Monday, April 27, 2009

Lessons from a Wanna Be Runner

I'm not sure I can call myself a runner with a straight face, but I do try to jog at least 3 times a week. As I jog, there are things that pop into my mind that have physical as well as spiritual impact on my life. Here are a few:

1. I see that sometimes when I jog I will face a small hill and if I make too big of a deal of it, it is harder than it needs to be. I psych myself out and then the running is tough.

That is also true in other areas of life. I may worry about things that will never happen. I may attribute wrong motives to someone that simply don't exist. Sometimes just by activity in my own mind, I allow mole hills to become mountains. The result is a heaviness of spirit that keeps me from thriving in Christ.

2. And then sometimes the opposite is true. There is one hill that I run that has kicked my butt. I started it too fast and burnt out before half way. Wheezing and on the verge of puking - not a pretty sight.

There have also been times in my life when I have faced rough patches. Through those experiences, I have begun to learn that during seasons of high stress, illness, relational difficulty, it is important to pace myself. It's important to realize that things in life can drain our emotional energy. If we are going to survive and finish well, we must take whatever time we need to rest and allow God to restore us to himself.

3. Encouragement is vital. My friend, Becky, is the BEST running encourager I know. When we see each other she always asks how it's going and is always so genuinely proud of me. In turn, it keeps me going and makes me want to encourage others.

The same is true in our walks with Christ. All of us can benefit from receiving as well as giving encouragement. And you never know what impact your words of encouragement might be to someone. It just may be the thing that keeps them going.

4. The last thing I've been thinking about lately is how important it is to enjoy the run. Some days I forget to do that and I just want to be done. I listen to a song over and over, just waiting to get to the finish. But there was a day a few weeks ago that helped me learn this lesson. It was raining, but I really wanted to get out there. I had decided that I shouldn't take my ipod - it wasn't worth the risk. But I had NEVER done this run or any other run without music to keep me going. I had a great time! I noticed things about my town that I hadn't noticed before and I was enjoying God's creation in a very unique way.

Sometimes it's hard to transfer this lesson. There is always so much to be done, so many unfinished projects. It makes me think of my friend, Teresa, who is SOOO good at this. She always says it's important to put in a hard day's work (and she is one of the most tireless workers I know), but she says it is equally important to have fun. She taught me to get cleaned up and spend time with friends or do something fun to balance out the day. It's a good lesson I continue to learn.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stolen Wisdom

Bits of wisdom from Dave's Mom:

Change is inevitable, growth is a choice.

Distinguish the difference between living with expectations and living with expectancy. Choose expectancy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Not the Kingdom of Death

Walter Brueggemann again...

Christ is risen!

We give thanks for the gift of Easter
that runs beyond our explanations,
beyond our categories of reason,
even more, beyond the sinking sense of our own lives.

We know about the powers of death,
powers that persist among us,
powers that drive us from you, and
from our neighbor, and
from our best selves.

We know about the powers of fear and greed and anxiety,
and brutality and certitude,
powers before which we are helpless.

And then at dawn, unquenched,
you in the darkness,
you on Sunday,
you who breaks the world to joy,

Yours is the kingdom....not the kingdom of death,
Yours is the power....not the power of death,
Yours....You....and we give thanks
for the newness beyond our achieving.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Pivot of Hope by Walter Brueggemann

This day of dread and betrayal and denial causes a pause in our busyness.
Who would have thought that you would take this eighth son of Jesse to become the pivot of hope in our ancient memory?
Who would have thought that you would take this uncredentialed Galilean rabbi to become the pivot of newness in the world?
Who would have thought that you - God of gods and Lord of lords - would fasten on such small, innocuous agents whom the world scorns to turn creation toward your newness?

As we are dazzled, give us the freedom to resituate our lives in modest, uncredentialed, vulnerable places.
We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely arranged patterns of security into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go.
Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked. Amen.

Easter Weekend at New Hope

Since Easter is a time when there are usually extra visitors, I'd like to request extra snacks (cookies, brownies, fruit, whatever). If you are able to bring something, it would be greatly appreciated.

Here's the schedule for this weekend:

Friday, April 10 - Tenebrae Gathering @ 7pm (childcare available for nursery & preschool)

Saturday, April 11 - No Saturday Gathering

Sunday, April 12 - Two Sunday Gatherings at 9.30am & 11.15am (Our kids will have their Easter Egg Hunt during these gatherings. We'll take lots of pictures!)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Connection Updates

Here are a couple updates on connection opportunities happening around New Hope:

Pat Klaus has been leading another one of her "Weight Loss Challenges." They have their celebration party tonight. In the past three months the group has lost a total of 291 pounds! If you're interested in checking it out, the next class begins April 28th at 5.45pm.

