Going Long With Jesus

In my quest to finish a half marathon in less than 2 hours I've chosen a training plan that I follow weekly. Supposedly, if I do everything this training plan recommends, I will meet my goal. We'll see.

Yesterday the plan called for my weekly LSD. Now I can think of 3 or 4 nonrunners reading this who will make a really incorrect assumption about what LSD stands for: long, slow distance. Specifically, the plan called for a total of 9 miles, 6 at goal half marathon pace, and 3 *easy* miles (someday I'll blog about that elusive term). The plan did not call for a thunderstorm during the last 2 miles, but that's what we got.

Now I'm not sure I've mentioned much about my running partner - on the road and in life - so let me introduce Bill. He's my wonderful husband of 24 years and we've been running together since I did my first 5k in 1989. He's a much better runner than I, but these days his focus is primarily on triathlons. He's not afraid of lightning.

So let me set the scene: we've already done 6 miles at my goal half marathon pace, and if those miles had been easy and comfortable, they wouldn't be my goal pace. So by the time I got to these last 3 miles, I was dragging a bit. Now sometimes dark storm clouds are an excellent incentive to run faster, but yesterday when I first heard rolling thunder I decided it would be a good idea to duck into a friend's garage and wait out the storm. Bill didn't think that was a good idea. He's been through ranger training with the military, and he's not afraid of running in some lightning. He insisted that the storm was way over there indicating an area about 5 blocks away. Not far away enough for me.

In the end Bill's reasoning prevailed and I ran the rest of the way home in the storm. And although it was a miserable finish to an otherwise pretty good training run, I'm still glad I finished it.

Pulling off my soaking clothes and sneakers on the front porch I thought about the very obvious analogy here: I relied on my faith in God to get me home safely in the storm. Did I pray while those lightning bolts crackled through the sky even if they weren't exactly striking the ground around me? You bet I did. Because other than ducking into my friend's garage or some other shelter, I had no protection from the elements until I got home.

And this is just one of so many situations we might find ourselves in, fearful, with nothing and no one around to help us. The Bible contains some awesome, strong words to cling to in these times: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Josh 1:9. Now God spoke these words to Joshua in a much more significant situation than I was in yesterday, but they can be invoked by anyone at anytime.

I believe that God really wants us to rely on Him whatever our circumstances. We've never gotten ourselves in too big of a mess or too hopeless of a situation to seek his protection, and he promises to be with us wherever we go. Isn't that an amazing comfort? When there isn't anyone else to turn to, God is still with us. Even on our weekly LSD, when we are silly enough to be running around in a thunderstorm.

Going the Distance With Jesus

So last week I ran the 5k I posted about simulating with my running group. It went fine, considering the conditions: hot and crowded. Somehow every year thunderstorms threaten this race, and this year was no exception. Lightning cracked through the sky a few miles away while the runners milled around before lining up. You can't fight tradition.

I ran a better race than I expected, in no small part because I ran the course the day before. I knew where the hills were, when to conserve energy and just hang tough, and when to go all out. The benefit of knowing this particular course is knowing how long the pain of running uphill will last. Since running is partially a mental discipline, its a big advantage when you can tell yourself that the struggle is almost over, the hill levels out on the next block, or in a hundred yards, or whatever. The point is that there is comfort in knowing when we will reach the finish line and the physical trial will be over. O-Vah!

If only that was true in life, right? How many crises have you walked through without knowing when, or if, they would end? When would we wake up to a better, happier day? When would we wake up feeling physically or mentally better? When would we wake up not wanting to drink or use drugs or smoke or overeat? If we knew in advance the exact number of days in our struggle, we could appropriate our energy, resources, finances, etc., in such a way that they would last as long as we needed.

I remember the stabbing pain in my gut when my youngest child died. The thing I remember most clearly in those early days is wanting to put time - lots and lots of time - between me and Matthew's death because I knew that eventually the pain would fade; I wouldn't always feel that piercing pain. And I did eventually feel better, but it took a long time; much longer than I expected. And it was more difficult than I expected. Those first few months after Matthew died I cried, I drank, I took drugs...I did everything I could think of to numb that stabbing pain. And I was angry as heck with God. There were days when I thought I might spend the rest of my life feeling this desperate pain.

