Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 365: It Is Finished

Ok, perhaps the blog title is a bit over stated. Jesus said it and I certainly didn't save the world from eternal damnation. Thankfully, that task has already been completed. What I did do was successfully run every day for 1 year. 365 days and 565 miles. I didn't break any records for speed (still pretty pokey), distance (my streaking partner Rodney logged over 200 miles more than me - Go Rod!), or even length of running streak (there is a man who has been streaking since the 60's) ... but what I also didn't break is the promise I made to myself to complete the streak in the first place. That is what I am proud of. I am always encouraged by the realization that I really can do anything through Christ who gives me strength (Phil 4:13). There's a reason that is my life verse.

Am I glad it's over? You bet your worn out bippy!
Would I do a running streak again? Probably not.
Did I learn a lot in the process? Absolutely.

I don't know what ideas are swirling around in your head about goals for 2011, but I would make these encouragements to you:
  1. Set a goal that challenges you
  2. Set a goal that accomplishes something
  3. Set a goal that will require you to lean in harder on God to complete
For me, my three biggest goals for 2011 are as follows (and the above rules certainly apply):
  • Spend quality time with God everyday (not obligatory, or habitual, but sincere)
  • Graduate from seminary
  • Finally leave the Chaplain Candidate status and accession as a Chaplain
Everyone of these will require God's help. That's humbling. But helpful. Just as Mary said to the angel who declared she - a virgin - would give birth to the Messiah, "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Let each of us go, therefore, with God into the new year ... and stand amazed on December 31st, 2011 at the impossible things which He has made possible in each of our lives.
As I sign off for the last post of 2010, here is the picture representation of how many days I have left of my streak. But one thought comes to mind: most countdowns do not mark the end of something, but the beginning (i.e. - shuttle launch, start of a movie, etc.). How appropriate! The streak is over, but something new is beginning. God reminded me of that with this verse today from Isaiah 43:

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

Good or bad ... no matter what 2010 held for you, 2011 is a new year.
And God is doing a nu thang (thank you DC Talk).
Time to move forward!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 364: One is No Longer the Loneliest Number ...

... it is the favorite one! C'mon, who doesn't love to chant "we're number one!" at your favorite sporting event? One is a great number! And even more so now that I'm there. So bring out the foam fingers (index finger only please ... this is a family friendly blog). Tomorrow is the big day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Day 361: Four!

Perhaps a 7.1 mile run with four days left was a bit ambitious.
Hope I don't pay for that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 359: Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to anyone out there actually reading blogs or checking email or Facebook today! I'm in California enjoying family, food, and fair weather. I'm also enjoying the knowledge of what today represents:
  1. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel ... God with us.
  2. The final 6 days of my running streak.
And just for the sake of consistency, here's a visual representation of that second fact:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 358: One Week, Weak One

A lot can happen in 7 days ...
God created the world and everything in it and still had time to take a day off.

Surely I can run at least a mile.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 357: It's Not Profound, But It Is Exciting!

I keep waiting to get a spare moment to post something profound, especially sharing the lessons learned as I approach the final week of this *blessed* running streak ...

It's now been over a month since my last post and still nothing. That's either a sign of how busy I've been or how empty I currently am of anything profound. Maybe both. So for now, let us just celebrate the birth of our precious Lord ... and the countdown of the completion of this running streak (yes, in that order ... I'm not that narcissistic).

(BTW, the "8" graphic is a perfect representation of me at the moment. Not my hair or orthodontia, but my state of mind ... and maybe my body shape a little too.)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 304: Rudders, Footballs, & The Holy Spirit

Today is day 304 of my running streak. Only two months to go and this oh-so-challenging task can be marked off my to do list once and for all. I look forward to the day that NOT running is an option again. Of course I still plan to run more days than not, but it will be by choice not by obligation. Isn't everything less enjoyable when it is by obligation?

For instance, if I read my Bible and pray and go to church because somewhere along the line I've decided that's what I have to do ... my spirituality suddenly stops being enjoyable. Obligation and legalism make one religious, not spiritual. But not only does obligation remove the joy, it also prevents fruitfulness. Performance of religious habits without the life-giving guidance, motivation, and joy of the Holy Spirit is empty and futile. Let me illustrate what I mean.

Many of you know I recently purchased a kayak (a purchase which proved to be more costly than anticipated ... click here for more on "the incident"). Elated to try out my new toy, I made my way to a beautiful Tennessee lake. The first time I put the kayak in the water and climbed in, the rudder "ran aground" and came off. Friend and camping buddy, Becca, asked if I wanted to pull the kayak out and put the rudder back on.
"Nah, I'll try it without it first."

Famous last words.

Have you ever tried to paddle a kayak without a rudder?
Have you ever tried to herd cats?
Have you ever tried to nail jello to a tree?
All of these are exercises in futility.

With every stroke, the kayak twisted and turned, but did not move forward.
Stroke right, turn left.
Stroke left, turn right.
Back and forth.
Forth and back.
Going absolutely nowhere.
"Um ... Becca ... I think I'll take that rudder now."

