Running Tuesdays: Post-Surgery Cross Training

I’ve had two neck surgeries. The first one was in 2006 where one disc was fused. After that surgery I didn’t have to figure out what running looked like because I wasn’t a runner then. Running started for me a year later.

Once I started running it was like I found what I had been missing. Entering races helped me do what comes naturally, set goals and push for more. All that came to a stall again in 2014 when I had to have two more discs fused. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate even more the value of cross training.

But let me back up. I haven’t always valued cross training. In fact, I avoided it for several years. Very few things interested me without the movement of running. So I would kid myself that tennis, which I enjoyed, was sufficient cross training. And when other people told me their cross training habits, I just shook my head. “That’s not for me.”

So I dabbled. I’d swim occasionally. I’d occasionally utilize the gym by the pool where I lived. But I had to make myself. I dabbled for 4 years. 

Finally, I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to getting under the 4:00 mark on my 2012 marathon. So I started working with a trainer at YouFit. We focused mostly on core and legs, which I immediately saw benefits. He also challenged me with plyometrics, which I loved. Result, met my goal with a 3:57 in Savannah.

Forward to 2014. Post surgery was not going as well as hoped, as far as seeing my neck handle running like the surgeon said it would. For a year I struggled. All I could successfully do was walk, which drove me crazy. At my year review in October 2015, the surgeon said he finally believed I should do physical therapy; he hadn’t thought I needed it immediately after surgery, but said maybe that’s the answer. He was right.

The simple strength building was exactly what I needed. It’s now another year later and I can’t imagine not doing these things now. And that includes other things I forced myself to do during my year of “what is going on?”  In that year of frustration my dabbling included swimming and learning the value of yoga for runners. 

Thanks to this time of learning these past two years, I have a reasonable cross training plan that works for me. Could it be more intense? Sure. Should it be? I’ll put it this way-if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.


Seen & Heard

Some people find it hard to believe that God pays attention to mankind’s affairs. It seems to them that, if he did create what we see, he abandoned us long ago and left us to figure things out on our own. Every time I read Genesis 16 I see evidence that this view of God isn’t accurate.

This chapter tells the story of Hagar. Hagar was Egyptian. She was also a slave to Sarai, Abram’s wife. They used her to force God’s hand. They decided she would be the avenue of starting their family. This was her plight. When she couldn’t handle it anymore, she fled. And who could blame her.

In her flight, God found her. And that’s when her life started over. She went from feeling alone, abused, and abandoned by humans to receiving warmth, joy, release, acceptance and love from God. She described him as “the God who sees.” She believed she had seen Him who saw her. She chose to follow His direction and gave birth to a son she named Ishmael, which means “God hears.”

Hagar’s life testifies that God…

  • …sees our enslavement
  • …understands our contempt
  • …listens to our hurts
  • …reveals Himself and His plan

If you’re feeling unseen and unheard, read Hagar’s story. May you see and hear the God who sees and hears.

Fruity Fridays: Inside Out Joy

by Jeremy Nixon, a nobody fireman trying to do it right, but mostly getting it wrong. 

With Thanksgiving being this week, we have a lot to be thankful for. We have a lot to be joyful about. The Lord is good, even through our heartaches and our losses. One thing remains: God is on the throne and He is in control. That gives me hope and joy. 

In John 15, Jesus says that the Lord is glorified in us bearing much fruit. He calls us to abide in Him and his love. The reason behind this is so his Joy can be in us and to make our Joy full. 
Have you seen the movie Inside Out? If you have not, then you should stop reading this and watch immediately! If you don’t know me then you’re probably better off. Lol. I am a firefighter, a husband and dad to 3 gorgeous little girls. That’s right. GIRLS. I watch Disney movies and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so much that I sing their tunes in my sleep. 

In the movie Inside Out, there are 5 distinct personifications of emotions that guide this little girl’s life: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Joy makes everything happy. At least she tries her hardest. Spoiler alert: In the end she finds out that they all 5 have to work together to make life memorable and full of unique experiences. 

