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I have found my sheep which was lost

massi bicycleRecently, I went cycling on what was to be a 28 mile bike ride starting in Angleton and through some country roads. I was hoping to have an uneventful cycling workout and enjoy the outdoors. Well, things turned out a little differently and I ended up encountering God.

I drove out to Angleton with my bike racked on the back of my car. It was warm but little wind (too much wind makes biking no fun!). I parked near a small church, unmounted my bike, got on, and started pedaling.

Maybe around mile 10, on a back farm road as I passed a house, a vicious and angry dog started chasing me, dragging a broken rope attached to his collar. I think it was something like a rottweiler. I nearly ran the thing over as it ran in front of the bike but I was able to speed ahead past it. I pedaled faster and faster while the dog chased and nipped at my heals. Finally, it gave up. I looked at my speedometer and I was going 24 mph – against the wind, mind you.

Around mile 12, it started to lightly rain. I was hoping that it would just be a passing stray shower but it persisted. Now, when I bike, I have a mount for my mobile phone to use as GPS. So as it started raining, I had to cover it with my hand. Eventually, though, I had to pull over and wait under a big tree. It didn’t let up. It only got heavier. I stowed the phone into the saddle pack that I used to keep keys, food, etc. under the seat and proceeded onward. Every now and then I would have to pull over, check the phone for my location to ensure I was still on the right route, and continue cycling.

Eventually the rain slowed and then ended. I pulled over once again, rested, and mounted my phone back on its mount. I checked my location – I was on the right route and only 3 miles away from my car. The end was near, thankfully for my weary body.

When I finally got back to my car, exhausted and drenched. I went to the saddle bag to take the keys out and unlock the car. Much to my shock, the bag was unzipped. Reaching in, I tried to find the key but to no avail. It was gone. I started to panic, realizing it must have slipped out during the ride and fallen who knows where. How could I have been so careless and not have made sure I zipped up the bag? I felt very frustrated for having lost them.

I thought I could call my brother or my dad to get a spare set of keys for me and bring them down for me. But the thought of having my keys out there lost made me wonder if I could find them. I mean, surely there on the edge of the road for me to see. Perhaps they fell out the last time I pulled over when I had remounted the phone.

So, determined to find my lost keys, I got back on my bike to retrace my steps. With my eyes scouring the edge of the road, I pedaled back on the route. I figured I could go the 3 miles to my last stop and if I didn’t find them then I’d have to call. But I had hope! Though I was already tired, I journeyed back the 3 miles.

I pulled over and looked through the grassy culvert over and over, inspecting every inch of the ground but to no avail. They weren’t there. Disappointed, I got back on my bike and started my return back to the car. Maybe they fell out during the ride to the car though. So I continued scouring the edge of the road, hoping to find my valued possession, the keys needed to get home.

lost keysAfter about a mile, I spotted them! Just laying there, unharmed, on the side of the road, waiting for me. Let me tell you, the amount of elation I had was incredible. The sheer joy of finding these lost keys after such a long and tough ride brought tears to my eyes. I praised God for helping me find them and for protecting me.

But even more, I thanked God for speaking to me in a way that was profound. I had found my lost keys. I was so happy for finding them. My way home. I immediately thought of the joy God has when one of his lost children are found, when one of his sinful sons or daughters returns to him and comes home. It shook me to my core but also comforted me. I was reminded of this parable of Christ from Luke’s Gospel:

Luke 15:3-10: So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Also, I recalled the famous parable of the prodigal son when he returned home, his father was overjoyed and welcomed him with open arms, saying to his servants, “… my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:24). And then it says, “they began to make merry” and have a feast. Notice how joy leads to eating – I’ll write another post about this later.

So, instead of a 28 mile uneventful ride, I had a 34 mile ride and the realization of God’s love for me, for us. I had had an epiphany of sorts. I am a lost sinner. Each day I need to find my way home. Though we go through storms in life and are chased by danger, we have to persevere. Don’t give up hope. God will find us. We just have to be willing to go the extra mile.

