Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lazy Preaching

In my travels this summer I’ve heard several sermons from different preachers. Some were good, some were great; some were… not. I expect a pastor to have studied the scripture, connected it to other scriptures, carefully considered the original context and thoughtfully and prayerfully crafted a message that brings practical application to the congregation. Some, however just don’t. Some appear to give the passage a brief skimming then focus on a line or two of scripture, then spend their creative energies trying to conform the passage to their own agenda. Some ignore the context and message all together, and instead of trying to enlighten, encourage or instruct the listener, they try to entertain, making jokes at every turn, apparently judging the success of the message with a laugh-o-meter.

One particular sermon sticks in my craw. The "text" was presented as being from Philippians 2:5-11, an amazing instructional passage encouraging the Philippians to give up vain ambitions, to serve selflessly, following the example of Christ. The pastor instead, used only the line, “Have the mind of Christ,” in his sermon and used it to push a legalistic agenda. He glorified church attendance and Bible reading, as an end not a means. He used anecdotes to lift up the example of a friend who was most of the time "away from the Lord," but made his kids go to bed at 10 on Saturdays so they could be in church.  Because that’s the way it should be. He told us to read the Bible daily, because we brush our teeth daily. Not to grow, not to learn, not for the joy of developing a relationship with our Creator and Savior. Just because we should…. “have the mind of Christ,” and Christ did what was expected of him. The only other thing I remember was that he hinted strongly that parents should (be able to) spank and asked for “Amens,” repeatedly.

Now, none of these “points” is wrong. We should want to be in communion with other believers and are encouraged by the writer of Hebrews not to “give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another.” (10:25) However, nothing in this scripture commands us to be in church “every time the doors are open.”  When preached without the joy of community, this reeks of Pharisaical legalism. Reading the Bible daily is something we should do, not as a chore; not as we brush our teeth, but with delight. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, “Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on it day and night.” This delight in God’s law reminds me of a fiction buff’s passion for reading, a stat head’s propensity for crunching numbers. The meditation reminds me of the way I look at my wife, considering every freckle, the little scar on her cheek, the sparkle in her blue eyes when she catches me looking at her and smiles back. We should delight in God’s Word to us and meditate on it as we gaze into the eyes of a lover, not endure it as we brush, floss and gargle at the sink for five minutes before bed. As for corporal punishment, discipline is necessary and the Proverbs 13:24 tells us, "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them," but how does discipline and spanking fit with a text on humility?

Someone apparently spent less than five minutes with this scripture and missed out. He missed out on Christ's humility that led him to wash his disciples feet. (John 13:4-17) He missed out that this whole passage about having the mind of Christ, isn't really about obedience, but about peace, fellowship and love through humility, servant-hood and sacrifice. He missed out, as did everyone who laughed at the jokes, and everyone who amen-ed when prompted, and everyone who left church thinking they had been fed. 

When pastors present the Word with such haphazard irreverence, presenting their agenda rather than revelation, they set themselves on a pedestal. They disrespect the Word, and the One who sent it, contradicting Philippians 2:3 "Don't try to impress others." They would be better off to read the scripture and sit down. John 13:16 tells us that after Jesus washed the disciples' feet he told them, "Nor is the messenger greater than the one who sends the message."  And James 3:1 cautions us, "Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly."

On a positive note, such lazy preaching has motivated me to read closer with more intention, to delight in and meditate on the Word of God. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Marshall Half Marathon

or the Herald-Dispatch Half as I found it was called.

I am beginning to think that I am a spoiled racer.  Let me explain.  I ran my first race in the CapCity Half in Columbus, an amazingly well run race with week long packet pickup, clearly marked course, scores of volunteers, great post-race food and services.  I followed that race with the USAF Marathon at Wright-Pat and I’d have to say the armed services know what they are doing when they plan an event.  From pre-race flyover to loads of post-race food like Rosa’s pizza, chocolate milk, oranges, bananas and more; from officers saluting at every turn to themed aid stations, from Air Force planes lining the homestretch to busses shuttleing between parking and start line (AND BACK!) this race was planned to a t- and fun.  Those two races set the bar high and those that followed have not lived up to my expectations.

Next, I ran a small half in Dublin, Ohio.  It was okay, a one-mile loop, with some decent pizza and good fruit.  Then came the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon, a mess of a race.  We parked more than a mile from the finish then caught a bus to the start.  No buses were available to get runners back to their vehicles.  6 miles of the race were in Indiana through trashy neighborhoods with no scenery, on dirty streets with unenthusiastic aid stations.  And just recently, I ran a half in Huntington, where the pre-race packet was my shirt and bib (with nary a pin to fasten the bib).  The spaghetti meal was included in the registration, but the “expo” was a table with one person selling GU.  We were very pleased to find the “expo” as the only sign for it was at the door, in the center of the block, where is was not visible from the street.  

