Saturday, August 9, 2014

Reference Point
I have survived the helo dunker. Twice. What is the helo dunker you ask? The dunker is a metal tube that trains you how to survive a helicopter crash in the water. The cylinder of misery is about 15 feet above the water. You are strapped into a seat, wear a flight suit, boots and a helmet. The tube o’ death is lowered into the water and then turns upside down. That means you turn upside down, in the water, strapped into a seat. Once the barrel of beatings stops moving, you then unstrap and find your way to an exit. Four times. And, the fourth time you are wearing blackened-out goggles. Not only are you upside down, you can’t see and you are holding your breath. That is sort of important. The question is: how do you find your way out when you are disoriented? It’s simple: you have a reference point. When you are going under and turning upside down, you find something to hold onto and when the motion stops, when turbulence has subsided, when you release what is holding you down, you use the reference point to find your way. Sometimes life turns us upside down. Sometimes we have to hold our breath. Sometimes, we do not know which way is up. What is your reference point? When you find yourself tossed and turned and sometimes in the dark, what do you hold onto? Family? Faith? Hold onto it when you are upside down, cant see and have lost your way, you will make it out and will have survived. Keep Running (or swimming as the case may be)!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Competition was Fierce

I prepared myself for the "1st Annual and Only Steve Mills 4th of July Willard, MO 5k."  the other morning.  I knew the competition would be fierce, but I have faced these foes before.  In fact, they show at every race.  "Doubt", "Laziness", "The Easy Way Out", "No Need to Run", "Seriously Dude Just Go Back In" and "Why Are You Doing This?"  visit me the night before and are right there with me the morning of a run.  I will admit, there have been a few times I have listened to them and have given in to their temptation.  The funny thing is, while they accompany me to the starting line, they never run with me.  I pick up a new set of friends when I start the race.  "Achievement", "That Was a Great Run", "You've Got This" and "There's No Way I Am Quitting" run with me.  No matter how fast or slow I trod, these faithful companions are right by my side.

Who visits you the night before?  Who tells you, you cant do whatever task you have chosen to try?  Doubt? Laziness? The Easy Way Out?  No Need to Run?  Seriously Dude, Just Go Back In?  Why Are You Doing This?  Heres the deal: They may talk with you the evening of a race, they may bombard you with lies but I promise you, once you start running, they will stay behind and go hide.  Oh certainly, they will visit again, but the more you run, the smaller their voice becomes and the stronger you will grow.

Keep Running,

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Limp

I've always walked with a limp.  Now, it is a bit more pronounced.  When I start walking, the limp is worse. Once my foot loosens a bit, the limp is not as noticeable; however, the limp is there.  

What causes a limp?  Either one's legs are out not the same length or there is some part of the anatomy that is not symmetrical; out of balance if you will.  Simple diagnoses: difficult solution.  A limp indicates there is something not right.  A limp displays a flaw, a limp telegraphs to others, and you, that there is an imbalance.

There is a time when I do not limp.  A moment in my life when my legs seem to be the same, when the now deformed right foot is the same as the left.  When I run.  In the split second both feet are off of the ground, they are equal.  Running is where I am in balance.  Running is where the imperfections go away.

You may not have a physical limp, but there may be a mental, emotional, or spiritual limp.  It is that one part of your life where things do not equal one another; where you are out of balance.  What is it?  Did someone lie to you and call you stupid?  Did someone tell you, you are worthless?  Did someone tell you will never be good enough?

For me, physically, running equalizes me.  For all of us and in all areas, Jesus, is the great equalizer.  He is the one who touches and heals and as He lifts you up, if even for a split second when your feet are not touching the ground, you are without a limp.  He is the One who calls you His friend, His brother, His sister, His Child!

I may walk out of balance, but I run with freedom.

Keep Running,

Friday, June 7, 2013

That Moment

That moment when the alarm sounds at 5 am on a Sat morning
That moment when you wonder if all of your gear is ready
That moment when you are driving to meet the running group
That moment when the air is chilly
That moment when all you want to do is go home and go back to bed
That moment when your GPS watch is not syncing
That moment when you take the first step towards a run
That moment when you wonder why you are doing this at all
That moment when you are still cold
That moment when you grumble internally at the decision to get up and run so early
That moment when your body warms up
That moment when you sweat begins to trickle down your face
That moment when you arrive at the turn around point
That moment when you have willed your body into doing what you desire, not what it wants
That moment when you know defeated the alarm clock, the temperature, the desire to crawl back into bed is when you won the race.
That moment, is what you live for!
And that moment is when you know you will...
Keep Running!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Just Pain

It's Just Pain

One of the questions I am often asked is "How is the foot feeling?" I reply honestly with "It hurts; it's painful."  The typical response is one of empathy.  I simply shrug it off and say "It's just pain."  I realize that my foot will most likely be in pain for the rest of my life.  With a Lisfranc injury, that is just how it is.

