Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chariots of Fire - They shall mount up with wings as eagles

This scene has been as much a blessing to me over the years as any portion of film I can recall and I've watched a lot of movies. Eric Liddell reads from Isaiah 40 that the nations are nothing to the Lord. They are like a drop from a bucket. The Lord, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall run and not be weary.

At the end of this clip is Aubrey Montague finishing the steeplechase. He is exhausted and dejected, but he has competed in the Olympic Games. Aubrey serves as the narrator in Chariots of Fire. He is the poet for the film. He is not one of the star athletes, like the evangelist Liddell or the driven Jew, Harold Abrams. Aubrey finds himself watching and learning from the greats, but he observes cloaked by their shadows. Yet still, with less talent he has achieved his goal as an olympian. There is no medal for Montague, but is he any less a hero?

I looked at photos of myself running on Thanksgiving in a race near my parents home in Charlotte, NC. I feel like Aubrey Montague in these pictures--totally worn out. And yet, I ran a personal best last Thursday. I felt like I was moving through quick sand at the end of the race, dropping from 6th to 9th place overall. But it was the best I could give on the day and I was pleased with the effort. No matter the speed and talent of others, it is rare in our life-long habits that we breakthrough to our own best efforts. I've been running for 27 years and here I am in my mid-thirties setting new personal bests.

I must be honest, I've been waiting on the Lord for sometime and he has answered. He has helped me mount up with wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31). He has provided and blessed with the Tobacco Trail Church. Even other ministries are being considered in what might be called a two-point charge. I am open to it with God's help. I've personally and corporately developed partnerships with local para-church organizations: Child Evangelism Fellowship, Reality Ministry, the Durham County Detention Center, Habitat for Humanity, Alta Walk Senior Living, Durham Cares, Triangle Community Foundation and many others.

God has had me waiting all my life and 2010 has been a particularly renewed and strengthened year.

Chariots of Fire is on the top of my movie list. I always loved the running scenes as I have always loved running. More importantly now though is the marriage of running and faith. Eric Liddell exudes a confidence that comes only out of being a firm believer.

As he prepares for his last race, the 400 meters, he says to one of his competitors, "Good luck. Don't expect I'll see you until after the race." If you know any thing about running, he's trash talking, but politely. Liddell is implying that his fellow runners will only see his back. Some will say arrogance, but this confidence comes from God. Jackson Pollock, the great American sprinter, hands him a note from 1 Samuel chapter 2 which says, "He that honors me, I will honor him."

Do you believe this? Do you believe in a confidence that comes out of God's promise to honor those who honor Him? Consider.

Team Tobacco Trail Church at Habitat Halloween Ride


Here are just some of the members of our team that assembled as team Tobacco Trail Church from the left:
Jim Ray, Don Rose, Jason Scoggins, Adam Rust, Thomas Pafford, and me, George Linney.

Below are David Tallon and myself. David and I also race in a discipline called cyclocross in a 14 week fall and winter series for team Durham Cares.

We still need your help in meeting our fund raising goals to provide $500 to Habitat for Humanity.

One story:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our God - Chris Tomlin - Passion 2010

And if our God is for us,
then who could ever stop us
And if our God is with us,
then what can stand against?

These most powerful words come from Chris Tomlin's, "Our God" based on Romans 8.

In the song it seems to serve as strictly a rhetorical question. In the tradition of the Black Church, and even as it was chanted at the Tobacco Trail Church this past Sunday, it often has the same tone--uplifting, rejuvenating, acting and voicing that if God is purposing our lives than what can stand against us.

