Buyer’s Remorse

Anybody spend too much at Christmas? Years ago, when I lived in the Bay Area, I would get off work on the last work day before Christmas, and do all of my Christmas shopping on the way home. I would go from store to store down The El Camino until I found gifts for everyone on my list. If I were left on my own, I would still wait till the last minute to do all of my shopping and then I’d spend way too much. I get caught up in the moment, swept away by the emotion, excited to give gifts that I know will thrill those that get them. Of course, the bills do come and I have to figure out how to pay for it all. Fortunately, my wife shops throughout the year and finds great deals on great gifts and sets them aside. It’s a different kind of excitement to find out Christmas morning what I got everyone, including her.

Maybe you’ve bought a big ticket item recently? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you have to pay for it, and maybe you’ve started second guessing yourself. You think that maybe you can’t afford it after all. Maybe you wish you hadn’t bought it. It happens a lot. So much so that there is a legal loophole to get out of a contract. You’ve probably seen it. Anytime you buy something on a contract, there’s that little clause you sign that says you have three days to change your mind, but after that, it’s yours. It’s called the Right of Rescinder. It’s there so that if we get caught up in the emotion of the moment and buy something we really can’t afford, we can change our minds and undo it. It helps people avoid defaulting on debt and the horrible consequences that can sometimes go along with that. Although, even that does not always go as it should. I remember, a few years ago, when we bought our car. We had fallen victim to a bait and switch and ended up buying a more expensive car than we had wanted. We took it back within the three days and tried to return it, but they wouldn’t honor the 3 day right of rescinder. That was in 2007 and we still have that car. It turned out OK and that dealer has since gone out out of business. Not that that has anything to do with buyer’s remorse, but I did feel somewhat vindicated when they closed up.

So, anyway, I was thinking about this and connecting it to other choices we make and how some (many?) of those choices fall short of what God expects of us. We know we all fall short, or go astray. I was thinking about the Right of Rescinder that we have for the things we buy into that give us buyer’s remorse.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We buy into things that we shouldn’t. Some of those things we buy into are because we are deceived into thinking that something bad is good. Some of the ways we fall short are errors in judgement, lack of wisdom, or experience. Some are actual choices we make, where we know what we ought to do, but we don’t, or we know what we ought not to do, but we do it anyway. Paul suffered the same fate:

Romans 7: 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Maybe you have felt that way from time to time. I know I have. In some way or another, we all buy into lies the world tells us. I think there are three kinds of lies that we may buy into at various times in our lives.

“I’m not good enough.”

We know we are going to screw up, so what’s the point in even trying? Sometimes, when I’m driving, and a police officer pulls in behind me, my thoughts go to all the potential mistakes I could make that could get me pulled over. Am I speeding? Did I come to a complete stop? Did I signal? I know I’m going to get pulled over, maybe I should just floor it and run this stop sign and get it over with. Of course I don’t do that.

The world, and Satan try to convince us that it doesn’t matter what we do because we can never be good enough anyway. Of course, like all lies, this contains a certain amount of truth. We will never be good enough, but that is where Jesus comes in and His sacrifice brings us healing and and forgiveness. Since God sees us through the filter of the Blood of Jesus, we are good enough; not by anything we have done, but in spite of ourselves and entirely because of what Jesus did.

Do you ever believe you’re not good enough? Maybe you need to realize that Jesus’ sacrifice is a gift and not something we earn.

“It’s really not that bad.”

There are variations on this. Things like, “no one will notice,” and “everyone else is doing it.” We justify things we do like, being less than honest on our taxes or keeping extra change when we get too much at the store. I have noticed, in recent years, a trend among students at school that seems to be that “anything I can take without getting caught is OK.” It has become more obvious and more blatant, but don’t we all do that to a certain degree? “Everything’s legal, if you don’t get caught.” Right? Where do you draw the line? What is too much?

The world tries to convince us that some sin is OK, or, at least, not that bad. Jesus, on the other hand, taught that we should be perfect, just as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Clearly, not possible without His grace, but it’s still what are to strive for and justification has no place in it. Jesus justifies us, in spite of our sin; we cannot justify our sin.

Do you find yourself thinking that your sin is not that bad? Have you ever thought “at least I’m not like…” or, “at least is didn’t do…?” Maybe you need to accept that any sin is enough to separate you from God.

