my search to understand the bigger picture

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I am a LIAR!

"Christ became what we are, so that we might become what he is."

Let that just soak in for a minute. I mean, it sounds great, right? This is one of those sentences that kind of makes everyone feel just a little bit better. And it is completely true......................but.....................

I'm nowhere near what Christ is.

NO WAY! I know this comes as a shocker to almost all of you. Upon further evaluation of this sentence, I've realized that it's quite painful. It's sobering. I posted this quote on twitter and Facebook earlier today, I suppose because I thought it was cute. I thought people would think great things about me, such as "Thad is really deep. He's really thinking about God stuff." or "He's really beginning to get it." possibly even "Thad is such a blessing. He always shares amazing thoughts and life-giving statements."

But, I've come to the conclusion, that I am a LIAR. I mean, I put that quote out there, as if to say, "Look, I've got some stuff figured out, and I want to share it with you all today." Isn't that what we are saying when we threw random quotes out there like that. I mean, it is great when something so moves you that you can't help but share it with the masses. But really, how many of us have actually gone on and allowed the truth of that quote to truly transform our lives.

This is problem I see in myself all too often. I settle for knowledge. Literally, I stop once I've learned something. But the whole point of learning, is the application of what you've learned. Otherwise, you haven't really learned it. It's one thing to be aware of an idea, thought, etc. It's a completely different thing to have been transformed by that idea, thought, etc.

Tonight I was reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and came across another quote. "What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do." I've come across similar quotes before. But this struck a chord with me tonight, almost in a refreshing sort of way. I say a lot of things as if I believe them, but my actions show a completely different story. I spent some time reflecting on this, asking God to reveal to me whatever he deemed important. And while I didn't come to any earth shattering conclusions, I did get the feeling of being loved regardless. Not that God was saying, "It's ok". But more like, "I know, and I love you anyways Thad". Acceptance. What a gift.

I'm a liar, but God still loves me. Is there anything more powerful, than to have someone (God) know the innermost struggles of my soul, and still take the time/patience to reassure me of their love? Better yet, to actually still love me?

I am a liar, and God loves me. And I'm learning to love him a little better each and every day. Hopefully my actions reveal that more and more every day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Altra Instinct Shoe Review

I've been anxiously waiting to write this post for some time now. I wanted to wear these enough to give an honest perspective, but it has been difficult because I have them in rotation with 4 other pairs of shoes at the moment. This is going to be more of a layperson's review, as I'm not necessarily well-veresed in the hyper-techinical jargon of footwear.

This year has been one of transition for me, not necessarily on purpose though. The New Balance Trail Minimus came out in March of 2011, and I jumped on the bandwagon, having become a huge fan of Anton Krupicka. I had done some running in the past in some Nike Free's, and over the winter picked up a pair of New Balance MT 101's. That's what I used on the trails this entire year (over 500 miles worth). Eventually, as the year wore on, I wore the Trail Minimus more and more for everyday use. A few months ago I began to run in them, and now have about 170 miles on those. I also purchased my first pair of VFF's this summer, and wear those 3-4 days a week to work. So, my current rotation of running shoes consists of the Nike Free's, Nike Lunar trainer, New Balance Trail Minimus, and the Altra Instincts. I suppose the reason I gave the Altra's a try is because I loved the significantly smaller drop of the NB MT101's and NB Trail Minimus. I did a ton of research online of the Altra's and spoke to a few friends who had given them a try, and decided to pull the trigger myself.

The first thing I noticed after trying them on, was the roomy toe box. This seems to catch a lot of people's attention, and rightfully so! They almost felt like there was too much room at first, but once I got out and began running in them, this became one of my favorite features! The zero drop was another surprise, as my mid foot strike feels completely natural when I run in them. Thankfully, I spent many months working on my foot strike and running in more minimalist footwear, so that there wasn't much of a transition period at all for me. Within a week or so I had logged my first 10+ mile run in them. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep up my rotation of footwear, because I keep wanting to pull these out for every run.

The Altra's have definitely been worth the investment. While not flashy in appearance, they more than make up for it in performance. Actually, as a financially restricted runner, I appreciate the fact that a bunch of cost in flashy, unnecessary additions hasn't been passed on to me. I'm paying for what I'm getting. And, that may just be the most attractive thing about this product. They are worth every penny. Functional. Comfortable. Great reputation.

The only thing left, is to see how durable they end up being. I've read numerous reports of runners putting well over 1,000 miles on them, in some cases with more of those miles being trail miles than road. So, with only 128 miles so far, it seems like these could last me quite awhile yet!

You can find out more information on their products at and follow them on twitter altrazerodrop.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Contentment is such a battle these days. Advertising/marketing has gotten so effective at tricking people into thinking they will only be happy if they get the next big thing. I struggle with this every single day. It frustrates me to think how much time I've wasted dreaming about "the next big thing" in my own life. Rarely am I content. Rarely am I satisfied. This drives me nuts.

It's amazing how quickly I allow myself to go into a funk because of this; it ruins the rest of the day. Then I get frustrated because it's so difficult to gain ground on this. What a cycle.

