Sunday, February 27, 2011

Where Does True Happiness Come From?

I can do nothing apart from the Lord!  These words were spoken by Jesus in the book of John in chapter 15.  What does this mean?  How does a person remain in Jesus?  If He died and rose and is sitting at the right hand of God in Heaven...Where is Heaven? If I can't find where Heaven is, how can I remain in Jesus?  Also, unless I can be transformed into a food, there is no way I can remain in Jesus.  Even if I were a food, I would have to find His mouth to be eaten.
I know many of you may read this and say that you can do plenty on your own.  Just look -  I went out and got a job on my own, I purchased a house or rented an apartment, I took my family on vacation, I go to the store and buy food, I can go out to eat and afford to pay for it, I have a nice TV, car, clothes, etc...  None of this was given to me I earned it all; as a matter of fact I worked hard for it all!
Charles Finney the Revivalist once wrote. "The more I try to be happy, the less I am. When I stop trying to be happy and just live to glorify God and praise Him, happiness is chasing me around and I can hardly get away from it!"   The idea here is that you cannot make yourself happy.  You can have everything and be empty inside and still be searching for happiness.  It is only when we give up trying to be happy that we will find true happiness!
A couple of observations come to mind when I think of this.  First I think of what Jesus did for us.  Eighty percent of the U.S. public proclaims to be Christain, so I do not think it is controversial for me to say that Jesus paid it all!  Jesus was God and came into this world making Himself just like us so that He could live a holy and blameless life.  A life with no sin!  Why?  Because we could not do it on our own, we tried and failed and God wanted to bring us back to Himself.  Notice in this equation what God did and what we did!
           What did God do?  Everything!!!!!
           What did we do?  Nothing (unless you call trying to be perfect and failing something)
Looking at the creation story in the book of Genesis, when did God create the world?  It was done at night!  When do we typically rest?  At night!  God went on to create light, the ocean, land, animals, and so on.  On the 6th day after He created everything else, He created Adam!  Man was made on the 6th day and the 7th day was a day of rest.  Again note - what did God do and what did we do? 
           What did God do?  Created everything!!!!!!
           What did we do?  Nothing! Rested with God!
Also, when Adam or Eve needed anything, where did they get it?  Did Eve call Adam and say to him, "On your way home can you stop at the store and buy milk? We are almost out"?  Did Adam go out and put in applications at the Fortune 500 companies to get a job?  Did he (Adam) request Eve to meet him at the local appliance store to purchase a television?  No! Adam and Eve were completely dependent on God for everything.  If you asked Adam where he got anything from, he would have said it all came from God.  Perhaps he would have said, "I have nothing apart from what God gave me!"  Each breath he took came from God!
            What did God do?  Provided everything!
            What did Adam and Eve do?  Nothing!
What happened when Adam's and Eve's pride took over and they decided to show God they could do it on their own?  They went to the tree of knowledge of good and evil and were tempted.  They may have perhaps asked themselves, "Do I really need God to take care of my needs?" Their answer was obviously "no," so they ate from the tree and sin entered the world.  They were separated from God!
            What did God do?  Nothing!
            What did we do? Sinned and separated ourselves from God!
So the question I have for all here is simple.  If you did nothing to be reconciled to God, and if God created us and provided everything for us, why do we feel like we have to do anything?  When we try and do something, what is the result?  When God does something does it last forever?  Last time I checked the Earth is still here and the Universe is still out there!  When Jesus died on the cross, did He change what we did?  Do you really believe this?
God is waiting for us to give up our ways and take on His ways.  It does not matter if you are struggling with accepting Christ as your true Savior or if you have believed and want to do great things for God.  God is waiting on us to give up and let Him live through us!  Yes, that is what is meant by you can do nothing apart from Me.  God is saying, I provided it all; I paid the way and did all the work - all you need to do is remain in Me!  How is that possible?  Accept the entrance of the Holy Spirit into your heart!  Let it manifest itself in your body and just enjoy the rest that God provided to Adam!  In time God will move you to do things in His story and you will find true happiness!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Running for a Cause (Neurofibromatosis NF)

As I stated in my last posting I have decided to run for a cause in 2011.  The past two years I feel as if I was running to save my life.  I was overweight and out of shape and if I did not do something the only thing anyone would be reading about me would be an obituary.  Now that I have been blessed so abundantly, I have decided to run for a new cause. 

