Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Night as a Police Officer

I will never look at a police car the same again. Tonight I rode with an Omaha Police Officer for about six hours. It was interesting – to say the least – to be in the car looking out rather than outside of the car looking in.

Before, when I saw a police officer, the normal drill was to check my speedometer to make sure I wasn’t speeding. But, from this point on, I will hopefully see a courageous and hard-working person who is trying to make the world a little bit safer and a little bit better.

Not all police officers are good and none of them are perfect. But most of them are dedicated men and women who daily risk their lives in the name of justice. In fact some of them give their lives in the name of justice. Today is National Police Officers’ Memorial Day. One of the most powerful moments tonight was when Beth, the police officer I rode with, took me to the place where Officer Jason Pratt was killed in September, 2003. He was the most recent Omaha Police Officer to be killed in the line of duty. Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

When we break a good law, justice must be invoked not only for goodness’s sake, but also for the sake of the one breaking the law. Without justice, the result of the offense is ultimately disorder and grief for the offender, the offended, and society. Justice opens the door to forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.

Beth also took me to the place where Amber Harris was last seen. Flowers laid on the ground. The flowers were a reminder that justice cannot change the past. Nothing can. Justice can only change the present and the future. Without justice, the world would almost make no sense at all. With justice, our complicated world becomes a little less complicated.

Beth helped two young adults who were bitten by a dog. This wasn’t justice – it was mercy. Webster probably has a little different definition of mercy, but for Christians we think of mercy as something like this: compassion and kindness shown to pretty much anybody who is hurting—from a victim to an offender. Mercy and justice are not opposites; mercy and justice are siblings.

The prophet Micah knew this: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
-Micah 6:8

I ran repeat 200s with Kurt at Millard West. 3 sets of 8 x 200 @ 35 to 37 seconds with 30 seconds of rest between reps and 4 minutes joggin between sets. The 30 seconds didn't seem very long.

Set 1: 37, 37, 37, 37, 37, 37, 37, 36
Set 2: 36, 37, 36, 36, 37, 37, 37, 37
Set 3: 37, 36, 37, 37, 38, 37, 39, 38

I got schooled by Kurt again on the last set. He ran great. I couldn't quite finish on pace, but I did my best.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Honoring Mom

The Bible tells us to honor our mother (Exodus 20:12). For some of us this task is simple and natural. For others it is difficult and contrived. Some mothers are nearly perfect. Others have made so many mistakes that only God can clean up the mess. Either way, God says, “Honor your mother.”

My mom, Bonita, is imperfectly perfect. For the last twenty-five years she has been a single parent. Despite her demanding job as an accountant and parenting my three older siblings, she loved me like I was the only one to love. I ran track and cross country in high school and college. She drove thousands of miles to see me run around a 400 meter track countless times. She was my biggest fan – celebrating the victories and encouraging me on the days I wished I was on the golf team instead of being a distance runner. She is not perfect, but as far as moms go, I am blessed.

Today she honors her elderly mother by daily and quietly caring for my grandma. She enjoys and loves her many grandchildren. But she still loves me like I am the only one there is to love.

The role of being a parent is holy and sacred. Even if the parents are neither holy or sacred, the role of parent is still sacred like the role of pastor is still sacred even if the pastor is a scoundrel. Being a parent is ordained by God, the creator and sustainer of life. Being a parent has responsibilities and rights. The responsibilities are many.

Entire books have been written on parenting: but praying, playing, listening, and modeling a Christian life are a good start. These responsibilities are for the parent of a six year old child and the parent of a sixty year old child. The rights are many as well: smelling the hair of a sleeping baby who has recently been bathed, laughing with the child exploring life, watching the child running races or dancing dances or singing songs, witnessing the child become who God wants the child to be, and having that child care for you when you are no longer able to care for yourself just like you once cared for the child when he or she was not able to take care of himself or herself.

Today is Mother’s Day. God’s command to honor your mother applies today as it does every day. Honoring them doesn’t mean putting them on a pedestal or worshipping them. It means seeing them for who they are and who they are not. It means loving God and our neighbor as faithfully and selflessly as mothers at their best have tried to love us. It means listening to them, praying for them, playing with them, and taking care of them to the end of their days on earth.

To mom and all the mothers reading this—Happy Mother’s Day! -Craig

P.S. No run today. Benjamin and I did go boating though. Here is a picture of him driving the boat.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


At 5:00 a.m. I was no longer homeless. Brad and I packed up our blankets and went to our respective houses.

I was on the trail by 6:00 a.m. Kurt and I did 13.1 miles in about an hour and forty minutes. I was home by 8:00 a.m. to watch the boys while Amber worked until 2:30 p.m. I did a wedding a 4:00 p.m. and a worship service at 6:00 p.m. Then Amber, the boys, and some friends went to Maria's for some Mexican food. When I got home I reviewed the media and my sermon for tomorrow morning. Busy day.