Well all have our own personal struggles, so some of you may not be able to relate to this. Somewhere along the line, I bought into the lie that I'd be happy with anything other than Jesus. The truth is, I've got EVERYTHING I need already, and then some! My problem comes when I begin to compare my life to those that have more. The reality is that less than 1% of the world's population probably has more than me, so I'm comparing my life to a HUGE minority. Regardless, comparing my life to that of others isn't much help anyways. Contentment is not found in stuff! It's amazing/disturbing how embedded this thought is in my mind. Daily, I need to pray against it and fight off the attacks.

JESUS is all I need. He's given me so much already. Yet, too many times, my head is so far up you know where that I don't realize what I've got. I'm not really sure where to go with this post at this point. Maybe it's just more of a release today; I needed to get this off my chest. I've been given so much in this life, and I'm ashamed at how ungrateful I've been for the majority of it. Forgive me Jesus. And, I ask forgiveness from the 99% of the world that has less than I do.

As a side note, check this out. Think my percentages are a stretch?
Check it out.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday Conversations

So, yesterday at church, I fell into a conversation with a woman I've known for many years. She's my sister-in-law's mother. So, we've seen each other at family functions, and then at church since we began attending The Vineyard. She was volunteering at a Holiday Outreach table during the second service, and I was walking around getting a count of all those sitting in the cafe and in classrooms. I saw her and made my way over to say hello. And then she asked me about running.

If you really want me to get into a conversation very quickly, ask me about two things: Jesus and running. If I remember correctly, she asked something close to how I stay motivated to run. From there I just took off. Later, I thought it might be a good idea to shed some light on the subject as to why I run for the few that read this blog. Some of this I've shared before, directly and indirectly, but never before together like this.

So, the question is, why do I run?

First and foremost, I answer with this video:

I began running in 2002 or 2003, can't really remember. I worked at Youth for Christ at the time and we began to run the Indy Mini Marathon as a fundraiser for the work we were doing with youth in our city. Then, I think it was in 2008 that I ran my first ultra marathon, for Team World Vision. It was the Chicago Lakefront 50k, and I ran that before ever having run a marathon. In 2010, I went on the trip of my dreams to South Africa with Team World Vision after my best friend Michael Chitwood asked me to run Comrades Marathon (89k which is 56 miles) with 17 others to raise up child sponsorships for children there. Bottom line is, I run to help others.

Another reason why I run, is because it's one of the few times throughout the day that my brain is completely free to shut down. I try as best I can to run in the morning when my wife and children are asleep. If not, I'll run at night after the girls are in bed. But, my cell phone is not ringing, no emails to respond to, no work needing to be done, no kids crying or fighting, no chores to focus on around the house, just the open road or trail to enjoy. It's beautiful.

Third, running gives me something tangible to be excited about. I've dealt with depression for a number of years now. For a few of those years, I even went on Prozac to try to help. It did take the edge off, but it wasn't until I began to allow God to heal me that I began to see some progress made. And, while much ground has been retaken in regards to depression, Satan attacks me with it almost every day. For me, I think it has tended to be more of a spiritual attack than a chemical imbalance. I definitely think for some people it's exactly that. But for others, it's something Satan tries to use to distract. And I've found in my life it's much more spiritual than anything else. Like I said, while much ground has been taken back, that doesn't stop Satan from attacking. I believe God has given me running as something to focus on when nothing else seems worth celebrating. I believe He's given it to me as a gift to help pull me out of those times where all seems hopeless and lost.

Fourth, quite simply, running has changed my life. Literally. When I began running, I weighed upwards of 280 pounds, and had to start out by walking 1 mile every day. I had asthma. And I worked my way up from that, to becoming an ultra marathoner. I'm still a little on the heavy side, regularly tipping the scales between 2oo and 205, but the asthma is in a much more managed state, and my health is so much better. In addition, I'm not much of a risk taker. But for some reason, when it's come to running, I've been able to take a lot of risks, and have found out so much about myself in the process. This in turn, has helped me to begin to take some more risks in life, and my life has been the better for it.

Finally, I've gotten to meet some amazing people that I never would have if I hadn't begun running. I've met tons of amazing people around the world because of running, from well-known professional athletes like Josh Cox, to celebrities such as Andy Baldwin, to running icons such as Bart Yasso, to everyday people that inspire the mess out of me like Paul Martin, Rusty Funk, Paul Jansen Van Rensburg, Scott Olthoff, and people I've met through social media like David Murphy. A whole world of people has been opened up to me because of running, and for an introvert such as myself, that's been an invaluable resource. I've learned so much from other runner about a variety of things.

So, while something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other seems, it really has blessed my life in a very complex combination of ways. If I could leave you with one final thought, it would be this: make the world a better place. Use running to do just that. Whether you are a Christian or not, World Vision is one of THE most respected humanitarian organizations in the world. I've seen their work firsthand, and it is amazing. One way to change the life of a child, family, village, country, etc. is through sponsoring a child. For $35/month (probably what you might spend on coffee every month, or eating out every week) you can literally do just that. For more information, go to Want to be inspired? Check out this video.....

Slave to Stuff

Currently I'm spending time working my way through Donald Miller’s first book, Through Painted Deserts. Many thoughts have run through my head so far, and I wanted to blog about them. I've ready this book many times in the past, and really enjoyed it. This time around, reading the book has opened my eyes to some interesting insights.