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 3000 kids.  (Click Here for a video)  NF can cause tumors both benign and cancerous, learning disabilities, ADD, blindness, and much more.  To date there is no treatment and no cure for the disorder.  The only thing that the medical field can do for the patient is educate them and help them live with NF. 

As some may know, my daughter Bethany was diagnoised with NF in 2006.  Thus far she has not had any issues from NF and has led a perfectly normal life.  However, it does not mean that her future will be filled with more of the same. Also, due to the fact that NF is passed on genetically in most cases, if she decides to have children they will most likely have the disorder.  Also, many others have NF and they are forced to live without a cure or treatment.

With that in mind, my heart is set on helping to raise $5,000 for NF research in 2011.  My plan is to run 1,000 miles this year between races and training.  What I am asking is that anyone that reads this helps me in one of the following ways:

First if you would like to sponsor me per mile I will be posting on my blog the progress throughout the year.  I will make changes to the totals on a weekly basis, as well as blog on my experiences and how the fund raising is going.

Another way to help would be to pledge a set amount of money.  If 200 people will donate $25, together we can raise the $5,000 for NF.  I will still update everyone on the progress and my experiences.

Lastly, I am working with corporations to sponsor me in my races.  If a corporation will sponsor me I will put their logo and web address on my race shirt.  Further, I will place their logo on my blog.  I am currently working with some corporations on a matching plan that I will be sure to update you all on later.

To whom much is given much is required.  Many people look to these words and think automatically about money.  However, when these words were spoken they were referring to all the blessings that have been bestowed on us.  In that respect I ask for your prayers for me that I can live up to what is required from me from the many blessings I have been given.  I also ask that you click on this link and make a donation today.  I will be praying for those with NF and for all of you!  May God bless you and your family in 2011!   

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Whom Much is Given Much is Required

As of my last post, I was in the process of setting my goals for the 2011 year.  As I thought about all that I have been blessed with this past two years I was reminded that, "To whom much is given much is required." With this in mind I really wanted to challenge myself to go further and do more than I have ever thought was possible.  I have come up with three goals that I want to attack this year.  I do this not to put myself on a pedestal but so that you can hold me accountable to these goals.

The first goal I have for myself in the new year is to be a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend.  It is easy to take what you have for granted and the first to feel the effects are those closest to you.  My goal is to show my appreciation to all with whom I have a relationship.  To bury the hatchet on disagreements from the past (most of which I do not remember) and love my family and friends for who they are and support them in common interests. 

In the past two years I have been blessed to get my health back and enjoy being in competition in many events.  I have searched many times for a reason to run and not to keep this blessing to myself.  The most obvious thing I can do is to run for a cause.  I have just signed up to run for the NF Endurance Team.  I will post future blogs on this and I will also be sending out a personal letter asking for your support.

Neurofibromatosis (NF) is a genetic neurological disorder that occurs in 1 in 3000 kids  - one of whom is my daughter Bethany.  There are no treatments or cures for this disorder; those infected just have to learn to live with it and its consequences.  This goal will allow me to focus my runs on serving others and also will give money to a cause that could someday give a child hope.  My goal is to rasie $5000 for NF in 2011.

I will  be posting progress on my blog and will post a link to donate to the cause as you feel led to do so.  I am also asking for you to pray for me as I go about obtaining this goal. Pray that my focus will not be on me but on those that are struggling day to day to live with this disorder.  Pray for the researchers of the Child Tumor Foundation that they will gain wisdom in obtaining treatments and ultimately a cure for NF.

My last goal for this year is to start taking Master's classes at Ashland Theological Seminary.  I have felt called to ministry for the last 10 years of my life and, in light of recent events in my life, this calling seems to be coming to a reality.  As you can see from many of my entries I have no one but God to thank for all that He has done in my life.  As a response to all that He has poured out for me, what can I do?  I look to scripture for the answer and it says that I should surrender it all to Him!  Give Him my mind, strength, and soul.  Thus, in the Fall I hope to embark on a learning journey that will grow me closer to Him who made me!

My prayer for all that read this is that you are encouraged and the biggest thing I pray for is that you all will have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  I know He has loved me and I was and am not worthy of it -so I know He can love anyone and everyone!  To whom much is given much is required, my hope is this year I will pay forward all that is required of me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 in Review!

