Category: Running

Is it good to be a crackpot?

crackpot 1

 

I recently read Joni Eareckson’s book on the mysteries of suffering. 1

Comparing ourselves to clay pots, she stated that if we are meant to display the treasure that God put in each of us, then

“that display often works best when there are faults and cracks and chips in the pot! It is through these that the radiant, resplendent glory of Jesus shines through to the wondering eyes of the world.”

Joni has been a cracked pot for over 50 years, ever since the diving accident that left her a quadriplegic. Reading her quote, I reflected on how she’s an extreme example.  But how would the cracked pot comparison apply to all of us? Would it even apply to someone who is strong, vigorous, and healthy?

To check that out, I hunted for Scripture about crackpots.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Here the apostle Paul implies that we would take the credit if we were overpowering and strong. But we are weak. Even the strongest of us gets exhausted if pushed hard enough. And, if we get old enough, it’s guaranteed that even the most strong, vigorous, and healthy of us will begin to show cracks in our own jar of clay!

Many of us have a special love for autonomy and independence. But look at what it says in Isaiah and Jeremiah:

And yet, Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We are all formed by your hand. (Isaiah 64:8).

But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to Him. (Jeremiah 18: 4)

Hey, wait a minute. These verses say that I was formed by his hand. And as seemed best to him. So, what does that imply about any complaint I have about how I was made?

Personal example: God gave me a slight frame instead of a mighty frame. As a young man this shaping was not according to the design that I would prefer. So how did I react?

Well, I discovered that my frame allowed me to outrun almost everyone on long distance runs. My attitude was: “I’ll show them! I’ll run them into the ground!” Only years later did I learn to develop a thankful heart to the Lord in my running, to see that God could take pleasure in me as I ran, and to use my influence amongst other runners instead of having a vicious need to run them into the ground.

Joni Eareckson has now reached this point: seeing how bountifully God has used her as she is, she would not trade her life as a quadriplegic for what her life would have been like had she remained able-bodied.

Even though few of us have a disability as extreme as Joni’s, each of us can view our weaknesses in a similar light.

Can you see how even your weakest parts can be used for God’s glory?

 

1    A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.  https://tinyurl.com/ybknk87m

From Fog to Sunshine

For  God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

On a recent morning, my home in the valley was enveloped in thick fog. I planned to go for a run in Mountain Lakes. Its elevation is several hundred feet higher than where I live. To get there, I first drove  uphill through the town of Boonton. As I climbed in altitude, suddenly I left the fog and burst into bright sunshine. All the scenery that was hidden from my view suddenly became bright and clear and filled with color!

My climbing out of the fog illustrates two different things about how we relate to Christ. First, before we knew Christ in the first place, we were walking around with scales in our eyes.  God unblinded us and had the scales fall from our eyes to invite us in to believe in Christ. Before the apostle Paul got baptized, when he was still called Saul, he was temporarily blinded after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus—and then:

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized. (Acts 9:18)

Second, once we have decided for Christ, we still have remaining sin and deception in our lives. Often, this kind of deceptive sin is something we are not even aware of. (Even if it is obvious to everyone else!)  I am praying for someone who has an attitude that subtly puts people down.  No one even dares to mention it any longer, knowing how defensive this person is: “What gives you the right to say that and judge me!” But at the right time, God will bring them out of their fog and they will say, “Yes, Lord, you are right.” Then, they will have the beautiful experience of seeing how God’s sunlight replaces the fog as the scales fall from their eyes.

Just as it was for Paul, scales in our eyes are only temporary. It is wonderful when God causes them to fall! I know I have plenty of them left and most likely you have some too. Let’s pray that we both get freed from them.  Then, like when I climbed the hill into Boonton, something that was hidden from our view suddenly becomes bright and clear and filled with the light of the knowledge of God’s glory.

Headwind or Tailwind ?

 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors. (1 Samuel 12:14-15)

I ran on a local track before church on a cold February morning. On the northbound straightaway was a strong headwind from the northwest. The wind was so cold that it was physically painful and it held me back.

But on the southbound straightaway, by the home team’s stands, a strong tailwind pushed me—I started to gloat about how fast I was running, because I did not really feel how much the wind was helping me.

My cold run on the track gave me a picture of what it means to walk with God or resist God.

The headwind and tailwind reflect two different heart attitudes. To live in obedience to God is to live being pushed along by a grace-filled tailwind. But my experience on the track suggests a warning:  it’s easy to forget that God is pushing me, and to take the credit for myself for doing well.

To rebel against God is to run into a very strong headwind.  I wish that when we do this in real life, it would be as quick to be felt as I felt it on the track. But, since we can unfortunately be rather pig-headed, sometimes we start to get a hardened heart, and we begin running into the headwind, often without even realizing that we are doing it. I am thankful, though, that God shows us mercy.  He loves us enough to give us a shout of warning that we are running into the headwind. And…… That means we can stop and turn around and start to run with the tailwind— we call this repenting!

Running on the track, I was forced to run into the headwind half of the time. But, in our walk with the Lord, we can pray “Lord, I always want to run with the tailwind, and do warn me quickly if I start running into the headwind.”

 How are you doing? Are you running with God’s tailwind today? Or do you need to repent and do a quick turn around?

Running into God’s peace

Below is a wonderful country road where I like to go on a long run. The run I am describing today was in the dead of winter, but the setting is still beautiful, especially when the ground is snow-covered.

worship-run

At this point, 7 miles into my run, my body felt a little tired. This tiredness reminds me of what Mr. Littler, my high school track coach, used to say during a hard workout.  “You’re not that tired, Baker, you just think you are!”  Back in those days I was a hardened agnostic, and the coach’s words would inspire me to grit my teeth harder and dig down a little deeper, dredging up some good running masochism. The idea that I could depend on something outside of myself while running (or doing just about anything in my life) was alien to me.

Here in 2017, though, instead of gritting my teeth I had a musical pathway to God.  I did not have my headphones with me so I put on an instrumental worship music station which played out of my pocket.  Gentle Praise is a worship music mix which bills itself as “designed to be a respite anytime that you need to focus on the things of God.”

As I listened, I began to thank and praise the Lord out loud!

This worship refreshed my spirit ……and that fed back to my body…. I didn’t feel so tired. That draws me to Jesus’ words on weariness:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Of course, Jesus’ words apply to more than just running. And now I know that the real win over weariness comes from outside ourselves, not from digging deeper within ourselves. So, we can even experience refreshment amid all the tumult that life in 2017 can bring.  When we are weary, may we enjoy worship that draws us upwards to experience more of Jesus.

Slowing Down on a Beautiful Autumn Day

What a nice day for a run today, as you see in the picture. Here I am by Birchwood Lake in Mountain Lakes, NJ.

But at this point in my run I stopped and I started to think of how many miles I ran last week and how fast I ran them. Yet, I was starting to feel obligated to run at an even faster pace this week. Today, there was not much of a spring in my step. I wished I could just take a shortcut to go back to my starting point.

But no—-I was committed, trapped, beyond the point of no return. There was only one way out of the forest! Several miles to go.

As I rested here, I said Wait a minute! Who says I am obligated to run at a faster pace? Why not slow down from that frenzied pace, and savor the rest of the run, enjoying the fall air and bright foliage! Yes, not only did I enjoy the rest of the run, but I avoided harassment from the rocks and roots, who enjoy tripping up fast runners as they lay hidden beneath the fall leaves on the trail.