So, basically, I’ve found another thing that I’m a slave to. I’ve known this for quite awhile, but maybe today reached a new level of clarity. I’m a slave to the thought that more worldly possessions will make me happy. In my heart, I know this is false, especially when I’m out in nature, and that is enough for me. Then I get back into the real world, and the lure of the enemy comes crashing back in with a vengeance. I have found it particularly difficult to be happy for others when they get things that I've been wanting for awhile. This has been bothering me, because I really hate to be that person. Jealousy in people is never fun to experience. It sucks the joy right out of you. I DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT TO OTHERS.

I've heard many stories lately from people in my life of fun things they've been able to get or experience, things I've wanted in the past. And I began to feel the jealousy rise up, almost uncontrollably. It was horrible to watch. I read some more out of the book, and was reminded again that no matter how strongly I feel the pull, I know that material possessions won’t make me happier. Sometimes I think this love language thought is such a crock. Complete bullcrap! Gifts won’t make me happy. I mean, I know it’s the process of it, gifts make me feel like someone was thinking about me, and wants to express their love for me. BUT, the gifts won’t make me happy. I don’t need them. It’s strange because I think what I most need is a simplistic lifestyle, minimalist lifestyle, but what I most crave is the exact opposite. I crave the accumulation of unnecessary material garbage. Things that won’t make a lick of difference. My life is not worse off because I don’t have a smart phone. It’s not incomplete because I don’t have a motorcycle. It’s not incomplete because I don’t have an iPad.

My life is incomplete because I search to fill the void in my life with things, and not with Jesus. Pure and simple. No way around that one. It’s the truth. It sucks. Because to be honest, right now, I want “stuff” more than I want Jesus. Just sayin. Trying to be honest here. The desire and pull inside of me is more for material crap than Jesus. If Emily told me I could spend $1,000 on ANYTHING right now, I’d probably scream and dance around the room. Instantly my mind would start making lists of stuff, prioritizing what to get. If I were told I could spend some good quality time with Jesus, hmmmmmm, thanks. Not a bad gift. That’s ok.

How does one address this problem? First and foremost, I must repent. This has such a stronghold over me. I need forgiveness, and I need it know. I also ask for a continual reminder that things will not bring me happiness. Jesus says we shall have no other master before him. That’s serious business. I give this over to Jesus, and trust that He knows how to help me overcome this. Because right now, I feel helpless. This feels too strong of an urge to resist. I’ve got to trust that Jesus will lead me through this process.

Is it wrong to have "stuff"? Absolutely not. Is it wrong to place anything before Jesus? YES! If most of our attention was given to Jesus instead of the accumulation of things, our lives, and our world would be a completely different place. I'm working towards a completely different life. Please pray for me, encourage me, and support me as I work to allow God to break through in this area in my life.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've been reminded many times this week to go back and read Jesus' prayer in John 17. Over and over again, I've grown to love The Message paraphrasing of such passages. Read it for yourself.

Jesus' Prayer for His Followers
1-5 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it's time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.

6-12I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world;
They'll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).

13-19Now I'm returning to you.
I'm saying these things in the world's hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn't join the world's ways,
Just as I didn't join the world's ways.
I'm not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I'm consecrating myself for their sakes
So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

20-23I'm praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you've sent me and loved them
In the same way you've loved me.

24-26Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.

One could pull out many different themes from this prayer. But one thing I've always walked away with is that on numerous occasions Jesus mentions wanting his followers to be one heart and mind, to be unified as he is with the Father.

Unity, what an amazing concept. What a beautiful thought. The likes of which would rock the world. But then, there's always that one person. You know, that individual that seems to frustrate you no matter what. It seems their time, energy, focus, and existence is focused on being a pain in the neck towards you. Sometimes people clash for seemingly no reason at all. They just rub each other the wrong way.

I've struggled with that this week. I'm sure I piss off my fair share of people. In fact, I KNOW there have been times where people have made seemingly very unfair judgments about me. I am one of those that doesn't have a naturally pleasant demeanor. I'm not angry. I just don't smile naturally. My "natural" probably has been described as "leave me alone". Many times, I'm not feeling that way. I've tried to improve that over the years. Some people are smiley. I'm the opposite. Oh, I love to have fun, laugh, play, etc. But it doesn't always show.

This week I've really struggle with some folks. I tweeted earlier in the week how frustrating it is to have people proclaim something as a problem, and yet they seem to be the biggest contributor to that problem! I want to scream "Open your eyes!" I was really torn up about this. It was eating my lunch. And then, God began to soften my heart, and as He did, I became open to something He wanted to teach/remind me.

I have my own role to play in this.

My thoughts turned to Romans 12:18. "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (NIV) The more I allowed this passage to sink into my heart, the more compassion I felt towards the person I was struggling with. And I began to wonder if their proclamation of said problem was more of a cry for help than anything else.

I'm still working on how I can approach this person to discuss these issues, so it's something I'm not done working on. But the main thing I learned was to continue to try to read between the lines with people. Don't always take things at face value. It's what I would want done with myself. I don't want people to automatically assume I'm upset or angry, just because I'm not smiling. Sure, I've got responsibilities there. Open up a little. Work on my demeanor. But I want to be able to extend the same grace to others as I want them to extend to me. Pry back the surface. We are all onions, much like Shrek.

So, what does it take for Jesus' prayer in John 17 to come to pass? Well, the only things we can control are ourselves. So, it starts with me.........Romans 12:18.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God and Running-only One Thing Remains

My last post had a video from Jesus Culture and their song "One Thing Remains". This song has been on my mind a lot lately. I still remember singing it in church a few months ago, and the first line just caught my attention. We had sung it many many times before, so I'm not exactly what triggered my taking special note of the first line. At any rate, something clicked. Here are the lyrics in their entirety.