Maybe that's where you live right now. You're making a lot of effort, but going nowhere. Don't give up! You just need a rudder. Water crafts were not designed to work without one, and neither were we.

In fact, Jesus said it wasn't possible to be fruitful without Him. Apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:4-5). He even gave the disciples strict instructions not to bother leaving the house until they had the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1). Another exercise in futility.

Though "church sign wisdom" seems a bit oxymoronic, this one is actually on point:

I've never tried to dribble a football, but if it is anything like paddling a rudderless kayak, it is comical at first, then just exhausting.

Today, however, I took my kayak out again - rudder in place - and enjoyed kayaking as it was intended. It was invigorating yet relaxing, productive yet therapeutic, beneficial yet enjoyable. Isn't that the abundant life we're seeking? It's an amazing ride ... that's actually going somewhere.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 252: The Joys of Streaking

It's Day 252 of my running streak and January 1st, 2011 has never looked so good. I'd love to inspire you with glory stories, but not today. Sorry. Instead I will share some "day in the life of a streaker" stories you may find comical.

Story 1: He maketh me to stop pedaling ...

I just returned from 10 glorious days in Orange County, CA with my brother and his family. The weather was gorgeous and the time with family - especially my niece, Lily and nephew, Ethan - was long overdue. (See shameless plug pic to the left.)

While in California, I was invited to join my brother on one of his famous canyon bike rides with the kids. He takes them up to the top of a canyon where they throw rocks (always making the *peow* sound) and just enjoy some quality time together. I was flattered to get the opportunity to go. I quickly kicked out my run for the day while he fixed up a bike for me, then off we went ... up and down the canyon hills making our way to the famous rock-throwing precipice. Unfortunately, about halfway to our destination the chain on my bike broke. (Turns out you shouldn't change gears while pedaling up a steep hill.) With no tools to fix the chain, I began the trek back to the house on foot while Del and the kids continued to the desired destination.

I coasted down hills on the chain-less bike and walked the bike up hills. Imagine my embarrassment (and disgust) when "Ken and Barbie" jogged past me up one of those hills. Truth be told, I was glad the bike gave me an excuse to walk up the brutal inclines. Never mind that "Ken" was effortlessly running up said hills while pushing a stroller. Jog on, Barbie & Ken. Me and my gimp bike were just taking in the view.

Story 2: The Longest Mile

Frustrated that my running streak has actually decreased my overall fitness (nothing but running isn't nearly as effective as cross training that includes weights and such), I decided to do something about it. A sucker for a sale, I purchased 2 weeks of Fitness Boot Camp at 75% of the normal price. Perhaps the above Ken & Barbie incident encouraged the timing, but I finally scheduled my 2 weeks for September. Normally the classes would be MWF but due to the Labor Day holiday the first week would be TWF. 4:30 am Tuesday morning came and I was up and moving, ready to begin my new and improved routine. My fervor was quickly replaced with agony thanks to a couple unforeseen factors:
  1. My non-running muscles have been hibernating since April.
  2. Not knowing I was supposed to bring my own 8 lb weights, I had to borrow the instructor's only extras ... which were 12s.
  3. The class' expectations of my performance quickly skyrocketed when they found out I was in the Army. Not wanting to poorly represent the US military, I felt inclined to push myself beyond the level of any of my seasoned classmates.
All the ingredients were there for a butt-kicking workout ... a workout that rendered me immobile the next day. Unfortunately the schedule adjustment for Labor Day meant I had to go 2 days back-to-back instead of having a rest day in between. "No problem," I thought. "The hair of the dog that bit me. It'll probably help with the soreness."

Um, no.

I have literally never been this sore in my life. EVER. And that's coming from someone who's been through basic training at Ft. Jackson.

But remember ... I'm still maintaining a running streak through all of this. Oh, if I thought my run the afternoon after the first workout was bad, you should have seen me trying to run the afternoon of day 2. I chose the treadmill option, which I normally never do, in hopes it might ease the pain of the run. I started off walking just to warm up and hope that my quads would loosen up a bit. That wasn't happening so I decided to bite the bullet and move it to a jog. Oh how I wish there had been a video camera filming this because I'd be the newest rage on YouTube. (See commercial below for an example.) When my brain sent the message to my legs to begin running, my legs sent back a message in response: yeah right! They had no intentions of cooperating. With little control over what my body would and wouldn't do, I found myself in some semblance of a jog but on my tip toes (??) but even then at a snail's crawl. As I began to laugh hysterically at the pitiful sight of me I suddenly made another realization ... my sore abs made laughing hurt too. I can honestly say it was the longest mile of my life.

Thankfully I get a day off from boot camp and hopefully that time will be sufficient for my body to regain full functioning abilities. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from my current theme song, compliments of John Mayer:
Oh Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down

Oh twice as much ain't twice as good
And can't sustain like a one half could
It's wanting more
That's gonna send me to my knees

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 243: What Do YOU Know?

I attended a conference last week and one of the presenters said there are three bodies of information. They are:
  1. What you know you know
  2. What you know you don't know
  3. What you don't know you don't know
Anyone lost yet? Hang with me.

