Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This weekend's sermon.

September 25, 2016
Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Today’s readings overflow with a central theme: recognizing that all we have is a gift from God and what we do with it is an expression of our faith in God – lies at the center of a life of discipleship. St. Augustine in his writings differentiated between the terms “use” and “enjoy.” God gives us the things of this world to use for our benefit and the benefit of our neighbors, not to enjoy as ends in themselves.

The only true object of our enjoyment, in this ultimate sense, is our relationship with God. Both Amos 6 and 1 Timothy 6 illustrate Augustine’s point that it is to our detriment that we fall to the temptation to view wealth and possessions as ends rather than as means to the greater end of living as God’s agents of blessing to those around us.

Surely that is the great tragedy of the unnamed rich man in Jesus’ story. He has been so blinded – we could even say, intoxicated – by the abundance of his material possessions that he fails to notice the proximity of one of God’s creatures in need. This story is perhaps the most prime example of the great reversal of fortunes that is a central theme of Luke’s gospel. We hear about this reversal from the very beginning of the Gospel, when Mary sings her song that the lowly shall be lifted up, the rich sent away empty….We know from that point that Luke’s gospel will have a theme that God will turn the world upside down.  (the world turned upside down….)

The rich man had a life. No doubt he had the benefits of religious instruction. He heard the part about his abundance being a sign of God’s blessing. He missed, however, the lesson about those blessings having a purpose. As a result he never got to experience the greatest joy that wealth and possessions bring; namely, the joy of using these things for the sake of others, especially those in need of a tangible reminder of God’s never-failing love.

It seems to me that part of what is at stake in Jesus' parable is the link between our wellbeing and that of others. If we cannot feel compassion for others we have lost something that is deeply and genuinely human. In time, the wealth that has numbed us to the need of our neighbor deludes us into imagining that we ourselves have no need, are sufficient unto ourselves, and can easily substitute hard work and a little luck for grace and mercy. At that point, we are, indeed, lost.

But I think the reverse is also true – that as we become more responsive to the hurts, hopes, and needs of others we become more acutely aware of our own humanity, of our own longings and insufficiency and thereby can appreciate God's offer of manifest grace in Christ, the one who took on our need, our humanity, our lot and our life, all in order to show us God's profound love for each and all of us.

We, too, have the law and the prophets to direct us to care for the needs of our neighbor. Yet deep down I suspect that when confronted by the One who was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification we might just be cajoled from our numbness and drawn back into relationship with both God and each other. At least I hope so. Or, maybe I should say, I trust God to make it so.

What does it take…to see the transforming love of the resurrection in our lives?  In our world?  How are we called to proclaim a word love love…a word of grace…a word of forgiveness to a divided nation and a hurting world? 

The good news is that God has given us all the gifts we need…God has provided us with all that we need…God is taking care of us by giving to us the means, the time, the talents and the treasures to continue on God’s mission in the world around us.   

Here’s a story that you may have heard before….but in a way it echoes our gospel lesson for today. 

The rains had begun and a flood warning was in effect.  The police were driving through the neighborhood evacuating people from their homes before the waters began to rise.  They knocked on a door…and the man who answered it said, oh, don’t worry about me.  God will take care of me.  They urged him to leave his house, but firm in his faith, the man remained at home. 

Several hours later the man was on his porch and a boat came by, rallying the last of the people still in their homes.  They urged the man to get in the boat, but he said, nope.  I have a strong faith, and God always takes care of God’s people, God will keep me safe, God has saved people in worse situations, God will save me.  Try as they might, the rescuers could not get the man to get in the boat.  So they motored away. 

In the evening, the waters had nearly covered all the houses in the neighborhood.  Yet before nightfall, a helicopter was flying around to make sure everyone had been evacuated.  They flew over the man’s house and shouted down to him, as he was now on the roof, and said…hey, climb up the ladder, we’ll save you…the waters are expected to rise through the night, you MUST come with us!  The man was still insistent that God would save him and he refused to climb into the helicopter. 
Well, the waters did rise through the night, and the man remained with his house, and drowned. 

When he got to heaven, as we all do, saved by God’s grace and all, he said, hey…I had firm faith.  I knew that you would save me…I waited and waited and waited…and you never came to get me. 

God said to him, I sent a police car, a boat and a helicopter…what more did you want? 

