Sunday, January 30, 2011

Run-filled weekend

I ran 48 miles from Friday at 2:30pm until 9:00am on Sunday.
17 on Friday
14 on Saturday
17 on Sunday

Why? I had taken off Wednesday and Thursday with some funkiness in my nose and I'm glad I did. It seems to have cleared with some rest and rinsing. But I wanted to stick as best I could to my goal of 70 x 70. For 70 days beginning 1/11/11 I am attempting to run 70 minutes each day. Of course, by the letter of the law I blew it mid-week, but I was content to make up for the two lost days with heavy running Fri-Sun. I was 140 minutes short going into Friday and I managed to be +50min on Friday, +40 min on Saturday, and +60min on Sunday. I guess I made up for the deficit and even added 10 extra minutes.

Now if I can just stay consistent, I can ease back to just 70 minutes each day this week. Hopefully, these will feel like short runs after the bulky weekend!!!

Also, the weekend of athletic discipline felt like good readiness for Tobacco Trail Church worship this weekend. I feel cleansed and it feels good to achieve a goal in a somewhat dogged and even monastic way. Felt like 48 miles of prayer.

Tough parables will be preached this evening from Matthew 25. Help the Resurrection light to shine through.

Oh yeah, all the miles were run on the American Tobacco Trail. Maybe that counts for something in TTC preparation.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Three Races in Fourteen Hours

A friend keeps pestering me (in the nicest way possible) to write about what he has called the Triple Crown, so here goes.

On New Year's Eve/New Year's Day a buddy and I decided we would jump in three local running races just to see if we could do it. They were sandwiched together over a little more than half a day. I don't know where I come up with this stupid ideas. Worst part is that I start blathering on about them and someone else thinks it's a good idea and then I can't back out. Oh well :)

I had a wedding to officiate at 4:00pm on the 31st, but the first race was not until 11:59pm so plenty of time for a little preaching and blessing, a couple of glasses of wine, some good salmon and then home for a quick hour off my feet.

I picked up Jason at about 11:00pm. We thought, what a cool way to spend New Year's. We headed to Cary and the R.I.T.N.Y. or Run In The New Year 5K. This was a great event with several of our local running friends also deranged enough to think this was better than being at home or at a bar. I had always heard about the NYRRC race in Central Park at this same hour and Cary is a lot easier to get to than Manhattan.

Here was my goal. Run tactically for each of the races and exert as little effort as possible, but still try to win each race. Truth is I had no idea if I could pull it off. If anyone running really fast like someone running 5:00 minute pace per mile showed up, I didn't have a chance. I figured I could run 17:30 pretty easily, but who knows how much it would cost me from one race to the next.

11:59pm--Gun goes off and we are all jazzed up for the New Year! YEAH!!! We meander around a Cary shopping mall and I hang back behind the first couple of guys, glad to see that we aren't running much faster than 6:00 minute pace. As long as no one pushes the pace, I thought this should be a good start. By the two mile mark I am tucked in behind one other runner and I can tell he is working pretty hard, so I was feeling good. We circle a bit more around the mall and about 15 minutes into the race I make a quick surge and think I've got it locked up. I ease up, almost too much, as a young kid almost reels me in, but I cross the tape with a two second gap. He was quick to point out that he almost caught me. I felt myself wanting to mention horseshoes and hand grenades, but I thought better of it. No problem--18:30 and legs felt good. It's always fun win and it had been a while so I was enjoying the moment.

9:00am--back in Cary, this time at Bond Park. I slept a quick 5-6 hours and I was feeling pretty good going into race number two. My suspicion was that the Saturday morning race might draw some quicker talent. I recognized one familiar runner and thought he might get in a hurry so my plan was to tuck in and let him set the early pace. We hustled through the first mile in about 5:15. I thought, this is not good. I don't want to keep running this fast. I pulled up for a little assessment and I could hear some pretty heavy breathing. Good sign that the pace was about to slow. I had thought I would use the same tactic as the night before, wait until the last few minutes of the race, but it didn't seem like the best way to go.

I made my move up a long but gentle hill shortly after the mile mark and had the hope that if I got a good gap I could slow down and he wouldn't try to close it thinking we were holding the same pace, but secretly I would slow down. Iy worked. I slowed to about a 6:00 pace for the next two miles and crossed the line in 18:12.

1:00pm--after a couple hours at home, I was not particularly looking forward to the third race. I knew the course for the Carolina Godiva New Year's Day 8K. It starts at the Duke School and meanders through Duke Forest. There are three tough hills on the course and I wondered if my quads would still be up for it. They seemed to discourage getting off the couch. Maybe I could still make a friend's brunch. But, Jason was waiting for us to finish our project and I couldn't back out.

