Monday, December 17, 2012

Eternal Eyes (for Jake)

Bad things happen to good people and it never seems to make much sense.  This is true in many cases because they can only be understood by looking at them with your eyes toward eternity. For in the world's timing and wisdom, this cannot be understood. It's not fair. It's not right. Someone so full of life cannot possibly be taken from us. It is as if we have been startled awake from the dream of a bright future to the reality of today. But I tell you that for all the thoughts and hopes and dreams of what this young soul would have accomplished in this world...God has far greater plans.

We don't know what those plans are as we sit here today. But we can know several things beyond a shadow of a doubt. First, God tells us how he cares for children in Matthew chapter 19: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  So we know that they are safe with God for all eternity. Second, we know that we can see them again.  God promises in the 4th chapter of 1st Thessalonians that we will one day join those that have passed before us and we will have a grand reunion together with them and our Lord. 

But what about today? What do we do with our grief? What do we do about this loss that we feel?  I tell you this pain is for nothing if we do not take action. And what action is that? It must be clear to you that none of us can know the day our life on earth will end. Don't delay any longer.  How great the news will be in heaven today when they hear that, in response to the life that was lost to us, even one person chose HOPE over despair.  This loss can begin to show its true purpose when even just one person chooses to trust in a plan far greater than our perspective will allow us to see in this brief point within the expanse of eternity. Will you be that one?  Will the angels rejoice in heaven today in your name? 

And if you already have that hope, is there a friend, a relative, or someone you know who does not know that truth, that pathway that can lead to freedom from despair?  If there is, how much longer will you keep a secret that truth you hold so dear?  Why not pay tribute to the lives of those lost and think of at least one person you know who may need to hear this life-changing message and make a promise right now in your heart to reach out to them today.  Today's the day!

This young life lost to us is not done having an impact on this world; not nearly. But that continued impact is now up to you. Let's look at life with eyes toward eternity. Let's magnify the life of the one we’ve lost.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I knew the 2012 ATL marathon course was going to be hilly. I had been cautioned by several veterans of the race and had driven a portion of the course to get a feel for it. In my training I had run a lot of hills to prepare and felt my conditioning was where it needed to be on race day.

Indeed, despite the rise and fall of the course, I felt strong at mile 16 when I spied my beautiful wife and daughter in Piedmont Park cheering me on. I stopped briefly to discard the hat and gloves I had shoved in my pockets shortly after the chilly start at Atlantic Station. I took a quick stretch, touching my hands to the pavement, and soldiered on, gulping down some carb-rich GU as I continued.

I had been fairly conservative, running comfortably enough to ensure I'd have sufficient energy to push through to the end and felt like I was on track for a 3:45 or 3:50 finish, well ahead of my sub-4 hour goal. Then came mile marker 18 and a twinge of pain along my right knee.

I moved off to the side and stretched out a bit more, noting that some of my leg muscles were much more taxed than I had realized. Confident I had averted injury, I pressed on. Within a 1/4 mile, however, the pain returned along my knee and shot up into my hip. I sort of "limp-ran" for a bit and reminded myself that pain and function are separate from one another. It wasn't long before function joined pain and knocked me to the side of the road again for more stretching as I simply could not go on.

 I must have looked pretty bad because one of the course volunteers asked me if I needed a medic. I assured her (and myself) I was OK and started on again. This start-and-stop went on until mile 20 where I somehow found a combination of a steady pace and a firm grip on a water bottle that allowed me to keep going without letting the pain sideline me again.

The timers at each mile marker showed me I was slipping back precariously close to my sub-4-hour goal and the 3:55 pace group passing me at mile 24 confirmed it. After a very long last uphill climb I rounded a corner and finally saw mile marker 26. Passing that, I pushed with all I had left and did what felt like sprinting, but probably looked like limping, through to the finish line. The time I saw on the clock was 4:00:59.

I knew that my official time did not start until I crossed over the start line and hoped it had been at least a minute later than the official time. For better or worse, despite my "B" group starting position assignment, I had actually started near the back of the "C" group. Sure enough, when my official time was posted, I had snuck in at 3:59:49. Just 11 seconds to spare!

I realize that people endure much more important and serious obstacles than I did in meeting my race-time goal. But I've never had a clearer picture of the fulfillment of one of God's promises than I did that day. There were many times I was tempted to stop and give up. I prayed to God to take away the pain and allow me to run as I had trained to do. And while the pain did not disappear, it subsided just enough for me not only to endure and continue on, but to achieve my goal.

1 Corinthians 10:13 "No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it."

I'm so thankful for a God who never goes back on a promise. My success in this race, and anything I do, is a testament not to my endurance, but His faithfulness.