Monday, May 14, 2012

Courageous or Crazy?

Have you ever been in a marathon?  I mean a real marathon... a 26.2 mile run?  I have been a runner off and on since Jr. High school.  I've never been that fast.  I've never won a race.  I've never even placed in my age bracket.  In fact, the last race I ran, I finished in 694th place.  And yes, there were more than 700 people in it.  But I digress.  I have decided to run all 26.2 miles of the first ever Canton Marathon on June 17, 2012.  I have paid the entry fee, I have been training, and strangely enough, I'm looking forward to the challenge of running a full marathon.  I don't plan to win... I just want to survive and finish.  Am I courageous or just plain crazy?

As of today, my longest run ever is about 17 miles, and the race is 33 days away.  I will do a few more long runs of 15-20 miles between now and then in addition to many shorter runs and swims.  For many months, I have been doing all I can to prepare.  I know this will be the most difficult physical challenge of my lifetime.  To me, this is an intentional step of faith - not faith in myself, but faith in God. 

Every moment of every day we depend on God for everything.  We may indeed depend on Him, but how much do we really trust Him?  I am asking myself:  Can I trust God enough to help me prepare adequately?  Can I trust God enough to protect me?  Am I willing to trust God to strengthen me for the long, grueling miles of a marathon?  Am I willing to take that kind of step of faith?  This race is as much of a spiritual test for me as it is a physical challenge. 

I could be injured on my next training run and miss out on the marathon altogether.  Or, everything might go as planned and I run it, finish it, and live to tell about it (obviously my preference).  There are a million possibilities, and only God knows the outcome.  But I want to be a stronger, more determined person so that I can ultimately better serve God with the life He has given me.  I believe the step of faith to run this marathon will better prepare me to do just that.  In fact, it already has. Some may call me courageous.  Some may call me crazy.  But if it's possible to run a marathon so I am better equipped to serve God, that's what I fully intend to do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Complaint Department

Here's a conversation that never happens: "Hello? Is this the complaint department? Ok, good, I have something I'd like to say. And I'm going to be cynical, mean, degrading, loud and long-winded as I say it. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Well, the complaint department "warning" almost never happens, but the "blah, blah, blah" part happens all the time. You and I know of people who persistantly and constantly complain. These complaints are so regular that they're literally a way of life; a way of breaking the ice or striking up a conversation. We live in a culture where complaining about anything and everything is commonplace. The social media culture has tremendously multiplied the number of complaints we see and hear every day. Lest you think I'm complaining about all the complaining, my rant on complaining is as much directed towards me as anyone. As I study the Psalms, I am convicted at how much I complain and how little I intentionally use edifying speech.

I'm in the current habit of studying 5 Psalms a day as part of my devotions. Most of the Psalms contain at least one statement that could be considered a complaint. But comparatively speaking, there are many more positive statements of praise and thanksgiving than complaints. One Psalm that has really stuck out to me is Psalm 34. These 22 verses are positive, God-focused, realistic and encouraging. The positive tone makes me want to read them again and again! Yet without complaints, these verses still acknowledge difficulty and suffering that happens in life. But one thing is clear: David intentionally avoided the temptation to complain. Instead, he said, "I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." I love Psalm 34:12-14 which says, "What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." If you (or someone you're close to) has been frequenting the complaint department hotline, spend some quality time in Psalm 34 and let God's Word demonstrate how to speak words that build others up rather than wear others out.