In Romans 8:18, Paul writes: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." One day I found this verse and I have, ever since, held on to it for dear life. Sometimes these present sufferings feel unbearable, whether its the emotional pain of losing a child, a marriage, or a job. With nothing more to rely on than my faith, I am comforted by this fact. I don't know how or when this glory will come and wash away the sufferings of this life, I just look forward to it. The thought sustains me.

One of the great comforts in running is that, happily, we know when the suffering will end. We can look at the course map for elevation to see how long and how steep are the uphills. There is a set distance, and we know it at the starting line. In my recent 5k, I passed the 2 mile mark at about 18 minutes, and, expecting it to take me a total of 27 minutes to complete the course, I could figure out that 1) I was more than half way finished, and, 2) I only had to run for about 9 more minutes, give or take a few seconds. And I've run enough races to know that pretty much as soon as I stop running, I'm fine. Within a few minutes my breathing slows down, the sweat stops, and I'm back to normal.

But imagine signing up, and showing up, for a race and having no idea of the distance? Could be a 5k, could be a marathon, we don't know. We're just told to show up with our running shoes. That's pretty much what God has asked us to do, to trust Him that we will be able to run the distance, finish the race, and that when it's over, the finisher's medal will be...wow! Beyond anything we can imagine!

When the race gets tough, its a great to know that one way or another it will eventually be over. In life, we have to trust that our suffering will eventually end. Yes, believe me I know, this can be incredibly challenging. But there's no alternative, is there?. We must believe that God has something planned for us that will make our suffering here on earth seem not quite trivial, but certainly inconsequential given what He has in store for us. If we don't believe this, well, what's the point?

We don't know why suffering happens in this lifetime, but it certainly does. Why not take comfort where it is offered, in the knowledge that it will end, and when it does, we will wear the glory!

Simulating the Race

Today I ran with my regular Tuesday morning running group. We ran the exact route that tomorrow's 5k will follow. Our race simulation reminded me that most of the second mile of this course is uphill. It's not a steep uphill, just a long, slow uphill. And at the end of that uphill, the course passes dangerously close to my house. Last year, I thought seriously for a few seconds about leaving the course and walking the two or so blocks home, to air-conditioning and a cold drink. But I knew I that once my heart rate dropped below a dozen beats per second and I extinguished the fire in my quadraceps, I wouldn't be able to deal with the shame of a DNF next to my name at a 5k. So I forged forward for the final mile.

The truth is, I don't particularly enjoy running races. Yet I have a friend who loves it so much that she carries a little datebook to record her upcoming events and if you flip through it, she's got 2 or 3 races penciled in each weekend. I wish her enthusiasm would rub off on me. Of course, she usually wins and I, well, I usually...finish. Its probably more fun when you win.

Sometimes, especially during a race, I wonder why we all go out to run the race when only one person [of each sex, in each age group] will actually win it. In 1 Cor. 9:24, Paul writes "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."

There are many different reasons to run a race, and I'll bet winning doesn't motivate many runners. It's just not a realistic goal for many of us. We try to run faster than our last race. We try to qualify for more elite events that have qualifying times. We need more tech race shirts.
Whatever the motivator, once we toe the starting line, the goal becomes to run in such a way that we can obtain whatever our goal is for that event.

It's a good idea to approach our Christian life the same way - with goals and a plan to achieve them. I have an open-ended goal, every day, to tell as many people as I can about Jesus Christ. Another goal is to keep my testimony intact by not saying or doing anything that would reflect poorly on me, my family, my church, my pastor, my community, or my relationship with God. In other words, I try not to make stupid decisions, no matter how inconsequential they seem at that moment.

Next comes the difficult part of Paul's message: living our lives in such a way that we can obtain those goals. Getting the word out is difficult, especially for those of us who can't get our face on camera wearing eyeblack with Bible verses. We have to get more creative. And it can be, well, just plain awkward. Like when was the last time you found a way to mention that Jesus Christ is your lord and savior while pushing your kids on the swings at the playground? or while grocery shopping? or during Zumba class at the gym? And let's not even mention Bunko.

But the fact is that Jesus wants us to tell everyone about Him, all the time. In his gospel Mark recorded Jesus's direction to "[g]o into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Mark 16:15. There are numerous other citations for this same instruction, but you get it - Jesus wants everyone to know about Him!

