THE Coach

 

 

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I feel like quitting. I’m exhausted. It’s already triple digits outside, so today’s workout is on the treadmill.  I’m bored with the running, so I go for the “hills.”

As I adjusted the incline button on my treadmill to 8.0, the words of my high school cross country coach, coach Olson, bounced around in my head.

“When approaching a hill or any obstacle on the course, do not stop.

I envision him in his standard navy colored dolphin short shorts and long sleeved cotton top, pacing back and forth in front of the forty or so of us teens awaiting the goal of this day’s training. It was 1980-something and probably around 60 degrees this afternoon in beautiful Arvada, Colorado.

 “If you must…slow down. But stopping will eliminate your momentum and you will lose all those seconds you worked so hard to get up to that point.” He would go on, his toothy grin hidden behind his bushy mustache, “In fact, if you can actually speed up on a hill, this will mentally exhaust your competitors who are stopping and slowing down.”

Seems counterintuitive. When you are exhausted, facing an uphill struggle, push harder.

I push the buttons on my treadmill up to 9.0

Coach would tell us, “The reward will be at the finish line.”

And as his words bounce around in my head, I am zapped. How do I find the endurance to keep going when all I want to do is jump off this machine and straight into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while tuning into whatever Netflix has recommended for me next?

I realize I can’t do this without Coach.

Coach Olson would also remind us, “After every up hill, there’s a down hill. That’s where you can rest and recover after you’ve pushed through the pain of the uphill.” 

🎵 “What goes up must come down”🎵

Peaks and Valleys of this work out and in this world. When will it be over? 

And where is the finish line?

And then, like the invisible sound waves traveling from the starting horn to my ears at the beginning of each cross country race, the words from my struggling mind are replaced by the Word bound in my heart.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:12

Don’t stop…slow down

 I press the buttons down to 5.0

Before we ran our races, as a team we would walk the course beforehand, so we knew what we would be facing. We could envision and plan.

But on this treadmill of mandates, stay at home orders, political spin and unprecedented numbers, there is no perceptible finish line. 

How to plan and envision when I can’t even comprehend what I am facing? And yesterday was the same struggle, and tomorrow will be the same, and the next day, and the next day…

Any why? 

Why even do this workout? Not like there will be a 5K or a marathon to compete in anytime soon. The inability to fixate on a goal; the elusively of a finish line; the invisibility of what we all are facing…

What is the goal? What is that prize?  

Knowledge? Clinical trials? A vaccination? An election? Toilet paper?

Whatever it is, we are clearly not there yet. 

As I slow it down and breathe, I think, “Maybe, just maybe, it’s the ability to be face to face with my Coach and tell Him I didn’t give up?”

Maybe it’s just making it through this day without the mistakes of yesterday’s choices (Ben and Jerry’s 🙄) keeping me from pressing onward.

Only Coach knows.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

Not seen: Like this enemy we are all facing; Like the buttons on my treadmill as I throw the towel over them.

Unseen: Like Pushing through the temptation to give in; Fighting against discouragement taking root in the soil of my heart; Not allowing my determination & the struggle to breed anger. 

Like the Word that breathes life back into these dry bones.

I don’t know if the  finish line will be the top of the hill, if it falls mercifully at the bottom of a hill or smack dab in the middle of the fight. 

Only Coach knows.

As I meditate on His Word, in my minds eye, I envision the party at the end of all this.

I envision the tearful, exhausted embrace as I fall into my Coach’s arms as I cross the finish line. 

Truly finding rest as He rewards we with the words, “Well done, Julie, good and faithful one.”

But I am not yet there. 

Pressing the upward buttons on my treadmill and reminding myself of Coach’s Words, an invisible spirit/force encourages me into this day:

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:13

And I re-focus on the Prize awaiting me at the finish line.

Running IS a Team Sport

And pain is temporary, but regret can last a lifetime.

Coach Simmons taught me these things

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Giving “your all” individually is important, but Coach Simmons was all about the team. 