I thought about these three things and I realized that most of the time I am all wrapped up in one of the first two. Truth be told, some days I just about pull a shoulder muscle patting myself on the back for what I know I know ... or perhaps just going out of my way to demonstrate the knowledge to others. Other days, I'm consumed with the things I don't know that I want to know. These vary in both depth and seriousness.
  • How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie roll pop?
  • What does it take to lose this over sized butt of mine once and for all?
  • What career path should I take after finally finishing seminary?
  • When will I finally meet the man of my dreams?
  • Why does God allow so much hurt in the world?
But then I got to thinking about the third body of information ... what I don't know I don't know. Shouldn't this be the stuff I focus on the most? I already know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "How can you focus on something you don't even know you don't know??" GREAT QUESTION!
"Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (Jeremiah 33:3)
Perhaps I should rephrase. I need not focus on what I don't know I don't know because I don't know it! But I do need to focus on WHO knows what I don't know I don't know. Everyday we have the opportunity to share talk time with the only One who can truly be a know-it-all ... literally! We find entertainment (sadly also advice) from psychics, horoscopes, and even the magic 8 ball. Why do we not go more often to the only reliable source available - The Omniscient God of all Truth! He not only holds the answers to all of our questions, He holds the answers to the questions we don't even know to ask yet.

But how do we ask? How do we hear the answers? It's not as complicated as many think. It doesn't require a PhD or an above average IQ. It doesn't require a seminary degree or an elaborate understanding of Hebraic law. And there's no special formula.

Some would say formulas are how we interact with God, that going through motions and jumping through hoops are how a person acts out his spirituality. This method of interaction, however, seems odd to me, because if I want to hang out with my friend Tuck, I don’t stomp my foot three times, turn around, and say his name over and over like a mantra, lighting candles and getting myself into a certain mood. I just call him. (excerpt from Donald Miller's book "Searching For God Knows What")

So go ahead ... call Him! You don't even need a phone. Who knows what you might find out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 182: Are We There Yet?

I doubt any of you reading this need any reference for the above title. If you're like me, your mind instantly takes you to a hot summer day of your childhood when your family was packed in the wood-paneled station wagon ("the big blue bomb" as we called ours), headed to the beach ... or grandma's ... or the water park ... or Disney. Who knows how deep into the trip the restlessness started - for some you'd barely left the driveway - but you could feel it rising in you until it verbally ruptured out of your mouth ... "ARE WE THERE YET!?" This question was usually met with the response, "Not yet." Oh yeah? Well I'll see your "not yet" and raise you a "Well, how much further??" (delivered in the whiniest tone one could muster). Initially my mom would respond patiently, "Not much further." Some especially creative parents would mix it up with things like "Just around the next corner." This of course was either a blatant lie or the truth but you were traveling on the longest straightest road on the planet.

Let's face it ... we like destinations way more than journeys.

Today marks the halfway point of my running streak. 182 (and a half) days ago, I started this commitment. I must be honest, when I realized recently that I wasn't even halfway yet, I found myself a whiny six year old again. "Ugh. How much further!?!" I swear I thought I heard God respond, "Just around the next corner."

Sadly, I've reached the same point in my grad school studies. I'm well beyond halfway, thankfully, but the finish line still seems way too far away. Then factor in that it looks like my graduation has been pushed back yet another semester, and the impatient anxiousness is growing to a seemingly insurmountable degree. I started my seminary journey 5 years ago! Will I ever finish??

I'm ready to be done running.
I'm ready to be done with homework.
I'm ready to be done with singleness.
I'm ready to be done.

When can I enjoy the accomplishment's completion and finally rest? My mom retired this year and rarely a day passes that I don't envy her new life. In a non-morbid way, I even envy those who've gone on to be with the Lord. The Apostle Paul knew what that felt like too. But he encouraged the Galatians and us ...
Gal 6:9-10 - "So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith."
The best way to push through? Stop thinking about yourself and focus on helping others. This goes hand in hand with my last post on Perspective. When we focus on things that really matter, our discontent begins to dissipate.

So this morning as I ran I prayed a word of thanks to God that I have the ability to run. Many cannot. Then I asked Him to show me how that training can be used to bring Him glory ... how my LIFE can be used to bring Him glory. If my focus becomes making a Kingdom difference, running, homework, and the like are no longer inconvenient travels towards an unreachable destination, but enjoyable journeys that are destinations in and of themselves.

What are you impatiently waiting for? Perhaps, like me, God wants to teach you the joy of the right now. Today has purpose ... and it's not just to get to tomorrow when something really good happens.

TODAY is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 171: Perspective

I got a new pair of glasses recently. I was overdue for an eye exam, so I finally made an appointment. I must confess, I always get a little anxious when I go. When you're indecisive, repeatedly being asked, "Which is better, A or B?" feels like a lot of pressure. "I don't know. What if they're both good?" I respond. Indecision and perfectionism make strange bedfellows in this scenario. But there is no right or wrong answer to those questions. It's all a matter of perspective. And when my sassy new prescription sunglasses came in, my perspective had never been so clear.