To the extent that I tell someone about Jesus today, no matter how inartful my words or awkward the moment, I have run my race in such a way as to win the prize! So who are YOU going to tell about Jesus today? How are you going to run so you win the prize you seek?

Running With An Obsessive Thought

I have an obsessive personality, and I know I'm not alone. In fact, I think all runners are born with an extra OCD chromosome. It's why we set the alarm to rise before the sun for 3 or 4 quick miles before work, why we lace up our sneaks when its the last thing we feel like doing but our training program calls for 6 miles at tempo, and why we keep running when our legs would much prefer that we stop. Immediately.

Somewhere in training we must develop the ability to keep running beyond the point where our lungs feel like an over-inflated balloon about to burst. Having a power song or mantra helps. Starting at about the 20th mile of the NYC Marathon in 1992, when I started to really struggle, I sang the second verse of Wild, Wild Life by the Talking Heads over and over. The next thing I knew, I was heading into Central Park.

So, happily, my obsessive thinking had a positive use that day.

Unfortunately, however, this same thinking can be used for my own destruction. A thought can get stuck in my head for hours, even days. And do I have to tell you that the thought usually isn't something like, "Wow! I look positively fabulous today!"

Nope. The thoughts that I ruminate on are pretty much entirely negative. For example, I used to practice law. Even though its been close to 5 years since I stepped foot in a courtroom, I can still recall, ever so clearly, getting royally and painfully chewed out by a bankruptcy judge in 2005 before a client and about 20 of my peers. Ouch. The briefest reminder of that incident can cause my mind to quickly pull up that tape from the archives and replay that incident for hours. I can be momentarily distracted, but my mind will quickly return to that unpleasant loop of painful thinking. It's a mental flogging.

We've all said unfortunate things, lost control of our bodily functions, or just plain acted like an idiot. For those of us who are obsessive thinkers, however, these instances can haunt us for years.

Fortunately, I found something in the Bible to virtually eliminate this, at least for me. In Psalm 103, David writes about the Lord's mercies. Specifically, in v12, the Psalmist says, "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Now, many of the thoughts that haunt me are not transgressions. No matter; the point is that we are as far removed as New Jersey from California when it comes to those unfortunate things we've said and done. And if God is capable of putting that kind of distance between us and our sins for which He died, wow! How much more geography would He be willing to put between us and simply an unfortunate choice of words or actions?

Clearly, God is not in the hostage-taking business, and neither should we be. He is able and 100% willing, to overlook our wrongdoings because He loves us. And if God is willing to offer us that kind of forgiveness, who are we to refuse it by not giving ourselves a break from destructive and disparaging thoughts?

So today, is there a thought or memory that haunts you? Does it keep you from feeling really good about yourself? If yes, isn't it time to send it westward? Ask Him to remove that painful or uncomfortable thought that holds your thinking hostage.

What's a Dance Competition, Anyway?

I haven't posted in a while. It's summer, for one thing, and for another I was recently away from home having quite a unique experience. Actually, this experience has become pretty familiar to me over the last eight years, but once upon a time, I had no idea that an entire subculture exists that revolves around...Irish Dance.

For those not "in the know," the words, "Irish Dance" may conjure up a rather pleasing image of young, red-haired girls folk dancing in peasant-like attire, hand in hand, in a green meadow, their bare porcelain-white feet accented against the lush Irish grass. Maybe you've heard the words Irish dance from a friend who has a cousin whose oldest daughter used to be an Irish dancer. Or maybe you work with someone who knows someone who has a child who is an Irish dancer. However you have come by the knowledge that a sport called Irish dance exists, if you don't know much more than that about it, consider yourself blessed. You will never purchase a costume that cost the equivalent of a modest mortgage payment on a four-bedroom house in a northeastern suburb. Check back in on my blog later in the week when I'm back to writing about Running With Jesus.

However, today I need to say just a few things about the secret, underground world of Irish dance competitions. My daughter, Kelly, and I, were introduced to the sport in 1998, when she was in kindergarten and a classmate asked if she wanted to take some dance lessons. It sounded harmless enough to me, so I paid the fifty dollars, signed a permission slip, and us parents alternated dropping them off and picking them up from the studio. As far as I was concerned, it was something to do one afternoon each week. Plus, in my attempt to grow her into a well-rounded individual, she also at various times took swim lessons, gymnastics, ballet, and soccer, none of which produced disasterous results. But my luck had run out. Clearly, I had no idea I was walking headlong into a land mine.