He was all about encouraging one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

I was “knee deep” into my run today and, nearly every time I run, I think about the words of the coaches I’ve had along the way.

I could’ve used a teammate’s motivation on my run today.

My apologies, Coach Simmons. Today I gave it up only 2 1/2 miles into my solo run. “But I got a late start and it’s already almost 100° in Arizona, AND it’s a bad air day due to all the fires.” I know, excuses excuses-He wouldn’t listen to excuses. Plan better. I should’ve hydrated better yesterday – my responsibility, not the failure of a teammate. 

Again, my apologies to Coach Simmons. 

Coach Simmons wouldn’t have wanted me to stop. 

A few brief words about Coach Simmons first. 

He was worn thin to say the least.

Not only was he our head high school track coach, he was also A-West’s football coach. He was also my typing teacher and, in addition, he taught the electives of law and society. Pretty sure he had a few more classes, I just didn’t know him that well. In retrospect, I have no idea how he did all this. Because he also was the father to two of my classmates. His daughter was on the cheerleading squad and his son was on the football team. Both were on the honor roll. (Wonder where they got their drive from?)

With all this on his plate, Coach Simmons was one of the most mild mannered, kind, encouraging coaches I’ve ever had. I never once heard him raise his voice. Now some might say this type of coaching won’t get you high performing athletes. Yet, this coach’s manner still sticks with me today. Coach Simmons taught us to encourage each other, especially when we want to stop or give up.

He would tell us, “If you see one of your teammates stopping or giving up, use every bit of your breath to encourage them and pull them along with you.

You see, Coach Simmons believed that it wasn’t about having the highest performing athlete; it was about building a team. He instilled in us healthy competition; but not at the expense of your teammates, your humanity, or your common sense when achieving these goals. He wanted athletes who gave it all, but also pulled each other along. Compete without regrets. 

And I was witness to the fact that this strategy worked. 

There were times when I was having a great day, and as I rounded that last corner of the quarter mile, when typically your legs feel like two by fours and your lungs are about to burst, I felt like I could fly; and I was able encourage a struggling teammate to “dig deep” that last 50 yards. Afterwards, they would tell me how that was the only thing that kept them going. 

More often times, I was that person needing the encouragement.

Is it laws of physics? Is it like “drafting?” Is it something deep in our cells’ structure or a brain synapse that is ignited with the right amount of positivity to push beyond the other voices in your head telling you that you can’t make it?

I can’t explain it, but I’m pretty sure Coach Simmons studied about it. 

Because it worked.

He built several relay teams that made it all the way to state. The Wildcat football team was always one of the top in the state, and often referred to as “the team to beat.” More importantly, Coach Simmons poured into the lives of so many athletes and his words and lessons live on, more than 30 years later.

Sitting in the cool of my house with a tall glass of ice water, I regret stopping. I could’ve finished. Next time…

Coach Simmons, you were right.

Another deep regret:  in my senior year after the track banquet, the team got together and TP’d (toilet papered) his house.

Wow—who knew we’d totally live to regret that??!! 

Again, Coach Simmons, my deepest apologies. 

But more importantly Coach Simmons, my extreme gratitude for being who you are and building our team. A team that looked out for those struggling. Individuals who used what they had left in their tank to build up one another. 

“He comforts me in all my trouble, so that I can comfort people who are in any trouble with the comfort with which I myself am comforted by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:4

To all the coaches, teachers, parents and individuals who take the extra time to speak into the lives of our youth; to those who are living examples of humility and kindness; to the ones who speak truth in love; to those who live the example without raising your voice or often, without using words—THANK YOU.

We’re all on the same team.

Pig Latin, Yoda and Jesus

 

I am out of breath and dripping with sweat as I write this. 

I just wanted to get home.

I was out running. Summer in AZ, even at 7 am-burning up.

I had to get home to write.

Writer I am

I was at the farthest point from home when He spoke to me.

That’s just how it goes.

When we are farthest away from Him, He reminds us—we’re really not.

