meaning is. Here are the thoughts that I wrote down on my phone at 3am. And remember, wherever there is a “we”, the “me” is most definitely implied.

Loving thoughts and great intentions are worthless unless they lead to action. Debating is over-rated, because while details are being fought over, the point of the Gospel is being neglected. Go out and do (Matthew 28:19), there is no room for debate over that. While points are being pushed and thoughts are being revealed over the artists’ use of the word “shit”, and the music resembling that of ‘The Postal Service’, 50,000 are dying. Isn’t that the real point!? This song wasn’t written so Christians could sit around in their little circles and talk about the meaning of it all, meanwhile, the rest of the world continues on just as it is. Isn’t this song a call for us to collectively put our money where our mouths are, and go out and tell others about Jesus (when is the last time we dined with the ‘tax collector’?), not sit around with others just like us and discuss earthly things that will fail? How often do we go hours or days without asking God what we can do to glorify Him (Matthew 25: 31-46)? Do our friends, family, classmates and coworkers really know who we are, or do they have a better understanding of the person we outwardly portray on a daily basis than we do (Matthew 7: 1-5)? Are we simply fooling ourselves by thinking that our intentions are glorifying to Him (Ephesians 2: 1-10)?

So, there was my 3am slap in the face. Hope it stirs you into action as much as it does me. I welcome your thoughts, but don’t debate with me…there’s no time for that.


South Africa - Running Diary - Part IX

I lazily attempted to keep a running diary of my daily events during our trip to South Africa. What follows below is that lazy attempt. The words in quotes are the actual things I wrote in my journal, followed by a brief description (if necessary) to describe the words I wrote and the significance behind them. Whenever possible, I tried to document the time (local time depending on what time zone I was in) at which these events occurred. Hope that makes at least some sense…enjoy.

Saturday, January 23rd – 9:30 pm: “I’ve learned more about myself in the past 10 days than I have in the past 10 years.” A bit of an exaggeration, sure; but perhaps an accurate description of an intriguing journey that I’ve been on for several years now. The fact that I even committed to and traveled to Joburg speaks volumes. There’s definitely been a character shift in my life over the past several years. A new focus, a new desire, a shift of the compass. My hope is that others who know me can attest to this shift in my life as well, and that they can still see a fire burning for the things I’ve seen, some 5 months after returning. A fear of mine from this trip (and written about a couple times while in S. Africa) is that I would return home and quickly go back to the way I was prior to being impacted by all the things I had been a part of. My fear is that I would go back to ‘business as usual’. The reality is, I see few things as dangerous as that.

Saturday, January 23rd – 10:30 pm: “I’m sad to have to have to leave this city tomorrow.” Looking back, those 10 days flew by…and looking back, I’m still sad I had to leave that place. I’m left with the resolve that some day, I will go back. For now, I receive updates from one of my favorite people in the world who currently calls Joburg his home (click here for his blog), and from a couple people I met while over there who I can communicate with thanks to Facebook and Twitter. I will go back. Someday, I hope my son is able to go as well, to meet for himself the people that I pray for daily. Who else wants to go along!?


It Is Well With My Soul

"It Is Well With My Soul" is one of my favorite songs...if you don't know the full story behind it, google it! The quick "Cliffs Notes" synopsis of this songs meaning is simply that no matter what wicked things occur in your life, the eternal and unconditional love of God does not waver. This song is not about thanking God when things are going well, but rather praising His name when all seems lost.

On our last day in the prisons in Africa, we went to the woman's area to speak and share with them. It was an unforgettable experience, hearing Kellie and Nicole share their lives and hearts with a couple hundred of these women, and seeing God's hand, mightily at work. Someone on our team captured some video of them singing this song, and I wanted to post it here for all to see. Cameras were not allowed in the woman's area, so a team member; who's name will forever go unmentioned; committed a crime in an African prison to bring you this video...enjoy. And remember, it is well...