The trouble began in 1999, when the teacher decided to launch her first ever "Champion Development Class" and sent me a letter inviting Kelly to join. Innocently, I of course signed her up. How could I deprive my daughter the opportunity to experience her full potential as a champion dancer? Plus, I reasoned, surely the teacher must have seen in Kelly some incredible raw talent that would one day have my beautiful daughter's "feet of flames" flying across a Broadway stage as the female lead in Riverdance! Blinded by the prospective of her dazzling future in the performance arts, I happily paid an increased fee for two classes each week and started to shop for a dance dress.

Here, here is where the story takes an ugly turn. I was blindsided by a $350 used velvet fuschia dance dress adorned with Swavorski crystals, and a matching headpiece. The dress had obviously never been dry-cleaned. To me, $350 seemed quite a bit to pay for something that showed signs of several years of wear, but the teacher encouraged me. "It has a history of success," she beamed. Why, her own daughter had danced in that very dress the first time she got first place. I was an easy target. Sold! I wrote out the check, trying to ignore the grimy underarm stains and fraying around the cuffs.

That was the first of six dresses I purchased, each increasingly expensive. Kelly's most recent dress was darned near the cost of a year's tuition at the state university from which I graduated in 1985! I admit it, I am envious of the mothers whose daughters run track; they have grocery money at the end of the month. I'm on a payment plan by which I will finally own this sweat stained treasure by 2015! When I first ventured into the world of custom, handsewn dresses, I imagined an elderly Irish woman in a small stone cottage, smoke billowing from the chimney into the cold, gray night air, while inside she sat rocking in her creaky chair sewing the crystals on this dress by hand with only a dim candle lighting the room. Now that I've had three dresses made, however, I'm pretty sure this little old woman has made enough money from just the dancers in Kelly's school to hire the Irish equivalent of Michael Graves to redesign a 5th century Irish Castle where she can live with a full staff of servants to wait on her!

While the dress is, by far, the most important and most costly component of the entire Irish dance outfit, the wig, shoes and makeup cannot be overlooked. My daughter now dances as a blond, even though she is brunette, because blond hair looks better with the dress. So before she puts the wig on, she spray dyes her hair blond. You don't know about this wig of which I speak? Google it. It's too much to go into here.

Kelly's preparation time before a competition runs approximately two hours; that includes inserting about one thousand bobby pins into her wig to secure it in place tightly so it stays on while she dances. (Once you lose that wig on stage you never overlook the importance of all one thousand bobby pins again). The wig should be fastened tightly enough that hair is pulled taut along the hairline and a headache developes after about twenty minutes.

Once the wig is on, there's an amazing amount of make up to go with it. The dancers' rule of thumb is that if you look good, you aren't wearing enough! Contrast this to my preparation to run. It takes about thirty seconds to gather my hair into a ponytail; I wear no make up whatsoever. In fact, if I was wearing makeup from earlier in the day, I wash it off to avoid the Alice Cooper look at the finish line.

Since this entire dance thing is so incredibly expensive, its fortunate for my family (who likes to eat meat a few times each week) that running costs next to nothing. For example, I've graduated from cotton t-shirts to tech material and do treat myself to moisture wicking fabrics in the summer and the very warmest Polartec, Microfleece, Thermafleece in the winter. But I dare say that over the course of my entire life I won't spend anywhere near as much on running gear as I spent in 2010 for my daughter to compete in the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland!

Irish dance is a curious sport, and, as you can probably tell by now, not the one I would have picked for my daughter. That said, she has learned some really wonderful things from Irish dance. She has danced alone on a stage before five judges and a crowded theatre, and not thrown up before or after. To me, that suggests she won't be even the slightest bit flustered before any classroom, boardroom, or courtroom, presentation. And traveling to and from these competitions has given Kelly and I the opportunity to spend really great mother/daughter time together. We've laughed when she's fallen, cried when she's lost, prayed before she walked on stage, and jumped up and down cheering when she's won . But regardless of her successes and failures on the stage, I will forever treasure the wonderful closeness we've developed as a result of spending time at these competitions.