Andrea Simpson held a study on Passover this past Sunday. God has been expanding her horizons of Jewish culture and she is beginning to share that with others. On this Thursday, April 9th, there will be a Seder at Calvary Baptist Church (1463 Shields Road). If you're interested in going with some other New Hopers, give Andrea a call (234.567.1322).

April 18th is the next UFC Night. It's at John Raneri's home (7695 Clingan Road, Apt 6, Poland). You can give John a call (724.272.7832) for more information.

Psalm 34

It struck me this morning as I walked out into the snow that praising God is not dependent on the weather. Nor is it dependent on our circumstances or how we 'feel.' We can always praise him because He never changes. I am thankful for the unchanging nature of God. It means that we have an opportunity to praise him on the best days, the worst days, and everything in between. And he is always there for us.

Psalm 34
[1] I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
[2] My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
[3] O magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
[4] I sought the LORD, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
[5] Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
[6] This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD,
and was saved from every trouble.
[7] The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
[8] O taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
[9] O fear the LORD, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
[10] The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
[11] Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
[12] Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
[13] Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
[14] Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
[15] The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
[16] The face of the LORD is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
[17] When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
[18] The LORD is near to the broken- hearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
[19] Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD rescues them from them all.
[20] He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
[21] Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
[22] The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Today is a celebration. The palms remind us of the first people who were enamored with Christ. They were caught up in praise. The celebrated the arrival of the King.

Psalm 150
[1] Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!
[2] Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his surpassing greatness!
[3] Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
[4] Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
[5] Praise him with clanging cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
[6] Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Today we have the opportunity to praise Jesus with our lips and also with our lives as we lay our lives before Him.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Memories of God

I recently shared on this blog the focus I've had of trying to see God as he desires to be seen. It has been my New Year's decision, also my decision through Lent. So, I thought I'd share some 'vacation thoughts.' These are the thoughts that struck me on the first day of our time in Key Largo. Funny how being in a certain place can transport you to a different time. God is faithful.

"I am sitting inside the boatel (a houseboat that is permanently docked), looking out at the Key Largo Sound. The sea air pours in. This place Steve found is PERFECT for us. It's a step above camping, it's cheap, has a deck for enjoying the view, kayaks to use, a jetty to fish from. That's what Steve is doing right now. We arrived about 4 hours ago, rested, read some of Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" aloud, did a little driving around, made a stop at Publix (NO Ohio grocery stores compare). We'll grill steaks later - unless Steve hooks a big one!

I've had a couple of surprisingly emotional moments this week. The first one was as our plane approached Tampa. I spotted the water and was overwhelmed...overwhelmed with what I am not sure. Maybe a big part of me misses our life in Florida. Maybe that missing was followed up by a flood of memories of difficult days here - hospitals, work, uncertainty...And then there's Tam. I miss my friend. For me Clearwater = Tam, crazy, fun-loving, seeking, beautiful Tam. She and her family are now living back in France. Nonetheless, I can't drive around without thinking of riding with her, getting to know the local spots, hanging out at their apartment on the intercostal waterway. Her friendship during that year was God's gift to me.

Today I was again surprised by overwhelming emotion. My heart was gripped as I watched my girls walk without me toward airport security (they only joined us for the wedding weekend). They weren't alone. I knew Andrew, Kates, and Jame Jame wouldn't let anything happen to them. Thank God for family. Still, it felt weird and wrong.

They are now safely home with Grandma Hopper and will have a fine week without us. I will miss them and I will have fun without them and I will be ready to see them before it is time. Even as I sit here, I miss them.

I am thankful for this time, though - especially here in Florida. This is the place where my faith in God was forged. It was our apartment in Clearwater where I first discovered that I could no longer survive without recognizing God's active hand on my life. I needed God EVERYDAY. And God was faithful too many times to count. Even in my doubt and fear, God's hand was evident...often palpable.

I wasn't prepared for these memories. I'm sure it's because we lived here such a short time and so much happened in those years, but I find that my memories of living in Florida are the clearest memories of my life. This week we'll snorkel where we first took the girls snorkeling (John Pennekamp State Park). I will never forget Lizzie (as a 2nd grader) trying to be all grown up and "lay out" in the sun. I think she lasted 45 seconds. Nor will I forget Paige's little kindergarten fanny sticking up out of the water for HOURS as she snorkeled along the very shallow area at Cannon Beach. Those times are treasures.

It's nearly dark now. Steve will be back soon. Looks like we'll be having steak tonight..."