What Running A Marathon Taught Me

C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Because God is the Creator of everything in the universe, therefore everything that I can observe relates directly to God. Training and running a marathon has caused me to think about how it relates to God. Here are my thoughts that have developed over 407 miles of running in 61 hours while burning 60,778 calories.

1. Christianity begins with an invitation. My friend and pastor asked me if I was interested in training for a marathon with him. I had no interest and no desire to run a marathon. He showed me a training plan which laid out a four month regimen of running to prepare for it. At first I thought it was ridiculous. Stupid. Yet over the course of two weeks the idea I once thought as ludicrous became more appealing.

For anyone who truly is a Christian, life in Christ began with an invitation. It could have been an invitation from a human being or words on a page, but it was an invitation that communicated what the gospel was. God created a rescue plan through Jesus Christ so that we could be forgiven of sins, justified before God, and given his Spirit. The plan is to be received by grace through faith. For Christians, the plan was rejected for weeks, months or years. Yet at some point what was once stupid seen as stupid is now seen as gloriously appealing.

2. The Christian life is one of study and learning and doing. My first training run was on the morning of March 3 and the temperature outside was -10 zero. I knew little about how to run long distances or how my body would react to running those distances. By working through the training plan, reading articles about marathon training and asking questions from others who had run marathons I began learning how to pace myself, where to shop for running shoes, how to properly fuel my body, and what to expect on race day.

Paul commands Christians in I Timothy 2:15 to study to show ourselves approved unto God. James commands Christians in James 1:22 to not only be a hearer of the Word but a doer also. Christians are meant to study God’s Word, learn from it, and delight in it. They are also meant to do something with that knowledge. They are to go out and share it and obey it and live by it. Thinking and doing are not separate entities but a package deal according to God’s design.

3. The Christian life is not a lone ranger endeavor but a community effort. I had a lot of help from all different sources that played a factor into completing a marathon. My wife would always welcome me home from my long runs with a smile, a protein shake and a cheerful “How did your run go?” Dave, an experienced runner, would answer questions that I had or give advice on how to work through problems. Several of my long runs were done with him. On race day my family came up to Duluth to cheer me on throughout the course. People I didn’t know would see my name on my bib and cheer me on by name.

Trying to live the Christian life without being a part of a local church is like trying to run a race by yourself. We shouldn’t forsake the regular gathering together of saints to exhort one another on in love for God and a pursuit of holiness (Hebrews 10:25). Left to our own attempts and thinking we will falter, fail or walk away from the faith. God has created the local church to be a way in which he shows his children grace.

4. The Christian life has ups and downs. It require discipline. There were days when I had good runs, average runs, and downright awful runs. Sometimes I would finish my runs and feel great physically while other times I simply wanted to climb into a coffin and turn the lights out. Cold, heat, snow and rain were factors. Good preparation or lack thereof were factors. Yet each run required discipline to not give up but to get back out there and run the next day or run the next mile or even take the next step.

Paul uses the metaphor of running in I Corinthians 9 to describe the Christian life. He said he didn’t run aimlessly but but disciplined his body to keep it under control. In Hebrews 12:1 he calls Christians to run with endurance the race that is set before us. This means that we will have days where sin beats us up and we will have days when we kick in the teeth of sin. In all of it, by the grace God provides, we are meant to keep running the race until we give up that last breath, die, and than see Jesus face to face. As Lecrae said, “Run boy, run boy, run boy, run!” 

5. God’s glory is shouting at us in his creation. Each day we sit at the front porch with a full view of God’s glory shouting at us through a bull horn. It is his creation. It is easy to overlook and become bored with it because it is in front of us everyday. I was able to spend hours running on snow covered roads and ice coated streets which eventually and slowly gave way to pot-hole filled streets and dry, paved trails. I was able to feel the icy grip of subzero temperatures and the sweat pouring off my head on hot, humid, sticky days. I felt my heart pump life giving blood through my body and had my thirst quenched by cold water and Gatorade. I saw wildlife and wild animals and took my kids on some of the runs with me in the stroller or on their bikes. All these things were a gift from God and were shouting to me how glorious he is.

6. Run your race. When the race began I knew I would have to hold myself to the pace I had trained at. Starting out to quick would come back to collect a price tag later in the race and my times in the last few miles would be significantly longer. Starting out too quickly was tempting as many people passed me. I wanted to keep up with them but I kept telling myself, “Run your pace, Kyle. Don’t speed up.” As the race progressed and single digit miles turned into double digit teen miles I began passing people that were slowing down or walking.