If only my perspective on life were always as clear and vibrant. But at times it is dingy and out of focus. I begin to get distracted by peripherals and forget where my focus is supposed to be. But Paul reminded us in II Corinthians where our focus is supposed to be ...
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:17-18)
Is that some sort of sick joke? How can we fix our eyes on what is unseen? Look at Job. In one day his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, and all his children were taken from him. His response? He worshiped. Yes, worshiped. His immediate response was not to yell, complain, or argue but to worship.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)
His eyes were fixed on God, the only thing that is eternal. It's not about stuff, or to some degree even people. Look back at Paul's words in Corinthians. Our trials don't have to defeat us. They are "light" and "momentary" when compared to a magnificent eternal God. And that God will use those temporary trials to do eternally significant work in us. If we, like Job, can view life with that perspective, then nothing can kick our legs out from underneath us. We can worship no matter what.

On good running days and bad.
In the cool of spring and in the sweltering heat of summer.
When you're in the bliss of new love and when you're alone.
When you get a promotion and when you get fired.
When all is right in your world and when nothing is.
God is eternal. God is good.
He is eternally good. Bless His name.

Blessed Be Your Name
by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 138: Great ... Now What?

First of all, please forgive my extreme break between posts. If you've ever ridden a bike up a steep hill, what happens when you finally get to the top? Your 3 seconds of elated accomplishment are quickly met by the reality that you are now careening down the other side at lightening speed! That is the best way I can describe my life since my last post.

Just 5 short days after my last post, I officially graduated from the Chaplain's Basic Officer Leadership Course at Ft. Jackson, SC. Aaaah, I finally did it. [Insert moment of elated accomplishment]

Then I returned home. [Moment's over.]

I was immediately thrust back into my civilian job, where I was now painfully behind on my work. I began to make some headway and re-acclimate to my life, when Uncle Sam snatched me back to military duty for 2 weeks. This time it was to spend some transition time with the the exiting Chaplain of my new unit. This overlap was a precious gift that may likely never happen again in my military career. One entire week was spent being shown around and brought up to speed on anything that might be helpful to know before I take over.

Then came week 2.

The reality of my new assignment set in as I made the drive to Gadsden realizing Derek would no longer be there. The baton had been passed. Time to run my lap. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous about that. Then God, in all His wisdom and mercy, gave me a gift.

I was reading in II Kings when Elijah was taken up into heaven. He knew he would be leaving soon (though I'm not sure if he knew of the dramatic exit God would write into his script). So he did what Derek did with me ... he initiated a transition period. Elijah spent some time with Elisha preparing him for his departure. They walked and talked. Maybe a little Q&A. Elisha even got to witness Elijah perform a miracle. (See II Kings 2:8 when Elijah struck the Jordan with his cloak and the river parted.) Then in a flash, with the Chariots of Fire theme song still echoing in the air, Elisha is suddenly standing there alone. "Great ... now what?" he must have thought. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, and countless other emotions must have rushed through him.
He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and struck the water with it. "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" he asked. (II Kings 2:13-14)
To me, it has a hint of tantrum to it. Slapping the water with Elijah's cloak yelling at the sky, "Where are you now, God?" Separation anxiety would be normal under the circumstances, just as it was normal for me last week. But God's reminder to me was the same as His to Elisha. While our predecessors may have left, God has not. When Elijah left, Elisha felt as though God had left too. Suddenly the task felt way too big. I'm alone. I'm powerless. I'm just ... me. I'll never be able to do it like he did. But the above wasn't the end of verse 14. It continues ...
... When [Elisha] struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.
In the midst of Elisha's little pity party, he performed the same exact river-splitting miracle Elijah had done before he left. Oh, the irony. Elisha's moping around, feeling inadequate, inferior, incapable. Then God reminds him that the power was never Elijah's. Elijah wasn't any better than Elisha. What made him special, what made him powerful, what made him capable was God. And God was very much still there ... with Elisha. The same miracle Elijah did, Elisha did. The ability was not in either man, it came straight from God.

I have no need to worry about what is to come as I serve my new unit. God is as present with me as He was with Derek. And neither of us have any abilities in and of ourselves. But with God ... well ... with God, anything is possible.

Maybe your mentor or partner or predecessor is gone and you are feeling way too small for what lies ahead of you. Maybe your duet has suddenly become a solo. Don't waste another minute worrying. God is there as large and in charge as He's ever been. Rest in that. Stop comparing. Be yourself. With the help of God, there may even be a miracle up your sleeve.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 94: It's the Final Countdown ...

Soldiers love a good countdown. I'm not talking about Casey Kasem's American Top 40 (though who didn't love that?). No, they countdown the days left on deployment ... or in this case, the days left of training. But like everything else in the military, there is a protocol. The way soldiers in the Army countdown is by the number of full days left + the day one wakes up to the event itself. For instance, those of us currently at CH-BOLC only have "4 days and a wake up" left until we graduate. F-O-U-R! Hard to believe.