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing remains
One thing remains

Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me
[ Lyrics from: ]
On and one and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never ever have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death and in life I'm confident and covered by the power of your great love
My debt is paid there's nothing that can separate my heart from your great love

The first line connected with me so powerfully. "Higher than the mountains that I face..." In an instant, trail running and God merged into one. Now, typically I don't see many mountains on the trails of East Central Illinois. But certainly, mountains can serve as a metaphor when running trails, especially in ultras (greater distance than the standard 26.2 mile marathon).

Another thought came to mind soon after that. A quote I had heard only days prior by John Muir. "I would rather be in the mountains thinking about God than in church thinking about the mountains." Now, I'm not sure I agree 100% with this, but I think I can sense the intention behind it. My thoughts (daydreams) generally flow to one of two places, God and running. Honestly, I'd say it's about even. When I'm running, I don't try to force myself to think about God. I just try to relax, and allow my mind to be open, and if God wants to speak, then great. If He just wants to be with me without saying anything, I'm fine with that too. When I'm in church, I try really hard NOT to think about running. Again, I'll be honest, it's very difficult. I love Jesus. I love to run. What I don't want is for running to become an idol. So I try very hard to keep it from taking over 1st place in my life.

But that day, I felt such joy and peace. Because God and running had almost morphed into one. I was in church praising God, and yet felt He was bringing different thoughts concerning running to mind. Now, I could go on and on about loose connections, lessons to be learned between the two. I'll spare you that for now.

I have decided to take this week off from running. My body has gotten to the point where it is in dire need of some rest. While I've had an up and down week, I have been able to spend more time with God and thinking about God, and that's been great. I already feel as if I've grown some this week, allowing the Holy Spirit to walk me through some frustrations. If I had continued running this week, I'm not sure I would have taken the time or energy to address some of these issues. It's been a tough decision to stick to, no running for a week. But God has helped. I love that it's actually good for me to have a break from running, but it's NEVER good to get a break from God. That thought alone helps keep these two in perspective for me.

I suppose you could say I'm fasting from running this week. You could say I am taking a break. Who really cares. I never want a break from Jesus! When all is said and done, I want one thing to be true in my life. One thing remains..............that's my love for Him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's Not Always Easy

Yesterday I posted about how I stay motivated with running. I'm diligent in reading up on runners and watching videos of their exploits. This is done on a very regular basis in order to keep that fire burning.

More importantly, how do I keep that fire burning for Jesus? I mean, running is great. But at the end of the day, it doesn't do much more than keep me in shape. Sure, I do feel better after running. But what if I have a bad run? What if I get injured and can no longer run? Then what?

My identity has to come from my relationship with Jesus. He's the ONLY constant in my life. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. Someone I can ALWAYS count on. The Holy Spirit is there to help me understand His ways, and help me go about my day in a way that pleases Him, and is best for me and all those around me.

But to be honest, I need help. If it was simply up to me, I would do a horrible job following him. I need inspiration on a regular basis from others to continue striving to follow Jesus as best I can. Where do I find that?

First and foremost, I find it amongst those I spend time with. My wife. My co-workers at church. Those involved in small group at our church. My friends. My family. These people inspire beyond anything I can see in running. I see things they do, words they speak, attitudes they exhibit, and how can I not be inspired. How can I not see that there's more for me to learn in my walk with Jesus by being around these people?

One final though. Something else that moves me is music. Music makes me want to be more like Jesus that many other things. Here's a sneak peak, one of the songs I've come to love the most.

How do you do it? How are you inspired to follow Jesus more closely?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Couple new videos

One of the things I've been reminded of lately, is how to keep myself motivated. With regards to running, which I'll focus on today, reading stories and reports from professional ultra trail runners and watching videos really seems to get my juices flowing. To read about or see someone else doing something I love makes me want to head out right away and just run. I ran 13+ miles this morning on the roads, but even just by posting these two videos above, a huge part of me wants to head out the door right now and hit up some trails.

But then, I listen to the message in these videos. Kilian Jornet is by far one of THE best trail/mountain ultra runners EVER. The guy is just a complete stud. And from what everyone says about him, is among the humblest of professional athletes you'll ever meet. But even he has a breaking point, and reached that earlier this year (even at the tender age of 24). It seems the best athletes know that success (in performing well but also fulfillment) lies in a healthy balance. You must push your body hard, but also play hard. Rest well. This balance is KEY to performing at your top level over and over and over again. When you really love to do something, it can be very difficult to say no, and over time you find that you can become indifferent to what you once loved. ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER.

Sometimes, absence is not what is needed, but simply the removal of pressure. Instead of running the next race, Kilian found all he needed was just to have fun again. So, he joined a few friends and just spent a friendly day together in their company.

This has been key for me to remember. There are always greater levels to reach in running. I can always shed more weight, do that extra speed workout, begin strength training, etc. But, sometimes the best thing for me is just go step out the door and go for a fun run. Where I'm not worried about time, pace, distance, quality of workout. I'm just focused on having fun again. Sounds like a good theme for my run tomorrow.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Something To Think About

this video has definitely got me thinking. one of my dreams has always been to incorporate outdoor activities with ministry. my brother used to take his youth groups backpacking every summer, and i've greatly desired to take groups out in the wilderness for adventures with Jesus and nature.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Knowledge vs Application

I've been chewing on this thought a lot lately. Knowledge vs. Application. Many of us strive and search for more information. We study the Bible and what others have to say on a variety of issues with reckless abandon.