Similar to the parable….we hear that God has sent prophets to teach and preach to us about the abundance in our lives and how we are called to share that with others. 

It’s not just about having faith….it’s about trusting in that faith that we are able to think about others…to open our hearts and minds to the needs of others in our community and world.   And when our hearts and minds and eyes are opened…we will be transformed.  We will know the healing power and saving grace of a God full of love and compassion.  We will be moved to share that love and grace in our world, so that others may know it…feel it….and see it around them. 

Having faith is one thing…but we don’t just hope and pray that it will keep us from trouble and harm’s way.  We have the faith and the gifts from God to continue God’s mission in this community through this congregation. 

We are called to use what we have, what we have been given by God, to continue to share God’s grace and love with others.  We cannot just hope and pray that the time, talents and treasures will come from somewhere…we have all that we need…how will we respond out of this abundance? 

And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A trip, a fall and a break.

Last Saturday, on my long run of what should have been 15 miles, I tripped.  

Just over 14 miles in...back in town (thankfully) I met with some uneven sidewalk and went down.  
Luckily I could get right back up.  It was probably a combination of the shock and the desire to just be done that got me across the street and allowed me to jog the few blocks home.  

I was a sight to see.  Both knees scraped, my left elbow and palm scraped, and a scrape on my right forearm.  I am thankful that neither my face nor head hit cement.  

The day after the fall my upper arms were achy.  

I tried some elliptical on Tuesday and it was okay, but not great.  

I have not run since Saturday.  I'm getting antsy.  

But while I recover from the fall, I'm also very aware that my body needs time to heal.  

The bruising is beginning to show on my left knee and the scrape on my right knee is in need of more healing.  So I'll wait to run.  

And while I wait, I have some things to think about.  

Truth 1: I've been struggling a lot this training plan.  
Not as much physically as mentally.  I'm running the training runs in the times I should be, I just don't feel the joy that I have in the past.  And that's the biggest struggle....when it's not a joy to go out for a run, then I have to work that much harder to make it feel good.  When I feel like I'm working harder then I am not able to let my thoughts and prayers fly freely to clear my head and my heart.  What used to be a time of freedom and joy feels more like a chore.  

Don't get me wrong, I know that training for a marathon is work.  I know that it can be grueling.  I know that it will take its toll mentally and physically.  But this is more than finding myself in a rut.  It seems that this feeling has been with me since the first week of training.  

Truth 2: There is a bit of joy.  The joy I do feel is when I am in the middle of a speed workout.  When it's me and the track and a stop watch.  I can push and push and laugh and feel great.  

Truth 3:  I absolutely LOVED the triathlon training and my first tri this summer.  It was a new set of workouts.  It got me out of old training routines.  It was great for my body.  The tri itself was an amazing experience and a joy filled day.  

Truth 4: Last year I PR-ed 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and full marathon.  (It was a pretty great year for me, race-wise.)  I know that I am not at that caliber right now.  That is part of the nagging feeling I have right now....that I'm not as fit as I was last year.  The other side to this is my weight.  The numbers on the scale have gone up this past year and I'm feeling that in my training and seeing it in some not great eating habits.  

I've always thought to myself, if it's not fun, why do it? 

I will say, up until this fall running has provided joy, a time for prayer and reflection and some time during my day for solitude and mental rest, not to mention great exercise and endorphins!  

Where does that leave me?  I'm not sure.  

I share this because I feel that my running and general fitness is a part of who I am in the community and at Trinity. I want to be honest with people, especially people who continue to encourage and support me in all that I do.  I share this because it's a tough time for me right now and I feel that I have some discerning to do about upcoming races and training.  I have had these thoughts over the past months but the recent injury and recent conversations with friends has helped me put my thoughts into words.  

I guess I share this, too, to be real that sometimes feelings change and our own reactions to things we have done with joy in the past may change...and when that happens, it's okay to think about it, pray about it and talk with friends about it as you figure out what happens next.  

Thanks for listening....

I'll keep you posted.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Positive attitude.

