Thursday, November 14, 2013

Philippians 2

Just thinking about these verses tonight... 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.
                    -Philippians 2:3-15 NIV

Monday, September 23, 2013

All Stop


It's a pretty obvious sign.  As a driver, I see it every day countless times.  It always means the same thing:


Sometimes it's painful.  Sometimes it's tough.  Most of the time it keeps me from getting where I want to go as quickly as I want to.

While sometimes its painful.
It's necessary.

As a runner, it's both painful and necessary for me right now.  Six weeks ago I killed an awesome 18-mile run.  I ran 18 miles in a few minutes faster than I ran 17 the weekend before.  I felt amazing.  I felt on top of the world.  In preparing for my upcoming marathon (Indy Monumental), I was beginning to think that I could do it.

Near the end (sometime... I'm not really sure), I strained a tendon in my ankle.  At the time, I thought it was just the aches and pains that come with being a long distance runner (after 18 miles, things hurt).  But in the next few days, I realized that it was more.  But I tried to continue...

For the past six weeks, I've been nursing it along... trying to hold on to this marathon cycle.  I've been icing it, elevating it, resting it, wearing a brace for it, everything you can imagine.  Saturday it came to a breaking point: If I couldn't do the 15 miles that I had planned (so I could still get a couple 20's in), it wasn't going to happen.

After a few miles it became apparent: stop.

So I am.

I'm going to stop.  I'm going to rest.  I'm going to allow my ankle to heal the way I should have 6 weeks ago.

I'm hoping to get back out there in time to do a turkey trot (on Thanksgiving) but for now, I'm not thinking about that.

Keep running friends!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

One Day Getaway

Last month, my wife and I celebrated out 10th wedding anniversary.  In the months leading up to the big day, several folks had asked us, "What are you doing for the big day?"  In the midst of graduation parties, weigh-ins and keeping up with Myles and mowing grass, we really hadn't had time to think or plan anything specific.

A couple of weeks before our anniversary, we scheduled a 1-day getaway... our first since Myles arrived in late January.  Jackie had picked up, some time ago, a flier for a small bed & breakfast in a town that I had to use Google maps to find.  But they gave pastors a discount... sounded good to us (It's an awesome little bed & breakfast called the Mill House if you are interested... I would totally recommend.  Ron and Kathy are amazing and we hope to go back in the future.).  

It was a great 30 hours... we talked... went out for dinner... went for a run together (something we haven't done in almost a year)... walked... explored little antique shops.  It was great.  Relationally, we got a chance to reconnect.  But also going into a busy season of CIY trips, a Senior Trip, another CIY (Mix this time) trip and other trips, it felt good to rest and relax.


Friday, May 24, 2013

To the Class of 2013

Some interesting advice... to the class of 2013:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tornado Relief - Moore, OK

As I sat and watched the coverage coming from Moore, OK, yesterday, I felt what most of you likely felt:
   -an overwhelming desire to help.

But what could I do to help?

I was thrilled and excited when the topic of discussion came up this morning in staff meeting... what could North Terrace do to help?  As we kicked ideas around, it was suggested that we encourage folks from North Terrace (or anyone really) to purchase $25 gift cards for Walmart and then we would donate them to a church in the area.

We picked Walmart for a couple of reasons.

  1. They are easy to pick up (three locations in Zanesville counting Sam's Club).  
  2. You can use them at any Walmart... and let's face it, Walmart is everywhere.  
  3. You can purchase anything at Walmart.  Physical needs, toiletries, food, clothing, bottled water, construction supplies... just about anything.  

So, I phoned a small church of about 50 people in Moore, OK... Community Christian Church to see if we could help them out.  I was surprised that the pastor, Bill, answered the phone.  Bill was overwhelmed with phone calls this morning from around the country today wanting to help out but answered my call because the caller i.d. said "Jim Clark."  They have a "Jim Clark" that attends their church and he assumed it was him.  He was excited that we had a tangible, simple plan to help them out.

Their church, Community Christian Church, is about 1/2 a mile from the path of the tornado.  Luckily, the church received no damage from the tornado and none of their members were impacted directly.  But there are many in their community and circle of influence who need help.

So North Terrace is mobilizing a 2-week drive (concluding on June 2nd) to collect Walmart cards for CCC in Moore, OK.  If you would like to help out, there is more information on our church's Facebook page.  I'm excited to be a part of something simple and effective to help those in need!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thursday, May 09, 2013

I know...