“That’s not what God meant.”

This is, literally, the oldest lie in The Book. The serpent told it to Eve when he said that God didn’t really mean that she would die from eating the forbidden fruit, but that she would become like God. We have many ways of buying into this lie too. We say that it doesn’t apply to us because the Bible was a different time and circumstance. We claim that people are being too legalistic. We interpret God’s commands to suit ourselves.

Jesus said:

Matthew 5: 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

So, clearly, every command is of equal importance to God. He never placed any priority of one over another. Do ever find yourself interpreting God’s Word in a way that excuses or permits something, or benefits you in some way. Think about how God really intended His Word to be understood.

Jesus broke it down into two simple concepts. Love God and love others. Yet, we still find ourselves making choices that benefit our own worldly desires. We still find ourselves buying into the lies that the world tells us.

In spite of all of this, Jesus freely forgave us all. He came to give us abundant joy. He came to free us from the bondage that comes from buying into the lies.

I think Paul summed it up very well in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 8: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

And, prior to this, in our memory verse:

Romans 6: What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

We all make bad choices sometimes. We all have regret. The Grace provided by Jesus means that our debt is paid. That doesn’t give us permission to make bad choices, but it does mean that we can let go of our past.

Truth be told, the grace of God means that Jesus takes away buyer’s remorse for the bad decisions we make, but our challenge is still to not buy into the lies.

 

Trusting God Through The Storm

About 11 years ago we bought a house. It was our second home and it was about as close to our dream home that we were going to get. It was walking distance to the school I teach at. The kids could grow up there and be able to attend the high school where I teach. It was a new home and a blank canvas. We could make it anything we wanted it to be. We felt really blessed to be able to buy this house and looked forward to many years there. With the financing we got, we were able to buy more home than we could afford at the time and my wife could stay home with the kids (we had a 2 year old and twins on the way). My teacher’s salary would go up, as it does every year and, by the time the mortgage adjusted, the house would be worth enough to refinance and my salary would be enough for the higher payments. It was a good plan and one we felt certain God had led us to.As we all know, mortgage rates jumped, home prices collapsed, and many salaries, including mine dropped. When our mortgage adjusted, my salary was not enough to cover the payment and we were upside down on the mortgage and could not refinance. The program for “Making Homes Affordable” didn’t and we were forced to sell our home in a short sale.

I was confused as to why God would lead us to this wonderful home and then take it away. I kept asking for answers and for clarity. What was I supposed to do now? I found myself in the middle of a storm that I didn’t see coming. I was suddenly moved from a place of security to a place of desperation.

In Mark, chapter 4, we read the disciples were in a much more dire situation. The literal storm that had come upon them suddenly, had them fearing for their lives… While Jesus slept, appearing not to care; appearing not to be doing anything.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (?Mark? ?4?:?35-41? NIV)
In the midst of the storm, Jesus expected the disciples to know that He had it all under control. I think there are two significant points of the story. First, is that Jesus is in control and we should trust Him. The other, though, is that He is able to surprise us with what He is able to do, no matter how well we think we know Him.

Jesus calmed the storm and then asked His disciples why they didn’t trust Him. I’m pretty sure He has said that to me, as well, more than once.

This is not the only time Jesus taught about trusting God. Early in His ministry, during the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus compared our Heavenly Father to a caring earthly father.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (?Matthew? ?7?:?7-11? NIV)
Jesus tells us that is is OK to ask… no, He encourages us to do so. Our Father loves us more than any earthly father could, so, of course, He will give us what we need. Not necessarily what we think we need, but what He knows we need.

I still struggle with this sometimes. I know God loves me. I know He is able to do all things, including helping me through my storm, but why would He, when so many others need more than I do? The answer is there in Jesus’ message. It doesn’t say “those who really need it…” or “those who ask first… or loudest… or most often…” He says “EVERYONE who asks…”

Even me. Even you.
So, we moved into a rental, still walking distance to my work and the kids’ school. It was smaller, but a perfect home for us for the time being. We were able to set money aside over the next 3 years and rebuild our credit score. We always put God first and never varied in our tithing and offerings given through our church, where we regularly attend. This last year, God blessed us with a home to buy. No fancy financing this time. Not a lot of bells and whistles. Still, a nice home, in walking distance to school and work, with enough rooms for each kid to have their own. And a lot of projects to do to make it our own. I’ll be working on those for a while.
I can almost hear Him;
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

If you are not currently in a storm, you either have been recently, or will be soon. We all have storms. We all have doubts. Sure, we should be praising God and building our relationship with our Savior all the time, but it’s during these storms that we fall to our knees and cry out to Him. 