Finally, I saw a dancer at the National Championships wearing a t-shirt that said "Whatever your 100% looks like, give it." That resonated with my runner self. Whether you give your 100% on a stage or on a track, it's only important that you give it. In that single endeavor, dancers and runners might actually have a single common goal.

So what are you giving your 100% today?

Why do I keep running?

This morning on my five mile run I was reminded of why I so often link this crazy, obsessive physical discipline with my Christian life: in both, sometimes I have to force myself to keep going, for no earthly reason. The Christian life can be tough. We know the way we want to live and the decisions we want to make, but during challenging times our thinking can become clouded by the irrelevant things going on down here in this life. This earthly life. I find that's a really good time to flip to Matthew 7:13-14 and remind myself that this really is a difficult walk to be on: "narow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

That verse never fails to encourage me. But more than anything, I want to be one of those few who pass through that narrow gate and I need to remind myself of that on a regular basis. I need to focus on them, just like I focus on my running goals. Like this morning when I hit that June pavement under the blazing sun - you know, when patches of tar on the road soften and turn gummy? Following my training plan to finish a sub-2 hour half marathon this Fall no longer seemed like a big enough payoff for the sweaty agony of this run. So I had to dig really deep and remember all the reasons why I made the decision to toe the starting line to begin with.

On this particular training run, I thought about a good friend who is a far more talented runner than I. She shared with me that during a 5k race a few months ago she not only set a personal record, but was also the first female finisher overall. Yet, she confided, she ran the entire second and third miles of the course consumed with the idea of faking a heart attack or hurt leg, just so she could stop running! For her, at that moment, the pain of continuing to run a 6 minute mile felt overwhelming and she wanted to give up. She had lost sight of the trophy waiting for her at the finish line, presumably the reason she entered the race to begin with!

So today I'm thinking about how to stay on this journey even when it becomes incredibly difficult. I am humbled by Paul and Silas, who sang hymns and praised God in prison after being beaten in the center of town. Reading those verses in Acts almost makes my heart hurt. I wonder why they didn't feel like giving up in such dire circumstances while sometimes my faith is tested under far more palatable conditions.

I personally have never experienced physical pain as the price of my Christian life, and I truly thank God for that. But I have, sadly, found myself tempted in far less significant circumstances. For example, sometimes I want to spend my money really irresponsibly. Sometimes I don't want to give 10 percent of my income to anyone other than the nice mortgage company who lent us the money to buy a vacation home in Fiji! There, I said it. I daydream about friends lounging on our private beach sipping fruity alcoholic concoctions with parasols mixed by the 2010 version of Fabio.

But my financially irresponsible daydreams don't always have to be that extravagant. I can fantasize about poor financial decisions when the J.Crew catalog arrives in my mail box. After looking at pages and pages of beautiful people in beautiful clothing having a beautiful time, I want to spend 10 percent of my income - more, if necessary - on cashmere cardigans. Dozens and dozens of cashmere cardigans, layered one atop the next. And I want to wear them while standing under the Eiffel Tower, laughing, and holding the hand of a little boy wearing knickers.

When I have these thoughts, I need to quickly reacquaint myself with Jesus's admonishment not to collect treasure on this earth which can be so easily lost or eaten by moths (an especially appropriate warning for those of us thinking of investing in J. Crew cashmere cardigans) but to set our sights on treasure in His kingdom where, Jesus tells us, His father's house has many mansions. Mansions! Did John say Mansions? Yep, you heard right, mansions. But God goes even one step further: He promises us not only a mansion in heaven, but one that Jesus Himself has prepared especially for us! Build mine with a balcony overlooking the ocean, please!

But seriously, sometimes we have to dig deep to stay on this walk, so its a good idea to have a few things you can rely on when the going gets tough. When I was in a 12-step program we talked about having a tool box with phone numbers of people we could call for help, a list of meetings in our area, or some good reading material to turn to if, or more likely when, the urge to use drugs hit. This has worked to keep me clean for almost 8 years now.

Given its successful track record, I developed similar tools to keep me running. I read magazine articles about running and train with a group of women. I stretch out regularly to prevent injuries. I have a sports doctor to call when something doesn't feel quite right. And every day I spend some time reminding myself of why I run to begin with, so when the temperatures go above 80 and my muscles are sore and I don't want to take another step forward, I have something solid to focus on, to remember why I do this.