Wondering what I heard?  “Yoda, Pig Latin and Jesus.”

I will admit, this pandemic has not brought out the very best in me. My prayer life has been spotty. My time spent with Him, not-so-much. My delight in earthly pleasures-right on track—Eating, drinking and watching movies as the days turn to weeks. 

“It’s easy to get lost when you’ve found freedom.”—Johnny Rzeznik

Things that are backwards, start to make sense.

Pig latin. 

A code way of speaking; another language, if you will.  Created by taking the first letter or consonants of a word, moving it to the back, and adding an -“ay”

So the words:

Writer = Iter-wray.

Sound = Ound-say

Pig Latin = Ig-pay  atin-lay

You get it.

Yoda also spoke in what seemed to be another language.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” 

“Named must be your fear before banish it you can.” -Yoda

Listen intently, and sense can be made of it all.

A King, becoming Servant. 

The first, shall be last.

Retuning love, when someone insults you.

Offering a thief your watch, when they’ve just stolen your wallet.

Dying for a sinful and unrepentant soul.

An Innocent, being punished by death.

Jesus’ love for us.

You’ve got it.

He loves you, even if you don’t love Him back. He offers the Gift of forever with Him, even if you refuse it.

The more you hear Him, the more you study His word, the more you focus on Him, the more it makes sense.

Here am I.

A once lost soul who He ran after. 

Jesus loves you. He will be there for you, even when it seems you’re the farthest away from Him. He will help make sense of a backwards life. He will never stop pursuing you.

 

“For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.”

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He wants you to make it home.

RECOVERY TIME

“For I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power and sound mind”

2 Timothy 1:7

What are you training for?

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The goal of physical training is to lessen the recovery time—the amount of time it takes for your heart rate to return to normal after exertion.

When training for longer runs, this is key. 

In life, facing difficulties, this is also key.

I have a friend who recently shared the terror she feels when thinking of going to Costco. This is a friend who has overcome tremendous difficulties in life, and is currently facing a deep valley. To hear that this current pandemic has incited fear at the thought of her being in close contact with the public to obtain goods, that breaks my heart.

Yet, I get it. When I was told I had to go back to work, my position was essential, it was a terrifying thought to me. I rested my thoughts on the reminder that: “Nothing could happen to me that was outside of God’s will.”—He’s gotten me through so much before this, and this is just my job.  Even so, walking to the doors of the employer I’ve served for the last 19 years, my heart raced as I opened those doors, greeted co-workers, sanitized my work stations and donned my PPE as I went to get my temperature checked. 

Shortly afterward, my heart rate returned to normal. 

Each week, it has gotten easier and easier. 

Yet, I remind myself, this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

I need to continually train, build my endurance and strength, because the Trouble (with a capital T) is coming. This part of COVID-19, is just the beginning of a marathon that is going to try even the most steadfast of us in the world.

This invisible virus has just begun to take us down. Right now the battle is physical. The illness is taking us out – custodians, artists, health care workers, infants, friends, parents, grandparents, sisters, best—friends are being lost.

There is also an invisible battle being waged against the terror; the fear and the imaginations we have to imagine the worst. This fear of losing what became so comfortable and things we see now that we took for granted.

As I’ve been checking in on friends, family, neighbors and the community, I have been so grateful to hear that most in my “circle” are doing OK. In fact, they want to know if there is anything they can do for me—it warms my heart.

More waves are coming. Just when we’re physically re-gaining strength, our finances will be impacted; jobs are being lost, companies are re-structuring, cities and states are in a panic; the world is crying out for Help. When our bodies and finances are worn out, what will be next?

I wonder, as time goes on, the coffers are emptied, will our spirits have the endurance?  Will we still be willing to cling to joy, to faith, to offering whatever we have to whoever is in need?

—-

Sixty seconds isn’t long. That’s all it takes in an interval (sprint) to increase the heart rate. Do that exertion for three times with 90 seconds of rest in between.