Easily Pleased

video courtesy of: desiringgod.org

The script comes straight from C. S. Lewis:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory, 26)


Church Downhill Slalom

A new sport Katy and I invented in South Africa. I hope it catches on.


South Africa - Running Diary - Part VIII

I lazily attempted to keep a running diary of my daily events during our trip to South Africa. What follows below is that lazy attempt. The words in quotes are the actual things I wrote in my journal, followed by a brief description (if necessary) to describe the words I wrote and the significance behind them. Whenever possible, I tried to document the time (local time depending on what time zone I was in) at which these events occurred. Hope that makes at least some sense…enjoy.

Saturday, January 23rd – 8:50 am: “African Safari.” Saturday morning, we all piled in the van and drove about an hour out of town to the Lion Park. This place was like something you’d see only on a National Geographic show….zebras, gazelles, ostriches, giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, meerkats, and of course, lions…all out in the wild. Not crammed into a small artificial habitat, like you’d see at the zoo. We drove around, saw the zebras and gazelles grazing on the open prairies, a few cheetahs pacing nervously as we passed them, and the hyenas and meerkats napping lazily in the morning sun. But the star of the show is the lions, no doubt, right!? We drove around looking for them for a few minutes, unable to spot even one. Just was we were starting to make sarcastic jokes about how there’s no lions at the Lion Park, we realized that we were about to run right into about 15 of them as they lay napping under a large tree.(Click here for photo) We all quickly shifted to the side of the van to get a closer look. This is what we had come to see…and these creatures were huge…how did we not see them earlier. There was 1 male lion, a few females, and several smaller lion cubs, all spread out, enjoying the cool breeze and shade that the tree had to offer. Some were motionless in their sleep…others were sitting, looking around, and a couple of the lion cubs played with and chewed on some of the low lying tree branches. The van stopped no more than 5 feet from these beautiful animals, and I couldn’t help but realize just how magnificent these creatures really are. I’m not seeing them through a tv screen, or through some steel bars at a zoo, but rather on a huge open field, surrounded by nothing by trees, grass, and blue skies. Part of me really wanted to get out of the van and lay with them, pet them, play with them…but that probably would have led to my dismemberment and death, so I decided to just sit in awe of them from a few feet away. At one point, the male and one of the females went off to share an ‘intimate’ moment together. (Click here for photo, just not "the" photo...yes, "the" photo does exist.) Sure, there were some cheers, jokes and high fives shared in our van upon witnessing this act, but the fact that we got to witness ‘nature being nature’ was pretty cool as well. Later on, we made it to an encaged area that housed about 10 or so baby lion cubs that we could interact with, pet, play with, etc. These little fuzz balls had claws and sharp teeth, but not enough strength in their little bodies yet to do much damage with them. I captured one of my favorite photos from the entire trip, with Katy and one of the cubs caught in a cute stare down. (Click here for photo) Needless to say, this little excursion was not the reason we traveled halfway around the world, but it was an amazing experience that you just can’t find back home…

