Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We All Play a Role

I'm typically at all 3 services at Grace on Sundays, but I was able to have this Sunday "off" from church.  My family and I, though, wanted to attend the 1st service and then enjoy the rest of the day with each other.  Anyway, if you have kids now or have raised kids, you may relate to this.  It was one of those mornings where our 6, 4, 3, and 1 1/2 year olds were in rare form.  Nothing was making them happy.  All were upset about something.  Crying, screaming, drama, chaos ... I literally felt like my head was going to explode!  I got in to our van unhappy, frustrated, and really knowing that my heart was not ready to hear from God right then because of such a chaotic morning.  

We pulled in to the church parking lot and the frustration continued as our one daughter nearly refused to get out of our van.  I was nearly tempted to leave her there, but that wouldn't have been very pastoral of me.  :)  Well, after "enticing" her out of the van, we made our way to the church.  I was tense and stressed.  But, as I walked closer to the entrance, I was warmly greeted by someone at the front door holding it open for my family and I.  The host had a huge smile on his face.  He was warm, friendly, and genuinely seem happy to see us.  It's hard to describe it, but receiving this kind of welcome instantly brought some peace to me.  We continued on in to the church where we experienced the same warmness from our Kid City staff that checked us in.  Again, very refreshing and it began a process of calming my spirit.

I share all of that for this reason ... I'm sure I'm not the only one who sometimes pulls in to the church parking lot bringing a little "chaos" with them.  Marriage problems, work problems, family drama, health concerns ... you name it and someone is probably bringing it with them to church on any given Sunday.  Whether or not you're "officially" on the host team doesn't matter.  Your smile, warm handshake, kindness, and sincerity can make a huge difference in a person's life and set the stage for God to move in their hearts.  

It's important to remember, if you're a follower of Jesus, that we all play a role in what God is doing.  I told our host team today that a person's next step in to our building may be their next step closer to Jesus. I'm so thankful that we all can help someone in their journey.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Marathon # 3 Experience

I was able to finish my 3rd marathon a week and a half ago.  Such a great experience for me and there were a few really powerful things I realized while running it ... 

1. My Wife is Amazing!  I've said it each time I've finished a marathon, but she truly is such an incredible woman.  I would not have the opportunity to do these types of things unless she supported me and allowed me the time to do it.  Training for a marathon is a lot of work and her support means so much to me.  Every time I'd get back from a run she'd ask how it went, how do I feel, and, the most powerful thing she would tell me nearly every time was "I'm proud of you.  Good job, babe!"  I love her encouragement and I would not be able to finish a marathon without her!  It was so much fun having her and the kids there to meet me at the half-way point and also at the finish.  

2. There's Power Behind Encouragement.  One of the things I've tried to do during each of my marathons or half-marathons is to be an encourager.  I always try to thank people who are serving at the race.  I thank the workers for their time, the police for their efforts, and the water people for ... well ... their water.  I also try to encourage the runners around me.  If I'm running past someone I always try to tell them "Good job.  Keep it up."  Most likely, though, someone is running past me.  Even then, I'm still trying to say encouraging things to them.  What I've found is that the more I try to encourage someone, the better I actually feel!  I love how God works that way.  

3. Kindness Can Break Down Walls.  I ran with a couple for about 8 miles.  I initially just started to encourage them with a simple "Good job." I started to make some small talk and asked some open ended questions about the two of them.  I found them to be very friendly and open to conversation.  So, we kept running together and kept on talking.  I was eventually able to bring God in to the conversation and started to share my story and my faith in Jesus.  I was talking about how I've learned to trust God when all of the sudden the husband starts to cry.  I thought maybe he was hurt or something happened.  So, he and his wife stopped and I stopped with them.  He apologizes for crying, but goes on to say this:  "It is not an accident that we're talking to you right now."  He then begins to share some of the things that are going on in his life and his wife's life at the moment.  I had no idea that this would happen simply because of trying to be friendly to them.  But, what I'm sure of it this ... it would not have happened if I didn't try to be friendly and interested in them.  Kindness broke down some barriers.  It allowed them to feel open to share with a complete stranger.  It was just a powerful reminder to me of how caring for people and genuinely being interested in them can set the stage for God to move.