When Paul writes about joy in Galations 5 he is talking about fruits of the Spirit, not emotions. I believe he is talking about a set of attributes that encompass every believer and, just like the movie, I believe they work together for God’s purpose! 

Joy as defined by Webster’s is a feeling of great happiness. But I like the second part even better: a SOURCE or cause of great happiness. PEOPLE!!! That source is JESUS! Can I get an Amen!?! That is JOY. He is JOY. 

If you don’t know Jesus you can’t experience pure joy. But with Jesus you CAN display JOY and you CAN give JOY to others. God is doing great things around this world, and it’s because believers are growing and getting dirty, shoveling out fresh fruit to the world. If you want to see it, then get out and get dirty. Love Jesus. Love others. Be joyful. Be happy. 

I just love what Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39…

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That should give you JOY. 

Love and Joy work hand in hand. You can’t just be one or the other. You’ve got to be all in, and you have to let God use you and your experiences to show others this marvelous love and joy that we have. 

How are you going to be joyful this week?

Fruity Fridays: Joy in All Circumstances

The second fruit of the Spirit Paul listed in Galatians 5 was joy. According to Webster, joy is a deep emotion of pleasure or gladness. The joy produced in one’s life by walking in the Spirit as Paul is writing about is much more than just an emotion. Emotions can be driven by circumstances. A couple on their wedding day should be filled with joyful emotion. Everything has been planned to make it a perfect day. Does that mean on the unperfect days they will face together that they will not have joy? Paul is saying it doesn’t have to be that way.

Paul taught that circumstances don’t have to rob you of joy (read his letter to the Philippians). You can have inward hope and exuberance in spite of outward circumstances. That’s where we are tempted to walk in the flesh–letting circumstances determine our joy rather than our walk with the Holy Spirit. Who isn’t guilty of that?

So what does this look like, how does it work? When I think of the most joyful people I know, they have all walked through some pretty tough circumstances. And what they all tell me is that those circumstances deepened their joy in their relationship with God.

I’m thinking in particular of a couple that have two disabled children. I’ve known them for 14 years. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but every time we see each other they have the same joyful spirit. She recently went through a cancer battle also. Have they given up on their walk with the Spirit? No, it seems by their testimony to me that it is stronger than ever. They walk a joyful life because circumstances haven’t determined their spirit. Their walk with God has produced steady, genuine, inner hope–joy in all circumstances.

What circumstance in your life tends to be your joy robber? Have you truly given that circumstance to God? It’s possible that’s your first step to this second fruit of the Spirit, to joy in all circumstances.

Running Tuesdays: Smart Cross Training

by Monika Oberer

I joined a class to train for my first half marathon; it was only running involved. After finishing my first half-marathon, I was hooked in to running and wanted more! A full marathon!  I started to read more about running and spend more time with runners. Overall I had the feeling that only “real” runner athletes need to cross train. Me-I’m new and not at all on a upper level of this sport.

As I started to train for my first full marathon a friend of mine said, “You can run a lot of miles to train, but if your upper body muscles are weak you will never run proud looking up to the sky.” That made me think, and I tried some home exercises. I have never been to a gym and was very intimadated by the thought of going to a gym where everyone sees me not being in shape.  One day I did a long run and I could not look straight up; my shoulders hurt and I was in upper-body pain. THAT WAS IT!

I started to go to a gym 3 times a week for 30 -45 min. And of course I started to like it! I very much liked the fact that my body started to change! I started to feel proud at my runs!  So as I added weight to my X Training I became more and more aware that it helps my running, and that’s all I wanted!  I did finish my first marathon in Miami looking up to the sky proud and said, “Chicago, I am coming to get you!”

As I trained for the 2014 Chicago Marathon my dear friend Lorraine and I ran 5-6 times a week in the morning and went to the gym after work 3 times a week. It was a lot of training BUT so much fun!! We pushed each other at the gym hard and it started to show and we could feel it! OH CHICAGO, we were ready! And we had an amazing race.