This is when we learn to rely on Him. It’s a common christian myth that God will never give us more than we can handle, but He will certainly never give us more than He can handle. At least some of the storms we face are because God wants us to rely on Him. He wants us to admit that we need Him.

Every time we cry out to God, it’s for a want of more of something. More security. More courage. More strength. More health. More love. More shelter. More wisdom.

James tells us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (?James? ?1?:?5-8? NIV)

What is your storm? What do you need to rely on God for right now. Jesus tells us to ask… to seek… to knock. This is a natural progression towards answered prayer. Ask God in faith. Seek out the answer. When you get to the door, knock, and go through.

Truth be told, there will always be storms. Jesus will always calm them, if we ask.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (?Ephesians? ?3?:?20-21? NIV)

Best DNF Ever!

Starting out in the early morning fog in Cool, CA, I was cold, but comfortable.Fourmidable  - 4Fourmidable  - 6 This is my first time running Fourmidable, although I volunteered to sweep an 8 mile section last year, and I am curious to see if my Achilles is healed enough to handle the tough 50k course, consisting of four major climbs.

The course winds its way over some of my favorite trails, and some I have never run before.  First finding its way down to No Hands bridge and across towards Auburn. My favorite part of running local races is seeing familiar faces at the aid stations. There is no disappointment today, as I think I know everyone out there. After the first aid and a porta potty pit stop, I’m off across No Hands and on towards Auburn. I have comfortably settled to the back of the pack and maintaining my planned easy pace. The field is small and filled with fast runners, so it doesn’t bother me at all to be running with some good friends.

Fourmidable  - 10

 

 

On familiar trail and cruising along the rollers along the river, we take time to enjoy the scenery and take plenty of pictures. We pick up a little altitude and turn onto another trail I had not seen before and enjoy spectacular views.

Fourmidable  - 28

 

Fourmidable  - 11

 

Fourmidable  - 20

 

 

The first climb to the Overlook is a rude awakening to what our illustrious race director has in store.

fourmidThis is one of those trails I have never run before and I wasn’t quite ready for it when I came around the corner. Arriving at the ADO aid station to more familiar faces, I was ready for the long downhill to the base of Cardiac.

Then it is back up again, on one of the toughest climbs in the area, but that is what I’m here for.fourmidable -

 

 

 

At the top of Cardiac, I realize that, although I am on pace for my planned race time, I am going to be getting home later than I had hoped, and I had plans for the evening, so I pick up the pace along the aqueduct trail and back to the ADO aid station. From there it is back to NoFourmidable  - 36 Hands bridge and up the infamous K2 Training Hill. Outside of some climbs that I have done in the midst of semi- or non-supported races like Euchre Bar Massacre and Meow Marathons, this is the toughest hill I have ever climbed. For me, it’s only purpose is to make other hills (like Way Too Cool’s Goat Hill) seem more doable by comparison.

Cresting K2, and starting the descent towards Knickerbocker, I determine that I am not going to make it home in time if I complete this race. I usually leave race days clear of anything welse, but this was out of my control. Fourmidable  - 3So, at mile 21, I make the choice to take a left where the course goes right and find my way back to the Cool firehouse. Approaching the finish from the wrong direction, several friends ask me if I’m ok. Actually, I feel better than I have in months. I wanted to see if I could handle the hill. I wanted to know if I could maintain a pace. I needed to see if my Achilles and plantar fasciitia would hold up.

Truth be told, sometimes when you win, you lose; sometimes when you lose, you win; and sometimes you can learn all you need to learn without finishing the race. It’s taken me two weeks to get around to writing this, so I’ll be back at the Cool firehouse tomorrow morning. I’ll be running my best. I’ll be running for my friend Steve… But that’s next week’s blog.

More

I’ve been thinking this week how we all want more… more time, more money, more talent, more attention, more stuff. Then a couple of things occurred to me.