During my interval training, I pray. I’ve discovered that the Lord’s Prayer takes me about 60 seconds to recite in my mind. As I pray it, I am running as fast as I can, Then, my recovery is the 23rd Psalm. This takes about 90 seconds. Then repeat.

Not only is this my workout to build my endurance, it is my recovery.

As I pray the way Jesus told us to pray- for God’s provision, power and ultimately His will, I then rest and recover in the reminders of Where He leads me, how he protects me, and where I will dwell forever.

My heart is prepared for the waves that this Trouble can bring. I remind myself again, there is nothing that can happen to me that is outside of God’s will for me.

Repeat.

What are you training for?

The Lords Prayer:

Our Father, which art in heaven, 

Hallowed be thy Name. 

Thy Kingdom come. 

Thy will be done in earth, 

As it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our trespasses, 

As we forgive them that trespass against us. 

And lead us not into temptation, 

But deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, 

The power, and the glory, 

For ever and ever. 

Amen. 

23rd Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

You prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

REPEAT

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Working Harder

Working Hard

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I am so saddened to hear about the tremendous increase in unemployment claims. However, there are also many, many people right now who are working harder than they ever have. I’d like to give a shout out to all the healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, first responders, custodians, truck drivers, food service and anyone else I’ve forgotten to mention that is working hard right now 8)

—-

When I was in second or third grade, (I can’t remember exactly which grade— it has been a minute!), I remember being in a reading group called GINN. This group was for the more advanced readers and writers in English. I didn’t really have to do much to be in the group, but teachers had noticed my comprehension was more than the “average.” One day after the GINN class, the teacher took me aside and told me she saw me struggling with the reading and thought I should think about stepping down from GINN and joining the regular class. 

She gave me some time to think about it. 

The other kids had already left for gym class. I tried to catch up to them. I remember putting on my yellow shirt and grey shorts (gym uniform) and lacing up my tennis shoes when the tears started. I tried fighting back the tears, knowing if they started, I couldn’t stop them.  I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the rest of the day. I had taken pride in being a member of GINN, but had really taken it for granted. I had quit working for it and it was showing.  Shame, pride and emotion were taking me over.

As I started to run to catch up to my classmates, (not wanting to be left behind and have any more rejection to face in this day!),  I realized I couldn’t do both- cry and run hard to catch up. So I ran harder. Believe it or not, running harder helped me get through those tears. By the end of the day I’d made it without crying in front of everybody. 

The next day I gave my teacher my answer: I was going to work even harder to stay in the group, if she could just give me another chance. (It worked!)

To this day, I use the same tactics. 

When I am struggling with some thing, I lace up my shoes and I run hard— after all these years of practice, I have learned how to cry and run at the same time; however, that quickly turns into praying and running. It’s been 99.9% effective for me for whatever it is I’m struggling with.

Like now.

The last two days at work in my “essential position,” I have been struggling.

I got home Wednesday after a 10 1/2 hour shift, and I could hardly breathe. The anxiety of trying to hold a sneeze or a cough, especially during allergy season, while you’re working in a room with coworkers is hard! By the time I got home, my heart was racing, my face was flush, and I was struggling to breathe. No, I don’t have COVID-19, but yes I have been extremely anxious through this time.

I bet many of you can relate.

So I laced up my shoes and took to running hard. What I realized is, in this time, I need to work harder with what I’m struggling with right now. And I know exactly how to do it – but it is so difficult...

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I need to work harder at being still and knowing that God is in control. 

(Psalm 46:10)

I need to work harder at laying all of my troubles and burdens at the feet of the Prince of Peace.

I need to work harder at finding compassion instead of anger when those around me aren’t washing their hands or staying 6 feet back.

I need to work harder at remembering how very, very, very scared the older lady is, who yelled at the fire fighter at Costco for going in before her (which Costco had offered as a service to first responders). And I need to work harder appreciating all the first responders putting their lives and the lives of their families at stake for choosing a job in public service.