Paul tells us in Hebrews 12:1 to run the race that is set before us with endurance. The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Christians can be in danger of rusting out because they are sedentary; not actively seeking to become more like Jesus. They can also burn out though- trying to do too much; trying to run too fast. We need God’s wisdom to help us find the right pace in our Christian discipleship so that we run with endurance and do not burn out too soon.

7. Finish the race. The first 20 miles of my marathon were downright pleasant. I didn’t have any pain and I locked myself in on a comfortable pace. After mile 20 I ran up Lemon Drop Hill and it all changed. I hit a mental and physical wall and the last six miles became progressively worse. Each step became more painful and I could feel my pace getting slower. My mind began focusing on the pain of it all and my eyes continued to drop down to my feet as I put one foot in front of the other. As I ran around the last bend of the race and could see the finish line it was a most pleasant sight! The feeling of completing the race was an amazing feeling.

One day I will stand before my Father who will, by his grace, say “Well done, Kyle. Well done.” The marathon reminded me to keep my mindset focused on that day. When life gets difficult, pain increases, sin gets the best of me, or I feel like forsaking the faith, focusing on the joy of finishing my life well is a fantastic motivator. It is what Paul said when he got to the end of his life and he could feel the sentence of death resting upon him. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (II Timothy 4:7).” 

That’s what I want to say at the end of my life. The reward will be incorruptible, the glory unsurpassable and joy unbelievable. Fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith. All 26.2.

 


How running taught me the beauty of Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139:13-14

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

Consider the intricacies and complexities of your body. The eyeball is able to adjust to bright light or darkness and change focus without you having to make any manual adjustments. The skin, when cut or poked, clots the blood and heals on its own in most cases. The heart pumps life giving blood to all areas of the body, every second of every day, for decades without a thought given to it. Indeed we are fearfully and wonderfully made. As the psalmist says in this chapter, we should stand in awe of God’s handiwork in knitting us together in our mother’s womb.

At my best times I obey this verse. Generally I forget it. And at times I intentionally disobey it in the form of complaining.

Right now I am in the final weeks of training for Grandma’s Marathon. Each week I have several shorter runs and then on Friday or Saturday I have a longer run. My long run this week didn’t go the way I had wanted it to. My lap times were slower than I had wanted, I had trouble staying hydrated, my phone fell out of arm band and hit the concrete, and on top of that it rained.

I ended the run a couple miles early, walked into the house and was greeted by my wife who asked me how my run went. I replied that it went terrible and listed to her the reasons why in a self-pitying tone. She asked me what was good about my run and I wanted to sarcastically reply that the best part was that it was over.

In my self-pity I remembered this Fighter Verse. My body is a self-evident testimony to the wonderful work of God and here I was complaining! I had failed to be thankful for the beauty of God’s creation that I can run in each week. I had chosen to stop being amazed by the fact that I can even get out on the pavement and train for a marathon! My soul had not known the works of God in that moment.

So I repented before God and apologized to my wife for being snippy towards her. This morning I can come before God and worship, forgiven of my sin. We are acceptable to God this morning not because of our performance but because of the performance by Christ at calvary. The Christian life is a life of repentance.

How did you do this week in knowing the wonderful works of God? Look to Jesus’ work alone for your acceptability before God. Let’s come to him in a spirit of humility, awe, and thankfulness through prayer.


“Why Do/ Did You Want to Be a Cop?”

The question of why a person wants to be a cop is usually answered with the pat answer, “I want to help people” or “I want to protect and serve.” That is the answer you will probably hear from most cops who have a microphone in front of them or are having medals hung around their neck (not that there is anything inherently wrong about either situation). It is the answer you will most likely hear from those with their names printed on their sweat shirts as they are going through skills or academy. It is probably the answer you will hear from the probationer who has polished black boots, shiny brass and a stiff basket weave belt.

This answer isn’t wrong. It’s just deceiving. I can think of many other jobs that protect and serve the public’s good and pay far better, provide a more comfortable work attire, and don’t require frequent coffee breaks at 2AM at the local Holiday gas station on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Yes, we protect and serve, but what does that really mean. My answer as to why I got into this job is vastly different from my answer eight years later as to why I stay in this job.