First, we don’t really have anything accept by the grace of God. He alone determines the number of our days. We are born with our talents that we choose to develop or not. We, by providence or by a series of choices, are at the station in life we now are now. What we do with what we have is more significant than how we can get more, since, for the most part, getting more is not really an option.

I’m reminded of a video I saw recently (I tried to find it for this, but I can’t locate it at the moment) where a person pretending to be homeless first goes to people in a fast food restaurant and asks for food. After being turned down by those who had just bought their own food, he goes to a homeless person around the corner who has just been given a meal from the same restaurant. He asks the homeless man for some of his food and the homeless man shares it happily.

There is a lot to learn from this social experiment, but one lesson is that those with much seem to hold on more tightly to what they have than do those who have little.

In Malachi, God tells the prophet to tell the people to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and see if I won’t pour out a blessing that you won’t even be able to receive it.” Growing up Christian I’ve heard the claim that if you pay your tithe that God will provide for you in financial ways. You won’t get sick. You will get or keep your job. Your car will last longer. And so on. The problem is that when things go bad financially, as they can and often will, people holding on to these false promises think that God has turned against them. But God never made those kind of promises. Jesus taught that He came that we might have abundant joy. He did not promise us an easy life, good health or prosperity. He gave all that we could be free from sin and death, but He also taught that those who follow Him will suffer.

Yet, we have the opportunity to have true joy, whether we are suffering or not. Paul taught that he learned to be content in all circumstances. God makes that possible in that we can do al things through Him that gives us strength. Which leads me to my second thought.

It is only by realizing that we really have nothing, that we are able to more easily let go of that which we think we have. Realizing that God provides our time allows us to use it to serve other for His purposes. Realizing that all of our possessions are provided to us through the blessings of God allows us to use our assets to provide for others through charities and the local church. God gives us all we have and asks for us to trust Him by returning 10% to Him. Once we learn that He can do more with 90% than we can do on our own with all of it, this becomes a much easier task.

Truth be told, I have to learn this lesson over and over, because I am always wanting more, but my greatest joy comes when I trust God to provide what I need and let go of things I can’t have. Someday, maybe I’ll get it right.

Oh For The Love

steep ravine start

happy to be back on the trail

I started running to lose weight and get in better shape. I soon found a rekindled love affair with running and, especially, the trails.

Last year, I set some aggressive goals and pushed myself to try to reach them. Not only did I not reach two of my four goals, but I injured myself in the process and started to not enjoy running as much. It usually takes long distance runners years (much more than 2) to get burned out, but I could tell I was headed that direction and I didn’t want to be.

steep ravine ocean view

amazing view of Stinson Beach from the Steep Ravine Trail

Time off! Time off was a must.

I took three weeks after CIM and then an easy trail run. A 10 mile trail race a few days later and the Plantar Fasciitis returned. A lot of stretching and 18 days later, I ran the Steep Ravine 25k in Stinson Beach. I was undertrained, although the rest had done me good. But this is not a race report.

Running through the trees and in and out of the view of the coast, I found a peace that I had been missing since I could not run, due to my injury. Climbing the steep hills, although exhausting, was also exhilarating. I stopped often to take pictures and walk breaks as needed. Most importantly, I remembered what I love about running.

Steep Ravine Trail

running through the redwoods on the Dipsea Trail

Being! Just existing with nature. I find myself on the trail more than in any other place. Nothing of the troubles and concerns of life matter when I am on the trail. The people I run with, whether I know them are not, create a family-like camaraderie beyond almost anything I have found elsewhere. Above it all is the peaceful contentment I find in solitude on the trail, and the communion I find with God in the presence of His magnificent creation.

So I am returning, not just to running, but to the love of running. I have no fear of failure, for my only goal is to run. I have no time constraints, nor pace objectives. I may get faster. I may not. Of only one thing I am certain, I will run… a lot.

goat hill

part of Goat Hill on the Way To Cool course

This week I returned to my home trails. Running with many friends in Cool for the upcoming 50k. I found myself alone on the trail several times throughout the day. It was during this time that I realized what changes I need to make in my running… and in my life.

I need to do more of what I do for the love of doing it! I have always advocated doing the “right thing for the right reason,” but I am not sure I have always kept track of what “the right reason” is.