I need to work harder at remembering all the things that Jesus has walked with me through before this. I need to remember the way He got me through was different/better and to trust in His ways.

(Isaiah 55:8)

I need to work harder at remembering this is all temporary.

(Hebrews 13:14)

I need to work harder at remembering there are so many people out there suffering not only with this pandemic; but they are moving, looking for a job, trying to make ends meet, arresting someone with Covid 19, battling cancer, filing for divorce, burying a loved one to an empty church… 8(

 

I need to work harder at keeping my eyes fixed on the One who holds me in His hands and remember I can find shelter beneath His wings. (Psalm 91)

And I need to work harder at remembering I have a Counselor, a Helper, a Healer and a Savior who is never gonna leave me during this time.

(Joshua 1:9)

I also want to work harder on asking how people are doing through this.

So, please tell me-

How are you working harder during this time?

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Grace Period

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“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”  (John 3:16 -Message Bible)

Wouldn’t it be great if things in the world were “right again?”

I’ve heard stories of atrocious behaviors in this crisis: hoarding toilet paper, hatred boiling over from one’s heart if someone sneezes, fighting over a clean grocery cart… 

However, in spite of the terrible ways we’ve been behaving, not just in our life times, but through ALL time, God’s GRACE has been there. Waiting for you. And out of His great mercy, we’ve been given a grace period.

When we come out of this COVID 19 crisis, and we will come out of it, things will never be the same. And some of that is good news – Never again underestimating the value of a hug, a gathering of people to dine, laugh and be together; Esteeming and caring for our elderly, looking out for neighbors, honoring store clerks, first responders, truck drivers, janitors; donating blood, staying home when you are sick, valuing having a job to go to, paying your debts, taking time to examine the condition of your heart, praying like your life depended on it… 

Right now, we’re in the in between. A moment in time when we should be taking stock of what’s really important. A grace period where we must choose what’s important. 

Do you accept the gift Jesus already pre-paid for you? A gift far exceeding any amount of Clorox wipes, respirators or doomsday preppers stash – A gift offered as payment of our ultimate debt and lasting beyond this crisis -lasting through eternity.

This current grace period is the time to choose. 

Choose to hear Him

Choose to accept Him

To believe

That’s Grace

PERIOD

 

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Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Let’s Talk Numbers

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My husband, who is a math teacher, understands the power of numbers. 

I’ve heard him say, “Two out of every one (2/1) students have issues with fractions.” 8)

What’s the common denominator?

One

When I went to Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant training, I learned about the passenger count. 

Before every take off, the Captain asks, “How many souls on board?” 

They request a full count to include each of the flight attendants, lap children, people with comfort animals, Federal Air Marshals, unaccompanied minors, etc., every single soul on board. Why?

Because the Captain, this one person, holds the ultimate responsibility for the safety of each and every one of those souls as they hurl through the air at 30,000 fat going 575 miles per hour. Should anything go wrong under those circumstances: a flock of geese, a medical emergency, deadly turbulence, engine failure, fuselage destruction, a terror attack, etc. ANYTHING, they accept responsibility for the safety of every person on board.

The largest airplane is an Airbus 380 which has a capacity of 853 seats.

That number (plus crew) is what weighs on the shoulders of one Captain.

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Every morning, I check the numbers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

AZDHS.gov

Tells us Maricopa County has 251 confirmed cases.

401 in Arizona

6 of those souls have perished

A news cast this yesterday tells us the latest numbers may now place the U.S. at the epicenter of the pandemic with current counts of cases numbering 42,164.

(471 souls perished)

Worldwide the number has reached 372,757 confirmed cases with 16,231 souls perished.

(Who.int for all the latest numbers and all updates on the pandemic.)

Now let’s put these numbers in perspective.

In 2020, the US population estimates 331,002,651 souls-That is a lot.

In 2020, the worldwide population estimates 8 BILLION souls (8,000,000,000)-WOW.

And then-

108.2 Billion is the number of homo sapiens/souls since the beginning of time-Thats huge. Yup, I said it.

HUGE

Can you imagine if you were the Captain of THAT airplane? The souls weighing on those shoulders.

