Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Part of Chapter 10- Stone's First Season

I thought I would throw one more post in- trying to tweak it a little.

            How slow could a few hours be? The hours between the end of school and a high school game are as close to eternity as it gets on earth. David turned over in his bed for the 77th time. No sleep, nothing interesting - only the slowly turning red numbers on his clock radio.
            Last year’s team had stayed at the school the entire day - but Coach Prescott believed in turning the players loose. Josh was the most pleased with the arrangements; he and several of the guys who weren’t going to play were at his house having a big time! All the starters were to stay alone, suffering the isolation of pre-game hysteria.
            Was this really just a game? He had played youth soccer and basketball, but had never felt like this. He had a premonition of what it would be like. He could visualize the electricity of the first collision; he had experienced already the gasping for air, the aching muscles. And now it was going to be multiplied beyond any previous experience- more than the spring game, more than the scrimmages, more than he could imagine.


            The sun was setting on the stadium in a beautiful orange mist that made the green of the grass seem to glow. David strolled across the grass toward the locker room carrying the equipment that would serve as his battle armor in just 2 short hours. His pensive outer covering hid the boiling madness deep within his soul. He swallowed hard, he breathed hard, and he trembled slightly with each movement.


            The drums started. Everything had seemed like practice - all the dressing, and the early pre-game. He was much looser than he would have ever guessed. The jogging, stretching, first few catches - and then the drums started.
            The beat was mesmerizing; his blood seemed to pulsate in accordance with the rhythm. It was primordial. Every hair stood at attention, his eyes sharpened their focus, his chin lifted in resolution to the purpose. It was if they were beating for him, chanting an ancient, mystical rite of passage. He didn’t think about it until later, but it was as if he were the young Indian warrior listening to the war drummed being strengthened to meet death eye to eye. The war drums were valuable - the beat drove out fear. For the first time in his life, David Stone felt invincible!


            Everything vanished when his offensive team ran onto the field. He had noticed it all earlier. He saw his teammates’ eyes during the pre-game warm-up. They all were glassy, wild eyes. He watched all the coaches during the pre-game reminders. The colors of their faces flushed with emotion. Coach Press’s veins carved highways of strength down his neck as he appealed once more to the deep stirrings within each member.
            He didn’t remember what he said, but he noticed that everyone was synchronized to the message and with a gigantic, barbaric yawp the team exploded out of the dressing room, exhilarated out of their bodies.
            David had noticed the lights, the crowd, the noise, and the activity - everything a dynamic flood of energy. The cheerleaders lined their chaotic entrance onto the field of testing. Everything was taken in, noticed, registered.... and then it all vanished.
            The crowd, cheerleaders, off the field motion stood still at the kick-off. The opponents had no faces or personality. When the game started, David forgot everything else, and when he stepped across the painted line - when he stepped on the grass of legal play- everything else vanished, including thoughts of himself.
            He stepped into the huddle.
               “Okay, guys,” Alex took charge of the group, “Let’s get it going here.  Left - 34 Read- on ‘go’.”
               Running play. David was relieved already.
               David sprinted to his spot. The defender walked up within a couple of yards. He didn’t seem to have any eyes. He wasn’t very big.
               The ball snapped and David exploded after him. They both hit good shots. In fact, David was a little stunned from the blow. The guy was small but explosive. The next play was a running play away from David and the two just ran side by side. He didn’t seem like a real person to David. Was it the equipment? He couldn’t make out facial features, like he was struggling with a shadow, or a ghost.
               Back in the huddle, David’s fear returned.
               “Right. 224 Z out.” David’s number had been dialed. ‘Break.”
               David ran on instinct. He wasn’t analyzing, he was simply responding to nerve stimuli.
               “Seeeayt. Hut!”
               David sprinted off the ball. He felt like he was in slow motion. He didn’t count his steps, but seemed to cut at the right time. He turned and saw Alex zip the object his direction.
               WHOOMPH! Step, step. David exited the field of play not even realizing that he held a trophy. The war cry went out.
               “GREAT CATCH!”
               David tossed the ball somewhere and sprinted back to the huddle! He did it! He caught a pass! It was a first down! The sideline and invisible mass applauded!
               The huddle wasn’t quite as enthused. “Nice catch, Stone.” David was beaming behind the stoic face.
               Two more running plays gained thirty yards. The team was really moving now. David had been a catalyst. The momentum was stolen the next two plays, however on an off sides penalty and an incomplete pass to a back. It was third and 15.
               “Left, 255 x-hide, on one, ready, break.”
               Pass play, but David wasn’t the primary target. He took his position and looked at the corner. Both boys were wearing signs of play. David felt that both were wearing the marks with honor.
               SNAP. David pushed off the line ten yards and cut to the inside. As he cut he noticed Alex pull the ball down and burst through a hole in the middle of the line! Five... Ten...
 He cut to the left and dodged a defender. David turned, he was a blocker now and needed to shield off the defender. His small cornerback blew right past him though and made a nice open field stop on the star quarterback!
               “Crap!” David missed his block.
               His sideline cheered. First down! And they had advanced to the opponent’s thirty-yard line!
               David returned to the huddle. He and his opponent were even.
   “225 Z Go.” David’s glory call. David felt surprisingly comfortable. This was going to be his score!
               David took his stance and looked up at his friend. He exploded down the line, made a poor head fake, but got a step on the defensive back. He was free! Alex looped it his way. David tracked it; it was thrown a hair short.  David slowed, jumped.
               THUMP! David felt the leather just graze his neck. The ball had been knocked away! The same type sound echoed on the field. His opponent’s teammates ran over and slapped their friend with a supportive gesture.
                “Whew! Nice defense, Skip!”
               David was robbed.
               “Sorry, man. My bad.” Alex took the blame. “I left it too short.” There wasn’t much to say. David wasn’t about to blame him.
               “That’s no problem.”
            David looked at Alex with new resolve.
            “We’ve got four quarters. You won’t miss it all game.”
            Every player nodded with agreement. It was going to be a four-quarter battle. Every player felt that the test had already come. David Stone was ready to go again.
            Alex stepped back into the huddle and translated the signal to the group.
            “Liz, Zipper 29 Toss on Two”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chapter Six from 'Stone's First Season'