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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Fitness, Theology

 

What I’ve learned from my 1/2 marathon training

I’m not a runner. I’ve always disliked running (or jogging, if you will) for what seems to be no purpose. I’ve played soccer and basketball, both of which involve running, but only as a tool to play the sport. My wife has always enjoyed running and the last few years has run a full and a half-marathon. I remember how proud I was of her accomplishment and I began to feel a spark of inspiration to start running myself. I also saw the throngs of people of all shapes who were also participating in this arduous trek. I thought maybe I could do that too.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later, after realizing I was not getting any younger, that I thought I should try to do it. I got quite discouraged as after running a few minutes I would immediately tire and give up. I kept at it though. I told myself just run one minute longer than the last time. Sometimes I wouldn’t and sometimes I would though. But I kept at it. Then one day I actually made it to three miles. I was elated – not only mentally for accomplishing that but physically with the endorphins.

Last year my mom died, suddenly and unexpectedly. I felt lost, my underpinnings seemingly cut. Perhaps as a way of coping with the loss or of channeling my grief someway, I decided to sign up for the half-marathon. Now, mind you, I had not run an inch over three miles so doing 13. At that time, that was way out of my league. I started researching plans and programs for running the half-marathon. I finally settled on one that was a 10-week program. I did several weeks of running before that just to train my body and get it used to doing this foreign activity. I’m now in my 9th week. Perhaps they’re trite or been said a million times, but I learned several things along the way and I feel that they apply to any goal in life you may have.

Make a plan. You need to set a goal and a plan and schedule to get you to that goal. For me, I found a training program that had a schedule of run days and distances. Whatever your goal is, running or otherwise, it helps to have a road map to get there. Not only do you need to track progress, it’s important to know the investment you’re going to make in achieving the goal. If the goal is something important to you, nurture it. You may also have to sacrifice other things for the sake of your goal. At the same time, make a plan that is achievable.

Expect difficulties but stay committed. Anything worthwhile in achieving is usually going to be challenging. Accept that there will be difficult things you have to overcome. I sometimes felt fear about the long weekend runs – that it would be painful or that I wouldn’t be able to do it. There will be times that you feel like you’re not making any progress or that you’re actually going backwards. Keep at it and take a big picture approach. We often get comfortable in our status quo. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone may make your mind or body rebel. Rise above it. You will grow as a person merely in overcoming. There is so much more in potential inside of us that we don’t tap into. Seek that inner strength – use the gifts that God has given you.

Enjoy the little victories. It is important to recognize when you’ve made progress even if it’s small. Congratulate, praise, and even reward yourself. It will help in overcoming future difficulties and challenges. To do this, you need mini-milestones, small steps. For example, if I’m doing say an 8-mile run, I tell myself it’s eight 1-mile runs instead and I achieve each one incrementally. Also it helps to reflect on the previous times you overcame and when your discipline won out over laziness. A few weeks ago I ran 12 miles. When I look back and realize that a year ago I couldn’t run half a mile, I get quite a sense of accomplishment and a recognition that I can meet challenges and improve.

Be positive. My wife gets on my case because even though I’ve been training for this half-marathon, I still complained about how I hated running or I would moan about a long run that was imminent. She’s right. How your think and feel about the work needed to achieve your goal greatly influences your motivation and success. Visualize succeeding and getting past the obstacles. Uplift and praise yourself. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into liking it. I found that even doing something as simple as smiling while I ran made me have more energy. As noted above, you’ll have challenges, but having a good attitude will go a long way toward meeting your goals.

Have a support system. I trained for the 1/2 marathon by myself – part of my independent streak I guess. In hindsight I should have signed up with a group. Even when I’m running around others I don’t know, whether a 5k race or an afternoon run at the park, I seem to do better. Being around others who are going through the same path will help you in knowing you are not alone, that this is worthwhile, and that it can be done. And when you participate in a group who are sharing the same goal, you can motivate and praise each other. It’s a lot easier to hear it from somebody else than tell it to yourself. One thing to realize though is there are going to be people who are better than you. That’s ok. They may have been doing this a lot longer than you. So don’t beat yourself up. Also, you need loving people around you, who even though may not be working on the same goal, who can encourage you, hold you accountable, and listen to you when you vent about your difficulties or talk about your accomplishments.

The half-marathon is January 16. Nine days away. I don’t know how much I’ll run after I finish 13.1 but I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I could do something I was way outside my comfort zone. What other challenges can I take on?

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2011 in Fitness