Doesn't it make sense to have the same tool box to support us on the road with Jesus? You might start by reading His book and writing down, or highlighting, some particularly meaningful verses. Or better yet, memorize them. Find a group of people who are also on this journey and keep their phone numbers handy so you can call them when you need help. I visit some awesome websites for inspirational messages. Find what works for you, but remember to use these tools daily, whether you want to, or not.

So, what tools will you put in your box to keep you running strong?

Running Away from Jesus

Even though I eventually made a decision to Run with Jesus, it wasn't that long ago that I was running away from Him, as far and as fast as I could. I hope someone out there reading this can relate, because it could save you a lot of misery. If I sifted out the philosophical junk, I could boil it down to two reasons: first, very bad things were happening in my life; second, the organized religion that I had practiced since childhood was not helping the situation in the least.

I'm not going to elaborate on the bad things that happened. Suffice it to say, we all suffer heartache. For a long time I believed that my particular pain was uniquely unbearable; no one else had ever suffered like I had.

If I could give a piece of advice here, don't do this. Put the violins down. You will only succeed in becoming even more miserable, and you will eventually alienate everyone. Enough said.

So after I was left all alone, I could only sit and wonder where the heck was the God that I had grown up believing in? How could He have let this all happen to me? I had gone to church weekly, made all the sacraments at the appropriate time, even threw a few dollars in the offering basket each week. Yet, when Patrick showed signs of having a serious neuromuscular disease and I turned to Him begging for help...nothing.

Instinctively, I tried to strike a bargain with Him. I think you know what I mean. "If Patrick could just be okay and walk, you can take MY legs. You can make me never walk again." I figured it was a fair trade, no? My legs for his. And being a distance runner who doesn't cope well with an injury that keeps me off the road for only a week or two, this was such a big sacrific I was sure God would be impressed with how badly I wanted this.

Simultaneous with negotiating this leg transfer, I also journeyed to New York City and lit candles in St. Patrick's Cathedral (okay, I live in New Jersey so it only took an hour to get to New York City, but "I hopped on the Northeast Corridor" doesn't reek of holy commitment the same way as "I journeyed"). I ordered holy water from the actual font at Our Lady of Lourdes in France and sprinkled it on Patrick's legs every night and said a special blessing over him. I prayed rosary after rosary and novena after novena.

When none of this appeared to be working, I turned to the saints, begging for their intercession. I traveled the Northeast in my car, Patrick strapped into his carseat, frantically tracking down statues of St. Jude, the helper of the hopeless, and St. Anthony, the worker of miracles, to kneel before in prayer. I even appealed to the Virgin Mary, mother to mother, since she knew all too well what it was like to see her son suffer. Surely one of them could prevail upon God to take pity and let me have my wish!

But Patrick never did walk.

And after about a year of God not delivering, I got good and angry and decided that I'd show Him. I gave up on Him. That's right. I wrote the lord and savior of the universe off as a fraud. Gutsy move, huh? Knowing Him as I do today, I imagine that God maybe chuckled out loud when I did that.

Are you familiar with the story of Jonah? God wanted him to go to Nineveh on some "special God business." Jonah wanted nothing to do with that, so he got on a boat sailing clear in the other direction, to Tarshish. And I think we all remember how this story ended...with Jonah in the belly of a great fish regretting his initial decision to run from God.

I, fortunately, didn't wind up in the belly of a great fish, but I wound up in the nonfishing industry 21st century equivalent. When God gave me an assignment to raise a handicapped child, I decided to run the other way. I didn't want to be the mother of a handicapped child. I loved Patrick dearly, but I didn't want him to be handicapped.

It turns out I had no choice. I ran, God pursued, He cornered me, and now, guess what? I'm the devoted mother of a handicapped child.

It was easier than I ever imagined it would be, seriously, to live in God's will for me. It didn't require any particular sacrifice, didn't cost anything, didn't require me to go meatless on Fridays, or include any particular television preacher in my estate planning. Don't panic, I'm not suggesting you go all Jesus-Freak or anything like that. Just think about admitting that you might not be up to taking care of whatever your particular challenge is in life on your own, and you need His help. Are you drinking more than you'd like? Is your marriage suffering a bit? Do you lust after someone or something? Are you in debt?

