Thursday, December 13, 2012

Running the "Wrong Way"

Running the "Wrong Way"

Stop me when I start sounding like a running snob...but...

I got to the track the other day and started running counter clockwise around the track.  If you've never noticed the track is laid out to be run making a series of left hand turns.  I'm not sure who made the decision but that's the way it is.  You can tell because all the markings from the arrows and numbers on the lane lines only make sense if you are going a certain way.

As I started into my track workout, a staple for most marathon training plans, I noticed one other runner on the track.  An older gentlemen in sweats and a t-shirt going...well, yes, you guessed it...the WRONG way.  I have a weakness of getting annoyed at little things while running.  My immediate reaction was to roll my eyes, sigh heavily and think all sorts of ignorant things about this guy running the wrong way.

Our paths soon crossed and he didn't budge out of "lane 1."  I swerved out of his way and did my best to offer a friendly wave that he hardly seemed to notice.  In my mind I was many times am I going to have to pass him running the wrong way today.  In my workout for the day I had 28 or so laps to run.

As I continued on I realized that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to run the wrong way for just today.  Casually I sucked up my pride and started to make right hand turns.  Even at this, each time I passed my "workout partner" I thought to myself...I'm going the wrong way!!

Eventually it grew on me and I began to change my attitude and see even some benefits in going a different way.  Just as my attitude began to change the older man sauntered off the track and there I was alone...running clockwise and forcing myself to take a new path of right hand turns.

Then it happened...a young, serious looking runner entered into the stadium and on to the track in full stride.  Before I had time to react he was in lane one headed my direction and of course...he was running the "right" way on the track.  The coin had been flipped and now I was the one that got the stare of..."what are you doing running the wrong way?"  I wanted so badly to stop and start running counter clockwise again...what to do?  I had just started to enjoy going against the grain.

For the record...I finished the workout going clockwise.  Thoughts persisted beyond the track and my workout to life and running the race.  Here are a few things to consider...

What would it look like to change a few habits or patterns in your life?  Would changing the route you take to work everyday change the way you look at things?

I learned I can't please everyone.  If so, I would always be switching which way I ran around the track. What behaviors in your life would change if you stopped doing a few things just to please others?

Finally, maybe I just should have stopped to talk to the first runner and asked him if he knew he was running the wrong way.  Maybe...maybe not?  I could see him reply, "c'mon youngster, live a little and try making a few right turns on the won't hurt and maybe it could help change your perspective on life."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Manasseh's Mess

Take the time to read II Chronicles 33

Consider the life of Manasseh after he became king at the ripe young age of 12.  "He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger." (v. 6)  He sacrificed his own sons, built altars to the stars in the temple and rebuilt the pagan altars that his father Hezekiah had destroyed.  As a king Manasseh's actions also "led the nation of Israel astray."  What a mess!

Then came the hook.  After being warned by God, Manasseh is led away by the Assyrians with a hook in his nose.  Talk about hitting rock bottom.  Getting dragged off to Assyria with a hook through your nose would definitely give some time for thought and reflection on your mistakes.  Consider that most of Manasseh's actions were about elevating everyone's view of himself and then he is led away in humiliating fashion.  Make sure to take the time to consider verses 12 and 13.

"In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.  And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.  Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God."

Take some time to think about the practical implications of these verses.

This is a message about transformation and the mercy of God.  Manasseh deserved to be punished for his evil actions.  Yet, God answered his humble cry and allowed him to return so he could right the wrongs of his past.  Not all of us get this chance but when we do we must take full advantage of the time we are given.

What an amazing story of transformation.  There are also some hard lessons to be learned from this story.  Notice that Manasseh's son, Amon served as king and did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  Children watch and sometimes they make the choice to follow our mistakes and ignore the changes that have been made.  Foolishness says that our decisions don't impact others.  Wisdom reminds us that eyes are always watching and our present choices will impact their future choices.