I think I may have stumbled upon it…

LOVE! Perhaps it seems silly, or something, but, as Paul McCartney once said, “what’s wrong with that?”

My greatest peace comes from three things (maybe four): running, music (I like almost everything), and nature, the forth is probably motorcycling, but that’s another blog. In fact, when I am running in the mountains, listening to my iPod, I reach a near perfect place for me. When my legs are so tired that they lose their feeling and I’m somehow still moving fast enough to feel a breeze on my face… when I can smell the trees and the near by stream, and classic rock, blues or country is thumping in my ears, I am totally disconnected from everything except where I am and what I am doing.

Why can’t I do everything I do with that love? Seriously! Why can’t I?

mountains above Cool

mountains above Cool

I don’t see any good reason. I teach because I love math and I love my students. I play and sing because I love music. I run because I love running. I write because I love writing.

Truth be told, There’s enough of hate, anger, frustration, etc. I’m not going to add to that. It won’t be an overnight transition, but I will get there. The focus of all I do will be love. Besides, what’s not to love?

One Word 2014

It has come to my attention, and perhaps you have noticed this as well, that we, as Christians, have a reputation for being judgmental. We tend to place degrees on sins, as if we could rank them from most to least significant. We tend to add sins to the list of things God would not approve of, as if we know His thoughts and are able to determine His judgment. After all this, we then take our place as judges of all that is righteous and take it upon ourselves to determine who will and who will not be getting into heaven. That’s not quite enough for some of us, so we make certain that everyone knows what judgment we have passed and that God has so instructed us to spread the word. Now, I’m certain that none of you are like that, but perhaps you know some that are.

A lot of this judgment comes from the writings of Paul and so I want to share with you some things to think about as we read his letters. Paul’s letters can easily be divided into two categories, those written to groups and those written to individuals. Pick chapter 1 of any of Paul’s letters to the churches, from Romans through Thessalonians, before the end of the second verse, every single one of them is addressed to a church or group of churches. Each of them instructs the believers in that area to be forgiving, generous, and to follow Jesus. His letters to Timothy and Titus are about leadership and are addressed to specific leaders in specific situations. In his letter to Philemon he is specifically advocating to one person on behalf of another and we learn from this about grace and acceptance. Each letter has specific correction for issues among the believers in that time and place. Each of them has applications to us in our time. However, none of them gives instruction to use those teachings to judge non-believers, or even other believers. And yet, so often, that is exactly what we do.

So, as I consider how I relate to people around me, both Christians and not, I want to steer away from the teachings of Paul and lean more on the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus clearly taught that love was the most important thing we can give. He made clear that loving God is the most important commandment, but that loving others is a very close second. Jesus expects this of us, because He has already loved us:
John 3: 16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And:

John 15: 12-14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

So, if Jesus did not come to condemn the world, why do we? If Jesus taught us to love, like He does, to the point of laying down our lives for others, why don’t we?

Jesus gave us a list of things we should do that go way beyond our behavior to our very thoughts and intentions. He was always focused on our hearts more than on our actions. Just to drive home the impossibility of the expectations, He commanded us to be perfect! Seriously? Perfect? Yes, just as “our Father in Heaven is perfect.” His point is that we can’t do it! We all fall short of God’s glory. Which is why Jesus taught that the only way to Heaven is through Him. We are not going to get there by our own behavior. Not one of us is good enough.

So here we are, not good enough! None of us! And we, way too often, have the attitude of, “I’m a sinner, but not as bad as that person, or that group.” Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others, rather than comparing ourselves to Jesus?

Believers have always been persecuted to some degree for their beliefs, and it will always be so, but how much of the attitude others have towards us is our own responsibility? 70 some years ago Gandhi is attributed with saying something like: “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I don’t know his exact words, but that certainly reflects that attitudes of many.

Don’t you think that, maybe, it’s time we did something about that? Don’t you think that, maybe, if we acted more like Jesus, and less judgmental, that we might repair some of the damage that has been done to the world in the name of Jesus?

What if, instead of listing off what sins would keep people out of Heaven, Phil Robertson, and a lot of the rest of us, answered more like this: “It’s not my place to judge what is or is not sin, I’ll leave that to God, but I know we have all sinned and we are all in need of a Savior. It is our sin that keeps us all out of Heaven and it is His grace alone that gets us in”?