For those of you who have (or will) flood me with questions about the what's next part, here's what I know now (Lord willing and the creek don't rise):

  • Friday, April 9th I graduate from the Basic Course at the Chaplain School in Ft. Jackson, SC.
  • Monday, April 12th I return to my civilian job and officially begin my new assignment serving the 151st Chemical Battalion in Gadsden, AL. (I'm still in the National Guard so it does NOT mean I will be moving. It just means this is the unit I will drill with monthly and serve whenever needed.)
  • Approximately one year from now, I will graduate from seminary and officially access as a Chaplain.
Beyond that, I have no idea. Let's face it, none of us even knows what tomorrow holds so to ask about whether I'll do this or that down the road is a moot point. The Lord knows and I know Him, so I'll know when He wants me to know. In the meantime, I am trying to savor where He has me now and let that be enough!

I'll leave you with this new favorite song of mine by Francesca Battistelli.
The lyrics seem quite appropriate for my life. And if God is keeping you guessing about the plans He has for your life, you will especially enjoy this too!

Keeping Me Guessing

Coffee cup waking me up
I’ve got to board a plane
And fly away

Sometimes I feel like I’m going the speed of light
Can’t relax I’m moving too fast
I want to find the gold but I don’t have a map
I wish that I could know what you’ve got in store for me

I try and try
To read your mind
‘Cause I forget that patience is a virtue
You’re teaching me to hold on tight

‘Cause I don’t know how the story ends
But I’ll be alright ‘cause You wrote it
I don’t know where the highway bends
But I’m doing just fine
‘Cause You’re in control
Even when I don’t know
Where my life’s gonna go
You’re keeping me guessing

So slow me down
Show me around
I want to see the world
That I’ve been without
I am here and now
The future is out of my hands

‘Cause I don’t know how the story ends
But I’ll be alright ‘cause You wrote it
I don’t know where the highway bends
But I’m doing just fine
‘Cause You’re in control
Even when I don’t know
Where my life’s gonna go
You’re keeping me guessing

I’m trusting you
And how you move
I won’t forget that patience is a virtue
You’re teaching me to hold on tight

Seasons come
And seasons go
But you decide

Monday, March 29, 2010

Day 88: Ready to Rumble?

Well, today is Day 88 of my running streak and I am pleased to say last week's field exercise did not break the streak. (Click on this link to see pictures from the field: FTX) When resolving to run everyday this year, I don't think I fully appreciated the sacrifices that would be necessary to maintain the commitment ... especially during our 4 days in the field. For instance, getting a run in on Day 82 meant a 3:30 am wake up for a quick rendez-vous with the treadmill before our ruck march out to the field. Day 83 meant volunteering to do special PT when most everyone else was calling it a day. And Day 84 meant figuring out a way to run a mile ... in my tent. Suddenly something occurred to me: If I can be this determined and disciplined about running, why can't I be that way about things that really matter?
"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Tim 4:8)
  • When was the last time I got up at 3:30 am to be sure I had quality time with God?
  • When was the last time I delayed rest, no matter how fatigued, because there was spiritual work to be done?
  • When was the last time I exercised God-given creativity to honor a spiritual commitment instead of justifying my failure to follow through?
This was later emphasized all the more when we were surprised by an unexpected training exercise. Having just completed my 1 mile "tent run", I had just started to change and get cleaned up for bed, when suddenly an explosion went off outside. "Gas! Gas! Gas!" was being yelled indicating this was a simulated chemical attack. Everyone had to don their gas masks and get to their designated bunker. As I stood there with my belt unbuckled realizing what was happening, I was faced with a decision: get on all my gear or get to the bunker ASAP. I compromised a bit between the two grabbing some (but not all) of my gear and heading to the bunker. Once the cadre began making their rounds to the bunkers they informed anyone that did not have gas mask, IBA (individual body armor vest), AND kevlar helmet to come out because you were dead. My platoon had 2 survivors.

Just 2.

The instructors reminded us of the seriousness of this training. "This is not a game," one said. "This could be the difference in life and death someday. The enemy will attack when you least expect it so you've got to be sure you are always ready and your equipment is never more than an arm's length away."

Isn't this also true in life? Is it sufficient to grab my helmet of salvation, but leave the shield of faith in my tent? Shouldn't we all take great care in being prepared at all times? Life comes at us fast, and we're kidding ourselves if we think we'll know when something is about to hit, or that there will be time to go back and grab what we need. But if we train ourselves everyday, diligently connect ourselves to the protection of a Mighty God, and stay alert, nothing will be able to defeat us.

So how 'bout it ... are you battle ready?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 81: No S'mores in the Army

Today is Day 81 of the running streak, but many miles still to go.

This journey has already seen a number of accomplishments and red letter days. Last Friday I passed my PT test ... this is the one that I had to pass in order to graduate from Ft. Jackson in good standing. To have that behind me is huge. But there is much more still ahead.