My answer now is two fold. First, so others don’t have to and secondly, to protect the status quo.

Eight years in law enforcement came and went with out much thought a week ago.  On May 31st, 2006 I took an oath to protect and serve the citizens of my county with little realization as to what I was getting myself into. I had no idea the toll it would take at times on my body, mind and spirit. One of the reason’s I do this job now is so that others don’t have too. I know many cops who try and talk their kids out of becoming cops because the job can be emotionally and physically demanding. The nights and weekends wear on a person especially as the years begin to pile on top of each other. The sights, the sounds and the clientele  are all factors that cause cops to tell their children- don’t do it.

Motivational, is it not? Do it so others don’t. It goes beyond that for me. The best description I heard of what it means to be a cop is by Chief Kent Williams. He said that the essence of law enforcement is simply continuing to hold up the status quo of society. Sin in the form of criminals and stupid people are constantly trying to push it down and create chaos and cops are there every second of every day to try and hold it back up. We are the band-aids and tourniquets and sheepdog of a society that is constantly falling down and threatening to bleed out. We just try and prop it back up and pass it on to the next shift.

CS Lewis in his book Mere Christianity said it well to further describe what it means to maintain the status quo for society.

The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden- that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.

I used to get frustrated about things in law enforcement that were not outside of my control. The revolving door of criminals made it feel like we are simply trying to punch water. We can hit it as much as we want but we will never make a dent. My perspective changed when I read this from CS Lewis. My job is to simply hold up the status quo so that each night, most of the people in my jurisdiction will never even think about me because they are enjoying a quiet evening in some way. And when that status quo comes crashing down via a domestic assault, DWI, robbery, burglary, or barricaded person; I’ll be there to try and push it back up for one more night.

I like that. That is why I am a cop.

“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4

 


Memorial Day Exhortation

This is Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day was at first called Decoration Day and came about following the Civil War. It was meant to be a day in which we, as a nation, would remember those soldiers who died fighting for their respective sides; north and south. Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day after World War II and was formally declared such in 1967. It’s purpose is to recognize all soldiers who have given their last full measure for the United States of America.

Tomorrow morning I will be at Fort Snelling where a service is held each year honoring those who have given their lives in the defense of our nation. I will stand over the grave of my grandpa and grandma. I will thank God for those who died thousands of miles away in distant lands so we could experience a freedom that most will never breathe. I remember talking to a great uncle of mine years ago who was a Marine and fought in the battle of the Pacific. He told me, “I wouldn’t have given two pennies for my life. Each day I thought I was going to die.” He watched friends die unceasingly.

Memorializing, honoring and remembering is something God created us to do. He commanded Israel to do it when he gave them the passover. Exodus 12:14 says, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord, throughout your generations, as a statute forever.” The Passover was a holiday that was meant to remind Israel of something. Remind them of what? Of death and deliverance.

The Passover preceded God’s final plague on Egypt in which he killed all the firstborn children of those who did not have the blood of lambs smeared across their doorposts. The blood spared Israel from the wrath of God that struck the land of Egypt. The Passover was the beginning of God’s deliverance of his chosen people out of the grip of slavery. God told them to remember that day and to celebrate with feasting for generations to come.

Each Sunday, this exhortation is a kind of memorial. The purpose of the exhortation is to remind us that we are free to come before God through Christ because of the cross. The blood that was smeared on the cross from Jesus’ body being torn apart was that which spared us from having to experience the wrath of God. If you are a believer, remember that this morning. If you are an unbeliever, come to the foot of the cross and be reconciled with God.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-9)


Mother’s Day Exhortation

Each Sunday our church incorporates an exhortation into the worship service. It is a way to remind us of how we are acceptable to God only through Jesus’ work and not of our own. It is a reminder of the gospel. This was my exhortation this morning for Mother’s Day.

The exhortation this morning will rightly and appropriately be centered on Mother’s Day. What has now become know as Mother’s Day started in 1908 when a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis held a service to recognize her mother. Anna’s mother, Ann, had cared for wounded soldiers in the Civil War and had organized efforts to address public health issues in her day. Anna’s mission to have a formal recognition for mothers was brought to fruition in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation stating the second Sunday in May would be Mother’s Day.