For the past several years, I have been taking part in what is called “one word.” Rather than make a bunch of “resolutions” that I probably won’t keep, I choose one word to define my year. Last year my word was “kindness.” I’m not certain I am more kind than I was a year ago, but I think I may have had more kind moments.

I am hoping that I have been more effective in building relationships, at least more of the time. I hope that I can step it up a little more and improve more at building relationships this next year. I think that Jesus’ teachings are more about building relationships than about anything else.

What if our word this year, for all of us, was “love”? What if we love like Jesus did? Forget about changing the world! How would it change your community? How would it change your school or your work place? How would it change your family? How would it change you? How would we each change if we loved first, if our primary motivation was love… all the time?

I’ll leave you with another oft-misquoted Gandhi saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What he really said, I think, is even better:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Actually, Paul said the same thing when he said “if I have all this, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.”

In fact, Jesus said it it too when He taught us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and when He said, “love others the way I have loved you.”

Let’s all love others as Jesus loves us!

Truth be told, I want it said of me that I loved well.

CIM 2013

Run for a Reason - BeChange

Run for a Reason – BeChange

27 degrees! 7AM. At least it’s not raining!

I expected to have a good race, although I was concerned about my training (or lack thereof) over the past 4 weeks.

2013 was to be the year of goals… of achievements… of miles and races and personal bests. Instead it was a year of injuries and frustration. On the upside, I did finish my first 50k, my second marathon, and an adventure run that took me beyond anything I thought I would possibly be able to do… ever. I had the opportunity to mentor a student through completing her first marathon and that has led to mentoring three more students in running races in 2014. I completed 17 races and some of those did have improved times over last year. I ran a total of over 800 miles (although I was shooting for 1000); that’s a lot of miles for a 3rd year runner. My injury in February slowed me down and I over-trained trying to make up for it. That probably contributed to my plantar fasciitis which has plagued me for the last 3 months.

Despite that, I had high expectations for the CIM and felt good at the start. The plantar fasciitis was sore, but not affecting my stride and not unbearable. Running with the 4:10 pace group through the first 3 miles and settling in on pace to complete at 4:30 through the half, I still felt I was on track.

I don’t know if it was the pounding of the pavement, or the cold, or the fact that I had run very little over the past 4 weeks, but the hurt set in at about mile 15. I was able to push through and still had hopes for a decent finish for the next 5 miles. Passing through the “wall” I felt I could still pick up the pace and finish strong, but the more I tried to pick it up, the slower I got. My foot was still hurting and now so were my knees and calves.

My buddy, Dave, caught me at about mile 22 and we decided we were too tight to really run and that our goals were so far out of reach that it didn’t matter any more. Quitting was still not an option and, as we often say, “keep a pace… forward is a pace.” So, after a stop at “aid station” Starbucks, we continued at a shuffle-walk until the end. We talked and hung out and made plans for how we might help next year without running and what trail races we might do.

26.2 miles in just under 6 hours. It actually turns my stomach a little and I’m a little embarrassed of my time, and a little angry at myself, but we did finish.

The most important thing is that, no matter how difficult, and painful, it got, we did not let down the kids we were running for. See, we run for a reason. We run for those who can’t, who don’t have some of the bare necessities that we take for granted every day. Things like school supplies, medical and dental care, clothes, meals, etc. What’s amazing is that this tremendous need that we run for is right here in Sacramento.

Jason Harper, founder of Be Change shared this with us, talking to all of us who ran:

 

Yesterday I met with a child who will benefit from your efforts.  Before I could say hello, he said, “How’d all our runners do? Did we do good?”  
 
He is 12 years old and I had been telling him the support he receives to get a warm jacket, a trip the dentist, or a doctors visit is because of Be Change Runners.  That is where he found love, acceptance and kindness. Its also why he said “Did WE do good?”  Because he aligns himself with you.  You are part of the only resource for life altering needs being met in his life.  On behalf of him, thank you.
 
I told him, “We did real good!”  I said that because of you.
Truth be told, I have no intention of running CIM, or any long race on roads again, but I’m glad I did it. I hope I can continue to raise awareness and money to help these kids change their circumstances. Please help me by contributing on my Group Rev page. Together we can make a difference. No gift is too small or too large and it is tax deductible.
Thank you!

