Just Delete It

I have a hard time calling myself a runner.

This picture shows my wife and her sister in the start corral for the Oklahoma CIty Memorial Marathon – and gives evidence of my epic photobombing skills.

I have done enough running to learn that what you wear and what you carry with you can make a huge difference in how you run. I have run enough to know that you don’t want over-sized, loose-fitting clothing. I will spare you the mental images that naturally come with an explanation of this matter, but do trust me.

That’s why it’s no surprise when I read Hebrews 12:1 these insightful words:

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

The extra stuff – even if it’s not a lot – can get heavy. That’s incredibly true of an extra 40 or 50 pounds of excess weight. It gets old in a hurry.

The clothes you wear can be a help or a hindrance depending solely upon how they fit. It’s way to easy to get tangled up.

But the writer of Hebrews was not talking about running a physical race. He was talking about the spiritual journey of faith that is a long-distance run. It requires perseverance and endurance. It requires discipline and a great deal of faith.

He tells us that, in order to run the race well, we need to lay aside the extra weights that slow us down. We can think of that as the things that may not be wrong or bad necessarily, but just get in the way and slow down our running of the race. Sometimes good things can really crowd out the best and most important things.

But we’re also told to lay aside the sin that trips us up. We all have things in our lives that we know are not pleasing to God. We also know that they present an obstacle to our spiritual growth.

So, as we take a moment to look through our lives, what are the things that need to be laid aside? What are the weights that need to be dropped by the wayside – activities that get in the way of your walk with God, involvements or relationships, or anything else that is not wrong, just in the way?

What are the things that we know ought not be in our lives – ungodly habits or attitudes, inappropriate relationships, or other practices that need to be removed?

Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a DELETE button. Though, as you begin to look at your life, this process may begin with deleting some apps or programs from your phone or computer or tablet. It may mean getting rid of a device or a TV channel or such. But I believe in the willingness of God to enable us by His Spirit to delete things that need to be deleted from our lives.

It’s like the story I heard of a wise father that noticed the bulging pockets of his little boy. The father asked about the contents and the boy said, as boys do, “I don’t know…just stuff.”

The father asked the boy to come to the table and empty the pockets. There were all kinds of things there stuffed into those little pockets. As the contents were brought to light, the father sorted them into two piles there on the table. Once his pockets were empty, the boy looked anxiously at his dad, wondering what was about to happen.

The father pushed one pile back over to the boy and said, “Here you go, son. You can keep these.” The other pile was placed in the trash. You see, the father could see the problems that the little boy could not. He could see complications that the little boy would never see coming.

I believe our Heavenly Father is inviting you and me to come and empty the pockets of our lives out before Him. He will gently affirm the things we need to keep. But He will insist that some things need to be deleted. He knows they’re just slowing us down or tripping us up as we run.

So, whatever it is, will we just delete it?

13.1 Miles? That’s insane.

Several months ago, I committed to something insane.

My wife is a very motivated person. She has walked (and run a little here and there) several half marathons. She was talking about wanting to try to run an entire half marathon but not being sure she could do it by herself. I opened my mouth. I said, “Let’s do it.”

We downloaded an app and we made a plan and we started training. Have I mentioned yet that I have tried this before and, quite frankly, I don’t like running? It was a frustrating, painful, difficult process. It was an amazing, soul-healing, beautiful process. It was very much like our marriage.

Yesterday, April 27, 2014, we ran the half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. We crossed the start line hand in hand – nervous, excited, confident, afraid. Just less than three hours later, we crossed the finish line hand in hand – hurting, exhausted, excited, relieved. We knew it would be hard. We knew there would be some very painful moments. Indeed, there were very many. We both hoped that we had it in us to do this. We were both absolutely confident that the other could do it – but not entirely sure about ourselves. But the one thing we knew to the very core of our beings is that, no matter what, we were doing this together.

My amazing wife, Tori, and me in the starting corral for the half marathon.

I think we saw in that three hours a microcosm of our marriage. There was the excitement of the starting line with people all around cheering for us. There was the nervous energy as we navigated the first few turns and began to pass some folks and to be passed by many others. There were some long tough stretches that seemed entirely uphill. There was the monster known as “Gorilla Hill” that we managed to run all the way up, passing so many folks who chose to walk it. There was the realization that I, a.k.a. Drippy McSweatsalot, was no longer sweating where she grabbed my hand and pulled me to the next water stop and instructed me to “drink these and drink these and eat this.”