Been revising my 'youth' novel about high school football- here, the protagonist- David Stone- is about to experience his first varsity game experience- Spring game before his soph. season.....

Chapter Six: Spring Glory

  Coach Prescott paced along the row of players. He looked at the ground, silently practicing the words, which everyone seemed to listen for intently. He looked up at them, then back to the ground. He paced one last time and took a tremulous breath.
               “I’ve been impressed with you this spring. I’m still making this transition to “Head” coach, I’ve wanted to say very little. I’ve wanted to watch you a lot. I’m fairly impressed. There is so much to being a football team - there is so much for us to learn before next fall. All you’ve done this spring is to learn a little about yourself. Yet, there is one major obstacle left. Tomorrow night some of you will play in your first high school game. It will be the most terrifying thing you have ever experienced. In my years, I’ve seen a lot of good men get so nervous they threw up three times before the kick-off. I’m watching you. How will you respond to pressure?”
               The more he talked, the more David felt the squeeze of building pressure.
               “How will you respond to your fear? If you’re human, you will feel nervousness. If you’re a football player, you will do what you’ve been coached to do. If you’re a winner, you’ll respond to the pressure by making something happen out there. The bus will leave at 5:30, make sure you have all your equipment in order.”
               David was amazed at this man. Everyone remarked about how unusual he seemed. He said so little, yet he communicated so much. Some of the older players were down on him early in the spring, but now they all seemed to expect the coaching end of things to be in good hands. David was especially impressed with his attitude. He wasn’t the ‘rah – rah’ type, but there was something about him. There was something in his demeanor that made David want to win his approval. David felt he would do anything that coach asked.
               The game was twenty- four hours away, and David knew he wouldn’t sleep a wink that night!