… Just Got Real!

 

IMG_0281Starting out before light on a steep downhill trail with Mark and Lorelei, we were excited to be getting under way and looking forward to the day’s adventure. Although my light was not as bright as I would have liked, we picked through the rocky single track with a minimal amount of stumbles. We reached the bottom and the footbridge fairly quickly and dropped our bags of supplies for later on the return trip.

As the sky lightened and the sun began creeping up over the mountains, the beauty of the canyon became more and more apparent. The single track trail paralleling the North Fork of the American River provided amazing glimpses of the water below and the trees above. We could see the evidence of bears and mountain lions, although we didn’t see any face to face.

We made one small wrong turn that forced us to scramble up the hill back to the correct trail when the trail we were on came to a sudden end. Running away from the river, past the farm, up the road, through the gate, we came to the first climb and there is where the running came to a stop for a while. We hacked and bush-wacked our way through the blackberries up the old Pioneer Mine to find our first book and remove our respective pages. We stopped to read our pages (in order) aloud, which made us feel much better about tearing pages out of a book; we certainly were not destroying literature. Continuing on the, slightly better, trail, we soon reached a jeep road and could run again. Here is where we met up with Ingrid and Ray, who had missed the turn and were doing this loop in reverse. We continued back around, wondering if we would meet up with them again at the other end of the loop and increase our party by two. We made good time running down the gradual descent on good road and soon found ourselves on very runable single track again bordering the creek as we made our way towards book 2.

We repelled down a small drop with a handy rope left for that purpose and took a couple of pictures crossing the creek. The instructions we had directed us to proceed up “the steepest way possible.” What we were not quite prepared for is how steep Ebeneezer’s Highway turned out to be. Crawling, pulling, climbing! No running and very little standing up right took place on this. At one point I lost footing and slid for some distance back down toward where I had come from. I grabbed a tree and stopped myself just before the slope’s steepness increased dramatically and it was here, hanging onto that tree looking down at the creek, hundreds of feet below me, that I realized this was not your typical weekend run.

There were no safety patrols or sweepers. There were no EMTs or medics at aid stations. There were no aid stations. This was real risk! It occurred to me there that I could actually get seriously injured or even die out here.

From there we picked our own paths up to the ridge. We wove our traversing trails back and forth across each other’s. we came across others, one on his way back to a DNF and a couple on their way back to a complete run, as well as some going the same direction we were. We didn’t even all see the same people, re-emphasizing just how vast this hillside is. We joined forces again at Humbug Ridge and ran much of the way to the drop bag location. Although we somehow spread out, with Mark up front, Lorelei behind and myself somewhere in between. At least, until I ran past the turn and got a half mile too far up the road before Race Director, Sean, caught me and guided me back. Lorelei was resting and decided to cut the day short. Mark had already left to go back and Starchy, who had been on the same hill with us had just arrived as well.

After some food and refilling the water and Gatorade and some rest, Starchy and I headed back down the ridge. Our thinking was that, if we could angle down Ebeneezer’s and cross the creek closer to the river, we could save some time and make it back to the footbridge to maybe have time to climb the last hill and get our last book page. That’s where things went wrong.

We found a relatively easy way down the hill and, with a lot of zigging and zagging, we climbed down to the creek and took a couple of pictures before we crossed the ankle-deep water and found a way up the other side. Knowing that we would have to go right after crossing the creek, we angled up and right. We soon discovered that the climb was tougher, steeper, and longer than we thought it should be to get back to the road. If we could just make it up this cliff we would have a better vantage point and be able to get our bearings to plot the remainder of our course back.

Leaves and loose rock made climbing/hiking/crawling/scrambling difficult. It seemed like the top of an outcropping of rock would provide a better view and easier climbing. About 10-15 feet up a hand hold came free and I was headed back down, back first, head towards the bottom. I landed with a crash that sent leaves and rocks and dirt down towards Starchy. When the dust settled and he called out “you OK?” My response was that I was taking inventory. After a few moments I replied that I had hurt my thumb and my ankle, but nothing seemed broken. Once I could stand we made it to the top of the rocks and discovered we were no more than halfway up the side of this mountain. Time to check the map and compass.