If only we showed that same aggression when it came to applying what we've learned.

If only.............................

How would my life be different if I spent more time applying, and less time "learning"? How would that make other's lives different if I did so?

Knowledge is great. Application of said knowledge is better. Live for something greater than yourself. Seek to apply what you've learned today!

Don't take my word for it. Check out James 1:22 for yourselves.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's been awhile

it's been quite a while since I last posted, so bear with me. right now I feel like the picture above. in case you can't tell what it is a picture of, you're looking at scrambled eggs. i've go so much going on in my brain right now that it all just feels kind of scrambled up in there. BUT, I love what is happening!

i spent a few days earlier this week at a regional retreat for The Vineyard Church up in Green Lake, Wisconsin. it was a great time of getting away, being reminded of some things, and experiencing God in some new ways (new to me). one thing in particular that God kept telling me over and over while I was up there was to trust Him. to trust Him DEEPLY. he told me that a lot. and when I say a lot, I mean almost constantly. i was reminded to relax, and to stay present in the moment. all too often I'm looking ahead to something else, and neglect what is going on right now.

some time was spent this morning regarding the issue of trust in my life. trust in God. how does one go about developing trust in God? i mean, it's not something you just decide to have. trust is developed over time. through experiences. in order for me to trust God, i've got to let go of the details of my life. i've got to let go of control. i've got to give Him a chance to prove Himself trustworthy. and i've got to remember the ways He's proved Himself in the past

many times i don't obey God because i don't trust Him. the dilemma, is that in order to give God a chance, i've got to learn to obey Him. i've got to take that step. it's funny that we are dealing with obedience right now with our two daughters. i try to explain to them that i want them to learn to obey us because we want and know what's best for them, and they need to learn to trust us. but they can be stubborn, just like their father.

at this retreat, someone shared a quote from jack hayford. "do you want a map of where the river is, or do you want to jump in?" this really hit home with me because i typically want all the details laid out before i trust. i need to learn that i don't need details; God's got those covered. i just want to jump into the river!

i don't care how out of control the river is. i want to learn to trust God more than my circumstances. i want it to be said of me that i learned to trust God deeply. my goal is that obedience would no longer be an issue for me. if God says it, i will do it. i'd rather get it wrong trying, than fail through not trying. so, who's just into this river with me?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Quick Thought

i finally made it back out to Kickapoo State Park for a trail run today. it's been almost a month sinceiI was last out there, and 2 weeks since my last trail run, my race in Wisconsin. the weather was beautiful, in the low 50's.

a last minute realization that today was the first day of bow season made me rethink the trails i was going to run on. it also made me change my wardrobe slightly, making sure to grab my bright yellow windbreaker. once i got to the park, more surprises awaited me as a cross country meet was going on. so more decisions had to be made regarding where to start.

i finally found a parking spot, grab all my stuff, and got going. it hadn't occured to me that many portions of the trails would be covered with leaves of all shapes and sizes. immediately i felt an inner satisfaction, knowing that regardless of how far i ran or how fast, this was going to be a good day. i had no real agenda, other than wanting to get at least 10 miles in (i ended up with just over 11).

more than anything, i simply remember being awed at the display of god's handiwork. the colors of the trees, leaves on the trails, and everything else just left me breathless. in fact, at one point, i simply stopped on the trail, and marveled. i took a moment to thank god for having me out there, and for displaying his talent in such an amazing way.

the past few months i've spent much time wishing i was able to run in other locations. colorado. up-state new york. utah. washington. anywhere but illinois.

today, i repented of that. i took a look around and just felt an overwhelming sense of happiness. few places could have looked so marvelous. i can still see the place in my head. sloping hill, up-hill to my left, river flowing to my right, trees and leaves everywhere.

so this really hasn't been such a quick thought. i do have a question i want to leave you with. what attitude, desire, or perspective needs to be re-evaluated in your life? desires have positives and negatives. sometimes they propell us to work hard. other times they keep us from being grateful for what we already have.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

TNF Endurance Challenge, Madison, WI 50k

Josh and Robbie having some God time around the campfire Friday morning. Fire had pretty much gone out by this point.

Hidden from view is Robbie violently attacking a defenseless piece of wood. It never stood a chance. We were able to gather so much wood we didn't have to buy any the entire weekend.

What I was to wear and carry the morning of the race.

A few miles into the race. This is what much of the first third of the race looked like scenery-wise.

Just another part of the trail.

Looking uphill.

I loved running through this forest filled with tall trees like these.

Much of the middle third of the race was run through prairie such as this. It was pretty, but I could have done with a few less miles of this.

However, it was fun to be able to see other runners for quite a ways.

Still in good spirits towards the end.

I had an absolutely amazing experience this past weekend at The North Face Endurance Challenge in Madison, Wisconsin. I was just joined two great friends, Josh Hoerman and Robbie Watson. This weekend was a dream 4+ years in the making for me. I've dreamed of doing this race ever since it's inception, and it finally came to pass.

We left early afternoon Thursday and got to our campsite around dinner time. It was a perfect night for camping, as the temperatures crept to a chilly 33 degrees by midnight. We enjoyed a roaring fire for many hours, and rarely have cheese dogs and brats tasted so good. We slept in Friday morning, and then feasted on a large breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and coffee. Of course, we got a fire going again too until we were warmed up. We just kind of sat around lazily and enjoyed each other's company, stopping for about half an hour so we could each read our own Bibles.

Eventually we made our way into Brookfield to pick up my race day packet, and also found a store for some much desired cheese curds. And then it began to rain. It rained and rained and rained. The forecast called for 20% chance. but it continued to rain, driving us into the comforts of the tent. It finally began to let up, just in time for us to head back to town for a race panel with professional North Face athletes Dean Karnazes and Tim Twietmeyer. I didn't really hear anything new, but it was still great to see these two legends in person. It was interesting to hear Tim speak on the topic of getting enough rest, not very common among runners. We all know the importance, but I'm not sure how many actually put this into practice very well.

With our firewood being wet, we turned to the wonders of Chipotle for dinner. While it was subpar for our tastes, it was still better than many alternatives. By the time we made it back to camp, Robbie was able to get a fire going so we enjoyed that for a few more hours before heading to bed.

I was actually amazed at how well I slept both nights. This played a HUGE role in how my race played out Saturday morning. I had no plans of running well. My goal was simply to finish under 8 hours and just enjoy myself. I wasn't sure if I had quite put in enough training, and while I did probably half of my miles on trails, wasn't sure how those would compare to the trails in Wisconsin. Plus, I had scratched my foot pretty good Wednesday night, and it was still quite sore.

The weather was crisp Saturday morning, and the rain the day before actually helped firm up some of the horse trails where sand was found. These was a mist over the fields as we walked to the starting area. I can't say enough about how important it was to have Josh and Robbie there. The support they provided was invaluable!

Well, we finally got under way, and I remember during the first mile thinking how shocked I was at how slowly the leaders were going. I tried extremely hard to take it easy at the start. The goal was to conserve as much energy at the start as possible so that I didn't have to limp in at the end of the race. I kept a pretty conservative pace heading into the first aid station. Again, it was so great to see the friendly faces of Josh and Robbie.

Aid station volunteers are the greatest! They make you feel like a million bucks; like they are there JUST for you. But, there's something about having people there that actually know you that just boosts your spirits even more. That's what Josh and Robbie did. I made it clear that I had no problems with them doing their own thing during the race, since neither are runners. But they are amazing friends!

After chatting with them, I darted off to cover another 5 miles or so before seeing them again. These trails were a mixture of single track and horse trails with sand, but came and went pretty quickly. At this aid station I stopped and chatted with the boys some more. I was very happy with how I was feeling at this point, and had kept my pace the same thus far. An interesting side note was what I was craving for food at the aid stations. In the past, boiled salted potatoes has been my go to, with a little fruit as well. But on this day, I was craving Mountain Dew, Coke, and orange slices. That's what I stuck with. I tried a few potatoes but it just wasn't doing much. I partook of a few gels, but only maybe 4. Pop, oranges, and electrolyte drink was the token of the day.

Up to this point I hadn't really spoken with too many people. I was just enjoying the scenery. At the beginning I spoke with 1 gentleman who had run Comrades Marathon in South Africa the same year I had. And I had run behind the same group of runners for a few miles, but really had been silent. But during this middle third of the race I struck up conversations with two gentlemen, Mike and Brent. Mike had done some crewing of other runners in 100 mile races, and decided to give it his own go at a trail ultra. He was having some knee issues, but was giving it his all which was commendable. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to pray for his knee until after I eventually left him behind. I'm a work in progress.

Brent has run 4 of the 6 Endurance Challenge stops, and is a doctor from Boise, Idaho. His wife was there as well, running the marathon. He was there just to have fun, and as part of rehad on his foot. He had unknowingly broken his foot during indoor soccer season this winter, and had still run The North Face event in New York earlier this year. He ran that on a broken foot. AMAZING! Trail runners are some of the toughest people I have ever met!

These two guys helped me get through this middle third of the race, and by the time I saw Josh and Robbie around the mile 22 aid station, I was shocked at how good I was still feeling. At this point, I realized that I was going to easily beat 8 hours, and my best guess was that I'd come in somewhere between 6:15 and 6:30. Surely I would begin to slow down at some point. But, for the most part, the only times I spent walking was during uphill portions of trail.

The miles continued to click off with ease. I even called Emily (my wife) and the girls somewhere around mile 24 or 25, and just chatted on the cell phone while I ran. 6:15 was really beginning to look like a possibility, especially considering I still felt amazingly strong. I can't remember exactly when, but somewhere between mile 27 and mile 28 I began to think I might have a chance of breaking 6 hours. The only way I had thought this would happen before the race was if EVERYTHING went right. I didn't even really allow myself to daydream about this.

At mile 28 I finally hit somewhat of a low point, and decided it was finally time for a little mood music. So I put on the ipod, and cranked out some P.O.D., Hillsong United, and Seventh Day Slumber. THIS DID THE TRICK! My next mile went pretty well, and so I texted Emily to ask her to pray for me, as I was going to push to break 6 hours. I had 2 miles left and about 24 minutes. And, wouldn't you know it, the text wouldn't go through. And the next moment I found a huge hill to climb. So I figured that was it.

By the time I got to the top of the hill, I thought I might as well try to get as close to 6 hours as possible, and then a text came through from Emily encouraging me to forget about what how my body was feeling. And that was all I needed! I kicked it into high gear, and a few moments later came upon a long stretch of downhill. I knew once I got to the bottom of that I had about a mile of road left until the finish line, and I just might be able to do it.

Well, I did break 6 hours, coming in at 5:57:21! Never have I had a race go well. I almost always going out too fast at the start, and crash at the end. But on this day, I never really felt weak at all. In fact, I almost felt like I got stronger as the race went on, as my last mile ended up being my fastest of the day!

This was an amazing experience for me, capped by an amazing race! This entire weekend was all I could have dreamt it would be. I can't say thank you enought to my wife, Emily, for okaying the trip, and to my wonderful friends Josh and Robbie, for coming along and spending the weekend camping with me. Couldn't have spent it with two better friends!

As I type this, I'm not really sure what's next running wise for me. I know I'd love to head up to Chicago in a few weeks to run with my Team World Vision friends, as they are doing a 100 miler in conjunction with the Chicago Marathon. The 4 of them are trying to raise up 400 child sponsors for children in Africa through World Vision. They will run 73.8 miles through the night, and finish the last 26.2 with the Chicago Marathon. I'd love to run through part of the night with them, but we will see. I also know of a trail 50k in December in Indiana, that I'd love to try. Other than that, who knows. There's a 30 miler in March in the area. I'll just have to keep my eyes open and do some research.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Someone Out There......

For some reason, Psalm 32:7 came to mind yesterday while driving into work. Just the reference. So when I got to church I looked it up, but still didn't make much sense to me at that moment. Many times, I might get some sense of a passage I might need to check out, and then it provides me with exactly what I needed at that moment.

This was different.

It almost felt like this was for someone else.

But I never really felt moved to share it with anyone yesterday. It did, however, open my eyes to possibilities while I was out doing some last minute shopping for my trip this weekend. Because of this awareness, I was able to invite someone to church this weekend, a worker in one of the stores. We had a great little conversation that didn't last long, but ended with us exchanging names and hand shakes, and well wishes.

This is not something I'd normally have done in the past. Not because it's not important, but because I wouldn't have thought to do so. That's why I love the church I attend and work at. People there challenge me all the time. Challenge me to let my faith be something that blesses others, and is not just held tightly to make my life better.

So, the highlight of my day yesterday was my conversation with that woman in the store, and inviting her to church. And yet, I still had not shared this verse. So I post it here today, in the hopes that someone in the vast scope of the internet universe may find this and receive something.

Psalm 32:7
"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance."

In a few hours I leave for Wisconsin, to fulfill a dream I've long held of running The North Face Endurance Challenge up there. I'm so excited to spend a couple of days with some great friends, whom I don't see nearly as often as I should anymore. What could be better than camping, friends, and trail running long distances with a newly cut foot that's bleeding through my bandaids as I speak?



Yeah, last night I was moving the dishwasher, and cut my foot. I was/am pissed, but the show must go on. I've got 2 days for it to heal, plus multiple bandages, wraps, duct tape, and grit. This will not slow me down nor keep me from this dream.

But if you think of it, throw up a prayer for some quick healing please! Ha ha, in reality, I have to laugh at this situation. Gotta love it.

Gonna be an amazing weekend. Only thing missing is my family. But hey, at least I have them to come home to!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Should Have Done More

All day, I've been thinking on and off about a situation that happened at church this morning. This video kind of brought some things to light to me tonight.

I was getting ready to leave church this morning, and apparently a gentleman had wandered in off the street in search of some food. Another staff person had spoken to him and wasn't sure what exactly to tell him, so they approached me to see what I thought. My first thought was maybe I'd get him a donut or something from our cafe area. The line had to be 30 people deep.

I fought back thoughts of "This isn't my problem. I've got groceries to get. I haven't eaten yet today. I want to get home." Then I remember our church was hosting an event for people new to the church where we offer them free pizza as they get the chance to meet some of our staff and learn more about the church. So I suggested to our staff person that they could mention to the gentleman he could have some pizza if he sat through the session.

As I drove away from the church I felt ashamed. I wanted to drive back to the church, just walk in and grab a few slices of pizza, and sit down with the man. But I didn't. I wanted to find him and take him somewhere else for some food, and just spend time with him. But I didn't.

Deep down, honestly, I didn't want to be bothered with other people's problems. I didn't want to be inconvenienced with his situation. I didn't want to deal with helping the staff person figuring this out. I didn't want to deal with anyone.

I had my own issues going on, and I wanted to wallow in self-pity without having to focus on someone else for once. And then I felt shame. Deep shame. I almost felt Jesus' heart sink just a little.

I call myself a Christian, and serve on the staff of a church. I claim to love people, and care about the poor. I talk the talk, but don't walk the walk.

I'm a hypocrite. Holy Spirit, please give me another chance. Please forgive me. Help me to be better. Help me to care.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Part Insanity, Part Genius!

The title is the quote from the end of the video you just watched. I've watched this a couple of times now, and every time I was left with this sense of "that's how I want to live my life for Christ". I want to live with recklous abandon for Him.

