RUNNING WITHOUT A SPIRITUAL LIMB

Around daybreak on Monday morning I was nearing the end of my daily run at Elkin Park, when an incident I always dread occurred. The running trail is covered with rock dust which contains small grains that can often get in your shoes. From time to time some of the grains of rock dust have gotten in my shoes requiring me to stop and shake them out. cartoon_running

Monday, with only about three minutes to go in my 45 minute run, a rock grain found its way into my shoe and got underneath my heel. Though only about the size of a pin head, it shot pain into my heel each time my foot struck the ground. Almost finished I didn’t want to stop to remove it from my shoe, so I altered my foot plant and favored the other leg a bit so the rock grain wouldn’t prick my heel with each step. I finished the run with a “hitch in my get-a-long.” If someone had seen me finishing the run it would have appeared to them as if I was running with a limp. Soon as I stopped I removed the rock grain and all was back to normal.

Thinking about the incident, I wonder how many times “spiritual rock grains” have made their way into our spiritual lives causing us to run the Christian race with a spiritual limp. The author of Hebrews warns us in our relationship with the Lord to be wise to watch out for those “rock grains” which can hinder us in our spiritual journey (Hebrews 12:1). We must not ignore them when they enter our lives or simply adjust our walk to accommodate them. The inspired writer goes on to advise us, “And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed” (Heb. 12:13). We must pray for a sensitive spirit that our “spiritual heels” will detect when spiritual irritants seek to interject themselves into our lives.

The story is told of the eloquent British preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), who could be seen daily walking the London streets. On one occasion, as he was walking across a less than busy city thoroughfare, he suddenly stopped in the middle of the street and was seen bowing his head. Upon completion of his silent prayer, as he made his way to the other side, someone asked him why he  stopped in the middle of the street to pray. Spurgeon’s reply was, “A cloud briefly came over my soul in my communion with the Lord and I didn’t want to continue until it was lifted.” You might say he had stopped to remove an irritant that if neglected could have resulted in developing a spiritual limp in his walk with the Lord.

How about you and I? Are there “spiritual rock grains” seeking to intrude under our spiritual heels seeking to cause a spiritual limp to develop in our walk with Lord? Is it a trial, a temptation, a testing, a wrong relationship, a  secret sin, or a “tiny” trouble that has sought to alter our walk with Him? Let us not adjust our walk to accommodate spiritual irritants, but quickly remove them so as not to hinder our relationship with Him.

Turning to Hebrews again for encouragement, let us keep “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). As we keep our eyes on Him we can finish our Christian race in victory without a trace of a limp.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WHAT HE DID HE DID FOR ALL

Yesterday the 118th running of the Boston Marathon was held. It is the most famous marathon (26.2 miles) in the world. The race was won by American Meb Keflezighi. It was the first time since 1983 that an American won the grueling test of endurance. Meb’s story is truly remarkable and inspirational. Born in Eritrea, he and his family were refugees who came to the United States in 1987 when he was 12 years old. He began running in middle school and quickly showed great promise. Attending UCLA on a track scholarship, he won four NCAA championships. In the fall of 1996 I was privileged to watch Meb win the NCAA Cross Country Championships which was held in South Carolina. After the race I had my picture made with him and got his autograph. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1998. He went on to capture for the USA a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics. Though his running career has been filled with much success, he has also had his share of disappointments and injuries.

American Meb Keflezighi's  final stride of  his emotional Boston victory

American Meb Keflezighi’s final stride of his emotional Boston victory

In an interview after the race he stated that after the Boston bombings at the 2013 race he made a vow to dedicate himself to win Boston, believing that it was only right that an American win in 2014. At almost 39 years of age that was no small task. For a solid year every time he laced-up his shoes to go run was for the purpose of winning Boston as an act of redemption for the Boston people. His thoughts, his actions and his focus were on winning Boston, a race an American had not won in 31 years. But his intentional focus resulted in a victory that wasn’t assured until the final half mile, winning by 11 seconds.  His winning was like the ending of beautifully scripted movie, turning last year’s tragedy into this year’s triumph.

He went on to say in a post-race interview, “I did not run for myself. I ran with last year’s victims in my heart. What I did, I did for Boston. My victory was for them all. My victory was their victory. What I did I give back to the city of Boston.” Meb’s Boston win and unselfish gesture to the city will go down in running folklore history.