I receive daily emails from a parishioner that help me start my day with a quote.  This was from Friday's email:

You must not allow yourself to dwell for a single moment on any kind of negative thought.  Emmet Fox

Now here's the thing...over the weekend I struggled through an 11 mile run.  I am three weeks into marathon training and the distance increases each Saturday for my long runs.  It was a really tough run.  Yes, the sun was shining, but it wasn't super hot.  The humidity was a factor, though.  
My husband (aka - coach, personal race photographer and sag wagon) was along for the less than epic run.  At one point I said, I can't do this.  He said, "you are doing this." I said, "You're right....I don't know why I'm letting the negative win."He said, "You've been telling yourself this was gonna be tough since yesterday...."
I said, "Yup." I was already worried about humidity and temperature.  I was comparing myself to where I was in training last year...and I was dreading the double digit distance.  Mentally, this run was very hard.  Physically, I felt it, too....my quads reminded me of the distance all day yesterday.  ;) 
Billy reminded me that I needed to pick a training plan and stick with it.  I have one...and I need to not compare myself now to where I was last year.  I took some time after the run (over the weekend) to think about last week's training.  
On Monday I enjoyed 4 miles with folks from my gym's running club....after I biked for 20 minutes.  This week....no biking before tonight's run.  Stick to the schedule.  
On Tuesday I enjoyed some time on the elliptical followed by the beginner yoga class.  Perfect end to the day.  
On Wednesday morning I rocked out on the track and nailed 10X400! I also jogged around the school with 3 pips collecting Pokemons as part of UpTempo that evening....
On Thursday, I had the option of 30 minutes of jogging or a rest day. A rest day it was.  
On Friday I did 35 minutes on the elliptical, just what was on the schedule.  
And Saturday was the 11 miler.  
Now, looking back at last week...I can make some changes for this week.  First of all, I will stick to the schedule.  Just a run tonight - nothing extra is needed.  
Tomorrow, I'll do some cross training and some light weights. Wednesday I am looking forward to more speed work....clearly this is where I am excelling right now.  The track workouts have felt great! That is a huge positive for me!  And with school back in session, we no longer have UpTempo...which is a bummer, but it also means I won't have any extra running or jogging on a speed day.
Thursday is a rest of jog day, I'll see how the quads feel the day after 12X400.
Friday, some easy cross training...maybe a bike ride with Billy.
And Saturday....well, bring on 13 miles!
I am working on getting to bed earlier as well as constant hydration.  

And....staying positive....when running and when I'm thinking about running.

No space for the negative.

Thanks, John, for this quote, it's shaping my day in a new way today.  

You must not allow yourself to dwell for a single moment on any kind of negative thought. Emmet Fox

Until the next post....

Monday, August 15, 2016

Running the race of faith...

August 14, 2016
13th Sunday after Pentecost

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

“And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”

If you’ve had the chance to get to know me over the past few years, you know that I’m a runner.  I’ve dabbled in many a community 5K race, I’ve run several ½ marathons as well as a few marathons.  This summer I branched out and completed my first triathlon. 

As I’ve worked with different training plans, run with friends and helped coach a youth running club.  I guess you could say that I enjoy running. 

But here’s the thing, it isn’t all joy and celebrations.  And let me tell you, not every run is wonderful, some of them are downright painful and slightly ugly. 

On the day I was working on this sermon, I went for a run without headphones, so I could just run and pray and ponder this sermon.  I didn’t really want to know how fast I was going, but I did wear my Garmin just to track the run itself.  Only a week and a half had passed since the triathlon so I wasn’t in any specific training plan, but when my watch beeped one mile I looked at it and was disappointed.  I was moving slower than I thought I was.  I stopped.  And then all those negative voices popped into my head.  

You know, so and so is in training and busted out a fast long run this week.  Just a week and a half ago this run would have been after a swim and a bike ride….what the heck?  I thought of others and their skills and dedication and stamina….and I got lost in that for a second, until I remembered something.  These people have told me time and again that I am an inspiration….I encourage them!!  I wrestled with that thought for a moment and looked down at my wrist, to the bracelet that says, “you got this.”  I said it out loud 3 or 4 times, pressed start on my watch and kept running. 

As I slowly took one step after the other, I reminded myself that not every run is a perfect run and that the run I was in the middle of was just about getting out for a run.  I reminded myself that when we do not feel strong enough, brave enough or that we have enough faith there are others around to give us strength, bravery and to believe for us.  Those people make up the great cloud of witnesses that surround us each and every day. 

As I looked down at my wrist and said, “you got this.” I also saw the cross bracelet that I wear every day.  I knew that I could do the run because it wasn’t me…but it was the strength and presence of God with me to carry me through it. 

