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!