I've been a bad blogger...

I'm sorry...
I'll admit it.

But I'm not sure it's going to change in the near future... I've just been busy...


Here are a couple of quick hits:

  • I'm still running... no current race on the calendar... just running... 
  • Myles is amazing!  I love spending time with them and watching him learn and grow and discover things (like his hands).  My wife is such an amazing mom! 
  • North Terrace is starting into a lead minister transition.  This is awesome and will lead to some great things for our church!
  • I'm coaching track again this year... today is the next to last practice (tomorrow is last).
  • Youth Ministry is beginning it's shift to summer programming... 
  • I'm busy... and running on pure Starbucks some days... 
  • Iron Man 3 was awesome!  

Have a good day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon

I have made no secret of the fact that as a runner, I want to run the Boston Marathon.

In light of Monday's tragedy, that has not changed.

I was sitting on my couch, waiting to go for a run with my wife, when the headlines began to come across my iPad as to what was unfolding in Boston.  Immediately, I began looking for report of what was occurring.  I had watched the majority of women's race and about half of the men's race and actively followed the races on Twitter until the conclusion of the elites.

The point at which the bombs went off is my favorite part of the marathon experience... watching the average runners finishing.  The TV crews don't care about that part... but watching the weekend warriors finish is a humbling part of being a runner.  Watching the weekend warriors, who have jobs, families, responsibilities, hobbies and still have time to devote to running, thrills me!

As I sat and watched the news coverage... a range of emotions welled up in me...

  • shock
  • disbelief
  • horror
  • anger
  • concern
  • passion
  • rage
  • sadness
  • questioning
I went out for my 6 mile run on Monday with these thoughts in my head (and ran the fastest 10k that I have run in a while).  As I ran, I thought: "I will run the Boston Marathon."  

And I will.  

Some runners never resolve to do that.  Someday, I will.  The events of Monday haven't shaken my resolve or determination to have a Boston Marathon jacket of my own.  

As I have watched the running community over the past few days... a variety of thoughts have crossed my mind...
  • pride
  • determination
  • strength
  • support
  • resolve
  • encouragement
  • will
The running community is an extremely supportive community... more supportive than any other sport's community that I'm aware of.  Groups have popped up on Facebook and Daily Mile... Banners have shown up on Garmin's website and others.  Folks are "running miles for Boston" and dedicating their upcoming marathons, half-marathons, 10k's, 5k's and trips around the block to those who suffered on Monday in Boston.  They have changed their Facebook profile pictures and Twitter pics.  That is determination and support!  

I'm glad to be a part of the running community!  I'm praying for those affected in Boston!  


Monday, April 01, 2013

The Story - Chapter 12 - Bored...

I stood in the kitchen... Gazing into the refrigerator with the door hanging wide open.

I really wasn't hungry...
I was bored.

Ever been there?

Most of the trouble I got into as a kid I got into because I was bored.  We got bored playing in the field beside Grandma and Grandpa's house... and the creek was just right there... We got bored going around the block on our bikes... so we crossed the street...  We got bored with merely throwing the ball back and forth... what fun it would be to kick it...


So I settled on a cheese stick (that I didn't need) and closed the refrigerator door and walked away... 80 calories to fill a hole in my mind that calories from a cheese stick couldn't fill.

I have often thought that was what led David into one of his biggest blunders in the Bible.  "In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem." 2 Samuel 11:1 NLT

In our day and age of instant communication, it would be odd for the President of the United States to be in the battlefield with the troops.  But in David's day, that was where David should have been... "when kings normally go off to war..."  But where was David...?  "staying behind in Jerusalem..."


And what is waiting for David in his boredom?  Sin.  "Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath." 2 Samuel 11:2 NLT


Ever been there? 

  • Done checking my email, Facebook, Twitter... Just a couple of taps to that one website...
  • Kissing and handing hands just isn't enough anymore... what if we...
  • My relationship with my wife doesn't have the same fire... but this lady at work... 
  • We've run out of things to talk about from our day... so we begin to gossip about that one girl... 
  • Nothing is on TV... flipping through the channels... oh, this looks interesting... 


If only David would have remembered God's words to Cain in Genesis 4:7... "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master."

Be careful of the open refrigerator door.  That cheese stick won't help.  Boredom has a way of increasing your waistline and capturing you in something you never intended to be in in the first place. 


Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is Risen! - Happy Easter!

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you."

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Thoughts for Good Friday - Jesus Loving Barabbas

Something to steer your mind in the right direction on this Good Friday.


Friday, March 22, 2013

The Story: Chapter 11 - David's Heart

One Saturday afternoon when I was in middle school, I came home from a youth group trip to an empty house.  I didn't think much of it... I knew how to get in... so I did.  Nobody was at home so I went about my normal "I'm home by myself" routine.  After about 15 minutes, a knock came at the front door.  It was my youth pastor, who had just dropped me off, and a friend of our family.  (This was in the day before cell phones and instant communication.)

He told me that my Grandpa had died of a heart attack that morning while we were away.

While we were gone all day... my family had been dealing with this tragedy and I didn't even know it.  See, my Grandpa had had some trouble with his heart... he had high cholesterol and ate foods he shouldn't and smoked a pipe and eventually it caught up with him.  That's part of the reason why I began to run over 3 years ago... I know that family history is there and I want to avoid it.

There are times when I wish I could take my heart out of my chest and check it over.  You know... make sure that it's okay.  Clean out the corners like I clean out my son's humidifier.  Unfortunately, I can't just pop it out... I would die.

Spiritually, there are times when I wish I could pop out my heart and have a look at it too.

This week in the Story, we read about David's heart.  And we get an opportunity to see his heart from God's perspective.  Did David have sin?  Absolutely... next week we'll read about the greatest of his sin with Bathsheba.  Were there things David wished were different about his heart?  Sure.  Was David's heart messed up in some areas?  It must have been to do what he did.

But yet... what does God say David's heart?  Look again: "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.   A little bit later in Acts we read more about what God looks for: 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

See... I know my sin (as Scripture says... it's always before me) and I know my dark places.  And I know God knows those places too.  I'm sure David knew his places as well as God did.  Yet God still called him a man after His own heart.  Does he see my heart that way too?  


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Story: Week 9 - Ruth is Redeemed

The first house that Jackie and I ever purchased was a foreclosure.  If you aren't familiar with a foreclosure, be thankful.  Basically, the previous owners couldn't afford it any longer and so the bank took it back.

When we purchased it, it was in rough shape.  The picture to the right is the living room.  The floors were warped and buckled where the bank hadn't shut of the water and a leak had ruined them.  Pipes had burst in the upstairs bathroom and had ruined the floors in the living room, two closets (one in the living room and one downstairs) and a lot of wall space.  Additionally, the walls in the living room needed repaired and the drywall was separating.  If this wasn't enough, tile floor in the dining room was ruined... the appliances in the kitchen were gone... and the previous owners had even taken the furnace with them when they left.

To make a long story short: The house was unlivable.  It was worthless.  It was trash.

But we bought it anyway.  After 60+ days of work... new plumbing... new carpet throughout the whole house... new walls... new paint... new tile in the kitchen and dining room... new appliances... and a new furnace and A LOT of help from friends.  We moved in.  And we lived there for nearly 2 years.

Before: The house was worthless.
After: The house was our home.
Before: The house had no value.
After: The house was our most prized possession.

I couldn't help but think of our house as I was reading about Ruth this week in the Story.  Here was a woman who was worthless to her society.  Her husband was dead.  She was past the age of being valuable as a wife.  She had no children and no job and no house and no possessions and no future.  Nothing at all.  Worthless.

But God didn't leave her there.  See our God is in the reclamation business.  God is used to taking something that's worthless and making it valuable again.  God does that with our lives everyday.  He comes in and cleans out the sin and brokenness and replaces it with his holiness and his fullness.

God did that for Ruth.
He took her from worthless to worthy.

In fact, without Ruth... We would have had no Jesus.  Jesus came from the line of David... David's father was Jesse... Jesse's father was Obed... Obed's father was Boaz and his mother was Ruth.

The picture to your left is the same living room as above... After it was redeemed.  When we are back in North Aurora, we drive by our old house. People live there.  People call it home.  Because it was redeemed.

You might think, "God can't do anything with me.  I'm so broken and messed up."  But realize: That's actually God's specialty.


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Power of Words

A powerful reminder of how we use our words...

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Bible (official trailer) on History Channel

I believe that I will be watching this starting on March 3rd!