Now, don’t worry if you’re not into running or racing.  If your idea of a triathlon is pizza, movie, nap…there is still a connection to this text for you…because here’s the thing, it’s not about an actually road race. 

This race that the writer of Hebrews talks about is different from all others. 

The course is not set out with chalk arrows and volunteers telling you which way to go…the course is marked by Christ, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” 

This race is one that only Jesus has run to its end, though by doing so has made it possible for all others to follow. 

As Jesus ran this race, he didn’t hit “the wall” which many distance runners talk about hitting and feeling like they cannot move one more step.  The primary obstacle Jesus faced  was the shame of the cross, which is vanquished by the power of the resurrection. 

As we follow Christ crucified and risen, we are led through the obstacles of life which challenge us, stop us, scare us, but they are obstacles we can face because we know of the love and grace of God in our lives.  We know that at the end of this race, this course of life, awaits Christ, enthroned at the right hand of God. 

That my friends will be an incredible, picture perfect finish.  Arms up, ready to be embraced by our heavenly father, knowing that God has been with us every step of the way. 

Following Christ does not mean a life that is smooth sailing, full of smiles and sunshine every day.  Having and experiencing faith in our lives does not make our lives easier…it does, however, make a huge difference in the everydayness of our lives. 

We know the obstacles the Christ faced for us. 
We know that the obstacles we face…sickness, illness, grief, the loss of our jobs, broken families, even death…are ones that Christ faced for us on the cross…and we know that that great cloud of witnesses is cheering us on, letting us cry, holding us up, and believing for us when we have questions or doubt. 

Following Christ does not require you to run marathons…but is does challenge us to have the mindset of a marathon runner…rather than that of a sprinter.  This is a long course….but God has already promised a lifelong relationship with us and will be with us the entire way.   And by lifelong…God means eternally. 

When the last of the runners make it across the finish line, Hebrews suggests, the stands of the stadium will empty. The city of the living God, made up of “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” will form around the enthroned Christ and “innumerable angels in festal gathering” (12:22). Sin, suffering, death -- all the enemies of God -- will be no more. Remarkably, this on-going “perfect” worship of God is mediated a high priest who is Christ himself (6:20; 5:2). (Heen)

That, to me, sounds like one AMAZING post-race party! 

As I neared the last turn of the run portion of the triathlon there was a woman on the side cheering people on.  She shouted, “Leave it on the course!  Don’t take it home with you!” 
It was just the cheer I needed as I rounded the last turn, had the finish line in sight and saw my family waving and cheering!  My arms went up, this is my finishing stance.  I knew there was nothing I needed to take home with me…the training had gotten me there, the crowds spurred my on through water, road and path, and I could give it all right there and then…and in that moment, I realized that it had been the perfect race.  I trained just right, paced myself well through the swim and bike so I was able to do what I do best, run. 

And isn’t that the joy and feelings we seek out in our faith lives?  The fact that we know that we can rest in the arms of God, knowing that we can give and use all that we have been given…that we need to take nothing with us…because God has prepared the way, shown us the path through Christ and cheers us on with all the saints as we take each step. 

The joy in our lives of faith is living as created and called children of God, loving, caring for and supporting others…knowing that because of God’s love for all of God’s children that love, care and support is given to us when we are in need. 

Called by Christ, gathered in grace, let us go forth to joyfully serve those around us…and may the peace which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.  

Week one = done.

Last week was the beginning of marathon training.  It was a challenge to kick off on vacation. I wanted to stay up late and watch the meteor showers each night but that made early morning sunrises and runs tricky.  
The bonus? Cross training day wa splaying in the lake.  

Here are a few snapshots from last week:

Day one- 40 min jog.  

Speed day: a view of my last 400m sprint. 

And my first long run in a while - 7 miles on a hot and humid morning.  This was my cool down. 

Back home again means some healthier eating and a return to a regular sleep schedule.  These are all good things for marathon training.  

A week away with family with laughter, late nights, great food, sunrise filled mornings and space to just be me...well, that is just what my body and soul needed in general. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What's next?

Last week's great triathlon experience meant many stories about the day, many accolades and lots of hugs and smiles.  Often following the words of congrats came the question, "So, what's next?"

I've thought about that question often since I came down from the high of the triathlon.  I'd love to do another triathlon this summer/fall.  I looked into races over the next few months and between race schedules and my schedule it looks like one triathlon for 2016. 