While Manasseh created quite a mess he demonstrates the possibility of change and the noble example of trying to clean up and restore the mess he had made.  Maybe you think you've made too much of a mess for God to handle.  Take courage in the story of Manasseh, humble yourself greatly before the Lord and allow him to shower your mess with His mercy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trust the Map

Sunday afternoon we left for Denver from Odessa.  My phone mapped out a pretty good route that looked like we could make it in about 12 hours of driving.  The map routed us through roads and country that we had never been through before.  Muleshoe, Needmore, and Plains were just a few of the "big cities" that we were going to be headed through for the first time.  Most of the driving in West Texas is straight for as far as the eye can see.  My expectations were for straight roads and cruise control until we hit the more hilly terrain of New Mexico and Colorado.  This explains why when we started making several curves and turns on the flat plains of Texas I began to express my displeasure to Marci.  The map was showing turns and curves but all I could see out the window was flat land as far as the eye could see.  "The shortest distance between to points is a straight line and we are turning back and forth when we should be going straight!"

Just as my frustration and wonder were beginning to build we saw a sign that said sharp curve ahead.  We turned a corner and then looked down off into Caprock Canyon.

I turned to Marci and said, "oh, that's why we were making all those turns."  The turns we were making that seemed pointless were actually leading us to the safest way to make the descent into the valley below.  I didn't know the terrain and my two dimensional map wasn't explaining the danger that was ahead.

I learned several lessons Sunday evening that I thought I knew already but came to know in a new way.

Two Dimensional Vision--Looking at things in 2-d mode doesn't show the whole picture.  If I would have taken the time to analyze what I was looking at from a different perspective it would have made more sense.  We do the same thing in the Christian life when we look at things from a fleshly perspective and fail to stop and think how things might look from an eternal perspective.

Trust the Map-- Curves and difficulties might actually be leading us to a safer route.  Our map and guide is the word of God which Jesus himself described as the narrow way.  We might think there is another way that looks easier or better.  Trusting Him enough to completely follow his teachings will guide us safely to our final destination.

Think about it...

Can you think of a time in your life when you learned to trust the map?

What can we do in the Christian life in order to take an eternal perspective as opposed to looking at things from an earthly view?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Instant Gratification

When I first started running I remember someone saying, "the reason I run is for the t-shirt."  They further explained that having the t-shirt is a subtle (well, maybe not so subtle if it's neon green) way of telling others that I put in the effort and time to accomplish something difficult.  

How about the t-shirt in the above cartoon?  Our culture has been defined by many as a culture of instant gratification.  I want what I want when I want it.  I'm sure that sentence wasn't grammatically accurate but I haven't made no promises of being grammatically accurate. (see what I did with that last sentence there?)  Back to the point, if it's going to take some sustained effort, discipline and energy then we often cast it to the side.  Wearing the t-shirt from the annual instant gratification run wouldn't give you much to brag to your friends about.  Imagine trying to toot your own horn about that "race." 

While I'm not condoning or encouraging boasting I do think it's good to be proud and thankful for overcome challenges and achieving difficult goals.  Likewise, we need to encourage our children and friends in their efforts to meet goals that provide delayed gratification.  Anger and frustration can often result from our unrealistic expectations of instant gratification.  

Think about it...

What Scriptures or Biblical concepts do you think encourage delayed gratification?

Give an example or two of the benefits of having a delayed gratification mindset.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Disqualified for what??

No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. I Corinthians 9:27

 The Olympics begin tomomorrow and already we are hearing about athletes being disqualified.

Read the article here

That's tough to disqualify yourself before the actual event begins. I read today that a Greek athlete was disqualified because of a racist tweet that she posted. She has since apologized but it seems she will not be able to compete for her team in the London Olympics. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her as she sees countless hours of training go down the tubes as a result of a careless word that was spoken.

This can be a great example for us when we think about the power of words that come out of our mouth. We've heard of athletes being disqualified for drug use or other reasons but this seems to be new territory. Scripture says that by our words we will be acquitted and by our words we will be condemned. In addition, James states that the tongue is incredibly difficult to rein in. I want to make sure my speech isn't a disqualifying factor in my race.

 Think... Do you think this girl has been judged too harshly? How do you think our speech can help us as we live the Christian life?