  1. 7.51- We started at the gun.  My brothers and I began shuffling forward, waiting for the start line to start our watches and begin to “run” the race.  Eventually, like those around us, we realized their was no start line, no place for our chip times to be started.  Thus, our splits and watch times were a little further than normal. Not a bad first mile, right where I wanted to be actually.
  2. 7.21- Started shaving seconds off the average pace a little faster than a planned.
  3. 7.37- Started to warm up and relax and enjoy the race.
  4. 7.32- Settled into a pace I hoped I could hold longer than I did.
  5. 7.50- Back and forth, the miles seemed to be going back and forth, slower then faster.
  6. 7.34- Here’s the last mile that actually went fast.  Jason and Andrew were struggling, and a couple of “experienced” runners passed us at the beginning of the mile.  (By experienced, I mean they were about ten years older than me, but definitely had a light build than me and seemed to be cruising along effortlessly.)  I drafted behind them for a mile then began to fall back as we hit a tiny bit of an incline. 
  7. 9.25 (1.18 miles @7.59)  Jason and Andrew caught up with me and we all missed hitting our split button on this mile.  More than half way done and we were hitting an 8 minute pace.  The total pace was still around 7:45)
  8. 6.32 (0.81 miles @7.58)
  9. 8.04- On this mile, I began to fall back behind my younger brothers then make mini charges to catch up.  I also shed my outer layer and was down to a long-sleeved tech-shirt and short-sleeved tech-shirt.
  10. 8.12- Now the game was to hold on the best I could and try to make a push over the last mile and a half to two miles.
  11. 8.06- A better mile here, as Jason began to pull away from me and Andrew from him.
  12. 8.19-  The guys moved just out of sight here and I struggled a bit to hold the pace.  Throughout the race I never had any specific physical ailments, but at this point the legs were getting quite heavy.
  13. 8.16-   Two mistakes were made here.  First, I began to kick it up a notch for the finish at 12.5 instead of 13.0; I thought the stadium was just around the corner.  After I recovered from my early charge and began to move better, I missed a turn that was unmarked because the volunteer had left her station.  I had to turn around and re-pass several runners that I had just passed.  It was a devastating development to my motivation at that point.
  14. 1.19 (0.17 miles @7.22)  Motivation returned as I entered the stadium, ran almost half a lap, received a football and mustered my best 100 yard sprint to the finish line with the ball tucked under arm.

*I just looked for a picture or two to add to this post.  I found out that the Marathon and Half Marathon had only two photographers at two locations taking and posting 1800+ total photos of 1600 runners.  C’mon, man!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Marshall Half Marathon Training

After completely bonking in both my previous marathons, I decided it was time for a new strategy.  The first marathon I can blame on two significant injuries, but the second one was more my fault for not completing training runs and finishing long runs with a strong push.  I want to do another one and soon, but I need to know that I can finish strong first.  As I floundered through this summer without getting much running done, I decided I needed a better purpose and one that was not a marathon, yet.  I chose the half marathon in Huntington, WV.
I believe that if I can improve my speed, my efficiency and consistently finish strong on long runs, that I will become a stronger marathon runner.  But for me, the way to do that is through shorter, faster training.  I searched out an advanced training plan from Hal Higdon and pretty much adopted it as is.  Here is my plan laid out in calendar form. It calls for 6 days of running a week.  
Three of those days are almost always a three mile run with only one every other week or so coming at race pace.  Those days will also have some strength training built in to help me build the strength to stay strong and maintain form as well as to help me drop some weight.  I have read that every pound I lose should help me cut 2 seconds per mile and believe that being lighter should help me avoid the bonk.
The other three days of running deal with more specific workouts.  Early in the week is speed work with hill repeats or 400, 800 or 1600 meter repeats.  The midweek run is a tempo run that stretches from 40 minutes to 60 minutes.  Then the weekend run is either a long run or a race.  The long runs stretch from 90 minutes to 2 hours and often call for the last 1/4 of the run to be run at race pace.  The races build from 5K to 15K to make the plan fun and keep racing as a part of the program.
I am excited to make running a 6 day a week activity, to spend a little less time per day training than I do for full marathons and to proactively work on getting faster.  My plan lists paces for repeats that are scheduled for 5K, 10K or race pace.  Those paces are paces that I believe I can run now, hopefully, by the end of this training I will be running those repeats at paces faster than those posted.

Friday, July 16, 2010


With no races on my schedule, lots of business with international travel, not to mention late sunsets that make going to bed early hard and getting up early harder, my commitment to running has waned- quite a bit.  I find myself in need of achieving consistency. So I am setting some new short-term goals and considering a half-marathon for the fall calendar.
The above thoughts have sat in draft form for a week now. I have finally set those goals for mileage, speed, strength training and weight loss leading up to the registration date for the Marshall Marathon (& half) at Huntington, WV.  For meeting my goals, I plan on rewarding myself with a race.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cusco Prayer Run

This long trip has provided very varied running experiences. We began the morning of June 9 by loading three boys and 12 bags in the van and driving towards Jupiter, Florida. The next evening we arrived at my in-laws and stayed their until my father-in-law dropped us off at the Miami airport on the 15th. In Jupiter, I almost ran 30 miles in a the week, but the extreme heat and humidity kicked my butt.