The other piece to that is that my next scheduled race is the Rehoboth Marathon in December.  In just over a week, training begins for that.  I will use swimming as my cross training as long as the pool is open.  Swimming has been a great strength building exercise for me.  It is nice to be off my legs for cross training and it has taken me out of my comfort zone. 

Speaking of being outside of my comfort zone, I swam a mile today.  I heard about the Blue Marsh Mile on Wednesday and learned that I could show up this morning, register and swim.....so I did.  I defaulted to my comfort zone of the breaststroke, but I completed the distance.  I know that for next year's triathlons, I need to work on my open water swimming.  I need to just get out there and practice.  I have the ability...and the strength, it's just overcoming the uncertainty of freestyle in open water. 

I'll get there...one swim at a time. 

With the marathon on the horizon, I'll spend more time running with a focus on endurance, speed and stamina.  I plan on integrating strength training and a focus on diet as well.  I'm excited to return to Rehoboth with a knowledge of the course and race day details. 

Will there be more triathlons in my future?  Heck yeah there will be...but there is plenty of time to think about and prep for those.  In the meantime, I'll run. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tri it....you'll LOVE it!

I competed in my first triathlon today.
Let me tell you the New Jersey State Triathlon is a great one!  I had an amazing experience.

The last 6+ weeks I have been training for this day.  This past week was a tough one.  Mentally I couldn't stop thinking about race day.  I was worried about getting checked in, figuring out the transition space, the swim, completing the race...you know....all the first time jitters.

I was thankful to pick up my race packet yesterday, see the lay of the land and attend the pre-race meeting.

I also enjoyed a tasty dinner with mom, dad and Billy.  Meeting up with an old friend was just icing on the cake. 

Today started off early...but I was ready.

We made it to the start ahead of traffic, I got my things situated in the transition area, and got to eat some breakfast.  I headed to the water for the pre-race warm up swim just to get a feel for the water.  It was warm, but worth getting in just to remind myself that I know how to swim.  After that I was ready to go!

When my wave was called into the water, I got hugs and cheers from mom and dad.  It made my day!  I was so excited that I rushed in with the crowd...and forgot the tip of staying to the back of the pack.  When we started, I was pretty much in the middle....and I tried freestyle, but kept getting bumped.  So I went with my comfort zone of breaststroke.  I knew I had the stamina for the swim, but being able to sight better with the breaststroke and have good look at who was around me was a good thing.  It was then that I remembered my original game plan: get through the swim, enjoy the ride and embrace the run.  I had decent speed with the breaststroke and knew that I would get to the end of the swim not winded.

As I ran out of the water my family saw a smile on my face.  I think I was smiling because the swim was over...but I was also smiling because I was having a good time.  I was doing my first triathlon!

It took a bit to get the bike shorts over the wet bathing suit, but as I did my family cheered from the other side of the transition fence.  Everything was laid out just right for me and sitting down to get that gear on was worth it.

The bike ride went smoothly.  I was worried about passing and being too close to riders in front of me, but it all went well.  I sipped on gatorade and when I knew I was just about done with the ride, I took my gel pack with some water so I wouldn't have to deal with it on the run.

At the end of the ride I had a quick transition to the run....with more cheering from my family.
The run course took me right by Billy and my dad for some great photo ops and fun video.

The run in a word was HOT!  I had hoped to really enjoy the run, seeing as that is my strong suit, but I just ran and thought of as many cool things as I could.  I walked through water stops to continue hydrating and to keep as cool as possible and then just kept running.  I didn't want to push to hard and get overheated...my goal was to finish.  I was hydrated enough that I could keep going.  As we hit the last stretch, I was excited that I was completing my first triathlon!  Just before the last turn a woman shouted, use it all, don't take it home with you!  And I thought...heck yeah...and I kicked in for the last bit!  I came around that corner pumped and ready to finish...I caught sight of my family and my smile took over my face, my arms went up and I was so excited!

My two goals going into today were to finish and to finish in less than 2 hours.  I'm happy to say I finished feeling AMAZING and I did it in under 1 & 1/2 hours!  Woo hoo! 

A HUGE thank you to mom & dad for driving down, for the pre and post race meals and for being amazing spectators!   
A special thanks to Billy, the best husband and personal race photographer there is!  Love you, babe!