2010 is gone so I thought it would be appropriate to get my first blog of the year out of the way.  The past few months I have been thinking about the past year and all that has happened in my life, the life of my family, and the life of many of my friends.  In one of the most memorable years in a long time many things have happened, and I will try and recap a few here.

2010 started with excitement and anticipation as I blogged on my lifestyle change and my goals for the year.  I had just finished a year where I lost 70 lbs and had finished two half marathons.  I set a goal to run the Chicago Marathon and continue to lose more weight.  My oldest daughter was about to embark on her first show choir competition and my youngest daughter was doing acting classes.  My wife was running all over the world trying to take care of us all. 

As winter carried on I really hammered down on my nutrition and ended up losing a total of 101 pounds and more than 20% of my body fat.  As March came, AGMC asked to take pictures and asked me for permission to release my story.  I did so but did not expect what happened at the end of this year. 

During the spring of 2010 I called it quits on losing weight and enjoyed life a bit.  I went to California with my wife, had some great leisure runs, worked out for fun for a change, and really just praised God for all that He did for me over the 13 prior months.  I also set a goal at that point to run the Hall of Fame to Notre Dame 1/2 Marathon. 

I am a huge Rudy fan and, even though I am not Catholic, I really like the history and prestige that Notre Dame University has, so when the opportunity came to be able to run onto the field I just had to go.  It was one of my highest points of the year!  I went and explored the campus the day before and when I entered into the stadium at the end of the run I was in awe with the tunnel and stadium in general.  Great race!

The Notre Dame race was in the beginning of June; at the end of June I started my marathon cycle.  This is typically a 16 week cycle which for me would culminate in the Chicago Marathon.  However, June, July, August, and September were some of the hottest months on record for the NEO area.  This showed me that my kryptonite is HEAT!  I hate it! (At least from a running perspective)

In July we took off as a family on vacation to Ocean Isle, NC and then to Denver, Colorado!  Both were awesome highlights of the year.  We went from below sea level to 14,240 feet above sea level in a couple of weeks.  The best part for me was that my wife and kids were with me which is rare when I travel a lot for my job; typically I only experience these things without them.

In September the Akron Marathon took place and I realized why I liked this race so much the year before.  The first time I ran it I was busy trying to breath and make it to the finish.  This time I enjoyed the run and absorbed all of my surroundings.  Akron does a wonderful job putting on the race and the organizers are exceptionally organized and made the event a huge success. 

October was special in that I finished my first marathon with 36,000 other runners.  What an incredible experience  - and I finished it with my wife, kids, brothers, and good friend and Brother in Christ Dale Liff not too far from me!  I said at the end that I would never run a marathon again, well it only took a day to change my mind.  The end of 2011 I am sure will include one more marathon!

November and December have kept me busy with maintaining my weight and contemplating the next year's events.  I love goal setting and I will write more about this year's goals in another blog post to come soon.  In short, from a physical standpoint I want to run a half marathon at Cleveland in May and then do a full marathon in the fall.  From a personal standpoint I hope to go to seminary and start a Master's degree in the fall.  From a family standpoint I want to lead my wife and kids in the only way I know how in the way of Christ. 

Good bye for now and I will write more often in 2011!  God Bless you all!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Marathon Experience!

Truly Humbled!  I am not sure I can give you a word that is better to describe my feelings about yesterday's Chicago Marathon.  I would love to tell you all that it was easy and fun and truly awesome but I can't.  Why?  Because I have never done anything in my life that was this tough. 

The day began at 5:00 AM when I got up to get ready for the event.  I spent the first hour up with stomach issues.  I think I must have been nervous about the day's happenings.  At 6:30 AM we took off for the starting line which was about a mile from the hotel.  We walked over, only to find mass confusion in the Grant Park area.  After a bit of scrambling we found our way to the start corrals just before they closed the gate behind us.  The National Anthem played and off we went!

As we were all lucky enough to have qualified for a starting corral, we started the race in front of 30,000 unseeded runners.  With that being said, it still took us 4 minutes to get across the starting line.  When we first started out all was going great.  We (Dale, my two brothers-in-law, and I) were moving right along at our expected race pace.  The energy from the crowd was amazing, as 1.7 million spectators lined the course all the way throughout the race.  In some places they over took the runners and were even on the course. 