                 David had never felt this nervous before. His whole body quivered under the pressure of what was about to transpire. No one would ever be able to appreciate his feeling - no word could ever capture it. It was very exciting and terrifying.
               The team in uniform had an awesome nature about it. They looked like warriors, and everyone felt the surge of pride that they were ready and needed to be feared. David felt so sure about the team, yet unsure about his involvement. Was he the only one like this? It was ironic that David’s teacher had been discussing The Red Badge of Courage again that day. David wondered how similar he and Henry felt. Would he fight with honor, or would he crumble under the pressure? It was everything everyone had said. David knew his manhood was about to be tested, and he dreaded the moment more than ever, but he couldn’t wait for the moment to begin.
               The team gathered in the locker room while an assistant coach re-rehearsed the warm-up routine. Finally, the door opened and the team was herded toward the field. As he walked, David took in the air about him. There was no one in the stands; an obvious result of the early warm-up time. There were some students and parents standing near the concession stand and field house. David smiled just a moment as Dillinger gave a thumbs up to him. He quickly bit back down on his mouthpiece and resumed the killer look that he copied from all the older guys.
               As his feet touched turf, he hit a 3/4 stride that carried him toward the opposite end of the field. He felt so fast and light! The adrenaline surge made him feel sleek and quick. Everyone huddled at the far goal post and grew very quiet.
               A whistle blew and everything went wild! David joined the unison of a thunderous war scream that brought chills across his body. Everyone sprinted to their group and conducted the drills that started every practice, every day. There was an unbelievable difference though! Everyone was whooping and cracking. There was an intense excitement in the air. David ran a full speed route, cutting more quickly than he had in his whole life! The coaches were working them into frenzy with words of encouragement and praise. David felt he was too pumped up, however, when he dropped his first three passes. It shook his confidence until he caught a few before the break.
               The rest of the warm-up was clean and efficient. It was also unbelievably tiring! David remembered the coaches mentioning that it was a normal feeling because of the adrenaline. He had no idea that he would be this tired though!
               The team exited the field and returned to the locker room. The players all headed for the toilets to empty their nervous bladders. David had never noticed a line that long for the bathroom in his life. Soon though they re-gathered and sat. It was quiet again. Everyone sat with blank looks. Everyone just seemed to be waiting. Coach Press paced just a little, glancing at his watch every 25 seconds. He took a little breath.
               “Okay guys, we’re about to go out. Good warm-up. You looked sharp.” He paused for a small eternity.   
            “ You remember what I said yesterday. This is a spring game. It doesn’t count for any standings. Because of that we will play everybody. I know we will make mistakes, That will not bother me. What will bother me is, if we aren't full speed. I’ll be upset if we don’t hit folks. I’m looking for some men who have no fear and want to knock lungs out. That’s what it takes to become winners. I’m looking for a few winners. If I find that, I know we will win some games.”
               David was into it like nothing he had ever known. He wanted to prove to this man that he was that winner.
               “Let’s go.”
               The barbaric war yell erupted again. A huge “senior” knocked David so hard on the head that it bounced off the side of his shoulder pad.
               The atmosphere was completely different as David exited the door. There was a pretty good crowd in the stands. The air was electric! This was one of the most intense moments of David’s life, and he was eating it up!
               The game began without a kick-off on the Spring Hill 35 yard line. David stood on the sideline directly across from the ball. Coach paced right in front of him and talked on a headphone set to an assistant in the press box.
               A whistle blew.
               The first play shocked David. The Spring Hill running back ran for two yards and was cracked by the opponent’s linebacker! David couldn’t quite believe the percussion of the hit. It sounded like every bone in both players broke upon contact! He wasn’t sure at that point if he really wanted to get into the game. Jason Rogers split out wide to his side for the next play. David watched him carefully, knowing he was to copy everything he did in the near future.
               Jason was the senior who was right in front of David on the depth chart. David had been very intimidated by him early in the spring, but now seemed to have a little disdain for him. David felt like he did some things better than Jason did. Jason was not a hustler, and didn’t really seem to even enjoy the game. David had a secret dream to out- perform Jason Rogers, but the thought was miles away at the moment.
               The ball snapped.
               The Spring Hill quarterback dropped back and began to read the opponents coverage. His name was Alex Reynolds. Many coaches in the city had voted him most valuable offensive player the year before. David had come to revere him as sort of an idol. He was a quiet leader with quick feet and a cannon arm. He had blistered David’s hands a time or two that spring.
               Alex scanned the field, moved to his right... and was crunched! An opposing linebacker had rushed from the outside and dropped him for a huge loss. David heard the war- chant from the other sideline, and felt a huge momentum loss on theirs.
               “CHAD! LOOK FOR THE LINEBACKER YOU BLOCKHEAD!” Coach Wally Brakefield walked a few yards on the field and spewed at the dejected tackle. “YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THAT COMING! HAVE WE NOT WORKED ON THAT ALL WEEK?”
               The player slapped himself on the side of the head in frustration. Poor offensive linemen - they play as hard as anyone, knock heads all day long, and have the distinction of getting reamed out more than anyone on the field.
               The team broke the huddle, facing a long third and twelve. Jason Rogers split out to David’s side again. David studied his alignment and agreed that that is where he would line up if he were in. Alex Reynolds called the count and sprinted to Jason’s side. Jason made a quick outside move and then sprinted up the sideline.
               It was a moment of beauty. Jason caused the opposing defensive back to make a false step and he blew right by him. Alex laid a looping toss down the sideline. It all happened right in front of David’s view. Jason tracked the toss, stretched out his hands, and dropped the pass.
               “AAAARGGG!” The two sidelines, the stands, the entire universe all moaned at the same time. It was an unusual moment of universal unity. The opposing sideline moan was of sure relief, like “we were just set up for death and that boy was most gracious.” The Spring Hill moan was translated,” We were about to dance in glory until this idiot dropped a pass our grandmother could have caught.” The crowd was a mixed bag of both, even though the loudest seemed to come from David’s father who stood at the fence line and screamed a little longer than the rest.
               “That’s okay,” Coach Shaw clapped in fake encouragement, “shake it off.” Jason jogged to the sideline with his head hanging awfully low. David followed him all the way to the bench. David watched in twisted, bittersweet horror. That was his biggest fear. He had nightmares about dropping a pass like that in front of everyone. The pressure of that moment approaching did not help him at all.
               The quarter played out uneventful after that moment. Both teams exchanged heavy hits, good punts, and missed opportunities in playing to a scoreless 12 minutes.
               “Stone, you’ll be in this series.”
               David thought that he had peaked in nervousness; he was wrong. Josh came by and gave him a high-five. He had already tasted playing time on the punt team. His uniform bore marks of his playing time.
               “How is it?” David asked.
               “You’ll be fine after a play.” Josh ensured.
               David snapped his chinstrap and stepped on the field. He was in the game! It was exhilaration like he had never known. He was shaking from fright, anxious for the world, and numbed to a daze.
            David listened to the call.
            “Rip, Slot 34 Base on One, Ready...”
            David slapped his hands and bellowed “Break” in unison with the others.
            He ran to the side of the formation and anxiously looked at the official for his alignment.
            “I’m off, I’m off”
            “Back up a little”, he motioned.
            David looked up at the defensive corner who looked very far away. That was his target.
            David looked in just as the ball snap and got a late break off the line. His man sprinted inside David’s block and cracked Spring Hill’s running back for only a 2-yard gain.
            “SSSSTONNNNE !” The coaches all yelled at the same time. The anger shamed him to the core of his soul.
            “Don’t worry about it, Stone”, David heard in the huddle.
            Alex looked right through him. “You got this one. Rip,Zip, 84 flat on two.”
            “Pass my way”, David mumbled.
            David aligned again, went in a short motion, and bolted up field at the snap. Everything was like it was underwater. He took four steps, snapped his head, ripped his elbow, and snatched the well-thrown ball out of the air.
            HE HAD IT! He didn’t think, stopped. and watched his defender stumble past him. HE HAD BROKEN FREE!
            “RUN, STONE, GO - GO-....”
            David heard various yelling and crazy whooping shooting him down the field. He could see the orange goal line cone moving closer.
            CRRRACK. A mass of defenders slapped him out of bounds at the 20!
            David was jerked off the ground by a few recognizable teammates.
            David was too stunned to know what happened. A 37-yard pass play.