Our Holy Father, as well,  planned for victory in regard to man’s sinful condition (Romans 3:23).  Sinful man needed someone to bring redemption to him. What would the Father do? Our God didn’t send a third party to provide for us that which we could not provide for ourselves, He came Himself. Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5:21). His whole purpose in coming was for the redeeming of sinful man. His whole focus was on offering a Sacrifice for us which we could not offer ourselves. He came to meet the Holy demands of God for us and assume our responsibility for the judgment we deserve for not complying. Our God not only gave the Sacrifice, in Christ He was the Sacrifice! When He went to the cross He carried us in His heart. On Calvary’s hill of death Christ turned tragedy into triumph. When Christ offered the Sacrifice of Himself on the cross He did it for us all. When Christ arose from the dead he did it for us all. And the marvel of it all, His victory is our victory. We are partakers of all that Christ came to do and accomplish. We enter His victory by embracing Him in faith.

Christ won for us more than a laurel wreath that will eventually whither and crumble. The Bible says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). He won for us righteousness, forgiveness, mercy and grace, reconciliation with the Father, adoption into the family of God, freedom, peace, access to the Father, the Holy Spirit, and spiritual riches and an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and fades not away” (I Peter 1:1-5).

Christ did not come for Himself, but for you and me. His living was our living. His dying was our dying. His resurrection was our resurrection. His victory was/is our victory.

Meb’s victory was sensational and inspirational, but in a few days his accomplishment will move from the front pages of the newspapers and will eventually fade into running history. However, what Christ came to do and did for all humanity will forever remain in the eternal-present and will forever remain on the front page of God’s eternal Word. And let us lift our voice in thanksgiving that what He did He did for us all.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WHAT A PICTURE DOESN’T ALWAYS REVEAL

I have seen a lot of running pictures over the years, but this one is near the top of the list as one of my favorites. It speaks volumes, yet there is a lot it doesn’t tell. It was taken on Thursday, April 17 of Elkin’s Jacob Parker and Brandon Welborn purposely tying in the 800 meter race. The meet was a quad track meet with Elkin, East Wilkes, Ashe County and Forbush. Jacob and Brandon did the same in the 1600 meter race earlier in the meet. Etched on their faces are the joy of competing and the satisfaction of winning. Their tying reveals the respect they have for each other, the bond they possess as teammates and the unity of their spirits to be champions.Bran&Jac800

What the picture doesn’t reveal is all the hard work that went into making the “moment” happened. The picture doesn’t tell how the two run in practice like Siamese twins, often stride for stride as if connected at the hip, pushing each other to be better. The picture doesn’t reveal the year around running they do in all kinds of weather. As their coach I am one of the few people who knows the conditions they endure to achieve what they have. I have watched them run in the heat of the summer, the cold of the winter, the rain that pelts off their heads, chilling winds that knock them back one step for every two they take, and on days when they don’t feel like practicing they do anyway. I have seen them finish workouts fatigued, exhausted and just plain dog-tired. But the next day they are back to do it again with a smile on their faces. Their championship character and work ethic has garnered them both all-conference, all-region and all-state honors. They have lead their team to conference championships. And they keep striving to achieve more. The picture doesn’t reveal their unselfishness that encourages the other to win if the other cannot. The picture reveals them tying/winning as runners, but the picture doesn’t reveal their winning characters that makes them winners in the race of life.

Just as a picture may reveal some information, it always conceals much more. How true that is in life as we form a picture of others. Those we come in contact with daily may present to us a “picture” that all is well, but behind their forced smile and pleasantries there may be a hurting soul. Chances are everyone that crosses our paths behind the “picture” they want us to see is a person that needs our encouragement, our prayers, our patience and our caring. When we encounter someone we never really know what is going on in their lives and we need to be cognizant of that fact. We need to be a refreshing breeze and healing balm in the lives of those the Lord brings our way.

Each day we need to pray for sensitive hearts that help us look beyond just the surface “picture” we see that allows us to see the limp in the soul, the hurt in the eyes, the pain in the voice, and  the brokenness in the spirit.  We need to be enablers who apply Christ’s healing ointment into some of the wounds that have been inflicted in their lives. The time will come when we, too, will find ourselves needing to be on the receiving end of such spiritual medicine.

Let us not be so wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t have time to encourage a follow-weary traveler on the road of life. May we, like unselfish teammates, respect one another, as we are all “teammates” in the human race and as members of the human race we possess a bond in the experiencing of struggles and tussles. Troubles divided are easier to carry and joy shared is multiplied.
As our Heavenly Coach encourages us to love and care for one another, how much better it is to strive toward the finishline of life together, cheering one another on. Now that is a “picture” our Heavenly Father would love to see.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan