my search to understand the bigger picture

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Psalm 19

"God's glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth;
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome
for the sun--a superdome!
The morning sun's a new husband
leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The day breaking sun an athlete
racing to the tape.

That's how God's Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith.

The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.

God's Word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.

There's more: God's Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
These are the words in my mouth;
these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,
God, Priest-of-My-Altar."

i absolutely loved reading this today.  it's amazing to me that i don't spend more time in God's word.  i never regret it when i do.  how quickly we turn to "Christian" books to get an insight on this or that.  Father, change my perspective of your Word today.  create a longing in me to devour it day and night.  help me to see the life it brings, the peace it brings.  thank you for the gift of your Word.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k Race Report

in true idiot form, this trip got off on the right foot.  on thursday morning i got everything packed up, got my 28 year old pop up hitched up to the family mini van, picked up fellow idiot scott olthoff, and we were off on our adventure.  this was not my first voyage into ultra territory.  i've mainly stuck to 50k's over the years, with one 56 mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa finish to my name as well.  this would be my 6th ultra, along with 4 marathons.  i love 50k's because if you can run a marathon, then these are really no different.  it's easily wing-able.  and that's what happened this time around.  for scott, this was his first ultra experience.  even before he ran his first official ultra event (he's done 30 miles on a training run before) he caught the bug, signing up for Comrades Marathon in 2013 with Team World Vision.

about a month out i contacted scott and told him i couldn't do it.  he said, "shut up idiot.  you're going." i said, "um...........ok."  and that was that.  i did a few 15 mile trail runs, a 20 miler, and decided that was good enough.  i've had plans all year of trying to drop 25-30 pounds.  thought it might be a good idea for this race, but was never really motivated enough.

once you do an ultra or two, or really any distance, you learn what it takes mentally, and the distance doesn't remain quite as daunting.  maybe that would change if i ever challenged myself with, say a 50 miler, or <gasp> a 100 miler.  i knew i would finish, the only question would be how slow.

back to the story.  so i pick up scott, we point the van sort of north like, and take off.  the trip was going well, we stopped for lunch, continued on.  we came to a construction zone, and this is where things got interesting.  as a 4 lane highway merged into 2 lanes, i happened to glance in my rearview mirror only to see a tire bouncing down the road, cars swerving out of the way.  sort of chuckling to myself, the realization set in that it was the spare tire on the back of my pop up!  apparently it was scared of the distance and wanted nothing to do with the trails of Wisconsin.  so it headed home.  thankfully, no other vehicles tried to stop it.  unfortunately, being in a construction zone we could not stop to get it, so we ended up going to Walmart to purchase another.  good times.

at some point we encountered rain, which is always fun to set up camp in.  we finally pulled into the campground, decided we wanted nothing to do with the rain, so we unhitched the camper and drove into town to pick up our race packets.  if you've never participated in a North Face Endurance Challenge event, do yourself a favor and hit up the one nearest you.  or furthest away if you're a traveler.  i've yet to see an event more organized than these.  this year was my second one.  they get the job done.

friday was spent relaxing.  resting up for the big day ahead.  we had perfect weather all weekend long, so it wasn't difficult to relax at all.  however, by dinner time i was getting anxious.  we headed back into town for the pre-race panel, which this year included ian sharman, who boasts the fastest 100 mile trail time on U.S. soil at 12:44 and change.  this occurred at the 2011 Rocky Raccoon.  our fearless leader was there.  i think that's why ian ran so well.

we packed up most of camp friday night, and finished saturday morning before heading to the starting line.  i heard coyotes howling throughout the night friday night, and had some dreams that brought back scenes from the movie the grey.  those were awesome dreams.

as we drove to the starting area, we were welcomed by a thick blanket of fog.  it's amazing how something so simple as fog can be so beautiful.  it was friggin freezing out so we sought out heaters near the starting line.  unfortunately shortly after hovering around ours, it shut off.  we had met up with another friend of mine so we chatted for a little while.  eventually they called us to the start line, and we  were off.  it was relatively easy to settle into a nice easy pace early on, and we held that for the first 6 miles or so.  this took us through a nice white pine forest (my absolute favorite tree).

the race would have this section at the start and finish, so it was comforting knowing i would see it again.  we soon met a near 60 year old woman named christine with some amazing stories.  she was here from california on a business trip.  she actually lives on the western states course.  she has 4 arabian horses and races the same race that got Western States it's start.  we saw her much of the day before she actually pulled away from us towards the end.

i felt pretty good coming into that first aid station at about mile 6.6.  we stayed long enough to grab a handful of m&m's, some orange slices, salted potatoes, and mountain dew before bounding off.  this next stretch was literally the only time i felt good the entire day.  miles 7-12 were amazing.  we just moved right along having a good time, enjoying kettle moraine state forest in all it's splendor.  however, i knew what lay ahead.  multiple miles of open prairie.  no shade.  the temps were still cool, but i'm a pansy.  i hate running in the sun.  i'll do it because i'm an idiot, but i refuse to enjoy it.

apparently i hated it so much that i decided to take a tumble just a mile before the dreaded meadow section.  i fell good enough that dirt was rubbed all over scratches and my IRC shirt.  perfect.  now i could relax.  i uttered some unmentionables under my breath, looked back and saw people had indeed seen me fall, and did the only thing i could.  hopped right back up and started running.

the only thing i really remember from much of the rest of the race is people continually commenting on how cute they thought my shirt was.  "Idiots Running Club, aw how cute."  i literally wanted to punch them.  young, old, male, female, child, i didn't care.  i was under the false impression that we were anything but cute, until some other IRC members corrected me on Facebook a few days later :)

oh, one other thing i remember.  we crossed paths many times with 2 ladies who were friends, 1 being from florida, and the other from south carolina i think or something like that.  1 was clearly struggling, the other not so much.  it was interesting to watch as the 1 not struggling kept dealing with the dilemma of whether to continue on or stay with her friend.  she'd take off for a mile or so, and then turn back or just stop and wait.  this is what i love about ultras.  the people are world class.  everyone cheers each other on and supports one another.  we want everyone to do well.  most are just as concerned with others' efforts as they are their own.  class acts all around.

well, i finally stepped over that finish line in 6:57 and something or other, reaching my goal this year of a 7 hour finish.  last year i finished in just under 6 hours.  i felt good about this, knowing where my fitness level was.  but, the fun was far from over.

approximately a half hour after finishing, i began to get sick.  this has happened to me once before, after my first race, a 1/2 marathon.  i weighed 270 pounds at the time, and the temps that day went over 100. i ended up in the medical tent with heat exhaustion and an iv.  that was 8 years ago, but is something i will NEVER forget.  so, that feeling began to come back, but i hate needles, and made an executive decision with myself not to go anywhere near that medical tent.  i crawled off into some shade 3 times to puke up what little i had ingested over the previous 6 hours.  (after that first aid station i could only stand to stomach orange slices, pepsi, mountain dew, and water.  i knew i would suffer for it, but it was what it was)

we finally made it to the van, and i puked 2 more times while trying to change clothes and leave.  this was getting fun.  i began driving, got maybe 20 minutes down the road and had to pull over.  puked again and got rid of some waste from other areas.  at this point i decided to ask scott to drive, and he was feeling good enough that he agreed.  we had to stop one more time at a gas station for my final puke, magic number 7.  finally, i was done.  i began to feel much better after a shower, some ensure and time.  we finally stopped about an hour from home for Pizza Hut.  it was awesome!

i love running.  i love running ultras.  i love pushing my body to it's limits because it reveals to myself how tough i am mentally.  i wear this as a badge of honor that i usually only allow myself to know.  how can you not feel proud to get through something like that, to push your body to the brink, and walk away with a smile.

does this make me an idiot?  who cares.  i loved representing this little club during this run.  i've never been a part of such an encouraging group of people.  believe this, there are many more idiotic races to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The North Face Endurance Challenge

i leave here in about an hour and a half for my second year in a row at the north face endurance challenge near madison, wisconsin.  i'll be running the 50k once again.  last year i had an amazing time where everything went perfectly, finishing just under 6 hours.  this year, i'll just be happy to finish.  my training is not nearly as strong as last year.  but i know what it takes mentally, so i'll just hit it slow and steady and get it done one way or the other.

i've got this unsettled feeling as the time to leave approaches.  i think, in some ways, i'm actually a little nervous to spend a few days camping with my good friend scott olthoff, totally removed from what has become routine.  life has grown to be incredibly fast paced with things having to be done all the time.  i don't like this feeling of nervousness before a few days of rest.  will i get anxious?  will it go by so fast that i don't enjoy it?  etc, etc, etc.

my resolve is to not put any pressures or expectations on this weekend.  i just want to go and enjoy the moment.  i know it'll be over before i want it to be.  but that's not something to dwell on.  i want to be aware of the moment, allowing God to speak to me whatever he wants.  this is his time as much as it is my time.  rarely do i get large amounts of uninterrupted time.  so Jesus, i turn this over to you.  speak to me.  no, i just ask that you be with me.  if you want to speak that's fine.  if you just want to hang out, that's fine too.  come rain, snow, heat or cold, i'm going to enjoy this time with you.  let's develop another notch of our friendship this weekend.  thank you for gifts like this.

suddenly, i feel my nervousness turning to excitement.................excitement to spend time with my friend Jesus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Though Provoking Quote

"It is scary how much history repeats itself.  We need more Christian leaders raised up among our younger generations who understand history enough to prevent some parts of both secular and church history from repeating itself."  --Ashley Denton, Christian Outdoor Leadership, pg.303

i'm just curious to hear some of your thoughts concerning this.  it's interesting to me that i had a similar conversation about this the other day with a gentleman who is older than myself.

Interesting New Book Coming Out In October.....

i've loved the few books i've purchased by shane claiborne in the past, so i'm excited for the chance to check this out come october.  he has a way of challenging me that i find rare in other authors.  we all have authors that really strike a chord deep within us, and shane does that in me.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Great Brand!

This brand has had an exciting beginning, and they continue to grow and improve.  I recently went back to my pair of Altra's while road running, and it's been great.  I just purchased some Saucony Kinvara 3's thanks to a friend who gave me some money towards running shoes.  I got them because I could get them much cheaper than Altra's.  But I'd love for my next pair of trail shoes to be Altra's and maybe my next road shoes after these Kinvara's.  I plan to rotate my Altra's and Kinvara's until the Altra's are done.  Figured I'd post something a little less serious since my last few posts were more of a serious nature.

Men's Ministry on my mind......

As I attempt to officially start up Men's Ministry at the church I serve at, Isaiah 58:12 continues to come to my mind.......

"You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You'll be known as those who can fix anything; restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again."

My heart for the men of our church is to love God and love others.  I want to see men have a powerful relationship with God, and not just weekend experiences with Him.  I want to see them lead by loving those around them.  I want us to become known as servants, those who love everyone, and those who love Jesus with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I want the Holy Spirit to use us to help other men rebuild their lives.  I want Him to use us to help renovate and restore men.  I want the Holy Spirit to make us a force of change in the world around us, a force of love, care and concern for the broken.

There's more to come............

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Friend Of Mine.......

I have a friend who's in a strange place right now.  I don't want to reveal details, just that he's got some difficult choices that lie ahead of him.  And those are not necessarily his fault.

I desperately want to fight this battle for him, take his opponents head on.  They are truly blinded and don't know what they are missing out on.  However, this is his fight.  His battle.  His decision.

So how does one help a friend in a predicament such as this?  You support them no matter what.  You love on them, encourage them, definitely pray for them.  You let them know that whatever they decide, whatever happens, you will always love and support them.  

As I write this, I find this actually applies to a couple of friends of mine at the moment.  I want all my friends and family to know that my love for them is no more conditional than Jesus' love for them.  I'm there for them through the good times and bad, through good decisions and bad ones, through successes and screwups.  If Jesus loves us through thick and thin, we should do the same.  

If there's one thing lacking in today's world (actually there are many), it's encouragement, support, and unconditional love.  That's how we model Christ to the world.  We love even those who deny us three times.  We love those who are so disfigured physically that they are shunned by society, and yet we are compelled to give them a loving touch.  We draw out the gold in others.  We love those who are cheats and frauds.  Those who stink and smell.  In every person we encounter we come face to face with the handiwork of the Creator.

Yes, we should love each other so radically that the world would be blown away.  We should love when there's nothing in it for us.  

My how this post has changed gears.  I suppose the love of the Father is on my heart tonight.  My heart breaks for my friends.  And I feel compelled to love them like never before.  It's in the hardships that we need this most, the love of friends.  Whether those hardships are our own creation or that of another doesn't matter.  Love is what matters.