Lots of folks were out for this race and great to see so many friends of the Tobacco Trail Church, Godiva, Trailheads, and Bull City Running Company. For all the good company, I was feeling rather business-like. I wanted to be celebratory and laid back, but I was tired enough that I had to get my game face on. This little three pronged project was starting to feel like a late-night Race Across America effort from back in June. Good thing was it would all be over in about half an hour. I knew who I'd be running with, Jim and Mole, so I let them know what was up. Luckily, they are the kind of guys who on another year could be talked into such antics, so they seemed to be good-natured about the whole thing, but I knew they'd be chomping at the bit to run my little legs into the ground. I made it clear I wasn't going to do to much of the work leading. That would be up to them. Jim seemed to think this would be fun and I knew he'd try to break my tired legs. Mole was a concern as well as his mild-mannered humility does not hide the fact that he is running himself into some very good shape. They both raced well a few weeks back at Cross Nationals in Charlotte so I was just hoping my legs wouldn't fall off.

A mile in and we were single-file the three of us heading up the big hill. I didn't push the pace a bit. We weren't going to go any faster than those two dictated. I knew any move I made would have to be late in the race, because I wouldn't be able to separate and drop either of them for an extended period of time. We navigated the second hill and then out again towards 751 and the turn-around. There was Gary rooting us on in his quiet way. I could tell he liked seeing a race. These events tend to get spread out and kind of boring, so I was glad we were having some fun. When we turned left to make the descent down the more narrow trail I got to thinking, "I wonder if I am going to make it back up this thing." It's a steep hill on the way back and if either of those guys had made a big move I don't know if I could have covered it.

We stayed together up the hill, but I could sense things were going to get interesting on the last big downhill. I was right. Jim stepped on the gas and I made sure that we did not have any separation between us. My legs were throbbing, but I made gravity do all the work. Hopefully, when it turned flat I would have more than overcooked pasta underneath me. If I could just hang on this steep downhill, then the hard pace might work for my secret plan.

At the bottom of a big hill there is often a let up in pace. I was counting on it. When we hit the wood bridge I turned my legs over as fast as they would go. Short and quick. Short and quick. As bad as it hurt, I planned to keep this cadence until we made the right turn off the fire road. From there we'd have about 600 meters and if I could just get 20 or 30 meters I might get lost in some of the final turns as we approached the school and the finish line. It worked. Mole was pushing hard, but my surge had worked. Jim faded, but no shame there. He had done all the pace setting and made the race very interesting by pushing as hard as he could on the steep downhill.

I pulled off the Triple Crown/Trifecta/Triple Threat. There were many names floating about at the finish line. After my unique achievement I promptly took off ten days from running. Probably a well deserved case of burnout. That will remind me to think twice or three times about such tomfoolery in the future.

Prayer before RAAM

I stumbled across the prayer I read in California on June 12, 2010, just before we departed on bikes across the country. Here is how it goes:

Lord, we invite your Holy Spirit to descend upon us, to weave into our thoughts, our muscles, our hearts and our souls.
We are embarking on a journey and we beg you now to bless it and to bless us.
Bless this land that we will travel and give us eyes to see her for all her beauty.
Valley of the Gods
The Four Corners in Durango
The bounty of the Great Plains
The Ozarks
and Ohio
West Virginia
and the soft green mountains of the East
And finally roll us into your Chesapeake Bay.

We begin with left feet in your Pacific expanse of water and before we know it, our right feet will be in the salty waters of the Atlantic.
Let every thing we do between now and next weekend be for the lifting up of Durham and these great endeavors:

* A Helping Hand
* Achievement Academy
* Big Brothers Big Sisters
* Citizen Schools, Inc.
* Communities in Schools of Durham
* Crayons2Calculators
* Dress for Success
* Durham Eagles
* Durham Rescue Mission
* Durham YMCA
* Habitat for Humanity
* Housing for New Hope
* Kramden Institute
* Pregnancy Support Services
* Project Compassion
* Sales & Service Training Center
* Samaritan Health Center

And lest we not forget:
the real glory is yours and we hope to serve and follow you.
Amen, Amen, and Amen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In case you were worried when you don't know what to pray...go on a pray. Your groaning will be heard.

From Romans 8, The Message:
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it's not only around us; it's within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We're also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Do you know our town's parks? This a great way to get to know the city. Two of my favorite parks are Southern Boundary and Solite.
Check out this awesome 23 page brochure and learn more:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Little River Trail Run 2008

I'm in the last 30 seconds of this video.
Sad to not run the race last weekend, but good to take a year off and get a little perspective--remain thankful for the trail, the Trailheads, and this particular race.
I will run it again, someday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Van Gogh's Open Bible

Grooveshark Widgets - Music Playlists for Your MySpace & Blog

Grooveshark Widgets - Music Playlists for Your MySpace & Blog

Wheatfield with Crows, c.1890 Print by Vincent van Gogh at

Wheatfield with Crows, c.1890 Print by Vincent van Gogh at

Eugene Peterson discusses viewing our daily work as holy.

We ought to all read The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris.