                              The rest of the game was sort of a let down. After a missed pass and an ugly looking draw play, Spring Hill missed a 37-yard field goal attempt. From that point on, it became obvious to all this was just a spring game. After half time, David played in two more series, but with back-up quarterbacks who did not attempt a pass toward him. The game ended in a boring 0 - 0 tie.  David felt he was about even as far as good plays to mistakes. He missed two blocks on the evening.
               Coach Prescott was really positive after the game. He didn’t single out anyone in particular. David boarded the team bus for the short ride back to the school. It was very up beat. David rolled in laughter at some of the stories and recounts. As he looked around, he caught eyes with Jason Rogers. He wasn’t smiling. He glared at David.
               “So what did you think, Stone?”
               “It was pretty good.”
               “Looks like we’ve got us a little competition.”
               “I don’t think of it that way, Jason.”
               “Well, you better.”
               Another voice-jumped in. “Shut up Jason! What’s that crap? This is supposed to be the ‘all for one team’ thing, you know?” It was Alex.
               “Can’t I give the freshman a hard time?”
               “You weren’t joking, you were serious.”
               “I was not.”
               Several of the team jumped in and mocked him. “I was not.”
               Nothing more was said. But David read the signal. He had an enemy, and it didn’t sit well with him at all.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Proving Osama is Dead and Jesus is Alive- Interesting Parallels

These are such interesting times and this week had its usual mix of amazing events and interesting reactions.

Because I do a lot of reading in the area of Christian Apologetics- it was unmistakable to see arguments and reaction surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden were parallel to the reaction to the news of Christ's resurrection as recorded in the gospels. It says a lot about the nature of belief and the prerequisites of proof.

I'm not going to journal about this in any scholarly debate- just a few random thoughts comparing the most notorious terrorist of our day and the beautiful Savior of the world.

#1 The ideologues are more willing to 'disbelieve' and almost impossible to convince.

I have been reading all the responses- and already there are some who will NEVER believe. We have DNA! 'Nope, just family comparison and you know tests and government deception.' His own daughter confirms he was killed! Nope, she was mistaken. We have eyewitnesses! Nope, all a conspiracy.

The same is true of Jesus. Most hardened skeptics (and to be honest- all human beings born in sin) start with 'unwilling to believe' and for them evidence will never be proof.