Tomorrow our entire class departs at the crack of crack via a 5.5 mile ruck march to spend 4 days out in the field. This is where all of our training comes to a head. And just in case we had the idea that this would be a glorified camping trip, we were reminded today that there will be no s'mores. No, there will be no bonfires or s'mores, no card playing or singing. These 4 days are where we have the opportunity to put all we've learned to the test. Instead of cards, mass casualties. Instead of singing, memorial services. Instead of campfires, middle of the night mortar blasts.

No fishing.
No canoeing.
No s'mores.
And very little sleep.

Please be praying for us over the next few days. Pray for stamina, clarity, wisdom, passion, and a good healthy dose of patience. (4 days with each other 24/7 will be a bit trying especially considering how fried everyone is at this point in the course.)

Oh, and odd as this sounds, please pray for me to figure out how to squeeze in a run each day while out in the field. This could prove to be extremely difficult with all that will be going on.

I look forward to following up after we return. No doubt there will be stories to tell and pictures to post. And one more HUGE hurdle behind me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 76 and Day 1 - Roughing it is relative

Day 76 of the running streak ...
Day 1 of my final stretch back at Ft. Jackson ...

Well today I arrived back at Ft. Jackson, and in preparing for that I sent out the mailing address for while I am here. (Thank you all you faithful mailers!) And for the second time in a row, my housing is off post in a hotel. You may recall the swanky digs I had last time at the Staybridge. Unfortunately said swanky digs may have ruined me for Army life forever. Here's how I know ...

When I arrived today, I was appalled ...
  • that my room didn't have a separate living room.
  • by the absence of a kitchen much less one with granite counters. (Will I really be expected to survive with only a dorm fridge and a microwave??)
  • that there's no DVD player anywhere in sight.
  • that there are no free dinners catered by area restaurants.
  • that the hotel is not preparing special brown bag breakfasts for us hard-working soldiers who will leave too early to enjoy the hotel's morning buffet.
  • that I will actually have to pay to use the laundry facilities.
What is this world coming to!!?!?

But then I was reminded of the absurdity of such complaints when my friend, Kristi replied to my mailing address by simply saying, "Hotel? The Army has changed." Oh yeah. I'm in the Army. Guess I should shut up with the complaining and get some sleep in this comfortable King-sized bed.

So my first lesson of CH-BOLC Phase 3?
"Roughing it" is relative.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 61: 100-38-31

What's with the title of numbers, you ask?
Hmmm, are the numbers ...
  • The combination to my high school locker? Like I'd remember that.
  • My measurements? The first number should CLEARLY indicate otherwise.
  • Perhaps winning lotto numbers ... which by the way will turn out to be cursed and cause me nothing but grief. (Shout out to all you LOST fans on that one.)
So, what ARE these numbers??

3/2 marked day 61 of my running streak and I'm proud to say I'm still streaking right along. In fact, as of 3/2, I've run 100 miles this year. It's not as impressive as it sounds when you do the math, but I'm pretty confident I would not have run 100 miles thus far had I not committed to this streak. Just goes to show you even a little bit at a time does eventually get you somewhere. And, kinda cool that this distance milestone landed on my birthday. Which brings me to the next number ...

Today was my 38th birthday, or, as I more commonly describe it, my 9th anniversary of my 29th birthday. I decided I wasn't having any more birthdays after that. How did I spend it you may ask? Well, eating for one. I enjoyed lots of food throughout the work day (thanks to my co-workers), including Krispy Kreme donuts, red velvet cupcakes, and chips and homemade salsa. Good thing I believe celebratory calories don't count. I took a break from all that eating to ... well ... eat some more, when a dear friend took me out to lunch for my big day. Feeling strangely full from the morning "grazing" I opted for a salad for lunch. As the lunch was coming to a close, I realized I couldn't find the card my friend gave me earlier. (I hadn't even opened it yet.) Turns out the card was accidentally collected with the menus, later discovered by a waitress who set it aside, where it was later stolen by a customer who pillaged the gift card and trashed the rest. She did so not knowing she was being recorded by cameras in the restaurant. They say it's the thought that counts. As in I thought I could experience a theft-free day today. Oh well. It makes for a good story. Upon completion of my work day, I hit the gym to get in my run. NOTE: While celebratory calories may not count, they do affect celebratory workouts. The aforementioned diet is not running streak friendly. Just FYI. So, after a side-splitting run, my day was concluded with side-splitting laughter over sushi with 3 of my favorite people in the world. Love you girls! Thanks for celebrating with me.

And perhaps the best number of all ... 31 is the number of years I've been a Christian. On my 7th birthday I entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the best friend I've ever had, the Author and Perfecter of my faith, and my Lord and Savior. And in 31 years, I've never regretted it once. Just as my friends and I laughed and shared stories of memories together, so I reflect back on 31 years as a Christian. Mr. Toad ain't got nothing on this Wild Ride! But I'm strapped in and ready for every twist and turn still to come.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A blog by any other name ...

DISCLAIMER: This post has absolutely nothing to do with my running streak.

What's in a name? Have any of you ever wondered why my blog is named "Never a Dull Moment"? If you know me at all, probably not. If you have wondered, let me explain by way of example.