And yet, there is One who bears the weight of every soul on His shoulders.

As Jesus died on the cross and announced “It is finished,” He purchased the  redemption for every single one of the souls that ever lived and ever will live. 

And when He rose from the grave, He conquered death so that each soul believing in His name would need not fear death any longer.

“One is the loneliest number”- Three Dog Night

Matthew 18:12 contains the parable of the lost sheep:

Jesus speaking-

12What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.…

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This story always gets me. What Jesus accomplished on the cross— A gift of grace for more than 108.2 billion+  weighing on the shoulders of The One.

And then, His love, so beautifully demonstrated by telling us, telling me, how important it is for Him to recover those who are lost; those of us who tend to wander off.

He won’t leave any single one of His sheep behind.

It’s not just for me.

It’s for you. 

And for every single one the souls there ever was, or ever will be.

Hillsong United says it beautifully in the song “So will I (100 Billion)

“the One who never leaves the one behind”

Are you listening?

Battle Call

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Battle Call

“For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.” – Ephesians 6

Two days ago, we listened to the press conference from the COVID-19 task force leaders in America on whitehouse.gov

It was said that the threat we face is invisible. 

This virus is invisible, the spread is invisible, and I can think of a few other invisible things this pandemic is spreading.

I watched the hoarding unfold, the greed of many trying to use this for their own pocketbook, and witnessed the fear wrap its spindly fingers around many people hearts with each news cast…

Please know i am NOT writing this in judgement. 

Apparently, many of us are about one roll of toilet paper away from losing our common decency. 

However, I AM writing this because I know there is a better Way.

Proverbs 4: 23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The invisible enemy has indeed come to steal, kill and destroy. 

We’ve witnessed the havoc, chaos, depletion of decency. 

And yet, there is an invisible force  and a Way that has more power than the all the powers of darkness.

And it is very real.

Some people think that God is invisible.

Or they ask, “How do we know He’s here. Does he even care what’s going on?”

Answer: He cares more than you can even fathom.

The threats man has been facing since the beginning were invisible. 

And God knows us so well that He knew we’d need to see it to believe it.

So He sent us His Son.

The invisible made visible in Jesus Christ.

John 3:16

I read this story recently in Mark chapter 2 and feel it is so pertinent to right now. Jesus is having dinner with some tax collectors and “sinners” while the religious authorities are wondering why he’s doing this.—“When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’”

Have you heard the call?

The following is summarized advice from the WHO (World Health Organization) Director General for individuals during this crisis—He emphasizes that keeping in good physical and mental health is needed to help fight against COVID-19 if you get it:

First: eat a healthy and nutritious diet

Second: limit alcohol and avoid sugary drinks

Third: Don’t smoke

Fourth: Exercise (keeping a safe distance from others)

Fifth: look after your mental health (reach out, check on neighbors, family, etc) – He stated, “Compassion is a medicine.” Get info from reliable sources

Work together as one humanity

Good advice. 

But shouldn’t we already be doing these things?

The difference, I suppose, is that people are finally, actually listening and obeying.

Our external health is important. 

But no amount of antimicrobial soap and hand sanitizer can cleanse the heart.

Jesus came to call the sick. He came to call those who knew their hearts needed cleansing. He came to tell and live out stories of kindness; to be an example of mercy, of forgiveness, and of how to live a life of love. 

Jesus, God made visible, real; and yet he forces no one to listen to his call. He offers it freely to ALL and allows us each the chance to respond. The opportunity to cleanse our hearts by accepting the redemptive grace of a God who will not rest until everyone has the chance to hear and the option to bow and to confess freely.

And that’s not all. When He ascended to heaven, he left us the gift of His Holy Spirit.  A Spirit that lives within those of us who choose to hear his call and accept His gift of grace. 

A Spirit that will light our way, counsel us, heal us, protect us, guide us. A Spirit that communicates on our behalf and will never leave us or forsake us.