The wedding today was beautiful. The couple did such a good job planning it and were a joy to work with. Here is part of what I said:

Today you promise that you will love, honor, and comfort each other to the last of your days.

Today you promise that you will cherish each other and be faithful to each other always.

Today you promise that you will do these things not just when you feel like it – but for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – even when you don’t feel like it at all.

Today you give away part of your freedom.

You take on each other’s burdens.

You bind yourselves together in ways that are even more painful to unbind emotionally than they are to unbind legally.

What is it then that you get in return?

Well, you get each other.

Assuming you have any success at all in keeping these promises, you will never have to face the world quite alone again. There will always be the other to talk to, to listen to. If you are blessed, even after the first passion passes – you’ll still have a kindness and a patience to depend on and a chance to be patient and kind.

There will be someone to get through the night with, to wake the new day beside.

You will both have lives apart as well as life together.

But a marriage made in heaven is one where a man and a woman become more richly themselves together than the chances are either of them could have managed to become alone.

I pray this for them and for the rest of us who are married.

Friday, May 11, 2007


We lie in our beds at night. It is dark. On the dresser is a picture of family or friends. A patch of moonlight catches our clothes thrown over the back of the chair. We can hear the faint rumble of a furnace keeping us warm or an air conditioner keeping us cool. We check on the kids or go to the bathroom. We can walk in the dark because we are in familiar surroundings.

On rainy mornings we are dry. We have shelter. When things are not-so-good in our lives we have a place where we can retreat to lick our wounds and heal. Thousands of people, many of them children, wander the dark streets in search of some corner to lie down shaded from the hot sun or protected from the bitter wind.

Yet we are all homeless in some sense of the word. Even if we have homes we may not totally be at home in them. To be really at home is to be really at peace. With that being said, there can be no peace for any of us until there is some measure of real peace for all of us.

When we close our eyes to the deep needs of other people, whether they live on the streets or under our own roof—and when we close our eyes to our own deep need to reach out to them—we can never be fully at home anywhere.

Tonight, a friend and I are going to explore what it means to be homeless. He and I won’t truly experience homelessness over the course of a night because we will always know that we both have a home to return to when our day is complete. The people on the streets don’t have this. We will share how and what God spoke to us on Sunday morning.

I had a good run this morning. The plan for for Kurt and I to do 12 x 400 @ 75 to 78. The 12 400s were 3 sets of 4 with a 1 minute rest after each rep and a 4 minute recovery jog after each set.The workout went according to plan.

Set 1: 77, 75, 76, 75
Set 2: 76, 74, 77, 77
Set 3: 77, 77, 78, 77

Kurt pretty much school me on the last set -- I wasn't quite able to keep up with him. I almost lost my Nature's Path Blueberry - Soy - Flax cereal and Mango Propel on the 11th 400, but managed to finish without losing any organic cereal or fitness water.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Climbing Mt. Sequoyah, Day 2

Still in Fayetteville.

I had another evening running session up Mt. Sequoyah tonight. A late afternoon rain made the warm air very heavy. I didn't even bother putting on a running shirt as it would have been soaked within minutes. My Nike running hat, that keeps the sweat of my face and the sun out of my eyes, is going to need some serious washing when I get home tomorrow.

I ran a two mile warm-up and finished with a one mile cool-down. In between, I did 4 x .89 mile uphill repeats up the mountain. The total climb was well over 400 feet which makes for a grade of just over 8%. The whole .89 miles was uphill--no exception. My recovery was a .89 mile jog down the mountain. Ironically, the hill was so steep that my recovery jogs down the hill were faster than my hard runs up the hill. The four uphill repeats were 7:17, 7:13, 7:37 (ouch), and 7:31 (very ouch). I had nothing left at the end of this workout. I had four fresco style hard shell tacos from Taco Bell, a Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Clif Bar, 24 ounces of Go Grape Cytomax, a 12 ounce can of Cranberry Apple Juice, 2 chocolate chip cookies, 48 ounces of very cold water, a kind of cold shower, a phone call to Amber and the boys, and I fell a sleep before my head hit the pillow.

A bicycling team was training on the hill as well tonight. Up the hill they weren't going much faster than me. On one really steep section, I think I may have been going faster than they were able to. Downhill was another story. These guys were flying. Without even pedaling they had to be going 40 miles per hour. I appreciated their company and encouragement.

Running the hills wasn't the plan today. The plan was to get up early in the morning and run around a lake near the hotel where I was staying. I enjoy exploring new places and it would have been about a 13 mile run round trip. But, I woke up in my room this morning and it was completely dark. I felt really rested. I looked at the clock because I was curious what time it was. It said 9:03. Oops. I was supposed to be somewhere at 8:15 and I was scheduled to be running by 5:30. I don't even remember the last time I have slept past 8:00. Benjamin and David and a busy schedule take care of that.