#2 Extremely hard to get a clean narrative during an emotional and dramatic event.

The timeline has had to be adjusted and a lot of the details conflict at times. Again, communication is a tricky skill- what we thought we said- what we thought we heard- and sometimes apparent contradictions are both true! The doubters believe this is more proof of fabrication, but this is the shared experience of all human beings- without all the details- we have to trust the primary sources.

Same is true of the gospels. Apparent discrepancies in the timeline actually make the event more real to me. I trust the men who saw it- who wrote that they saw it- and who died for that testimony!

#3 False rumors and false evidence can cloud the event in mystery.

Apparently, three senators were shown fake pictures- and we all saw the early release of an Osama death picture that was photoshopped. One of President Obama's reasons for not releasing the image of a dead Bin Laden is that the doubters won't believe it anyway. He's right about that one. There are some who still don't think we landed on the moon!

Same with Jesus- the history of relics has been a sketchy business at best. We have seen the reverse of this by the latest attempts to prove that they found Jesus' burial ossuary. That is why I don't list the Shroud of Turin as part of my evidence- I find it interesting but hold it at arm's length.

#4 It is hard to sway a person once he has judged based on his own presuppositions.

The hardened skeptic thinks he sees the proof so clearly. But we are all tainted by our inner pre-suppositions. ALL MEN LIVE BY FAITH. 

That is why faith in Christ is actually a gift. The Holy Spirit subdues our resistance and breaks through the enemies counter attacks. Any time you see a person bow their knee to Christ, it is a miracle. But after that miracle- that person receives the most compelling evidence of all- experiencing Jesus himself! And it is a sweet time- though we are prone to forget and drift.

I am convinced that the resurrection of Jesus is adequately verifiable and there is no alternative theory that can explain all of the agreed upon historical evidence. I encourage you to check out a new APP for IPAD that explores this solid evidence. It was partly developed by my friend, Doug Powell, and I had a chance to explore it during a recent lunch appointment with him. Click here for a link to the app:  RESURRECTION IWITNESS

In the end, will it will be easier to prove Osama is gone or confirm the historical resurrection of Jesus? All the authorities had to do in ancient Jerusalem was to have presented the body of Jesus and Christianity would have ended (I Corinthians 15). But I am predicting that there will be Osama videos that will inflame some to believe that he is just as alive as Elvis is. There were some who even believed that Hitler ended up in South America.

There was also unprecedented debate surrounding the 'cheering' of large American crowds in celebration of the news. I noticed a clean divide between strong believers regarding whether it was right to rejoice in the death of this man.

I think we should be careful to judge others on their human reactions. The myriad of motives surrounding the public celebrations are too many to envelop in one American mindset. It is likely to assume that some were exuberant about our troops brave assault and elimination of a man who has slaughtered thousands. Some were likely over exuberant in blood lust without any regard to human sin and tragedy and, to be honest, some people are always looking for an excuse to party.

There are two Biblical accounts that we also need to throw into the debate: one is a general narrative and the other a specific passage.

The narrative has to do King David who seemed to have 3 different responses in confronting evil and injustice.

We know the first one- I Samuel 17-

When, as a teenager, David got to the battle lines, he heard Goliath shouting his daily defiance and he saw the great fear stirred within the men of Israel. David responded, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of God?"
We know the story- but remember he cut off his head- and brought it back to Jerusalem!

A far different action and response in I Samuel 24 when David spared Saul's life. Instead of killing him with a knife, David only cut part of Saul's robe as an act of mercy. 

Saul's weeping response is telling: 

Saul asked, “Is that your voice, David my son?” And he wept aloud. 17 “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. 18 You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the LORD delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not kill off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David gave his oath to Saul. Then Saul returned home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.

One final point before I comment. We find a strange account is II Samuel 6:

14David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.17They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offeringsf before the LORD. 18After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty.19Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
23And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death. 

What do we make of these three varied choice and reactions? Did David change? No, I submit that each situation led to an action by David which was appropriate and in line with his convictions and did not violate his conscience or his fellowship with God. Now, we know that there were times David did not act appropriately- but the point is, it is hard to know the heart motivations which make us choose and the actions and reactions are more complex that we can ever communicate cleanly.

One final Biblical reference- Revelation Ch 19:

1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:   “Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
 2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
   who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.
 3 And again they shouted:
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever

WOW- here is the righteous in heaven cheering- IN A GREAT ROAR- regarding the fall of Babylon and the defeat of Satan.

What is my conclusion? I believe we respond and react out of our heart conditions. We do it out of strengths and weaknesses. Patrick Henry was the one who said, "Different men often see the same subjects in different lights." We need to be careful about picking a verse and throwing it at a brother who might be well within his conscience and Scriptural authority. Some cheer out of sin and some stay silent out of sin.