Then Lorraine introduced me to something I, for a month, said I would NEVER do… (well never say never with good friends) Cross Fit LWR. Box jumps, pull ups, Trusters, deadlifts, burpees, back Squat, clean and Jerk, Kettlebel swing, pushups……… WHAT ???? Anyone trying to kill me??? 

Yes, I did sign up and did the beginner’s class. That week I learned that I had muscles I did not know existed in my body. However I started to like it as much as I hated it. And the gang there was so welcoming and supportive, so it made it easy to stay. The different movements I have learned have also strengthened muscles to help me prevent injury and keep me going! 

I have now been doing Cross Fit 3 times a week with running 3-4 times a week for 22 months. I can see and feel the difference in my running performance. I don’t think I would be as strong of a runner and would have not accomplished so much in the last 2 years without Cross Training.  Of course, every runner does Cross training their own way; I just believe that ANY smart cross Training will improve your injury-free running and most importantly your health and fitness level. 

Don’t we active people want to do this forever? 

The Answer to Why

“For the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I cannot relax or be still; I have no rest, for trouble comes.” ‭‭

Those are some telling words at the end of Job 3.  It’s as if he is saying, “I knew this was going to happen.”  That’s a scary way to live. And that explains all his questions in this chapter as he cursed the day he was born. Understandably, he is very down, probably quite depressed. And who could blame him.

Seven of his questions start with the word “why.” When we find ourselves asking why, we most likely need to pause and ask ourselves why are we asking why. In his case, these two verses seem to give us the answer. What he feared has overtaken him, he is weary, he can’t relax. He wants to know why.

Is it possible that God allows these moments in life in order to redirect our fear back to him? 

  • When we lose that dream job?
  • When the “C” word is heard for the second or third time?
  • When she means it this time?
  • When the last shovel of dirt covers the casket?

Sounds cruel, maybe harsh, even unloving. Yet, by the end of this book, that is the realization Job has come to. His fear of God, his awe was restored as a result of this time in his life. His rest returned when he found the answer to why in the person of God.

Who Gets the Blame?

Had a bad day recently? In your life, what’s the hardest day you ever survived?

It’s hard to imagine a day much worse for anyone than the one described in Job 1. By the end of the chapter, Job had received four messages by surviving servants of four, life-shattering events. Between these events, Job lost 11,000 sheep, donkeys, camels and oxen as well as all ten of his children. 

That’s a lot to lose in one day. Overwhelming. One would probably want retaliation or at the least some explanation. Surely there is an explanation, someone to hold accountable. However, even if he knew, he didn’t have any resources to do anything about it. So what did Job do. Here’s what the last verse of the chapter says:

“Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭1:22‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

How is that possible? How does one lose everything and not sin? How does one react purely to devastation?

The answer is found in the relationship Job and God enjoyed before this overwhelming day. They regularly communicated giving Job the strength to live “blameless and upright.” God described Job to Satan as “one who fears me and shuns evil.”

This is the answer to why Job said after receiving these messages, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.” Job never claimed ownership of his stuff, and he never blamed God for doing wrong by him. He recognized God had blessed him with it and had now allowed it to be taken away. And he chose to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3 Gifts from Uncertainty

Life is seasonal. Solomon wrote about this in Ecclesiastes. 

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For a balanced view of life, we have to expect positive seasons and negative seasons. Well, one could look at life that way. But just like we have a choice in seeing the good of spring, summer, fall and winter, we can choose to see the good in all the seasons Solomon listed as well. You might even call what you see gifts of those seasons.

For example, we go through seasons of certainty and uncertainty. Seasons of certainty may contain the gifts of a steady paycheck, all the household appliances keep doing their job, that TV show keeps getting renewed by the network, or your bank buys other banks rather than being bought.