Saturday, January 23rd – 7:15 pm: “Ian showers, for the first time.” A feeling of betrayal and disappointment feel upon me and the other 4 men of the trip who had yet to shower during this entire trip when we heard the news that Ian had in fact taken a shower, rather than ‘cupping’. He tried to use the excuse that since he had to spend the next 24 hours on an airplane next to his pregnant wife, he wanted to smell good for her, but we weren’t buying it. Such a selfish and shameful act could only be corrected in one way…we had to throw him in the pool outside. Let me explain a little about our little swimming hole in the back yard. I’m sure that about 15 years ago, this oasis was quite the place to be during the hot summers, but I’m also going to assume that this pool hadn’t been cleaned or maintained since that summer 15 years ago. There was a thick green goo that floated on the top, and no one was certain of the depth, on account that you couldn’t see more than 2 inches below the surface of the water level. There were mosquitoes the size of baby birds that lived and grew larger than any insect should ever be allowed to due to its unknown fumes and toxins. So, given this, Ian was bound for the pool for committing such an act of betrayal to his fellow brothers on this trip. So, we all grabbed hold of him, picked him up, and carried him outside and up to the pool. He yelled out and cried for mercy, but we ignored his requests. His wife Crystal pleaded with us to let him go, but we laughed at her as well. We were filled with rage as we swung him from our arms and into the green abyss below. He yelled, flailed, and splashed down in the middle of the pool, only to rise up a second later with the previously mentioned thick green goo hanging from his head and shoulders. We all walked away…he screamed. Our work here was done…justice! Okay…okay…we didn’t really throw him in the pool…but part of us kind of wanted to. We had gone 10 days without showering, 2 other guys had wives to sit next to on the plane ride home as well…and at least I was actually proud of the fact that I had ‘cupped’ for 10 days straight, and actually didn’t feel dirty whatsoever. We gave Ian a hard time for about 3 minutes, them moved on to something else to talk about. These are the things that happen when grown men sleep together in the same room for an extended period of time…


South Africa - Running Diary - Part VII

I lazily attempted to keep a running diary of my daily events during our trip to South Africa. What follows below is that lazy attempt. The words in quotes are the actual things I wrote in my journal, followed by a brief description (if necessary) to describe the words I wrote and the significance behind them. Whenever possible, I tried to document the time (local time depending on what time zone I was in) at which these events occurred. Hope that makes at least some sense…enjoy.

Friday, January 22nd – 7:35 pm: “Red light (robot), Green light (robot).” Friday night, we lead the youth service at church. By this point, most of us were exhausted for the non-stop pace of the week...but this was our last commitment for the evening, before we could go back to the Mission House and crawl into our beds for the night. We started the evening off with a few games that we were familiar with, but they had never heard of. We played Red Light, Green Light (they call their traffic lights ‘robots’. Weird, I know), and Limbo with the youth. The kids had a blast playing along with us and competing with each other. Next, everyone filed into the church where we lead worship for them. That’s right, I said “we”…I sang in the choir…and I even shared a microphone with Nicole. Apparently my voice wasn’t too horrible, because no one left…although I’m not 100% certain that our mic was even on. Regardless, we led worship for the youth; they sang along, motioned with us and praised Him. Next, a couple people shared their stories for the kids. At which time, Katy felt called to share hers as well. She wasn’t planning on speaking that night, but the Spirit led her to speak up and tell all the kids about what God had done in her life, and what He can do in each of their lives as well. So, she stood up, spoke, and shared the Gospel with them. That night, 3 kids were led to Christ!!! As if that wasn’t cool enough, after our night of worship and speaking was finished, we all went back into the Hall to play some indoor soccer. These kids may have been only 16 years old or so, but I now see why soccer can unite the world…and why the US lags a bit behind the world as far as talent goes…these kids were amazing! The boys played against each other, the girls cheered, the guys waiting to play jumped around and sang soccer chants. Oh, and we (Bongo, Ian, Ryan and myself) ended up beating all of them in a few games that night…icing on the cake.

Friday, January 22nd – 10:30 pm: “Late night and ridiculous stories.” After arriving home quite late that night, many of us were too charged up (or sweaty) to just head straight off to bed. So, we stayed up and shared stories about our lives. A couple headed off to their rooms, others showered or ‘cupped’, and the rest of us sat around and chatted. There were stories told about former jobs, old habits, and ‘restroom humor’. After a long, intense, but rewarding week, this night had been a great chance for all of us to bond in a different way, get to know more about each others lives back home, as well as gain a clearer idea at the things that made us laugh. Two ‘restroom’ stories stood out in my mind…my beach encounter and Ryan’s startling discovery at Starbuck’s. These tales left us all horrified and laughing until our sides hurt. Want to know the details? Ask me sometime...