It's just pain.  Do you ever think about it?  I mean, when you aren't hurting, do you ever consider the pain?  I didn't.  I only thought about discomfort when I was hurting.  Now with every step I take on my right foot, there is pain; sometimes more, sometimes less; sometimes in the middle of the night and sometimes in the middle of the day but there is always pain.

It's just pain.  I am thankful for my injury.  I prayed last week, and with a genuine heart (at least I hope), thanked God for this injury.  He did not cause it, but He is using it.  I have met several people who have similar circumstances; some worse off, some not as catastrophic.  Through this injury, God has encouraged, challenged, supported and inspired.  Through this pain, God has blessed and ministered to people in ways that I could not imagine.

It's just pain.  I suppose that when I stop feeling pain, then I am dead.  I have decided that with every step, with every breath, with every moment of being uncomfortable, I will thank God for being alive.  I will thank God for the opportunity to listen to and care for others who are going through similar circumstances.  Rick Warren has said "God never wastes a hurt."  Indeed, He does not.  What we see as an injury, God sees as a healing touch, what we see as a limp, God sees as a step toward His presence, what we see as pain, God sees as life.  

People can be hurtful, situations in life can sideline us or slow us down, pain can either cause us to stop or make us decide to overcome and live life.  You decide, but after all, it's just pain.

Keep Running,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Today, I ran!

Today, I ran!  It wasn't far or fast or pretty, but I ran.  I listened to Born to Run, Running on Empty and the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Memories came flooding in:
I was that 10 year little boy who stood up from the wheelchair and walked.
I was that young teenager running on the beach as my dad drove along side me.
I was that 17 year old running 5 miles.
I was that 34 year old, 246 pound pastor who almost passed out when running to the end of the driveway.
I was that man who ran his first 5k.

I have ran in hail and wind and rain and snow.
I have ran uphill and I have ran downhill.
I have ran into a tree.
I have ran in mud, over trees, under trees, around trees, up a creek (without a paddle).
I have ran adventure races, half marathons and marathons.

None of that compares to today.  Four months after an injury and being told by my doctor that my running days were over, today, I ran!

And I will
Keep Running!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rev. O.V. Dodson

My Father in Law, O.V. Dodson died Feb 10, 2013.  I was privileged to deliver the message at his funeral.  Here is the transcript:

FEB 14, 2013

Today is a day when lovers exchange cards, flowers, gifts.  When those whose heart beat as one, celebrate their love and shout to the world their love, commitment, desire for one another. Today, I want to talk about a love story.  A love story that includes Orville Verdayne Dodson (O.V.). 

But this is not a love story surrounded
with the people he pastored or cared for
with his many grandchildren and great grandchildren
with his step-children
with Janice
with Brian and Dana
with Sharon or Butch
This is not a love story surrounded even with Elaine.

Those are love stories of the heart and dear ones, we could talk for days on end of  O.V.'s love for you and your love for him. 

Rather, I will tell of a love story of the soul.  A song that plays not for a few days, but one that continues through eternity.  A sonnet that reaches to the very depths of where one lives, breathes, exists: the love story of O.V. Dodson and Jesus; The picture of O.V.'s life could be filled with images of his preaching, praying, countless hours visiting those who were ill or sitting with those mourning holding their hands and hearts.  No, the depiction of O.V. is best captured by his love, his deep love for Jesus. His desire to love God and love others.  His desire to serve God and serve others. His desire to point people to the grace of God as expressed through hope in Jesus.   

According to official records, O.V. was 99 when he died.  O.V. counted the day of his birth as his first birthday, so when you asked him how old he was, he would reply that he was 100.  I think he did this just to get a reaction from Janice. O.V. certainly stirred ones heart and brought about a reaction. 

O.V. Dodson was  man of who deeply loved and was loved deeply. He was also a man who could not drive.  If you rode with him, you typically did it once and your prayer life increased.  He loved many people into the arms of Jesus and might have scared a few into His arms as well. 

