Saturday, January 30, 2010

More than a Run

In the last 15 months, I have run six, 1/2 marathons and hundreds of miles of training. Today the run was different. Today it was more than a run. Today deserves a tip of the hat for all that it was.

The Benbrook 1/2 marathon is known for the rolling, winding course on the west side of Lake Benbrook. It is a tough course on a good day. Today was not a good day. We started in 27* with a 15 mph north wind, which means it felt more like 14*. Many fewer runners even came to the lake this morning than had actually paid their entry fees.
At about mile one is a low water crossing. It rained pretty heavy over the last few days so water was running a couple of inches deep and about 10 feet wide. Yes, we all got our feet wet. Well, so not all of us. One lady piggy-backed on a guy, and a number of people literally turned around. Now, with wet shoes, on we go.

A couple of miles later a blast of cold wind hit me in the face and which made me turn my head to see a doe, a deer, a female deer (Yeah, I just quoted liberally from the Sound of Music. It is my mom's favorite movie.) come running out of the woods, cross the road 20 yards ahead of me, and then jump the fence and disappear into the pasture.

Another mile or so and the Benbrook ambulance drove by me. I have no idea if someone was hurt. About the same time there is a man standing in the road telling us to run in the grass (which was really just mud) to avoid the ice sheet on the road. On the way back, we just walked across the ice.

Thank you to the nice couple who was standing at the top of the "Nice Hill :)."

On the way back, the hills begin to take their toll. And we were running more or less toward the north. It was brutal. I kept thinking to myself, "If you finish strong you can go to Starbucks or Einstein's." Sadly, my self-motivation was not enough to keep the pace as strong as I had really hoped. The wind, the hills, the cold all proved to be better than my best. It didn't help that at the last water stop gave us water that was beginning to freeze. Nothing says, "Finish strong," like a half-frozen cup of water.

Mile 12 brought me back to the low water crossing. This time I chose my steps poorly as I went ankle deep with both feet. And as the guy next to me said, "I think the water has gotten colder."

Finally, the last turn, you can see the house. And there only yards from the finish was my family, Tammy and the boys. I told them they were crazy for standing out there in the freezing cold. I was so cold much of my stomach and legs were red from the cold even 15 minutes later as I undressed to take a warm shower.
Yeah, if was more than a run today. It was a test. And I passed. I know I can do hard things again. So much more seems possible today. Two hours and 27 minutes of a test in a 15* windchill but I passed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Cave

Ok, so I have been living in a cave, or maybe a underglorified Fortress of Solitude. I have been in hiding more than anything else. Afraid to come out. Afraid to look into the reality of the world. Afraid that the world will not accept me.

My life has been a Fortress of Solitude because I can hide alone in my house dealing with next to no one most of the time under the guise of being a stay-at-home-dad. The biggest difference between my hiding place and Superman's is not that his is a crystal palace at the North Pole and mine is a house in Fort Worth. No the biggest difference is that I am no super man.

My life has been a cave in the Platonic sense. I have been facing the wall of my cave, watching the shadows and assuming (or maybe wanting) this to be reality. Well reality never exists in the cave, it is only a shadow of what is real.

Why do I hide in my Fortress of Solitude, in my cave? Because it is safer than standing up and facing the reality of the world. It is safer to hide than to try. It is safer to settle than to risk. Here, I can be fine with the illusions dancing on the wall before me, but if I stand up and leave my Fortress of Solitude, I will have to deal with the reality that is out there in the world.

Some days, it is not that we have to be super. Some days, we just need the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to stand up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Live You

Last week I texted Tammy, "I live you." Then I said, "I mean I love you." A few minutes later, I get, "I 'live' you, too." I couldn't stop thinking about those texts. When we really love someone, don't we live them as well?

This is not an easy thing to do. To live someone. To let their thoughts and desires be your thoughts and desires. To let their dreams be your dreams. It is what I have found myself trying to give into with my wife, and secondarily my boys over the last months. To live them.

As this kept rolling through my mind this week, I found myself thinking about this living and loving thing and then I found the words of Jesus, "No one has greater love than the one who lays down his life for his friends" swimming in my head too.

For so long, I lived church, work, my own interests, that I could not live and love my wife and family the way I should. Now, I am working to love Tammy and live Tammy more and more, and trying to be a better dad to both my boys.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


St. Paul talks about the discipline of the athlete in his first letter to the church in Corinth (9:24-27). I heard a pastor speak about this briefly on Sunday, and it came into my head as I was running earlier today.

Physical discipline is hard. To go and run, to do push-ups and sit-ups, or to do Bikram yoga (like Tammy does), is hard work. It is much easier to just sit. It is much easier not to be disciplined in what you do. The same is true with the food you eat. The Lord knows, I would rather have a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke, than most of the stuff I should be eating.

As much work as the athlete does to discipline and train the body, so there is just as much work for those trying to discipline and train the spirit. And it is not as readily obvious to the casual observer if the spirit is not well trained as if the body is not well trained.

Here is what I realized today: if you are wounded, the discipline and training are harder. Think of Colt McCoy last week. He was prepared and ready and then with a relatively minor blow to the back of his shoulder, he was unable to play. He will not be able to train in the same manor probably for a few weeks. I realized that as I am trying to put a spiritual life back together, that the spiritual wounds that I carry (some new and some very old) can hinder the training and the discipline I can receive.

Thursday night, Colt knew how to throw a football but he could not. Even today I know how to do many things and expect that some day I will get back in the game. I am not training aimlessly. But or right now, my spirit is resting and healing so that when the day comes, I will not have run aimlessly nor boxed as though beating the air, but I will have punished myself and enslave my body, so that God's proclamation shall not be in vain.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Me

I have not sat down to try and do this in almost 5 months mostly because I was not in the place emotionally to do so. I think the time has come for me to find a voice again and to blog at least once a week was one of my resolutions. I am taking this on as a spiritual discipline at this point, and I am seeking your support. Not that I need readers, I need accountability.

In August 2009, after 15 years of preaching and 15 years of marriage, I stepped out of both in a matter of days. First, I quit on my marriage and on Tammy. On Saturday, August 1, I moved out of our house and moved into an apartment. Dark days.

In those dark days, I realized that wanted to a better father than I could be from a distance, and this proved to be the first step to coming home. To help heal the marriage that I threw into shambles, with Tammy's encouragement, I asked for a leave of absence from the ministry of the United Methodist Church. So, second, I stepped out of the ministry for the first time since I was 19 at the end of August.

Over the course of the last five months, I have learned a great deal about myself, about love, about marriage, about my own personal struggles and demons. I also know I have a great road ahead of me. Thankfully, through some hard work and much grace, Tammy and I reconciled and I moved home over Labor Day weekend. I used to put her behind the church in my list of priorities, then I put her behind our boys, and mostly I put her needs far behind my own wants. Through much self-reflection, work, and prayer, I have realized that I was probably never the spouse that Tammy really needed or deserved. I have learned that my first and primary relationship in this world is Tammy. Ok, so Tammy and I both know Christ is at the head of our relationship, but that is a slightly different question.

I hope and pray that the dreams that Tammy and I are dreaming together at this point can come to bear fruit. We have set new goals for our life together. I do not know when I will return to full-time ministry at this point. I simply ask that you help my keep my dreams fresh by poking me with a stick (or call or email) if you do not see a fresh posting of this blog by Wednesday of any given week.

Grace and peace,