Many people have dropped these rocks before God and admitted that they've made a mess that they can't fix themselves. I have, more than once. But if you're anything like me, I'm sure you're reading this and thinking that it can't be that simple. Perhaps you think your problems are too difficult, too complicated, or you're too sophisticated to believe that this could possibly work. I'm not judging. I thought all those things, as well. It does work, though, and it's worth a try. It can't possibly make things any worse, right?

So...what's your rock and why don't you drop it?

Why Am I Running With Jesus?

I have difficulty with all things technical, and blogging, both conceptually and in actuality, is pretty far out of my comfort zone. I will be amazed if I am able to make what I type on this screen show up on a page entitled, "Running With Jesus." That said, I have admired my friends' abilities to manage blogspots at which they post random thoughts for anyone, or for no one at all. With the hope that someone will be reading this, I felt the need to try it out myself because there's something I want to tell you about.

The desire to create this blog is borne of many long runs during which I have reflected upon my relationship with Jesus and my strong desire for everyone to know Him like I do, especially my friends and family. The difficulty in telling people about Jesus, however, is that soon into a conversation which goes something like me saying, "Hey [brother/sister/friend], Jesus is my savior," the other person quickly excuses themselves in shock and horror, almost embarrassed for me, for bringing that up. They quickly make their getaway, and subsequently write me off as some kind of freak. Which I most definitely am not. Unless you mean of the Jesus variety. Then I guess I am. More than one person has walked away from the annual family Christmas party shaking their head and wondering, "What happened to Mo this year? She's like some...some...Jesus Freak." It's like they're afraid they've lost me.

Well, I'm not exactly sure what a Jesus Freak looks like. Back in the 1970s, I think people thought we shaved our heads and wore white robes to hand out flowers in the local airport. Nope. And I don't know who those folks were, but rest assured, I was leery of them and their creepy smiles, too. If its any consolation to those of you who have never met me in person but were just starting to enjoy reading this, people never seem to guess that I'm a Jesus Freak. I guess that's a good thing. I like to catch 'em off guard!

If people listen very carefully when I speak, though, there are clues to my true identity. For example, I never say, "Thank God!," because, let's face it, everyone says that, right? I say, "Praise God!" which makes people just a little bit uneasy but they still haven't written me off entirely. Sometimes they give me a confused nod and let the remark pass, trying not to read anything into it. And at the end of my voicemail recording, I say "have a blessed day." Unfortunately, I never get to see people's faces when they hear this, for the obvious reason, but my non-Jesus Freak friends have never asked me about it so maybe they pretend they heard it incorrectly. Whatever.

If you're still reading this despite the fact that I might be a Jesus Freak, I'm really, really glad. In future posts, I'll tell you how I became a Jesus Freak, because I wasn't always. In fact, if we can agree that Jesus is the Higher Power, well, let's just say that I used to run with the lower power, if you know what I mean. But this story isn't about me, it's about Jesus, and how He saved me from a pretty horrible existence. And by horrible, I mean horrible. So horrible, that one day it occurred to me that I was probably going to eventually kill myself. And I was okay with that. Anything seemed better than living. another. day.

Why and how I reached this level of despondency will be the source of my future posts. For now, let's just say that I couldn't face my life on its own terms, which included the diagnosis of my middle son with a progressive neuromuscular disease, and the death of my youngest son from that very same disease. Throw in there my father's death after a long battle with cancer and a propensity toward depression and addiction, and you've got all the makings of a trainwreck.

And wreck that train, I did. For almost two solid years, I drove that train off the track, off bridges, and full steam ahead into other trains. And each time, somehow, I managed to get back up, brush myself off, and live to tell about it.

Those days were a long way from Running With Jesus. But you know what? I think He had me marked. When I first started going to Zarephath Christian Church shortly after I got sober, the pastor, Rob Cruver, spoke about being pursued by Jesus. When I heard that, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Maybe I wasn't crazy, afterall. I had a target on my back and Jesus was coming after me. HE was pursuing ME!

Maybe you also have a target on your back. The very fact that you are here, reading this, might suggest that you do; that this morning, or afternoon, or whenever you're reading this, God brought you here, to my newly created blogspot, to hear my story.

Maybe today will be the start of YOUR story!