This weekend was drill, and occasionally drill weekends are at Ft. McClellan instead of at our home station in Birmingham. This was one such drill. The two main tasks for the weekend were PMI (Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction) and HEAT training. The former, as I'm sure you gathered, is weapons training (for everyone but the chaplain of course ... we're non-combatants). But the second task is not what you might think. This was NOT a brief on how to deal with hot weather. In case you haven't figured this out yet ... the military loves acronyms. This one stands for HMMWV Egress Assistance Training. You may also notice that knowing what an acronym stands for doesn't always help. :o) This one is training for exiting a Humvee that has rolled over. It seems there have been a number of casualties in the past due to rollover accidents, so the military developed this training. It helps you to know important facts, like bracing yourself with your arm before releasing your seat belt. (If the vehicle is upside down and you release your seat belt without bracing yourself, you could get seriously injured due to dropping on your head.) This training also helps reduce the panic should one find themselves in this situation. It is easy to get disoriented when everything is upside down. I, for one, couldn't get my door open. This was not because I couldn't find the door latch (though that did take a second), but because I was pushing on the hinge side of the door. Comical I know, but when you've been spun around, hung upside down, flipped your body around in a very tight space, and are trying to exit the vehicle, nothing is very clear except the feeling that you want to get out.

Yes, this is my life ... and it should confirm why I entitled my blog what I did. But believe it or not this training was actually quite fun. I even volunteered to go again when our final group didn't have enough to fill the vehicle. (I needed to redeem myself with the door.)

But you don't want to just hear about this kind of stuff ... you want to see it! So I found a video on YouTube. This is not my unit, but it is the same type of simulator we used. Also, note that the instructions were not only to get out but to help others out of the vehicle as well. In this particular video, the soldiers on the other side of the humvee got out first and came around to help. Then all four position themselves at the four corners of the vehicle for security. (This is important since one cause of a rollover could be the Humvee hitting an IED. The enemy could likely be close by to watch their handiwork.) It's a lot to think about, which is why this training is so helpful. I'm glad to know it, but hope to never have to use it.

(Remember if you subscribe to this post via email, you'll need to click on the title to go to the online version so you can see the video. If you are reading this as a note on Facebook, click on "View Original Post" at the top of the comments section.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 35: Happiness is ...

When you're exhausted and fatigued, it's cold and rainy outside, and all you want to do is curl up on the couch by a roaring fire, a commitment to run everyday is not as appealing as it was in the planning stage. But I'm learning to do things that I've committed to regardless of how I feel.

I'm also realizing what an important life lesson that is.

Everyday marriages fall apart because someone says, "I'm just not in love with you anymore." The feelings they once had aren't there, so the appropriate action seems to be calling it quits.

But what if our feelings are a result of our actions
rather than the other way around?

What if treating someone with love eventually develops love for them in your heart? What if being at peace comes not from the absence of conflict but from being a peacemaker? And what if happiness is actually a choice?

The following is an assignment I had this week for my Pre-Marital and Marital Counseling class. We were to think on the concept of practicing "the habit of happiness" and here were my thoughts on the topic:

When I think of scriptural references on happiness, the first thing that comes to mind is a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount commonly referred to as The Beatitudes. Most translations begin each of these verses with “blessed are …” but the Greek word “makarios” could also be translated “happy.” So who, according to these verses, is happy or blessed? Is it the rich, the successful, the ones married to gorgeous spouses with no issues? Hardly. In an unexpected plot twist, which let’s face it Jesus became known for, He instead elevates the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the persecuted, and the like. Instead of lecturing on the dog eat dog world we live in and charging every person to do what they have to in order to get ahead, He applauds the merciful. Instead of encouraging global domination even if it takes war to get it, he says the peacemakers are actually the winners. Likewise, in Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he concludes with charges of peace, patience, love, and three of the most succinct and difficult commands in scripture: “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thess 5:16-18 NIV).

What does this say about practicing the “habit of happiness”? For starters I think it communicates that it is not based on circumstances. Clearly the mourner is in less than favorable circumstances. Peacemakers can only be such because they are in conflict. Jesus’ statements seem to be so ironic they are almost cruel … unless we see things through God’s eyes. Perhaps Paul’s passage offers us a key ... not referring to three mutually exclusive actions as first seen. How can we be joyful always unless we pray continually and give thanks in all circumstances? Happiness, or more accurately joy, is not based on circumstances; it is a choice. The term “habit of happiness” alone seems to indicate our attitude is more of our choosing than we typically like to think. However, it is deeper than merely “looking on the bright side of life” as one song describes. To be joyful always is to lay all our difficulties at Jesus’ feet in continual prayer, and continue to be thankful for what He’s done and is doing. It is living with an “attitude of gratitude” or what Paul describes as “giving thanks in all circumstances.”

In practical terms, this habit is developed as any habit is … through practice. It requires choosing to focus on our spouse’s strengths rather than living in perpetual discontent over his/her weaknesses. It is celebrating the differences that first drew us together as one another’s compliment instead of using them as examples of incompatibility. How do we do this? We stop looking to other sinful people to be what only God can be.