What saves from the Lion's mouth
Jaws that can break a neck with the ease of a yawn

the lamb's mouth is covered
his nose is snuffed out
slow choking
heart slows and then it stops
easy work under the tight clamp of the predator's jaw

For all the terror
the lion is first among the four in Revelation four
primary and primal
of the tribe of Judah
first even among the twelve

With a lamb in your mouth
seemingly gloating
the conquering hero
you are struck down
by a shepherd boy
carrying only a sling
the lamb escapes
for now

you and your friends are among Daniel
Why...what about your jaws?
Because Daniel trusted the Living God
Will that suffice?
Takes a great cup of faith

But you, Lion
A Beast
A Predator
Hungry for Blood
Fresh warm Blood

What if you were winged
as Daniel dreamt it?
then morphing erect
standing like a human
rising from the sea

You are the one who opens the Scroll
You, the Root of David

Inspired by Rev 4:7, 1 Sam 17:34, Dan 7:4, Dan 6:20, Rev 5:5 and the vision of lions both good and bad.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Preaching as Holding a Precious Stone

My greatest preaching mentor is as always, Rick Lischer. He wrote, "The preacher holds the text like a precious stone and turns it against the light until its greatest brillance is revealed." (Theology of Preaching, 1992, Preface). What an image. I remember when he spoke such a word in a 2004 class and I have never forgotten it. That means that preaching the same texts over an over will be plenty until the end of the age, and certainly the end of my life. I hope to be preaching for no less than another half century and this image makes certain that I will not run out of material because the stones can be turned and turned and turned again.

I like to think of preaching as holding the text up as something valuable when it may not seem worthy to most upon first glance. The text may not seem too amazing upon a first reading. It may seem archaic, lodged in the dirt or inside a lump of coal for many years. The text may seem outdated, the last thing that might shape us in 2011.
But that's not true.
The text from which we preach comes in the context of Christian worship and from the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we receive a magnificent lens for preaching that can and does show us the nature of the very lives we live.
As I go to prepare for this week's sermon, I am brought into the language of stones in the opening verses of Matthew's 24th chapter:
Jesus then left the Temple. As he walked away, his disciples pointed out how very impressive the Temple architecture was. Jesus said, "You're not impressed by all this sheer size, are you? The truth of the matter is that there's not a stone in that building that is not going to end up in a pile of rubble."
How many ways can this be turned?
Is it simply about the structure of the Jerusalem Temple?
Christ's own body?
The Pharisees's inside the Temple?
The Eschaton?
All of these are possibilities and homiletical choices must be made. The danger in any sermon is to try to answer all the questions posed. This tactic is both superficial and too much the attempt to be God. Neither are a good idea.

What to do. What to do.
Certainly the revelation will come through prayer and fasting.
Lischer writes in the same preface that "the genius of preaching lies in the discovery of [the witness of the text] which occurs amidst prayer, struggle, and exegesis, in a moment of theological insight." It is quite a lot to expect this to occur each week, but it does or it does not and even in the moments of homiletical failure God can be witnessed as we preachers humbly fall short. This is not a safety net to be repeatedly caught by, but one will need the net more often when the greatest effort has been put forth. We can be so assured that our careful and dilligent preparation means we will hit a grand slam from the pulpit, and instead we hear crickets. Who knows what will be heard and what will be no more useful than chaff.
If the text shapes the sermon then all will be well, at least more often than not.
We chanted yesterday:
All the time, God is Good
God is Good, All the time.

This will protect homiletics in spite of our human failings. Stay faithful, stay the course. Do keep the audience in mind, just as Christ did. He spoke a word for a particular people. The audience always matters. Getting it right means having it heard and therefore the speaker must know his people. One of my best friends from seminary is Julien and when I went to preach at his church, he was so gracious with the words, "I know my people." That set me free to get it wrong. What I mean is that I trusted that his people needed to hear me because Julian had invited me, but I might not know them well enough to speak an intelligible word. That set me free to take chances. If I got it wrong then that would be the witness for the day.

I've been at the practice of preaching now for eight years and I enjoy it more now than ever. I worry about it less and have confidence not that I am good at it, but that with good habits it will happen week after week, year after year. I try to remember that I work for God before working for God's gathered people. That's a tricky one to negotiate, but an order of priorties that may just keep this pastor from dangerously becoming a quivering mass of availability. If the Gospel is not always satisfying and seems less helpful rather than a great problem solver, well, then that's probably a good thing. I doubt the fisherman who gathered as the first hearers of the word got an inkling of what they expected or wanted. Yet, they were still intrigued enough to stay the course, and continually follow. Being the Church means being patient, sometimes painfully patient. The first hearers of Dr. King's sermons seem to indicate that he wasn't all that good at first. I love that from his father's grumblings behind the pulpit in Montgomery, under his breath, "Martin, make it plain," we later have speeches, sermons, and letters that changed the face of the church in America. I live 300 yards off MLK Blvd in Durham and try to remember daily as I leave and return to my home that King started wordy and heady as a preacher and then became a prophet for a generation. The preacher with good habits, staying the course, just might find himself in a prophetic season where The Beloved Community truly has ears to hear.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jack Johnson & Ben Harper - With My Own Two Hands [Full HQ Song]

I've always been taught that there is a kind of theological problem with imagining that God has no hands, but our hands. I get that. God can do what God wants.

I still love this song. I listened to it on the way to protesting the Death Penalty in 2006. It gave me courage then and it still provides hope that I can do something with my hands and feet rather than sit on them.

In 2011, cross lines and prosper - Doing Better at Doing Good -

In 2011, cross lines and prosper - Doing Better at Doing Good -