Monday, December 26, 2011

Next Up: 2012!

I've tried a few times to write about next year. It just doesn't seem to be working. I have a lot of great things planned with some wonderful people, but blogging about it feels more like typing an agenda than sharing my life so I think I have been going about it all wrong.

There are many mornings when I jump into the car and head off to work, and I love being alive. Recently the journey has been a dark canvas painted with multicolored Christmas lights. Some days it is a beautiful sunrise with a colorful sky and white, fluffy clouds.  Yet other days, it has been pouring rain. The other morning I was driving in what I like to call a nice Irish rain (steady, soft, without lightning), I couldn't help but think it was a very nice rain for a run. I'm usually listening to K-Love, and if you were to look over as you pass, you would most likely see me singing. I really enjoy my drive into work. Of course, I still have a few of those days where I don't feel too great or people are driving like wild banshees.  I consider those days to be homework days, and I work on trying to be more thankful. 

The truth is that whether or not the upcoming year looks promising or difficult, this moment is what counts. If I am able to continually find joy in this moment, my year will be great. It really doesn't matter where I go or what I accomplish. I'm still a big fan of setting goals. I feel that if I pick a positive direction, at least I will be heading in that direction whether or not I decide to change course or life changes that course for me. It sure beats flopping around directionless. 

In the past week, I've begun training for a March 50K. I'm still a little worried about my foot, but it seems to be getting better. Last weekend was a 10 mile day followed by a 13 mile day, and my foot is feeling good. My legs, on the other hand, are crying a little, but muscle soreness beats a swollen foot any day of the week.  It's also been 3 months since I put down the sugar "crutch" so I think I'll keep skipping it. I've found that I enjoy other foods with good flavor a lot more these days. It seems like a diet high in sugar dulls the brain to taste and puts the focus on the sugar high obtained. Saying no to sugar still feels pretty empowering, and I no longer feel that something has to be sugary to be a treat.  My biggest and most important goal this year has to be accomplished moment to moment, requires focus, and offers things I cannot really put into words.

Philippians 3: 12-14
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

Whatever your goals, resolutions or plans are for 2012, I hope you have a great moment, day, and year!

Charlie says Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


5 years ago, I never would have written a blog about Jesus. It wasn't that I didn't believe. It was more that I was completely into standing on my own. In a country that celebrates Christmas, it often feels that we are not supposed to say the name Jesus. Odd.  I spent well over 30 years not talking about him very often and thinking that I was strong enough to do just fine supporting myself. After all, we are told that pure might and will power are enough to make everything possible. Work hard and things will go your way!

Supporting my own world felt lonely. I thought relationships were supposed to fix that. I found that they did not. I thought that if I behaved a certain way and followed certain rules, I was a good person.  Sure, I read that when it comes to Jesus, it isn't works but faith that gets you there. How in the world can I be given something great if  I don't earn it? That just made no sense to me so I basically just ignored it. I worked hard, and a lot of things did go my way. That must mean that I am doing things right! Right?

Then I came across those people who spoke about Jesus and weren't very nice. Just turn on the television, and you will see plenty of people who speak the words being thrown in jail for stealing or worse. How fair is that? These people believe in Jesus, do terrible things, and yet they are still supposed to get the good stuff after they cross the finish? No way.

Follow the rules, or go to hell! Obey! Jesus is Love. God is good. How is any of this supposed to make any sense?! It didn't. I continued on doing the best I could at being a good person and looking to myself to get the job done.  Of course, I made mistakes along the way, and then I would once again pick myself back up and continue on.

Then it happened. You hear people talk about "it", but really you don't get it unless it has happened to you. You just assume they were having a rough time and figured a way out of it ... on their own. For me it wasn't an exact moment in time. It was more like putting the clues together and finally waking up. Sure, there was an event that felt pretty terrible that sparked introspection, but this time I realized that there had been something feeding me information the entire time. I had just been choosing to ignore it. Instead of trying to control life (mostly because it wasn't working), I reached out and asked God for help.  It wasn't in words so much. I just finally gave up the illusion that I could control what happened in all circumstances with my actions.

As I started looking back on my life, I realized that I had spent a lot of time ignoring a very important link that had been providing me information for as a long as I could remember. I didn't have a name for it. It was exciting! It felt as if a new portion of my mind was now accessible to me, and at the same time (please forgive the geeky computer reference) it seemed as though I went from being a dumb terminal to a computer with an internet connection.  I started discussing it with my mom, and I started looking for answers in the Bible. I had heard of the Holy Spirit, but I always thought it was just a figure of speech or something. Then I realized that is exactly what I had been ignoring all of my life.

John 14 says "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you."

Wow, that was a surprise! Never in a million years did I think the Holy Spirit was real.

With this new connection, I stopped feeling alone. The more I paid attention, the better I became at paying attention!  Had this been the only change, I still might have been skeptical.  I also began feeling more joy than any other point in my life. Sure, I was running in 90 degree heat, without enough water stops, and feeling physically miserable and tired, but I still had a center of joy beneath all the difficulty. I was still thankful.

The entire concept of God's grace also began making a lot more sense to me. Nope, I don't have to earn it.  There's another side to that, though. When I began asking Jesus for guidance and actually listening, I realized that I stopped making choices out of fear or "wanting to be a good person" and instead based them wanting to do great things for him.  I don't have to earn his love, but because I love him, I naturally want to do the best I can and follow his guidance. I follow out of joy rather than fear, and let me tell you, there is a HUGE difference in the way it feels. Since I'm anything but perfect, there are still going to be mistakes in my future.  Instead of relying on myself to try and fix it all, I can ask Jesus for help. Instead of feeling shame and guilt, I can focus on the joy that Jesus shares with me and be thankful that he can bring joy and good from all things.

Sure, I could have probably made it through my entire life just trying to rely on myself.  But knowing what I know now, there is no way in the world I would ever want to try that again. I missed out on way too much.

Merry Christmas! Every day is a good day to celebrate Jesus and know his joy.