So what about seasons of uncertainty? Do they have gifts? Sure they do. That is, if you choose to see them. Here are three you could choose to see:

Gift #1: Uncertainty breaks down self reliance

  • There is great freedom when we realize the following truths: “I don’t have to have all the answers.” “I don’t need to control everything.”  “I can’t do it all.”

Gift #2: Uncertainty renews the value of others

  • There is great encouragement when we remember the following truths: “We need each other.” “We get more done together.” “We is stronger than I.”

Gift#3: Uncertainty corrects your awe

  • There is great alignment when we submit to the following truths: “Awe in me is exhausting.” “Awe in human kind is deceiving.” “Awe in the Creator is natural.”

These are great gifts. They are yours for the choosing. Uncertainty says, “You’re welcome!”

“How Could You Not Be Happy For Them?”

It started yesterday when I got to the office. People who I’d never heard talk about the Cubs were suddenly all about them. It takes just one look into my office to know I root for the other team – the Cardinals. We (they) had fun with it, and we moved on.

Since I’ve been home the last 24 hours, I’ve been soaking in all the post-series bonanza. All the tweets and videos. Rewatching some of the game on mlbnetwork. And then taking in three hours of the parade coverage today. Yeah, you read that right. This Cardinals fan watched three hours of it. Never watched any parade for three hours. It was a wonderful way to spend a portion of a day off (no sarcasm).

I texted a friend, who somewhere in his fanhood deserted the Yankees (excellent move) and became a Cubs fan, to see if he was watching the parade coverage. He was working, and the answer was “no.” I had yet to text him since the game, so I told him I was happy for them – Cubs nation. Here was his reply:

I don’t know how you can’t be. Even if you are a Cards fan. At least for them to get one finally.

Four hours of thought later, here’s my answer. You could not be happy for them if…

  • …you believe the sports world revolves around “your” team
  • …you think people make just way too much on how championships impact a community
  • …you stink at celebrating
  • …you are challenged in the “rejoice with others” category of living
  • …you have little respect for other’s genuine feelings, even when you don’t share them

After taking in all the bonanza, with more to come, here’s why I am happy for them:

  • This victory was not about the team as much as it was about the people of Chicago
  • This franchise was not about themselves as much as they were about the people of Chicago
  • The team leaders love the game, love each other, and love the people of Chicago
  • The fans love the game, love their team, but more importantly love their families
  • All of Chicago seems united from the victory fostered by patience, suffering, and faith

Come Spring, I’ll still be a Cardinals fan. Like the Sox fan who lost a bet and had to don a Cubs jersey on TV, I don’t want to feel dirty. But today, I am happy for Cubs nation. How could I not be?

Fruity Fridays – Choose Love

by Eric Vorhies

The fruit of the Spirit is a gift from God that allows us to get a glimpse into His incredible personality. Love is no exception.

But do we have the understanding of love that is trying to be conveyed through Gal. 5:22-23?

Love – We fall in and out of it. It can be blind or it can happen at first sight. It can be learned and made. It is how we feel about those closest to us and our favorite food. It is closely associated with matters of the heart and things we are most passionate about. But is this the kind of love that the Spirit is gifting us?

I do not believe that the fruit of the Spirit is a list of feelings as much as they are a list of choices that God gives us the power to choose through him. Love is no exception. Just as God loved us, we can choose to love.

Isn’t that the real power of love? Despite how we feel about something or someone, we can bridge that gap and have communion with them. This is the exact desire of God’s relationship with humanity.

God created humanity knowing its depravity.

God sent Christ to permanently restore communion with humanity.

One day, Christians will live in perfect community with God forever.

God is love. It is the driving force behind His relationship with us. Though it is filled with overwhelming emotion, it is a very deliberate choice. And we too have been given similar choices. Through the Spirit, we have been empowered to choose love despite our feelings.

Today choose love…

Choose to love those who think differently.

…look differently

…act differently

…choose to offer a bridge to build community rather than building a wall.