So I showed up fashionably late for my meeting. I came during the first break so nobody seemed to either notice or care. I wanted to run, so I ate a normal lunch and skipped dinner. I waited for it to cool down a little bit and enjoyed an evening run. Looking back, it was a good day. I got extra sleep. My nine hour meeting was turned into a seven hour meeting. I missed the early morning run around the lake, but I got to run the hills one more time. It would seem that the best life isn't holding to a rigid schedule, but but having a simple openness and a readiness of the heart to embrace whatever the day brings.

Faith seems to be this way as well. Faith has very little to do with a rigid set of dogmatic beliefs on complex issues that intelligent theologians have disagreed about for centuries. Faith is more or less something like this confession: God, I don't know everything and trust that I never will on this side of the grave. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I don't even know what the rest of today will bring, but I am open and I am ready to embrace whatever the present and the future holds because I know You are with me.

Here is a picture from the top of Mt. Sequoyah. The picture I took turned I really bad, so this is a picture taken by somebody who actually knows how to take pictures.

Climbing Mt. Sequoyah

I am in Fayetteville, Arkansas at Mt. Sequoyah this week for a denominational meeting. Tonight’s run was absolutely brutal. Because of my schedule, I had to run this evening. The temperature and humidity was 85 degrees and very sticky. And Mt. Sequoyah lived up to its name.

I ran just over 11 miles tonight at a not-so-fast nine minutes per mile. I was working hard at the end of the run to keep it sub nine. During the run I climbed over 4,000 feet. One of the hills was over a mile long and had an average grade of 8%. As a comparison, Heartbreak Hill in Boston is less than a half-mile long with a grade of 4%. One hill was only 200 meters long, but its grade was over 12%. At the top of the hill my pulse was 182 and I was running slower than 10 minutes per mile. Tonight’s run was like running on a treadmill in a warm bathroom where somebody is taking a hot shower. I was totally drenched a few minutes into the run.

Most of my running is done early in the morning around a lake with friends. I enjoy these runs. The air is usually crisp and cool. The lake is peaceful and beautiful and flat. The friends are funny and insightful.

Tonight’s run was different. I was alone. It was sunny and hot and muggy. Although the hills were peaceful and beautiful—they were not flat.

With each hill I had to fight the limitations that God gave me. I had to battle God’s creation as well. Each hill I ascended was a victory. The view from the top of the last hill was incredible. It was getting dark and I got to look down on the lights of the city.

We all have limitations and we all have challenges. Determination and God’s presence gets us to the top of the hill despite our limitations. Paul writes about this:

So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses. -2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Instead of avoiding limitations and challenges, it is best to embrace them and overcome them. Accomplishment always beats avoidance. Overcoming is a better alternative than being overwhelmed. The view from the top looking at the bottom is much better than the view from the bottom looking at the top. And there is almost nothing like the power of God working through our limitations to overcome challenges.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

New Beginnings

I’m back. It is hard to believe that Boston was three weeks ago. Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday. Sometimes it seems like it was a year ago.

The last three weeks have involved lots of rest. I have run not-as-long and not-as-hard and not-as-often. I have taken a break from writing. I have enjoyed not having to get up early in the morning if I don’t want to. I have enjoyed waking up and not wondering which parts of my body are going to be sore. I have enjoyed having a little more free time. I have enjoyed eating ribs and burgers and onions rings and key lime pies.

All that changes today. I have missed some things. I have missed being focused. I have missed challenging myself. I have missed the time alone with God. I have missed my training partners. I have missed the endorphins. I have missed being structured. I have missed training for a marathon.

Last night I registered for the Twin Cities Marathon which will be run on October 7th. This morning I started my 22 week training plan.

I ran 4 laps around the east side of Lake Zorinsky (the bridge at 168th was flooded) plus a little extra to make it an even 18 miles. I ran for about 2 hours and 15 minutes and averaged just under 7:30 per mile. I did the last 10 miles with Maureen. It was good to run with her again—I hadn’t run with her for a while.

New beginnings are exciting. In the church we have a word for new beginnings. The word is “resurrection.” Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and gave Lazarus resurrection (John 11:38-44). Like Lazarus, Jesus was resurrected from the dead. It was a new beginning for Jesus. And for the rest of us life hasn’t been the same ever since. For followers of Jesus, death has never been the same either.

Resurrection can happen in our lives. It happens to the runner with a new goal. It happens to the dead person who is now alive. And it can happen to us.

Perhaps you need resurrection from an addiction or resurrection in a relationship. Or maybe it is a resurrection in physical health. Or maybe it is resurrection for purpose in life. The possibilities of new life and resurrection are almost endless.

So dream about new life. Take the first step. It is the most important step and the most difficult step. Know that new life is possible because God says it’s possible (Philippians 4:13).