There was the moment that I, somewhat re-hydrated and energized, grabbed her hand and kept pulling along the last uphill of the course. And there was that last few blocks where the blisters were screaming and the calves were cramping and the lungs were burning and we both just held on to each other and somehow kept running. There were the runners that had already received their medals who were walking back along the course and offering encouragement. There were our amazing friends and family who were cheering for us and calling out our names amid the crowd so we would know they were cheering for us specifically. There were the tears and smiles and laughter as we crossed the finish line – just the way we started, together hand in hand.

In our nearly 23 years of marriage, we have seen all of those moments. There was the excitement of a new life together. There were anxious decisions where we tried so hard to make the right choices. We had seasons when life seemed to be moving uphill and some wonderful times that the road seemed soft and smooth and easy. There have been times that each of us has been unable to go in our own power and the other has had to pull/push/carry us a step further and had to practically spoon-feed the needful sustenance. There were times we didn’t know what else to do but keep running. And all along the way we see examples of folks that we have watched finish the course whose very lives cry out to us, “You can do this – just keep running!” And, it seems, that each step along the way God has provided friends and family to speak directly to us and help us along the way by simply sharing the day.

The thing that keeps us running is the vow that we made and continue to make day after day after day – that we will do this together, no matter what.

Several months ago, I committed to something insane. Yesterday I fulfilled that commitment – and I am so glad I did.

Almost twenty-three years ago, I committed to something insane. I will spend my life fulfilling that commitment – and I’m so glad to do it.

Sweetie, you’re amazing! I don’t know what’s next – but I know how we’ll do it. Together. Always.


Overcoming Inertia

I am no engineer, physicist, or mechanic.  Let me make that clear and plain.

Newton’s first law of motion is summarized to say that an object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force.  An object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force.

Last week I offered what might seem a foolish challenge to the proverbial “Murphy” and his dubious law (“Anything that can go wrong will”).  I invited him to take his best shot.  Indeed he has.  I’ll not wade into the mire of the details, but I feel like I am emerging on the other side of the bog not too much the worse for the wear.

The problem is that my daily patterns – the object in motion, if you will – were sorely interrupted by the outside force of circumstance.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  A “disciple” is one who follows after and strives to imitate the one he follows.  The word “disciple” is, of course, the basis of the word “discipline.”  Discipline is something we generally tend to connect with the process of correcting the behavior of our children or pets.

But discipline is also the process of training by which one comes to be more and more like the standard to which they aspire.  As a follower of Jesus, I am called to daily embrace the disciplines necessary to conform my life more and more to His example.  The obvious disciplines of a follower of Jesus would be reading His writings, studying His life, carefully considering the teachings of those who walked closest to Him, and talking with Him one on one as much as is possible (prayer).

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”  -Jesus, Luke 9:23

In the chaos of the last couple of weeks, my consistency in these disciplines has suffered significantly.  I haven’t neglected them completely, but I have been far less consistent.  But this is true in most areas of my life.  One of the biggest disciplines that I have (finally and only by the grace of God) developed over the last year or so is that of consistent daily exercise.  But I had not been to the gym in over a week until yesterday.

I noticed a strange thing.  I was going back to a place that I had routinely visited five or six times per week for over a year now.  But it was so hard to go.  It wasn’t the exercise that was hard.  Once I got in the door I hit the treadmill and had a great, solid workout.  It was much easier than I expected.  But making myself get dressed and drive to the gym and walk in the door was crazy difficult.

[For the record, while I had not been to the gym, I had spent the better part of two days working on my truck, numerous hours through that time reworking flower beds and other yard work, and a few glorious hours on the golf course.]

But why is it that the positive disciplines of life are so hard to pick back up one we drop them?  Could it be that Newton’s first law of motion has a spiritual/emotional layer of truth as well as the physical?

Time and time again people have expressed to me how hard it is to get back into the habit of going to church after being out for a while.  I know it seems so much harder when I’ve missed my Bible reading for even a day or two to pick it up again.

It seems to me that the first step is the most difficult one.  The object at rest (ME) will stay at rest (out of the gym) unless acted upon by an outside force (my conscience and the pressing of the Holy Spirit upon my heart).   I needed that force.  I am rolling again and soon hope to be on the other side of that equation – the object in motion that will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force (more of the chaos and distraction of life).

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  -Philippians 2:13