From there we flew to Lima, Peru, where we spent the night sleeping on our luggage and the cold tile floor. An early morning flight got us into Arequipa, where we spent our first week in Peru. I got a couple exploratory runs in, keeping the pace to about 9 minutes due to the extreme altitude, 7,800 feet. I knew that pushing the pace early could cause me some respiratory distress that could affect future runs and productivity on our mission trip.

Sunday night we climbed on to a double-decker charter bus to make the 10 hour drive through the mountains (and the night) to Cusco, Peru, the Historical Capital of Peru and where this Tripped-Out Run took place.
Monday night, we’ll make the return bus trip to Arequipa. There I’ll hang out with the boys while Rachel has meetings and begins working to get ready for the next THREE Extreme Projects. Friday we will head to a beach resort with the rest of the Extreme Ministries staff for a much deserved retreat. we’ll even have Fourth of July fireworks on the beach! We fly back through Lima to Miami then make the drive back home and arrive home June 9 or 10.

After a Sunday morning run in Arequipa, I found myself unable to get out for another run for the next 4 days. During that time, my exercise came from several games of soccer with the locals (including the kitchen staff here at the hotel at Conafovicer), missionaries and short-term volunteers. I also did a lot of walking around and playing with children at the festival de niños that we put on in a rural community outside Cuzco.
After my Thursday plan for a 6 am run turned into another 1.5 hours of soccer, I decided I needed to make an absolute plan to get out for a real run Friday morning. While resolving to do that, I updated my user account at and came across a site where they are trying to schedule prayer for the organization to cover the entire calendar. Users can sign up for any hour of the day and can choose to make that a recurring appointment. I decided to make every Friday at 6 am my prayer-run appointment. This run’s purpose was pretty basic; I needed to run and I needed to pray. I wasn’t concerned about pace- my first run at 11,700 feet is not the time or place to push the pace. Maybe when we get back to Arequipa I’ll post some 6-8 mile runs at closer to an 8 minute pace.

I rolled out of bed at 5:50 and got up Ryan, my 8 year-old who wanted to play soccer, and we headed out to the court (they play soccer on a basketball court that has hoops mounted above soccer goals). As we waited for soccer players to show up, I began to pray for the remaining days of Love Extreme 2 here in Cusco and the six other cities. When Scott Englund and Doc Maxwell showed up, I took off, camera in hand, to pray, run and document the experience with photos.

Out the gate and down the hill to the main road, Prolongnacion De La Cultura, I went. Once I reached the main road, I headed east down the brick paved median. I slowed to snag a few pictures and to avoid pedestrians and a few vehicles crossing at intersections. I ran that median as far as I could before it was cut off by construction. Then I turned and headed north up the mountain on Avenido de Las Sauces. It was quite a climb and with the time schedule I had myself on, I decided about a 5 minute climb was what I had time for. I snapped a couple of pictures on my way up, including one of a dead rat, one of an internet café sign and one of the down hill view. The trip back down the hill took almost a minute and a half less than the trip up. 7% grades are pretty steep! Like all mountain-desert cities in Peru, Cusco is very dusty with hoards of taxis kicking up clouds of dust and old trucks and combis (mini-buses) belching out a fog of exhaust. While the air is not very clear, the sky is. Outside of the rainy season it almost never rains. We are positioned in a valley, so the sky is fully lighted nearly an hour before the sun peeks over the peaks. I took a photo of the sky a few minutes before sunrise while on the run.

June is the beginning of winter here in countries south of the equator, but that doesn’t matter much in the mountains. Everyday so far has been about exactly the same: I wake up to a slightly clouded sky and temperatures in the mid-40’s to low 50’s. The Peruvians look at me a little funny, out running the streets before the gas stations and tiendas are open (because it’s so COLD!- Ha!). They really look at me funny when I do my run in just shorts and a tech-shirt. By late morning, it is 65-75 degrees- in the sun- but feels warmer (sunblock is a must at this altitude, no matter the season) and 55-65 in the shade. The sun disappears behind the mountains before 5 o’clock and temperatures plummet back into the 40’s. *Not a single day has been rainy or even overcast.

I cruised back into Conafovicer just under 29 minutes with a 9 pace. As I sat down to rest and enjoy the view, a jet flew past- nearly below me- on its way to the nearby airport. This was a fully enjoyable run and a great way to start this day of the mission project.

*After the writing of this entry, we experienced one cold, rainy, cloudy day. Monday, June 28 was a yucky day that never got out of the 50’s.