In short, it is being happy despite anything we may lack in the flesh because of all we have been given in the spirit through the perfect love of the Great I AM. Choosing happiness is not just realizing all our needs can be met in Christ, it is seeing they already have been.
So as Day 35 comes to a close, I find myself learning to choose more than just to run.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Running Streak: Day 24

For those of you who are wondering how the running streak is going, allow me to offer a quick update:

Today is Day 24 and the streak continues. By and large, the process has not been too terribly difficult, but there are certainly days the commitment has been challenging. For instance, for the last 4 days I have had a pretty good little butt-kicking sinus infection and let me assure you the last thing I wanted to do was go run. All I really wanted to do was lay on the couch drinking orange juice and watching old episodes of Lost. (I'm about 5 years late to that party, but enjoying it nonetheless.) But I made a commitment ... a commitment to run e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. And so I suit up and go.

Then I think about other people who've made commitments, like my fellow soldiers currently serving across the globe.

This picture is the status board for the full-time Soldiers in my unit. When I saw it at drill this month, it captured my attention. Something about seeing their names and their status set to "out", where it would remain for the next year. But they are not "out" on vacation, or running errands. They have not just stepped away from their desks. They are "out" honoring their commitment to the US Army, and more specifically to the people of the United States. And everyday, they honor that commitment and get up and do the job they have been trained to do. It is not always easy. It is rarely convenient. But they do it. They sacrifice a year with their families, a year's worth of nights in their own beds, a year's worth of days watching their kids grow up. Why? One word: Commitment.

So tonight when I lay my congested head down to sleep, I will not complain about having to get up and run tomorrow morning. I will offer thanks for the selfless service that has provided the freedom to do so. And I will honor my commitment to run that I might become stronger, faster, and more disciplined, knowing someday soon I too will serve my country overseas and the efforts I make now pave the way for my success then.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27 (NIV)

26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, 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.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Streaking Chaplain??

  1. to move rapidly from one place to another (The train streaked into the station and came to a stop just inches from the end of the track.);
  2. to run about in a public place naked. (This kid was streaking back and forth until the cops caught him.);
  3. to smear or smudge (The cheap window cleaner streaked the glass instead of cleaning it.);
  4. to continue a pattern for an extended duration (The team's winning streak finally ended Saturday.)
There are numerous ways of understanding the word "streak."
WARNING: The awareness of this fact is a prerequisite to reading this post.

This blog comes with a warning because I don't want to find myself being slandered because someone read an excerpt from my blog and took it out of context. If people can do it with the most sacred text in history, I'm sure my blog is not exempt. That being said ...

January 1, 2010 is a pivotal day in the life of moi. As of today, I have begun my career as a streaker. But that does not mean that I intend to parade my birthday suit in regular fashion shows. Nor does it mean to be looking for dramatic new lines of hair coloring on me. "Streaking," as intended here, is a concept among runners who commit to run everyday without exception. The term comes from the idea of a "running streak". Sound like an idiotic concept? Perhaps, but I'm not the idiot who thought of it. In fact, streaking of this form has been around for decades. Here are a few fun facts compliments of the United States Running Streak Association (USRSA) ... and yes, they actually have their own association:
  • USRSA running streak definition: A running streak is defined by USRSA as running at least one continuous mile within each calendar day under one's own body power (without the utilization of any type of health or mechanical aid other than prosthetic devices). Running under one's own power can occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill.
  • As of December 1st, 2009, there are 221 active running streaks in the United States.
  • The longest running streak is still active and is held by Mark Covert of Lancaster, CA. This streaking legend has run everyday since July 23rd, 1968. That is over 41 years or 15,128 days (as of the date of this blog).
When I first heard about this phenomenon, I thought what you are probably thinking right now too ... insanity in running shoes. But the more I pondered the concept, the more I was intrigued and challenged by it. How many days do I say I'm going to run, but never do? I mean to, I really do. But the day gets away from me, or the weather isn't ideal, or my lazy-side arm wrestles my healthy-side and wins, despite the unlikely physical match up. (Truth be told, the lazy-side is known to bend the rules and actually sits on its opponent until it begs for mercy, thus using its girth as an advantage instead of a hindrance.)

There is no room for concessions in the world of streakers. (Neither the nachos & cheese kind nor the excuses kind.) There is only commitment. You either run everyday, or you are not a streaker. No half way. In the words of Yoda, "Do or not do. There is no try." I want to live in a world with that level of commitment. If I can run everyday, then I can certainly successfully commit to other things. I can finally silence that chubby lazy-side. I can pin it to the mat and say, "No more! If you ever want to win again, you'll have to catch me first."

So January 1st, 2010 will go down in the books as my start date as a streaker. How long will I continue? Only time will tell. My minimum goal, and the requirement to even register with the USRSA, is one year. 365 straight days of running. You are my accountability, blog readers. Feel free to ask me on any given day if I have run yet. You are on this journey with me, at least metaphorically. But if anyone wants to literally join me, that would be great too!

So, here we go ... Run Forrest! Run!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (I Corinthians 9:24 NIV)