A final major point: Osama is dead and Jesus is alive. Osama was a man and Jesus is God. Osama sincerely believed in a faith system that teaches God is holy and we must live up to impossible standards. The law is harsh and the pressure is oppressive.

The cross points to the harshness of the law. But Jesus willingly took the punishment to prove that God has opened a door of mercy and grace. Osama saw God as angry and that anger fueled a lot of destruction. Jesus proves that God's wrath can be assuaged by His death of atonement. God accepts Jesus's death and proved it by raising Him from the grave.

The shocking thing is that the blood on the cross was even good enough to cover the sins of Osama! But Osama apparently resisted and rebelled. He symbolically spit in the face of Jesus Christ by not acknowledging Him and refused to bow his knee to Him. But the offer of forgiveness was there up to the point of the bullet piercing his body.

Then Osama went to face the Creator and he will have to give an account of his life. According to the Bible, he is in big trouble (just start with Romans 1-7).

For us- the ones reading this post- your heart offers living proof that God's mercy is just a humble prayer away. But each beat is, like Longfellow wrote,  a muffled drumbeat, a funeral march to the grave.

One uncovered and unforgiven sin is one too many to stand in front of the Holy God. Please turn to God now- don't delay!

Don't you see the signs? Earthquakes, natural disasters, war, rebellion, disease- as they are ever increasing in frequency is God's signal to be serious (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21). These are sober times- but in Christ there is a living hope!

All you have to do is reach out to Him right now... it is not words or ritual- it is just an honest response:

Lord, I can't run my life and I can't save myself. Please forgive my many mistakes- both in attitude and action. Right now, my heart is crying out to You! Help me! Save me! I don't understand it all- but Your word promises to save me by allowing the death of Jesus to be my sacrifice. Not only will you forgive me because of Jesus, you will adopt me as a royal son! How can that be? Take my life Lord- I am taking baby steps today- but I will never grow out of my need to be saved solely by You. Let it be so! AMEN

I am calling on every man woman or child- regardless of your religion- regardless of your intellect, morality, or status in life- to open your life to Jesus Christ- the risen and living God- whose name is above every name! The time to repent is NOW!

Monday, May 02, 2011

My Music City Miracle

  I wanted to write this AM while it was fresh on my mind- the long process which culminated in my finishing the Music City Marathon this past Saturday. If you haven't figured out by now- this blog is one of the many SELFISH things I do to store into memory the beautiful life that God has granted me- there is no way that I can rationalize away that it is very narcissistic and perpetuates my human default mode of making myself  'look good'- but at the same time I have always endeavored to state things transparently and truthfully in hopes of making God shine- especially His beautiful gospel of a sinner (me) being adopted as a son!

So.... a brief background. I have run a handful of 5 and 10 k's over the course of my adult like (maybe 2 10K's and 5 5K's) and the longest 'race' I ever ran was an 8 mile run that went up and down Oak Mtn (4 miles up and 4 miles down).

All of this is wrapped up in my lifelong battle with over eating and my weight has hindered my exercise at times. ( You can read about my weight loss battle/success here Blog 1 of 3 about my weight loss ) There is also another part of this 'miracle' and that is that I have had 2 orthoscopic knee surgeries to repair torn meniscus (right knee in 2004 and left knee in 2007 Blog- Left Knee). Both times I had to endure some painful tendonitis post op and wondered if I would EVER run again. Thank you Dr's Greg and Jeff Cook at Franklin Orthopedics!

So what happened? Why? How? Would I do it again? What would I do differently?

these shoes were a big part
Of course you have to start with the weight loss. No doubt that I was carrying too much weight which put too much stress on my joints to run- so as I lost weight, it got easier and I got stronger. I also have to give credit to my VFF toe shoes. Though I DID NOT run the marathon in these shoes they were a  huge part of improving my stride and allowed me to train without any ankle,knee, or hip injuries!(I ran the marathon in Aasics Gels and they are great shoes.)

GPS watch was big as well
Another part of this background was losing my job on Dec 9, 2010. The anger of that event combined with the time I now had put me on the road running and praying. I found no better relief from the pain of that event in my life as running- the early weeks I punched the air as I ran and it helped run it out of me. I remember one run going out at 33F and just enjoying the cold blast and crying out to my Father as I just attacked the run. I also need to mention getting a Garmin GPS watch for Christmas- this watch helped me log my pace/heart rate/distance and it all downloaded on my computer. I charted maps on and having it all recorded was a great motivator.

