A loud thunderstorm rolled through this morning just before the sun came up over the horizon. Since there was no sunlight, the flashes of lightning illuminated my bedroom. The heavy rain was soothing but the thunder kept me awake. So I lay in my bed pondering, reflecting.
The past two weeks have been a blur. Going on vacation seems to make time go by faster. It’s supposed to be a time to slow down but the things to see and do come at you as if you were driving by them in a fast car with your head out the window. You see them in pieces. It comes at you in streaks and only until you slow it down, can you make sense of it all.
So as I stare straight above and watch the ceiling fan churn, those images start to become clear.
During the past two weeks I’ve seen the clouds from above. I’ve touched the ocean floor and swam with the most colorful sea life, witnessing the beauty and mystery of God’s creation.
I’ve walked through preserved pieces of history and sat where a great writer once sat. I learned that even the greats aren’t perfect and that God can make a masterpiece out of us even when we are broken and flawed.
I’ve missed people, been annoyed by people and have been moved by people. And I’ve learned that, no matter what, I wouldn’t trade those people for anything.
I’ve stretched myself physically and have paid the price for doing so. I’ve felt the joy of winning and the agony of defeat.
I’ve seen talented musicians on street corners sharing their passion, hoping for a break. I’ve seen the broken, darker side of this world and I’ve seen the hope that it seeks. All the while, I’ve seen my own flaws and I’ve seen the strengths that only God can provide.
So as I lay here with my head on the pillow, the storm passes on and the rain begins to dissipate. And as I examine where I’ve been and what I’ve seen, I realize that I’ve only seen a glimpse. God has an amazing way of telling a story. He often tells it in short bits and pieces.
Sometimes we see God in people and places and experiences. Sometimes He reveals Himself in storms, through rumbles of thunder.
Sometimes we see God in quick, bright instances, in lightning streaks that illuminate a room.
Like flashes before our eyes.
I watch the clock tick down on the two big screens on each side of the stage. When it hits zero the lights go down and the blinds lower over the windows, blocking out the sunlight. The drummer stomps the bass drum and I feel it reverberate as I lean against the back wall of the worship center. The room is a subwoofer and I am right in the middle of it.
As a member of the church host team, I often stand in the back just in case I’m needed. You notice a lot of things from back here. You see who’s coming and going. Who sits where and who they’re with. You see joy and pain. You see relief and enlightenment. You see it all.
There’s the married couple who sits in the same section every week. He keeps his arm around her and she snuggles in close and every now and then she’ll scratch his back. They seem comfortable and happy to be there. It’s one of those things they do together. Worshipping as a pair.
There’s the large family on the opposite side. They take up half of a single section. The widowed matriarch sits closest to the aisle and she is joined by her children and grandchildren. They are surrounded by each other. Not only is it just children and grandchildren but they’re also joined by cousins, nephews and in laws. Today they grow closer as a family as they grow closer to their maker.
There are the teenagers down front. No one worships like them. They exude spirit and excitement. When the music is playing they jump and dance and raise their hands to the sky. They’re uninhibited; wild and reckless. And when the sermon begins they are attentive. They soak it in like a sponge.
The older people, in the next section over, find the kids either humorous or annoying. It’s hard to tell. They smile gingerly when they let out a scream or a whoop.
But the kids are setting the example, showing us how it’s done. Why are we not following? Worshipping freely and wholeheartedly?
There is the singe lady who sits by herself every week. She is receptive to the message that is being taught. You can see it in her unblinking eyes and the way she nods her head. The lights are going off. She gets it. God is making sense.
When the pastor ends the sermon and the music starts up again, the people in the room seem rejuvenated and restless. Sometimes it’s like witnessing an aftermath. Their world is wrecked and re-imagined. Like a tsunami has washed through.
From the back wall I can see that hope has arrived. Voids have been filled and doubts have been crushed.
From the back wall, I see that God was here today.
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Some of my musical tastes are in line with my age.
2. Trying to run long distances on just a bowl of cereal is hard.
3. I love that Christ continually intercedes for me.
4. If I grew a beard, it would make me look twice my age.
5. A rainy Sunday demands a nap.
What did you learn this week?
The modern day runner never has to run alone. There may not be a human being beside them as they run, keeping up with them stride for stride but todays runner is always connected. Unless you are a Zen runner. More on that later. This is the newest gadget that Nike just announced.
I am not a Nike salesman but I love gadgets. Especially sports or running gadgets and Nike makes some good ones. So when I saw this ad, my immediate thought was, “I have to have one.”
With today’s modern technology, the runner can be connected. We can track our every mile. We can see our pace. We can see our route with all it’s elevation changes and twists and turns. All of these stats can be collected on an internet site or computer program where they can be examined and analyzed.
I’ve tried a lot of gadgets over the years. Let me take you back.
I’m in the camp that has to have music or something to listen to while I run. When I first started running, there was no such thing as an MP3 player. They hadn’t been thought of yet. Instead, I had a half pound CD player. It was a science to learn to run with one of these things. I couldn’t strap it to my body because every step made the CD skip so I had to hold it in my hand the whole time and sort of balance it and keep it level. Sure I could have used a walkman but then I didn’t have a choice of what I wanted to listen to. The giant CD player had to do.
Needless to say, the iPod changed my life, although the early models couldn’t hold up to the bouncing. I killed two of them. Then Apple and Nike came up with a foot pod device that sort of kept track of your running. It was a small, bean like device that you put in the sole of select Nike shoes. It came with an adaptor that you hooked to the bottom of the iPod and the two talked to each other, at least in theory. I tried it. The foot pod and the iPod rarely connected and when they did the stats were never accurate.
The iPhone changed my life again. It can take a beating. Not only is it sturdy and resilient, it has all the technology I want, built in. There are numerous running apps for the iPhone. I prefer using the Nike GPS app. It keeps track of all my stats. It tells me where I am, how fast I’m going, when to turn around. Another thing I like about this app is that my friends and family can keep track of me via social networks. You can track me here: stewjitsu. My iPhone plays my music and is there for me in case I have an emergency. I rarely run without it.
I still have my Garmin but I primarily use it on race day. I find it has the most accurate GPS but it lacks the connectivity and bells and whistles of my iPhone.
Do you run with gadgets? Which ones do you use?
Running while listening to music can be a touchy subject. I’ve learned that there are two camps here. Some people can’t or won’t run with headphones. While others can’t run without them. I fall into the “I have to have music when I run” camp… most of the time. There are exceptions of course. But this post isn’t about the headphone debate.
Since I am proudly in the “I have to have music when I run” camp, I wanted to share my top five running songs. These songs are staples in my running playlist on my iPod.
5. I like this one because it is fast paced. It makes me feel fast. And of course this rock band has a fiddler… need I say more?
4. This one makes me feel strong. Like the song says, I feel like it would take an army to stop me.
3. I feel alive when I run, so this song fits the bill. It also rocks and has a good beat.
2. This song makes me feel like I am being shot out of a cannon. It gives me a boost when I am tired and slowing down. It’s hard to run slow when this song is playing.
1. My favorite running song is one that I need towards the end of a run. I need it when I’m tired and out of gas. It also works to pump me up before a run or race.
So there they are. What do you listen to when you run?