The Bible is an epic five-week, 10 hour television miniseries premiering March 3, 2013 on the History Channel from Emmy Award winning husband and wife team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. For two hours each Sunday night millions of viewers will see the Bible from Genesis to Revelation come to life in a way never before seen. The final episode of the series will air on Easter Sunday and will feature the death and resurrection of Jesus. ~Christian Film Database

HERE is a link to the Christian Film Database with some more information and a schedule of the stories covered in which episodes. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Story: Chapter 7 - Weird Things...

God has a way of using weird things for His advantage...

  • A giant fish that swallows up a prophet to protect him from peril
  • The sun standing still in the sky to save time for a victory for Israelite army
  • A fiery furnace to prove His protection for His people
  • A baby floating helplessly, unprotected in crocodile infested waters
  • Safe passageway on dry ground across what once was the Red Sea
This week, we read that God takes a city for his people (Jericho)... not with swords, spears and an army... but with trumpets, footsteps and a shout.  


The Israelites, if you are following along, came up out of Egypt prepared for battle.  After their unfaithfulness to God's command to take the Promised Land, they were forced to march around in the desert for 39 years (until all the men of fighting age had died).  But they were still prepared for battle.  They still possessed swords, spears and other weapons of war.  Why wouldn't God simply send Joshua and the troops in to take the city.  

I believe: It was to show His power.  

God has a way of using odd things like the ones mentioned above, because when He does, the glory and honor for the victory can go to no one else but Him.  No one can make the sun stand still in the sky... except God.  No one could rescue three men thrown into a super-hot furnace... except God.  No one could command a giant fish to eat up a prophet and then spit him out unharmed on the shore... except God.  No one could protect Moses floating down the Nile... except God.  No one could dry up the Red Sea overnight so that His people could pass through... except.  

So there would be no doubt in the people's mind who would give them the victory in the Promised Land, God chose to use feet, trumpets and shouts to bring down the mighty walls of Jericho.  

Question is: what odd or weird thing might God use in your life to accomplish His will?  So that there will be no doubt that it was His hand at work... ?

The Apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 1... "26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wiseby human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chosethe foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."


Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is love...

16 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.

Simple and straightforward...
A lot of people will tell you they love you... they will do things to prove that they love you... 

God sacrificed what was most important to Him... His one and only Son... for you!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stepping back from the Blue Ridge Marathon...

Last August, I declared here on this blog that I was signing up to run America's Toughest Road Marathon: The Blue Ridge Marathon.  Until about 3 or 4 weeks ago, I was still planning on it...

But I've decided to take a step back from this race.

Three reasons:

  1. My son Myles was born 2 weeks ago yesterday.  Because of Myles' arrival, I've been trying to spend some extra time at home.  I spent some extra time in the hospital when Myles came.  Before that, doctor's appointments and other things slowed down my ability to train.  While I still want to run... and will be signing up for another marathon soon (probably in early June)... I want to spend some time with my son!  
  2. This winter has been difficult to train.  Extra snow this year... ice... wind... cold temperatures... have made training difficult.  Currently I do not have a treadmill, therefore it's outside or no run.  That's forced me to miss quite a few runs.  
  3. Some ministry challenges have forced me to invest additional time with our students.  A few things have come up over the past month of so that has required taking some energy from training and invest it in ministry.  
  4. I'm trying to avoid injuring myself.  Due to the shortness of time before the race (April 20th), I don't have time to adequately ramp up my mileage without hurting myself.  Since I have other goals to accomplish this year, I'm stepping away from this one.  
The Blue Ridge Marathon is a great race!  I am keeping it on my list of races I want to run and I will run it down the line.  For right now, where I'm at, I need to take a step back.  

If you aren't signed up for the Blue Ridge Marathon, there's still time!  Head over and get yourself signed up! 


Monday, February 11, 2013

5 Things I Love about Running


I had a great run today!  I mean, really, really good.  Just in case you're wondering, I ran 6.1 miles in 53 minutes (check out my data on Daily Mile at the link to the left).  So I felt really, really good.

This winter has been a tough running winter.  The weather has been cold... we have had more snow that last year... plus, having a son has added some complications to this year running-wise already.

But I love running still!  Here are a couple of reasons why:

1.  I love the challenge of doing something hard.  There are a lot of things that are easy in life.  Running... especially running distance (half marathons and full marathons)... is hard.  I like feeling like I accomplished doing something hard... something that not everyone has done.