Starchy discovered that we were getting further from our former trail and that, in fact, we had crossed the river and not the creek and that we were actually angling away from our destination. Time to turn around and head back. The climb back down to the river was at least as treacherous as the climb up and it took a combination of sliding, falling and climbing to get down to the water. Now we needed to head down stream to the creek and get back on course. But now we were almost out of light, the temperature was falling and we were miles off course in an area that no one would even think to look for us.

We crossed the river several times, but headed in the right direction, in order to walk on whichever side looked more walkable. Several times we had to scramble up and around and back down because the river was too deep to cross or walk thorough. Realizing that we were at least 3 miles from where anyone would look for us, I was beginning to feel anxious and thinking of news reports I have seen over the years that start with “the bodies of two hikers were recovered…”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, it comes naturally to me to pray in times of crisis, although often later than I should. So I prayed. I prayed for courage, knowing that fear was a huge adversary here. I prayed for physical strength. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for guidance. I suddenly felt calm and warm and prayed, “God, You told us that with the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. I don’t need You to move a mountain, just a creek, or us. Put us on the right path.”

In the next five minutes we stopped to take another look at the map and Starchy suddenly got excited and scrambled up the hill. “Get up here!” He calls out, “I’ve got good news.”

“You found the creek?”

“Better”

“You found the path?”

“I’m not spoiling the surprise.”

I scrambled up the hill and found myself standing on the path. THE path. We were now on our the same trail we started on, at least two miles downstream of where we thought we were. We were on the other side of the creek, although we had not crossed it. We were less than 3 miles from the footbridge and food; 5 miles from the finish. One last climb. 1800 feet up… and drive home. What started as 25 miles with 10000 feet of climb ended up being 30 miles with 16000 feet of climb.

Much of the “adventure” I put in my life has no real risk. Many of the things I do to overcome my fears contains no real danger, but feigned danger… a safety net… a cushion. This didn’t. This was real.

Truth be told, many will probably explain God out of this, but I won’t.

The Best Part of Teaching

People frequently ask me why I like teaching high school. Often, this question comes from my students. I actually enjoy witnessing the cognitive development that takes place during the teenage years. Prior to this time in their lives the majority of their views and opinions come from one of two places: either they have heard it from their parents, so it must be right, or they heard it from their parents, so it must be wrong. However, as they get more involved in high school, expand their circle of friends and influences and begin having individual experiences apart from their families, they begin to form actual opinions on their own. For the first time they build their belief system based on their own experiences and not only those of their parents. Obviously, the influence of their parents is still most significant and gives these young people the starting point for everything they will ever believe, but now they get to add to that the influence of others and their own development.

The other day, in my geometry class, we had the opportunity to go off topic a little and discuss some current events and issues that will affect us all. Fortunately, I have created an environment of trust and freedom in my classroom where students may feel safe in expressing their opinions. I was impressed with the courtesy that was displayed and the respect that the students had for each other and their differing points of view. This was no light weight discussion. Topics moved quickly form the current scandals facing our federal government to gun control, abortion and the death penalty. We have students with polar opposite opinions and everywhere in between.

The most important task facing educators is teaching our students to boldly express themselves with kindness and respect for others and to form those opinions from informed positions.

Truth be told, some of the most significant learning happens when we step away from the curriculum and let the students express themselves and apply what we have been teaching them in a real way… and the students learn then too.

Boston Attack

Several friends from my running club are competing in the Boston

abc_boston_marathon_initial_kb_130415_wg

Marathon today, but all runners (and in particular distance runners) are joined in a fraternal bond.

Further, as Americans, and as citizens of the world, we are shocked and deeply saddened when senseless violence causes such hurt and loss.

We cry for the injured. We weep for the dead. We mourn with those who have lost family members.

It is difficult, if it is even possible, to process through the ‘why’ of something like this. It clearly happens too often. No legislation can prevent it. No amount of security can stop it. How have we, as a society, become so filled with those who hate or, perhaps worse, feel nothing?

There will be those who will jump out to grab publicity, like they did with Colorado and Newtown. They will drum up support for new ways to control law-abiding citizens. They will ignore the fact that it is not law-abiding citizens committing these senseless acts.

Truth be told, it is these publicity mongers who have the least control over these incidents. I have no idea how to make people care or how to stop hate, but I won’t let it suck me in and I hope you won’t either.