I want to go for it all, knowing that you never really achieve great things without taking great risk. My heart wants to go after something with absolutely EVERYTHING I've got, holding nothing back, no excuses left!

And yet, to be honest, I'm not sure I've ever attacked anything in my life in this manner.

Most things I go about doing with a sense of hesitation, holding back something. I suppose the fear is that nothing I do will ever quite be good enough, so the thinking is why pour 100% into something if it's not going to be good enough. This has proven to be a difficult challenge to overcome throughout the years.

Yet, there is something deep inside of me that longs for more. Almost that longs to fail in such an incredible way because I absolutely went for it all. Have I done some incredible things in my life? Yeah, I think so. Raising over 30 child sponsorships for my race in South Africa last year certainly ranks up there. Raising my two daughters to love Jesus and the 2 children we sponsor is pretty good as well. Loving my wife and still being married after 8+ years is definitely something to feel good about.

And yet, if I'm honest, I've held back in each area. Why? Simple.


Fear that my efforts won't be good enough.

Fear that I won't be good enough.

And that's why I hold back from God. Fear that He will find me to not be good enough.

Ladies and gentleman, this is what we call a LIE.

Because of what Jesus has done for me, God the Father WILL find me to be enough. I will bring Him pleasure. He will find delight in my, and in a relationship with me! So how do I combat that; how do we combat this together?

We fight back.

WE FIGHT BACK! We try something that we would never think we could pull off. Now, I'm not talking about being reckless or foolish. But I think we all have something that we'd love to be able to pull off, and yet fear holds us back. I might be talking about something personal yet meaningless like bungee jumping. I might be talking about something like offering to pray for my best friend who's going through a divorce right now. I might be talking about giving up cable to sponsor another child in another part of the world. I might be talking about putting down the computer and playing with my children. I might be talking about planning a romantic date night for my wife without the kids. I might be talking about walking up to a person in Walmart who I don't know but sense God asking me to pray for.

It doesn't really matter what I'm talking about. What matters is stepping out. Here's your permission, GO AHEAD AND TAKE A RISK! I journaled the other day that I want to be rich in life experiences, not material possessions. Boy, that one sure hurt. There's nothing more I'd like than to have an unlimited budget for toys. And yet, at the end of the day, what I remember most are experiences I've had, not things I've wasted money on.

So, today I challenge you. TAKE A RISK! Don't settle for a life of meaningless pursuits. You've only got one life to live, so GIVE IT YOUR ALL! Don't hold back, as I've done! No regrets! Sure, you'll make some mistakes along the way. But you'll learn and adapt; God will mold you, and you be the better for it.

So go ahead, take the first step, jump off that cliff, step out of that airplane, be rich in life experiences! Make a difference in someone else's life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Love this video!

I love so many of the thoughts of the different professional runners on this video. Kind of sums up most of what I love about running.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Family Fun-Labor Day 2011

We began our door by enjoying the festivities of a little kung fu fighting with a praying mantis! (that song always pops into my head when I see one of these) I think I was more enthralled than Zoey, but I enjoyed a few moments with our new found friend anyways. We were excstatic when he happily olbiged at having his picture taken!

So, we attempted to take the girls camping last night. Well, sort of.

All the spots during this weekend around the country are probably full every year. So, we decided to just do a little campout in our backyard. I put up the tent (two actually), got a fire going, and we were on a roll. It's never quite this simple when doing anything involved with children. They actually did well. The fire was the tricky part since it had rained on and off the last two days, making the wood a little wet. My first go around was unsuccessful, so I resorted to what all non-outdoorsy types resort to, GASOLINE! (much to my wife's disapproval). Thankfully, I'm blessed to have Emily around to keep me under control, so I dripped a few drops of gasoline on the wood, nowhere near enough, and it did nothing. So I dumped some more on, and nearly knocked myself over as I lit the instantaneous inferno, and all was right with the universe.


We feasted on perfectly roasted hot dogs, chips, cheese puffs, pop, and eventually moved on to the GRAND FINALE, s'mores!

This s'more was amazing, to say the least! I did in fact, only eat one of these bohemoths, but it got the ball rolling. My next s'more adventure may include pop tarts, peanut butter cups, and who knows what else I can come up with. THIS one included:

graham cracker
peanut butter
1/2 Hershey chocolate bar
chocolate brownie
1/2 Hershey chocolate bar
peanut butter
graham cracker

Oh yes, it was the SHOWSTOPPER! Once we finished with the s'mores, we attempted to put the children to bed. It's quite possible that Zoey finally fell asleep after about an hour, but no one can stand up to the best sabotage attempts of our youngest, our dear little Hadley. She just likes to mess with people. She's the ultimate prankster, even at the young age of 3. Finally, I think it was about 10:30 or so, we decided it would be best for Emily and Zoey to head inside so that they could at least get some sleep. I cuddled with Hadley and eventually we dozed off for a few hours. We finally awoke to the cool, crisp morning air, and the first words out of her mouth.........."You're the best daddy in the world!"

Music to my ears! Totally worth every second! What more could a dad ask for? We sat in the tent for a few moments before coming inside, only to find Zoey already awake. Hmmmmmm, I'm thinking the girls will definitely be put to bed early today for naps. Hopefully they behave for Emily today while I'm trail running, attempting to run off that 10 pound gigantic s'more.

So, for now, strong coffee is the order of the day. And thinking back on some great memories.