2.  I love the exercise.  I love getting out and pushing my body and feeling good.  Plus, I don't feel quite as guilty when I roll through an entire pizza for dinner... :)

3.  I love the community.  I had no idea what the running community was like until I started.  Runners are accepting... encouraging... loving... challenging... devoted... among so many other things.  I love the #runchat community and have blogged about it often.  But even running down the road, when I see another runner, there is a smile, a nod or a wave.  We're in this together!

4.  I love the "head-space."  My wife knows that if I haven't been out for a run in a while due to weather or injury, she knows that she needs to get me out there.  She will even rearrange her schedule so I can run.  She knows that I need that time out there mentally.  There is something head-clearing for me about being out there.  I grab my shoes and iPod and I'm alone in another world for a while to think, pray, plan, mentally write and other important things.

5.  I love the accomplishment.  I love crossing the finish line... doing something difficult... and finishing!  I love putting that medal around my neck, whether its a local 4-miler or the Chicago marathon, I love finishing.  I love hanging that shadowbox on my wall with my medal and pictures and knowing that I did it!

There are so many other things that I love about running... but these are just a few of them.  If you love running too, put your favorite aspect of running in the comments below.  I'm interested in what you love about running!

Keep running friends!


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Story: Chapter 5 - Idol Worship

Last week was a difficult week, schedule-wise.  I know that technically I missed chapter 4... but I'm moving on this week with chapter 5.  Sorry.  I read chapter 4... but didn't time to blog it.  Myles threw a wrench into my week... in a great way!

Last night, we threw a couple of Super Bowl parties for our students.  One for our high school kids... and one for our middle school kids.  Thankfully because Myles came a bit early, I had an opportunity to attend.

While I love football... I love the Super Bowl... I couldn't help but think of this video:

Then I sat down tonight to read chapter 5 of the Story.  See, when we read this chapter... we tend to think about folks like at the beginning of the video as idol worshippers... people with weirdly painted faces... bones sticking out of their noses... bowing down to little stone statues...

And when we see that, we think, "How ignorant is that?"

But the reality is... we do the same thing!

Oh, not with little stone statues, bones in our noses or weird headdresses.  But we do it none the less.  We sacrifice all that we have... all of our energy, enthusiasm, time and effort... for something that in the end, really doesn't matter.

Oh don't get me wrong... I have sports teams that I love to spend time with... Ohio State Buckeyes Football... Cubs' games... Da Bears...

But my point is... how quick are we to assume that we don't have idols in our hearts?  An idol is really just anything that gets the time and attention that God should receive.  Maybe a girlfriend or boyfriend... maybe a sport... maybe a club... maybe homework... All of those things are good things but all of those things can become idols.  But they are idol worship when they take the place of God.

So... while we read chapter 5 of the Story, be careful to not quickly point the finger at the Israelites who quickly slipped into idol worship, without checking our closet first!


Monday, February 04, 2013

A New Youth Ministry Tradition - Offering Cell Phones

We started a new tradition at our Sunday night youth group Awake event a few months back.  We call it: Cell Phone Offering.

On Sunday nights, we basically offer a program that is church for students.  We have a couple of excellent teen worship bands.  We play games... have a message from God's Word... give out prizes and more.

While we don't take up an offering at our Sunday night crowd program... we do ask them to give an offering.  After our welcome time, we ask them to power down their cell phones, iPods or other electronic devices.  We started doing this as part of a series we were doing called "Focused" where we talked about all the distractions vying for our attention.  During that series, we thought it might be a good learning to power down our phones for the 90 minutes that we meet youth group so that we could practice focus.

The idea has stuck.

We don't force anyone to do it.  We put out these baskets, our Sunday morning adult worship service offering baskets, on each of our tables and ask our students to power down their electronics and put them in the offering basket as an offering of attention and focus to God.  Most of our students do it.  And I think, from what I hear, most of our students really like it.

It's a simple idea that has stuck.  Plus, it gives our students an opportunity to connect with God without the distraction of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/texts/etc.

Just a thought.

Those of you who know me know that I love technology.  We aren't doing this as anti-technology.  We don't use cell phones officially in our service (all the Scriptures used are printed on their bulletins) so we are just eliminating the distraction.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Myles Jacob Clark

Hey everybody...
My name is Myles Jacob Clark and I was born today, January 29, 2013. I was 7 pounds and 1 ounce and 19 1/4 inches long.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Something I hope I never have to do again...

I did something last week that I hope I never have to do again...

I attended the visitation... funeral... and graveside for one of my students, Gable Connors.

In 12 years of youth ministry, I've never had to do that.  I hope that I never have to again.  Gable was a bright kid.  He was an incredible athlete.  He was a great student.  He had everything going for him.  All of that was cut short.  He left behind a couple of devastated parents and an overwhelmed older sister, who is a freshman in our group and a lot of questions.

It was a hard week last week for our youth ministry.  Many of our students asked questions that I didn't have answers for... no one does... Questions like "Why? Why now? Why him?"  Unfortunately, many of those questions don't have answers.

It was a hard and emotional week.

But in the midst of that sadness and emotion, I could take comfort in Jesus' words from John 11:
"25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die." 

While I don't have answers to many of those questions, I know the One who does.  My faith... my hope... my trust is in the One who is the Resurrection and the Life... in the One who has conquered death and the grave.  

That's what I'm holding onto... 


Sanctus Real - Promises

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Story: Chapter 3 - When It Doesn't Go "Right"

Everyone has heard the song that goes... sing along if you'd like...

"When you wish upon a star...
Makes no difference who you are...
Anything your heart desires...
Will come to you... 

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do..."

Leigh Harline and Ned Washington wrote that now famous song for Walt Disney's version of Pinocchio in 1940.  The song is sung by Cliff Edwards as the character of Jiminy Cricket in the movie and can be heard in the opening credits and final scene of the movie (according to the Wikipedia article found HERE).  In 1940, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.  Since then, it has become synonymous with Disney World and the Walt Disney Corporation.

Funny thing is: It's a complete lie.

It's a nice thought... It's pleasant to think about... It's even fun to dream about...

But unfortunately, it's a lie.

I can dream about becoming an NBA Superstar... or a starting NFL Quarterback who wins the Super Bowl... or running a 5 minute mile... or winning the Nobel Prize in physics.  While I can dream all I want, some things just don't come true.

As many of my faithful readers know, I'm a marathon runner.  I have run now two full marathons and a handful of halfs and a bunch of 5k's.  While I like to think that I could keep up with the likes of Ryan Hall and other amazing runner athletes who will be contending for the title of winning the Boston Marathon in a few months, it isn't going to happen.  My only hope is to, someday, be fast enough to get to run the race at all (which, by the way, is pretty fast).  I have absolutely no chance to winning it... no matter how much I dream, wish upon stars or fantasize about it.

Question is: How do you deal with that reality? the reality of shattered dreams...

When the bank forecloses on your dream?
When you lose the dream job that you thought you had?
When your high school sweetheart walks away from your marriage after 5 months?
When you don't get into the college you always saw yourself attending?
When you can't cut it in the college major you thought would lead you to your dream career?
When you drive that $1000 Honda instead of that Porsche you saw in your imagination?
When you don't make the team?
When you don't get the girl or the guy?

Bummer... huh?
How do you handle that?

See, this week we are reading chapter 3 of the story.  This part of the story is all about Joseph.  And if anyone had some wild dreams, Joseph had some wild dreams.  He was the youngest of 12 children and he had the dream... not once but twice... that all of his older brothers and even his parents would bow down to him.  Crazy dream!

But Joseph believed it... right up through being sold into slavery by his brothers... sold as a slave in Potipher's house... wrongfully imprisoned for years... stuck in a jail for a crime he didn't commit... forgotten... alone... left to rot...

What do you do when your dreams don't come true?  When they don't work out like you had intended?

I'm fairly confident that most of our dreams aren't going to come true.  I'm never going to be an NBA Superstar... or start at quarterback in the NFL... or even run a 5 minute mile.  And I'm okay with letting go of those dreams (a couple of which I never actually had)...

I'm okay with trusting God to take care of the details and following His lead... when things don't work out like I had wished...


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Story: Chapter 2 - A Leap of Faith

How good are you with the unseen?

For most of us, seeing is believing.  If we are going to see believe something, we want to see it... touch it... hold it in our hands... experience it.  We don't just accept things without seeing it.

What would you have done in the above scene?  Would you have stepped out?  Would you have trusted?  Would you have had faith?

Abraham did.

This week, in the Story chapter 2, we meet a man named Abram.  God came to him in Genesis 12 and asked him to "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

I love to go to new places... I love to experience new locations.  But there is also a security in knowing where it is that I'm going.  Most of the trips that we take with students we take to locations that I am familiar with.  It gives me better security to be able to answer parents' questions about specific locations.  What the dorms are like... what the chapel is like... what the cafeteria is like... how close is the hospital and Walmart... things like that.  When you are new to a location, you don't know those things.  So I prefer to go to locations with students that I have been to before.

God called Abraham to go someplace that he had never been before.  God asked Abraham to trust Him.

And the best line in Genesis 12 may be verse 4: "So Abraham went..."

Abraham took a leap of faith.  He took a long look across the valley and not really knowing what would happen, he stepped out.

Would you?

If God called you to do something "crazy," would you?  Move to another country to work with impoverished people? Witness to your coworker across the office?  Invite a complete stranger at Starbucks to your Life Group?  Teach a small group of middle school girls?

What if God called you to do something crazy?
Would you?

I would like to think that I would...


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2012 Running Year in Review

Daily Mile is a tool that I use to track my mileage.  Today, I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised when they emailed me my 2012 Year in Review (pictured above).  Interesting little graphic.  I thought I'd share it with you.

But it reminded me... I haven't talked about 2012 in review... The Good... The Bad... The Next!

The Good:
Chicago Marathon/PR:
I had an incredible experience in October.  I had my first opportunity to run a major marathon: The Chicago Marathon.  Joined by 45,000 of my closest runner friends and a couple of actual friends, Ben and Randy, I trekked 26.2 miles around the city of Chicago.  It was an incredible experience.  The crowds... the people... the runners... amazing!  Even right now, as I'm typing, images from that weekend are still playing in my mind.  While I didn't set the incredible PR that I was hoping and had been training for, I did set a new personal record by nearly 7 minutes.

Mileage Increased:
I ran more miles this year than last year... That's pretty great!  While I didn't get as many as I was hoping for, increasing overall mileage for the year is a good thing.

Completing a Half Marathon with my wife and Donnie:
Also a highlight of this year, Jackie and I ran the Cap City Half Marathon the first weekend in May.  We joined up with our worship minister Donnie to complete this race.  It was fun to run with my wife, even if she did beat me.  I feel short of my Flying Pig 1/2 time due to some injury... but the experience of running it with a great friend and my wife was a highlight of my running year.

The Bad:
Starting on Thanksgiving of last year, Runner's World challenged it's readers to run everyday between Thanksgiving and New Years.  This was something new for me and sounded fun.  I completed the run streak and was enjoying it so much that I continued.  Until injury stopped me in early February.  For about three weeks, I didn't run much at all.  Early in March, I began to run a little, but was still nagged by some quadriceps tendonitis. Most of March went down the drain.  In late March/early April, I was finally able to get back to regular effort.  But by the time I was back to full strength, I had lost most of my training time for the Cap City. This was reflected pretty clearly on race day.

Short of Mileage Goal:
While I did log more miles in 2012 than I did in 2011 or 2010, I still fell way short of my goal of 1,500 miles for 2012... about 224 miles short.

The Next:
Two Marathons:
I am sure that this year will bring some ups and downs.  I know it will, I'm registered for the Blue Ridge Marathon... one of the hilliest road marathons in the country.  But I have decided that I am only training for marathons in 2013... two marathons to be exact.  While I have decided on one, the Blue Ridge, I am leaving my options open for a September or October marathon.  I'm positive that I will run a half marathon in 2013, I'm not putting it on as a trained-for race... it will fall under my regular running/training.  I'm positive that I will run a couple of 5ks and hopefully my first 10k.  But again, they are just part of the marathon training experience.

New 5k PR:
The past couple of years I have set personal records in the 5k.  I am aiming to do that again this year.  Hopefully at the Caldwell Fireman's Festival 5k again!

Run a 10k race:
After nearly 3 years of running, I have never raced the 10k distance.  That needs to change.  I am aiming to get a 10k under my belt this year.

Get my wife running again...:
We are set to have our first child in early February.  This will be awesome... and I already have my running stroller.  I'm excited.  But I am also excited to help my wife get back into running distance again.  She was hoping to run through her pregnancy... but it just didn't work out.  I want to help her get back up to speed and hopefully get another 1/2 marathon under her belt this fall... maybe the Chicago Half???