An ever present Helper in times of trouble.

It is He who who cleanses us from the inside out. 

Psalm 51:7 (THE MESSAGE)

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes,

give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me,

shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash,

or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile,

put a fresh wind in my sails!

Doesn’t that sound like good news? 

I guess the questions is:

Are you listening?

Dreams and Nightmares

Dreams and Nightmares

I have this recurring nightmare. If you know me—I am a runner and I am a planner. I’ve loved running my entire life. I was in track and cross country throughout my school years. To this day, I continue to run and do races. I plan. I train. I want to be prepared and I love it.

Back to the nightmare. I arrive at the track for my quarter mile race, just one fast loop around the track. But as I set my feet, I realize I have on really really tight jeans. They are constricting. I can hardly move. And then, instead of my ground gripping spikes on my feet, I have on high heels. Then, as I am realizing I am not prepared for this run, I also realize, I have not trained for this race. I try to think of the runs, the repeats, anything I have been doing to help me through this event. Although it can be done in less than a minute, I realize this race is going to hurt like hell. And I have this nightmare frequently. Sometimes I am wearing the right gear, racing spikes on my feet and my breathable running attire; but in THAT nightmare, I am smoking cigarettes right before the starting gun goes off. Then, as I run, my heart feels constricted, like it will burst, and my lungs feel like thorns are being sucked into them, and they’re heavy like a boulder is crushing my chest. And I have had this nightmare over and over and over again. It’s awful.

I recently have had a different dream. I show up at the state cross country meet and I have been training for this race all season. I feel great, I am dressed appropriately and as my feet travel by muscle memory across the terrain, the time flies by. In some of my best days/races, I can do this 3.1 miles in about 22 minutes; a much longer time than the quarter mile sprint nightmare, but this race flies by. My feet are quick like a deer, I am light as a feather, my breathing is rhythmic and my heart is strong. I love this dream. It is utter JOY. 

I am wishing for more of this dream, but I know that the nightmare will come.

My husband and I are training for the Bolder Boulder, a 10 K race that happens over Memorial Day weekend in Colorado.

So, even though I didn’t want to go today, I laced up my shoes, donned my breathable running attire and set out on my run. As I was huffing and puffing up the one hill on my route, I got to thinking about the nightmares and dreams we have. I wondered what my subconscious was trying to tell me…

You can prepare for something—plan, train, put in the miles and it goes smoothly—effortlessly. But also there are things in life, that you love, you show up for, you think you’re prepared for, but in reality, when it comes down to it, right before that starting gun goes off, you’re NOT prepared for the pain that awaits you.

As I went out for my run today, I felt like a boulder was on my chest. 

February 14th, 22 years ago, someone found four pounds of white fur left behind in a field and took the tiny creature to the shelter. This is where little Dempsey found her way into my heart. I went there looking for a dog to run with me, and came home with this tiny creature that has covered me in her fur  and has covered me with comfort in life. She has been with me through a marriage, a divorce, countless moves, ups and downs and all the in betweens. She would  sleep draped across my head when it was cold or curled up on my belly. She loved rice krispies, edamame and bacon. She even licked away my tears and would put her paw on my arm when I was sick. She greeted me at the door every day when I arrived home for 22+ years. And Friday, we said good-bye to Dempsey. I had 22 years to love this little creature, so you’d think I was prepared. But the sadness constricts my throat and feels like I am breathing in thorns, and the emptiness of where her little white fur body was, feels like a gaping black hole.

Maybe the nightmare, my subconscious, was trying to prepare me for the pain of this life event.

But, Is there really anything that can help prepare you for the emptiness felt when something you love deeply is gone?

Dempsey in a box

 

Dempsey would “help” me every time I was on the computer. She “helped” me make the bed by trying to sneak in under the sheets. She let me know how much she loved whatever I bought and had delivered by hanging out in the boxes left behind. She was a gift. Twenty-two years flew by and there was so much joy.