On Jan 19, 2011, my wife and I decided to try a LONG run- we had TIME and so we went 10 miles! I can't tell you how hard that was. I took an hour and 48 minutes! I could not believe it. Was very sore the next day- but it was exhilarating to do it! I was now hooked.

I started adding a few long runs (11.5 on Jan 31 and 12.5 on Feb 26). It was close to this time that Shane Harmon (great friend and fellow coach) encouraged me to do the Marathon. I had a number of people say "Do the half"- but I was already there... Barrett Mosbacker tweeted to me "Do the FULL" . I downloaded a Hal Higdon Marathon Training program and decided to train.  I decided on March 12 to run the 26.2 on April 30 but was going to wait and pay the money until later (no refund, even if sick or injured).

I enjoyed the training- it was intermediate runs (ex: 6/8/6) with 1 off day- 1 LONG day- and 1 cross train day (which was bike riding or elliptical for me). I did 117 miles in Jan- 82 miles in Feb- 159 miles in March- and 141 in April.

I did EmergenC supplement- a lot of water- and I ATE (I gained a total of 12 lbs training for the marathon- now I have to go back on my diet for a month or so).

I also began praying that God would lead me to a charity to run for. Not long after that I was informed through Facebook that Bill Williams was hosting a pancake breakfast for Tim's Memorial Scholarship Fund and I knew right then that that was going to be an incentive and who I wanted to help. If everyone follows through with their pledge, we should raise about $2,000.00 for that great family in Ft Campbell. I ran with Tim's LOGO on my t-shirt and had a few shout outs to Ft Campbell as I ran. Psalm 27:1 is on the back of that shirt (designed by Bill Williams) and a girl asked me to quote it on the run (mile 22).

I could say more about the physical,mental, and spiritual training- but the journey IS as big as the destination. I did want to say that I read Dean Karnazes book 50/50 in which he tells the story of running 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 CONSECUTIVE days! I enjoyed it immensely!

EXPO: I went on Thursday and picked up my race number and enjoyed the vendors. I wish I had spent a little more time there- it was a cool build up.

RACE DAY: It was a beautiful day, just 48 hours after the tornadoes tore up the south. I got up at 4AM- downed a bagel with honey and apple with peanut butter- I rubbed vaseline on my chaffing spots- packed my gear bag- and pulled out on the way to LP field. The traffic was bad- it took me almost 50 minutes to get to the parking lot! I got on a shuttle to the start line at 5:45 and arrived at the start line around 6AM.

I registered my gear bag (good system UPS), took ibupropen, and did one last porta john stop- I stood in the potty line for 35 minutes! I timed one guy- he was in there for 10 minutes! (how?)

To put it simply, I entered Corral #8 as they were singing the national anthem!

Now- let me stop here and say what a beautiful, incredible sight the start of the race is! I looked behind me to see the largest sea of people I have ever observed in person! And it was a gorgeous spring day!

The horn sounded and we began to move toward the start line- I started my Garmin and was off. It was a great start! Music and energy everywhere!

I kept a glance at my pace on the watch and was running effortless at about a 9:45 pace (by the way Johnny Woods gave me great advice about starting in a faster corral- I think it is god to do). My only little issue was a sore/tight right ankle that had been bothering me a little since my last 20 mile training run. But it was not pain- just a little discomfort.

I ran well- no issues- did not even feel like I was breathing hard- YES- there were hills- but they were rolling up and down- I ran the half in 2:20 and I began to think I might run under 5. My race calculator had predicted a 5:05 based on pace and fade.

NOW to the PAIN.

There was this HILL at mile 18. I noticed a lot of people walking it. I just kept chugging along (about 10:50). One cheerleader/bystander applauded- "WAY TO RUN THE HILL"- and the guy next to him said "I HOPE HE DOESN"T REGRET IT". Anyway (and my memory gets foggy here) it seems like it was a mile long uphill and I was hitting the wall. The water station was BEFORE the crest of the hill and as I grabbed the cup of water I had to start walking to drink it.

One of my race coaches (maybe Johnny?) told me "Once you start walking- it will be like crack cocaine and you will get addicted to it"- at Mile 19- I was going to have to fight this addiction for over 7 miles!

I had done GU at 5/10/15- had a small orange slice at 8- and had a sip of cytomax on 3 of the water stations- but my energy was out. It was also beginning to feel hotter (we started at 50F and the temp climbed to 82 by 11AM).

I ran to mile 20 and was fading fast (my pace had fallen to 12.5) and my legs were screaming for a walk break. No more cheering crowd- the bands were less numerous- a dead rotting possum stunk up the air- and we all became walkers and stumblers.