1,500 miles:
This goal is a repeat from last year.  I want to log 1,500 miles this year.  I didn't get to complete this goal due to injury in February and March... but I want to get it this year!

So there you go... the good... the bad... and the next...
What's on your running radar for 2013?


Monday, January 07, 2013

The Story: Chapter 1 - Choice

Hopefully none of my high school teachers are regular readers of my blog... but I'm sad to say that I don't remember many of the things that I learned in high school.  I don't remember how many electrons an element of sodium has.  I don't remember the names of all the bones in the human skull.  I don't remember how to say "what are we having for dinner?" in Spanish.  I don't remember how to rewire a lamp from shop class.  (Although at one point... I did know all those things...)

But I do remember this poem by Robert Frost (taken from here) called "The Road Not Taken"...

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear, Though as for that the passing there,  Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay, In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I marked the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." 

I have always loved that poem.
Choice is a good thing.  Coke or Pepsi... Steak or chicken... The Cubs or everyone else.  Choice is good. And God designed us with choice.  Take a look:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:15-17, NIV 

When God created this world and all of its contents, he designed humanity with the ability to choose.  You can choose your likes.  You can choose your preferences.  You can choose whether or not you will follow God.  And that's a good thing.

God could have created humanity without the ability to choose.  He could have created me like my iPhone.  My iPhone doesn't get the choice of what to do.  It does what I tell it to do.  While this is helpful in getting things done (imagine if my iPhone could say, "No, I don't feel like checking your email feed right now).  But it's not helpful in terms of it's love and appreciation for me.

God designed us and created us so that we could choose to love Him... so that we could choose to follow Him... so that we could choose to appreciate Him.  That's why God put the tree in the middle of the garden.  That tree presented a choice.  Follow God or not.  Unfortunately, we chose not in that instance and brought sin into our world.

But we are still presented with the choice.  The choice to follow.  The choice to pursue God.  God could have created us like mindless robots, who are relentless in our pursuit of God without a choice or he could have created us as choice-ful humans, who can choose to relentlessly pursue God.  I'm glad He chose the later.

Noah was faced with this choice.  In a few chapters after the fall of humanity through the sin of Adam and Eve, God came to Noah with a choice.  Noah had found favor in God's eyes and the earth's wickedness had made God sad.  So God decided to start over... with Noah's family.  God came to Noah and asked him to build an ark.  That ark would save humanity and all of creation.  But Noah was faced with a choice: Do his own thing or follow the instructions of God.  Noah chose to obey God.

Today, you are presented with a choice: Follow your own way... Follow God's way... Those two paths end up in very different places.  I know which path I have chosen.  And I'm grateful for the chance to choose!


BTW: This is part of a 31-week series that I am doing here on my blog in conjunction with our church reading The Story together.  Here is a link to the first post in this series.  Feel free to click "The Story" label below to see other posts in this series.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Beginning: The Story

We are beginning something at North Terrace that I am very excited about... We are set to begin reading next week (January 7th) and talking about on the weekends in worship (January 13th) a book called "The Story."

The Story is a resource designed to help people read the entire Bible.  They have taken the NIV Bible and smoothed it out by removing some of the difficult sections (i.e.: genealogies, lengthly law passages, etc) so that it reads like a story from front to back.  This book is NOT a Bible... but the passages that it includes are passages straight from the NIV version of the Bible.

What excites me about it two-fold:
First, its a chance for us to see the entire Bible's story.  As someone who reads through the Bible every year, I know how easy it is to get bogged down in Leviticus or Isaiah or a minor prophet.  Some folks stop when they meet resistance.  This will hopefully help us get through the entire Biblical story.

Second, our whole church is doing it together.  We will be preaching on the chapter from the Story in morning worship (you'll be able to download our weekly message podcasts HERE on our website if you can't make it to worship).  We'll be talking about in adult Sunday school classes at NTCOC.  Both our students (middle and high school) and children will be discussing it in their Sunday school classes.  So everyone will be able to talk about the same thing!

This is set to be really fun!

Since it starts next week... and runs for the next 31 weeks... I'm going to post weekly some thoughts about the Story chapter that we're reading.  I may comment on the whole chapter... or just a specific section of it.  But I thought it might give folks something to think about as they are reading during the week and it will be a reminder on Facebook and Twitter that you need to be reading the next chapter!

This is gonna be exciting!  I hope you'll join us for this journey!