By about mile 5 everything started to settle down and we were able to find some room to get into a rhythm and enjoy a bit of the course.  At this point we were heading north toward Wrigleyville.  With people everywhere cheering us on, I told Dale that at that point I felt like I was floating.  I could start to detect at this time that Dale was not feeling that well and his day would be a tough one.  However, we continued on.

Leaving Wrigleyville we head back south toward the downtown area and toward the half-way point.  Around mile 12 I was expecting to see my awesome wife and two wonderful daughters.  This was my motivation at that point - to make it to see them and feed off their energy.  At about the 12.5 mile mark I was running with my brother-in-law Greg when off to the right I heard them yell for me and I was renewed!  Greg went off to slap hands and I continued on, thinking he would catch up to me.

It was at the mid-point that it all began to go astray.  I was confused because I had lost all of the guys that were running with me; I was running alone and therefore I began to over-think things a bit.  I wondered if I had fallen off the pace or if I had been pushing too hard too soon.  I continued on my own through mile 14,15,16,17,18, and 19.  At mile 19 I began to feel the gorilla on my back.  At this point I began to walk through a couple of water stops, and around mile 20 they caught up to me.  Only I lost them once again, which at that point was a big blow to my mental state of mind.

Around mile 22 Greg caught up to me and asked me if I needed someone to run with me.  Boy did I ever!  At that point I was spent and needed someone to help get me through the last 4.2 miles.  Greg is an experienced marathoner who had run a 3:19 marathon last year to qualify for Boston; he was exactly what I needed at that point. 

The games I played in my head and the emotions I felt are not truly describable.  It is something you need to go through to understand, but let's just say that I wanted to cry and smile at the same time.  The pain was intense and the thought of finishing was intoxicating.  I told Greg at that point I wanted to make it to the last 5K and then see what I could do. 

We hit the 23 mile mark and entered into the Nike finishing zone.  This is where the TV cameras were, as well as the race photographers.  (I can't wait to see a picture of me at that point as I was pretty close to out of it).  Greg commented that it was a dumb place to take pictures and I concur!  At that point Greg told me that we were in the last 5K and asked if I was ready, to which I replied NO!  He talked me off the ledge and convinced me to give him 3 good 10 minute segments to finish.  I just looked straight forward and began to push to the finish line. 

At the 24 mile mark my right calf and my left hamstring were taking turns pulsating to almost cramping status.  I mentioned it to Greg and he encouraged me to take different running positions, which I did to little relief, but I was determined to finish the race.  I had worked way too many hours and run far too many miles to quit.

The heat in the second half was taking its toll on everyone, including me.  By the time I hit mile 24 I would say the heat was 82 degrees and people were dropping like flies.  It was at this point that I was truly humbled and began to fully appreciate all those that had gone 26.2 before me.  People were falling over, being held up, and being carted off in wheelchairs.  It was chaos!

At this point I saw a girl in front of me with a shirt on that said "All things are possible with Christ Jesus."  This is where I began to realize that God gave me Greg and the crowd to get me through to the finish.  Mile 25 came and went and we came to the last 800 meters. 

I began to think of my training at this point and I remembered all of the 800's I had done in training and how I hated them.  I kept my head focused on the finish and listened to Greg as he called out the remaining distance.  Mile 26 came and just beyond it I heard my wife and kids rooting me on to the finish.  This was the only point in the last 13.1 miles my head was thinking clearly as I pointed to the sky and was revived  with their energy.

As I turned the corner to head to the finish I was greeted by a hill which was small, but after the previous 26 miles it seemed like Mount Everest.  I put my head down and went up the hill, made the left hand turn, and I could clearly see the finish line.  Greg was working the crowd to get them to cheer for the finishers and I tried to feed off them.  As I crossed the finish line I wanted to collapse. 

My immediate thought as I finished was that I would never do this again!  I was spent and I was mentally beaten.  As I worked my way to the water, Gatorade, and food I began to rebound a bit, but my feeling was still that I had to be nuts to do this!  I was also disappointed that I missed my goal of finishing in 4 hours or less.

As I begin now to reflect, I can truly see that I gave all that I had yesterday.  I am not sure I could have pushed much harder if at all.  I was cramping, it was hot, and I was a first time marathoner.  My finishing time of 4:06:49 was in the top 1/3rd of the finishers which proves to me that the weather was an issue to all involved. 