But it's not always that simple. Matthew 19 tells of a man who stopped Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why do you question me about what's good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you."
The man asked, "What in particular?"
Jesus then lists off some of the majors, no murder, no adultery, no stealing, but the man says he's been faithful to these laws and begs the question: "What's left?"
Jesus then really lets him and us have it in terms of what stands against us, as the song reminds.
"If you want to give it all you've got," Jesus replied, "go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All you wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me."
The man sighed a big sigh and with his chest and chin hanging on the ground he slipped away. As Peterson says in The Message, "He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn't bear to let go."
That's what stands against us, despite God being for us--all the things that possess us. And it's not just wealth, though that is high on the list. It's violence, and sexual sin, deception, loss of family, and hatred of the neighbor in our midst. How do we give up these possessions?
I don't really know. I'm trying to give them up every day with God's help. Thanksgiving is a good start--a time to share food, family, and friends. Advent is even better--a time for renewed hope for that child coming who stands for GOD WITH US.
See, this Emmanuel child means that despite my not knowing God knows. God is for us and while we feel the weight of all that possesses against us, he promises to be faithful to his people. We are riding out a powerful storm and remember that he will bring us safely to the other shore.
Confess, Repent, Swim Across to that other bank.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Charlotte CX4 Cyclocross 11/14/10

Last Sunday at Veterans Park in Charlotte was some of the most fun I have had in sports and I have been to a couple-three events over the last three decades. Sure, I finished well, second, in the CX4 cyclocross race. It was a breakthrough race and I am not quite sure what was different. Somehow I found myself near the front of the race early in the first lap which was new for me. In the previous four races I was dropped from the gun and as the field yo-yo'd I was somewhere in the middle of the pack.

But there was more than finishing place and that was only a feather in the cap of a day of biking and hanging with good people. There was a great vibe, great weather, great friends. I think a lot of us felt it. Dave, Joanna, Brett, and Erin--everyone seemed to be in great spirits no matter personal results. Josh, Angelina, and I couldn't let it go as we reveled in the post-race flow over fish tacos and margaritas in the NoDa neighborhood of northeast Charlotte. My hair was sandy. I mean seriously, sand-filled. My left elbow was lumpy from a cartwheel I managed to maneuver with a near perfect tuck where I landed on my back with my head in the sand, still clipped in with the bottom bracket of my bike pointed towards the blue sky.

This sandpit was more classically used for volleyball, but all traditional bets are off when it comes to cyclocross and we were riding through two, theoretically :), and carrying our bikes through the third pit because if you can ride through six inches of soft sand and make a 180 degree turn, well that's a neat trick. Now that I think of it, I'm sure someone can do it. There's is always someone who can do about anything on a bike, but consensus was that fastest way was to run the third sand pit as pictured above.

In Cross we run, ride, push, sweat, fall, gasp, and nearly puke over all types of terrain that one would hardly think to ride a bike. It is an absolute blast if you embrace it. I have only been at it for a month of racing and I am learning so much. Professionals and veterans roll through turns as if brakes never factor into how they cover the earth for an hour or less. It looks effortless like all great art does, but you have to know that inside these minds, muscles, and shifters flows the hard grinding work that only looks effortless. They have worked and worked and worked some more and it is shameful to say that it comes naturally and effortlessly, so I will neither say or write such fallacies. I have had that effortless flow from time to time in running and whitewater paddling and I intend to grow in the flow of off road cycling.

I have always shied away from mountain biking, but today my friend and Durham Cares teammate, DTallon, dropped off his mountain bike for me to borrow. Somehow, I gotta keep growing where off road cycling is concerned. If David (DTallon) had not lent me his cross bike last winter I would not be where I am today, enjoying a new discipline in what is still a new sport for me--riding bikes. Now David and I are running 1st and 4th in the CX4 point series and trying to get better every week, technically, mentally, physically.

This whole cyclocross vibe flows straight out of Durham too. We are well represented in the state-wide series. We have no less than four teams represented by our Bull City: Durham Cares, Garneau Custom, Bull City Cycling and The Regulators. We all train at Forest Hills Park and there are plans to unite the teams with something like a ghetto hat that reads: Forest Hills Posse. Look for it while sipping your next beer at Fullsteam.