Since then cards and flowers and gifts have marked this day. Yet we can look back farther than 1914 and see what God revealed to us about mothers in Psalm 139. God describes how he fashions or brings about humans. He forms, he knits in a mother’s womb, and he intricately weaves. All of us are to be in awe and wonder and praise at this. God has chosen mother’s to incubate and bring into the world that which is to image himself. We are created in the image of God and have been carefully made by him in our mother’s wombs.

So mother’s, on this day, whether you are weary with raising little ones or are older, empty-nesters with children no longer; God has used you to bring about his greatest creation for we are all image-bearers of a great and glorious God. God used a mother as the means by which he was to enter the world and take on human flesh. Jesus became a fetus, sat in amniotic fluid for 9 months, passed through a birth canal, and was born into the world to rescue a people from their sin. It is this amazing reality that brought about the truth of the gospel. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and grew in the womb of a woman, lived a perfect life, and died for the sins of his mother and the sins of those who would believe on his name.

It is this gospel that brings hope to mothers in their mothering. Yet not only moms.It is the hope for women who want children but are not able to. It is the hope for women who have had abortions and feel the guilt of their decision. It is for women who have children who have walked away from the faith and pray for their souls each day. It is for women who have have lost children in death and are crushed under the pain of it. It is for women who have adopted children. It is for those who have experienced abuse at the hand of their mothers and this day is filled with painful memories. It is for those who are foster parents and experience the simultaneous joy and pain of seeing children come in and out of their home. It is for those raising children that are disabled and life isn’t happening the way it was planned. The gospel has implications for every situation in every woman that is here this morning.

There is joyfulness and sorrow that coincide on Mother’s Day. No matter where you are this morning look to Jesus for forgiveness of sin, for hope in salvation, for healing from pain, for endurance in suffering, and for joy in a hope everlasting. For it was this Jesus that entered the world through a mother and rescued all of us from our sins. Ann Jarvis brought care to wounded soldiers in their sufferings. Jesus brought a rescue plan for all of us and is leading us into a joy that is unspeakable. Hope in him.


Talking Stones

“I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Luke 19:40

Do you know what this verse means? What does it mean when Jesus told the Pharisees that if these people were silent stones would cry out? It means that King Jesus is going to receive the praise he deserves. If these people were silent in giving praise to him, he holds the authority to command the rocks to spring to life and sing praises to him.

What does that mean for us as we come before him in worship this morning and confess our sins? It means that we are free to come before God, through Christ, because of the Palm Sunday road that led to the cross a few days later. Your ability to come before God in worship this morning is not dependent on your ability to measure up.

Our Fighter Verse says it- by grace we have been saved through faith. It is not dependent on our own doing. Not of works. We can’t boast. If we did not worship God he could command these chairs we are sitting on to spring to life and worship him.

Yet if you are trusting in Jesus as your only ability to be acceptable to God, you have received new desires and a love for God to praise him for all the mighty works he has done. Any good things you have done this past week are because of God preparing them before the foundations of the world were established. Any sin you committed this past week can be forgiven because Jesus road into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, was slaughtered like a lamb on Thursday and rose victorious over your sin on Sunday.

I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.


Police Work

This is the best description of police work that I’ve come across to date. It is from a book I am working through right now called Effective Police Supervision by Harry More and Larry Miller. Some of it is praise for cops and some of it is a sobering reality.

The job is complex; it lacks clear-cut boundaries and is frequently underrated, unappreciated, and unpleasant. Even though policing is a rewarding career, it is often dull, monotonous, dirty, and dangerous. 

Police officers work at the critical pressure point where law, human tragedy, and society’s expectations (for safety and a sense of security) come together. The police represent the fine line that separates freedom from chaos and legitimate social control over tyranny. American police officers are inundated with complexity and buffeted by change, ambiguity, stress, and radically different demands coming from various segments of the community. While they also come from the community, police officers are isolated from it in terms of their power, formal authority, occupational role, and distinct subcultural orientation. American police personnel exercise virtually unlimited discretion in low-visilibity transactions with all sorts of people. They are constantly bombarded with reality as they grapple with uncontrolled passion, brutality, and the evil side of human nature. Men and women who wear the badge see crime, predatory violence, human degradation, insanity, corruption, and bizzare behavior on a daily basis. They are often confronted with grisly reminders of man’s inhumanity and mortality. Mark Baker has observed that police officers are a composite of their unique experiences and a reflection of the people they police. Many police officers perceive themselves as society’s “garbage men.” 

 


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