Today I have already determined that I will do another marathon.  I am not sure where or when, but I will come back more experienced and determined to do better.  I am proud of the accomplishment as only 1% of all Americans run a marathon.  I am part of the 1% by the grace of God!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Akron Marathon Summary

This picture tells the whole story of the Akron 1/2 Marathon! The first one I have run where I enjoyed the whole event from the beginning to the end. It sure makes a difference when you are not worried about finishing in a certian time. In the end I did improve my time by over 7 minutes from last year to this year.

Special thanks to Nick Billock for taking this picture, I would rather have had you on the roads with us but recover quickly my friend!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My True Inspiration!

The eve before the Akron Marathon. One year ago this same day I was wondering if I could make it 13.1 miles and finish this one goal that I thought would never be possible for me. Sure enough, when I put my focus on the right things and put all my heart into it, 13.1 proved to be no problem. This year as I started to train for a full marathon (which I will run in Chicago 10-10-10), I made sure that a trip to the Akron Marathon was able to be made. Once again in the morning I will set out to journey the 1/2 marathon.

As I set out, my mindset is much different from last year. This year I am running this race for the fun of it! Last year I ran it to prove I could do it. This year I am running this race because my hometown has put its heart and soul into making this marathon one of the best in the nation. This year I am running to be a part of the joy and happiness of the event. This year I am running in celebration of the event anniversary that changed the way I look at what is possible.

As 10-10-10 is fast approaching , the funny thing is that I find myself feeling the same doubts and thoughts I was thinking last year preparing for the Akron Half. In fact, 13.1 miles is a long way - just think about getting in your car and driving from Wedgewood Drive (in Ellet) at Route 91 all the way up 91 to route 303 in Hudson. That is 13.1 miles! How about running 52 and 1/3rd laps around a standard 400 meter high school track. (For my brother Jim, this is like going from your house to the 271/480 split on your way to work.)

All I need to do is simply double that distance on 10-10-10 (Jim - you are still not at work yet!) Simple enough, right? Wrong! Although I have had 4 training runs that went 20+ miles and I completed all of them feeling pretty good, 26.2 miles is a bit of a daunting task. How do you prepare for this type of journey?

In my training runs I have played many games. For instance, when I first start out and I am fresh I pray, not only do I pray for the run but I pray for many of you reading this post. I pray for your health, joy, peace, happiness, encouragement, etc... I also pray for those I pass on my journey. As time goes on and mentally I am not all there, I recite scripture, sing, and play silly games.

One of the silly games I play is Dora, Dora! Yes, for those with kids that have watched Nickolodeon you are correct - this is Dora the Explorer. I break down the run into segments and recite them in my head. For example on my run on the Stow Hike and Bike Trail it would be "Stow Road, Hudson Drive, Route 8!" Once I get to Route 8 I call out three more points. Along the way I pretend that I come across Swiper and the grumpy old troll. It is stupid but it keeps me focused on not getting too far ahead of myself.

One last thing I am going to use for the first time when I go to Chicago is visual motivation. I am going to take my favorite race day running tech shirt, the one I am wearing in my blog picture at the top of the screen, and I am going to do something special with it. Anyone that has encouraged me along this journey, anyone that has sacrificed something for me to obtain this goal will be named on the shirt. For those (my wife, kids, mother, and brother) closest to me, I am asking them to write a note of encouragment on the shirt.

When I am getting to the tough moments of the race I will look at these names and remember all the ways others have sacrificed for me. I will remember the words of encouragement, the words of joy, the words of humor, and most of all I will remember that I am not running for my glory. I am running because others have sacrificed for me. I am running because I can and because (to steal a line from Eric Little) when I run I feel the glory of God.

My hope in this blog post is that all of you reading (and then some) will see that your every step, every word, and every action has an impact in this world. Whether it encourages me or it helps someone else to just get up and walk down the street, it means something. Even the simplest of words like hello or goodbye make an impact. A simple note of thanks means so much! Purely your presence in a room or event can impact others, so choose your words and actions carefully. Enjoy your life, live in peace, joy, and happiness. Do not let troubles, anxiety, or fear rule your thoughts. Focus on all that is positive and keep up the great work you are doing! Thank you for your encouragement and I will report the results from both Akron and Chicago!