From mile 21 to mile 23 I did a series of 'bargains'- run a half and walk a quarter. It was during this part that we went around Shelby Bottoms and it was a pretty park- but I was in no mood to enjoy it. The hills seemed like mountains and the short downhills allowed my to get to a 11:30 pace.

Now- PANIC- I started seeing young/fit guys 'falling out' left and right. I was passed by 3 ambulances and there were runners laid out around the park with ice bags on them- I heard my wife's voice (if you get close to being over the top- slow down- no shame to walk a little)- so from 23-24.5 I walked half and ran half. BUT I WAS HURTING FROM MY FEET ALL THE WAY TO MY CHEEKS. I had nothing to make my feet move.

There were some cruel hills along the way.

At mile marker 25- I finally found a little more speed and willed myself in. I know this sounds crazy- but from Mile 26 to the finish (2 tenths of a mile) was the longest/hardest short distance I have ever run in my whole life.

I weakly raised my arms at the finish and it was over. I was OK. Got my medal- downed 2 waters and 1 cytomax in 30 seconds. Ate a banana and energy bar. Got my free food and beverage. Got my gear bag- and got in the car. It was over.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Loved it-Hated it.. I want to try it again. I can do it better.

I know I am leaving Nashville- but I realize that I DO love this city. Beautiful scenery and beautiful people. I saw Rod Thurley in the crowd and he was so encouraging! Coming back to this Marathon will provide a way to re-connect to 7 amazing years! I am a changed man since coming here 7 years ago. God has really done some work on me!


It may be just me- but I wish I had run over the distance 1 time in training- I know all the experts say just do 20- but 20-26 is a different deal- and maybe it does the body no good to go over 20- but I wished I had experienced it before.

I gained too much weight. I thought as much as I was running, it meant I could just eat like a horse- but NO- I should have tracked the scales a little more- the extra weight I think hurt me at the end. I especially should have been smarter during the tapering period.

I wish I had taken a little more time at Expo and I wish I had gone to the post-race festivities- I did make the right choice and enjoy my daughter's senior prom- but it would have been fun!

Should have done a little more hills in training. If I lived in Nashville, I would suggest doing a 15 mile run and then going to Shelby Park and running that loop while you are sore and stiff just as a mental log of how it feels. This is a hard race to prepare for because it is hard to get any temperature acclimatization during the training period.

POST RACE: It is now Monday. I went to the rec center yesterday and did a light treadmill run (2.5 miles starting at 4 mph and slowly working up to 6mph). My quads are SORE. but I rolled my legs out- took a cold bath- stretched- and feel amazingly good! I'm taking today off!

PACE:11:56 (huge fade at end)
5K- 32:27   10K:1:06:41   10 MI: 1:47:00
HALF: 2:21:34
20 MI: 3:43:59
CHIP TIME: 5:12:31
OVERALL: 2918 OUT OF 4082
GENDER: 1727 OUT OF 2249

WEIGHT LOSS- I want to be back below 190 by July 15
I want to keep a running routine of 3 medium and one long throughout the year.
Run a marathon under 5 hours ( Chicago Oct? Mercedes in Feb? Music City April?)
Run in 3 races this summer.

I also pray that the Lord will keep me healthy enough to enjoy the road!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

This One Goes Out to the One I Love- Day 31- Proverbs 31

The end of the journey- I have had more fun reading and journaling on this amazing book! I could start all over again tomorrow and still find more buried treasure and applicable truths!

Yes, there is a short intro- again a possible reference to Babylonian worldview- still connected to God's truth- and almost a humorous repetition of "What are you doing- Oh Son of Mine?"- I just feel the sarcasm.

And the basic truth- royalty is no sewer rat- we are Sons of the King- we should act and move and live with class. We should not be immoral or gluttons or drunks- we should be 'better than that".

But we know the famous end to Proverbs- the Proverbs 31 woman- and it completely describes my best friend- my wife of 23 years- I never knew I could admire and love someone so much!

An excellent wife- who can find? I tell you- I feel so fortunate to have landed a 'great one' way beyond what I deserve!

And she IS my sweet friend- this is her description in Ch 31:

I trust her
I have no lack
She is so good to me
She works with excellence and diligence and expertise
She goes out and comes back with goods for us
She is the first one up everyday- way before the dawn
She is savvy in business and family affairs
She works late into the night
She never stops- always moving- looking to serve and improve
She is so generous to others
She has prepared well for all circumstances
She is stylish and beautiful- she takes care of herself
She has always promoted and supported me
She can smile
She has discipled our children in the WORD
She is kind and wise
She looks our for the good to all of our family
Our children adore and admire her
She is the total top of all

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;    but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I know Mother's Day is still a week away- but how can I not HONOR this incredible woman in my life?

This is a very fitting way to close out Proverbs- the wisest counsel yet!