4.  You Just Keep Moving.  I really wanted to finish this marathon at 4 hours and 15 minutes.  I was nearly on pace for that at the half-way point and beyond.  Around mile 21, though, I started to cramp ... something that hadn't happened during any of my training.  I continued to cramp about every half mile for the rest of the race.  It was very frustrating, but a powerful reminder to just keep moving forward.  That's what I told myself.  Just keep moving forward.  Every step brings you one step closer to the finish.  To me that's a good reminder for a marathon, but also for life.

5.  Stop Comparing Yourself.  I ended up finishing in 4 hours and 45 minutes.  The marathon I ran earlier this year I did in 4 hours and 24 minutes.  Initially I felt a need to explain why my time was worse ... I was cramping.  I felt I needed to explain to others that I could have done better and it's only because of the cramps that I didn't have a much better time.  Many others ran much faster than me and finished stronger than me.  I found the more I compared myself to the times of others in the race, the less joyful I was becoming about the finishing the race.  It was then that it hit me ... I just finished my 3rd stinkin' marathon!  Stop worrying about other people and really enjoy this accomplishment.  I have so much to learn in this area and continually strive to become the best person I can become and do the best with what I'm given.  If I can look in the mirror and know I gave it may all, that's success.  That's the type of attitude I'm striving to have.  The old attitude of comparisons sneaks itself in every one in a while.  I'm thankful that God is helping me overcome it.

6.  I Really Enjoy Running.  It's really therapeutic for me.  I enjoy it.  It helps me feel alive.  And, it's a commitment that I made to myself after my cancer treatments ... Now that I have my health back, I'm going to enjoy it as best as I can.  Running has provided that for me.   

Friday, November 1, 2013

It's Nice When Someone Believes in You

Two weeks ago my wife and I were at a wedding.  While at the reception, we were sitting at a table with a couple in their 60's.  We didn't know this couple, but were able to have a really good conversation with them.  During our conversation, I found out that the husband will be running the Boston Marathon next year.  At age 61, he qualified for the Boston.  I've run two marathons and will be running my third on November 9th.  Anyone who qualifies for the Boston has my respect.  It was lots of fun talking to this man about running and sharing stories from races we've done in the past.  It was a very inspiring conversation for me.

The next day I went for a 12 mile run.  I came back from that run feeling pretty good and I made a comment to my wife that went something like this:  "It was really inspiring talking to that guy yesterday.  I think I'd like to try to qualify for the Boston sometime."  Now, to put that comment in perspective … I'm a runner, but not a fast runner.  For me to qualify for the Boston at this stage of my life, I'd have to knock over an hour off of my best marathon time!  But, what's really cool is this … after I made that comment to my wife … without even batting an eye she looked at me and said, "That would be just AWESOME!"  Let me tell you what her response did for me:

- It actually made me think I could do it.
- The look of confidence in her eyes when she told me that, put a sense of confidence in me that made me feel incredibly strong.
-  I like it when someone believes in me.
- I'm totally in love with my wife!
- My wife is not a "yes" person.  She tells me when she thinks I'm crazy or when my ideas really stink.  But, her belief in me was incredibly inspiring … like there was no doubt in her mind that I actually could qualify for the Boston.

I share all that for this reason … I don't know if I'll ever get to run the Boston Marathon, but what I do know is that my wife's words to me made me believe that I could.  Is there someone in your life who needs you to believe in them?  Is there someone in your life who needs you to instill a sense of confidence in them with your words?  Are you more prone to squelch a person's dreams or to inspire them?

What I know is that there is at least one person in your life who wants you to believe in them.  There is at least one person in your life who could use your encouragement.  There is at least one person in your life who needs to feel like they can accomplish something they're unsure they can accomplish.  You can be that person.  

"The tongue can bring death or life" Proverbs 18:21a  What will your words bring to another person?  

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