But Friday… and the tiny amount of time it took to say goodbye; it sears like a hot iron on my skin and is a boulder weighing on my chest. 

And I know it will be recurring. There will be more times of saying good-bye to something that, even if it seems like it’s planned for, will be painful. Good-byes to parents, friends, jobs, health, beautiful things. 

Almost to the point of not wanting to say hello to those things, just to spare the pain of the good-bye. 

Almost.

I read that deep grief is evidence of great love. I guess that’s why it hurts so much now. 

I’ve also read that life is more of an endurance race than a sprint.

It’s almost been a week. And it hasn’t been that much easier. However, even with the physical pain of missing, remembering and wanting one more day, I wouldn’t trade all those years of love, comfort and “help” with her just to escape this heartache. I’m going to pray and wish for more of those endurance dreams—the joy, the stuff that keeps a heart strong—I believe its these events that count the most; the memories, the effortless, joyful, daily beautiful things in life that give us the endurance to withstand the pain of saying the next good-bye.

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RIP Dempsey 2/14/1998- 4/19/19

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

David v. Goliath

I love it when people do the right thing. I love it even more when people do the right thing without being asked and in the face of adversity. It’s sad when people have to threaten legal action to get the right thing done. I believe there is something more powerful than our legal system and that is social media. That’s why I’m writing this.

I love taking trips. Our bags were packed and we were ready to go on a “bucket list” trip to Washington DC to run a half marathon and to see our country’s great sites. Hurricane Florence had other ideas for our trip. As we watched the weather, we were prepared to run, rain or shine. And the money we spent on the run specifically stated no refunds would be issued – rain or shine. Forty-eight hours before Florence hit and states of emergency were declared across all the states we were heading to, our race was canceled.

Airports closed, flights were canceled and our hopes of traveling to the area were squelched. Lansdowne Resort in Virginia refunded us 100% of the money paid for our rooms for 4 nights. Groupon offered reimbursements for the money we spent for the tours. The folks at the DIVA run offered us options to at get something for the money we spent on the race that could not happen, in spite of their policy of no refunds rain or shine. Lansdowne Resort, Groupon and those at the DIVA run did the right thing in the face of adversity.

Now for the people who didn’t do the right thing and where I’m counting on social media to help spread the word. Before we made our reservation at TM luxury suites International in Washington DC through booking.com, we looked at all the reviews and they seemed really great. I guess it’s easy to write a great review when no adversity strikes. Enter Florence.

It has now been over a month since our bucket list trip got canceled and booking.com and TM luxury suites are still refusing to reimburse us the almost$500 for two nights at this place. Booking.com, after multiple calls and e-mails and we provided evidence of all the cancelation documents and proof of the charges, offered $120…IF I charged them them amount of time I spent on hold with them at my working hours rate, it still doesn’t even come close to being the right thing.

We’ve sent countless emails and had hours and hours of conversations at booking.com and with Sara, the manager at TM luxury suites. Sara is even refusing to refund the $99 cleaning fee for a place that we never even set foot in!! Booking.com doesn’t want to budge because TM luxury suites has a policy about their refunds. I understand all that, sort of, but again, I think about the people who did the right thing in this adverse circumstance AND in spite of their policies and refunded a hundred percent of our money.

$500 may not seem a lot, and it really isn’t when you see everything that people are going through in that area. And then again, I take a look now at Hurricane Michael. Again, I am amazed at all the people who are doing the right thing and in the face of adversity. And for those who don’t do the right thing, that’s where we need to count on social media to warn us to spend our money in other areas.

Please support places like Lansdowne Resort, Groupon and the DIVA run, (running for those with breast cancer.) 

www.groupon.com

https://www.destinationhotels.com/lansdowne-resort/local-area

https://www.runlikeadiva.com

In America,we have the freedom to warn people about those who don’t do the right thing. And we have the ability to focus on those who DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN NO ONE IS LOOKING. And choice of where we spend our hard earned money. Use your dollars and to spend them where people do the right thing.