His prayer life was legendary.  He told me once that he did not keep a prayer list but rather simply prayed for those whom the Lord placed on his heart.  And the heart of O.V. was tremendous. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.  If O.V. Dodson prayed for you, you were indeed being brought into the presence of The Lord. 

O.V. prayed and walked; 5 miles a day up into his 90's.  In fact, he was prayer walking before it was called prayer walking.  He was 99, or if you use O.V. math, 100.  He did a lot of things before they were in vogue.  One time I asked him what life was like before TV, he replied "TV? I can tell you what life was like before radio!"

The experiences he had riding in the families Model T from MO to ID, jumping a train and getting kicked off in Kansas City, teaching school, playing offensive tackle in football, seminary, marriage, kids and grand kids and great-grand kids, the crackers he carried with him in case restaurants did not have them,  his great love of food and the strange ways he mixed them together, the 58 year marriage with Elaine, the 17 year marriage  with Janice point to the remarkable life he lived. 

His life was full and filled with experiences you and I will never have, save one.  In the spring of 1933, he surrendered his life to Christ and soon thereafter, to the ministry.  As O.V. grew into The Lord, his love of scripture grew.  Ps 121 was a particular favorite. 

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

As you think about this scripture, the writer is lifting his eyes while in a valley, while surrounded by those who wish to do him harm.  In military tactics, you want the high ground.  When the enemy is above you, they have the advantage; you are more susceptible to attack.  When the enemy has you surrounded and you are in the low position, you need reinforcements. 

There was a time when O.V. was surrounded, when the witnesses around him were not the ones encouraging him to continue, but the voices telling him to quit, stop, give up hope. He was in the valley and the enemy of depression desired to invade and conquer his life. His beloved wife, Elaine, died. He was heartbroken. 
Jan 2, 1995:
My dearest darling wife, how, after more than 7 months, I miss you still, I'm sure I always will.  This afternoon, Sharon and Dana came by after an afternoon of shopping. Dana had several garments to show me; she was so excited and proud.  I oohed and awed over them, thinking of how you would have gone on about nice and neat they were.  I am so thankful to be able to share their joys, always remembering so vividly and how much you enjoyed our relationship with them.  My joy is dampened because you are not here to share with us and I cant bring you back, but I can come to be with you and our dear Lord who saw us through 58 years together.  Maybe it will be soon.  In the meantime, my heart grieves and I shed tears, but that will all be gone then.  Until that time, I keep plugging along.

O.V. was in a valley of grief.  And as he looked to the hills and asked where does his help come from, he knew, in this love story, his help comes from The Lord!

God indeed preserved his going out and his coming in.  O.V. desired his life to be a reflection of the light of Christ.  His life was surrounded, consumed, by his hope in Christ.  And that is, really, all that we have.  If our hope is in anything other than Christ, we will be disappointed.  I can say with certainty, that O.V.'s identity was not in who he was, or his name or anything other than Christ.  His identity was most assuredly in Christ.  He trusted, to the fullest, that God would provide for him in ways that were beyond comprehension. 

In the midst of the battle, when all seems lost, darkness and weeping may last for the night, but we can take great confidence that joy does, indeed, come in the morning. 
The second part of the journal entry: 
Mar 10, 2010
I had no idea what was ahead, but God did.  He revealed it sooner than I realized He would, for in 1995, He brought Janice to my attention soon after her husband, Johns death.  Somehow in His own good way, our minds and hearts blended. So, on Dec 30, 1995, we publicly exchanged marriage vows and have had 15 (17) good years together.  Praise and thank God for His ministry to a grieving heart.  O.V. Mar 20, 2010

O.V. experienced first hand the deliverance and the hope of The Lord.  His life was filled with this promise; grace and mercy of The Lord were with him. 
God's love, sacrifice, goodness, and kindness kept O.V. plugging along. 

Even in a place where he was surrounded, his HOPE was in The Lord for his restoration.  His love story is what carried him through the night until joy returned in the morning. 

O.V. was a godly man and his love story was one of faith.  I am confident that had he lived during the period scriptures were written, we might have Romans, 1 Cor, 2 Cor, 1 O.V., 2 O.V. 

His life was a life of faith that was found in the perfect and long-suffering grace of Christ. 
Although he was not known as a patient man--when it was time to go, it was time to go!
But, he was patient with Janice when she went shopping.  Janice would go into a store and O.V .would sit in the food court and very soon, he would start a conversation and hand them one of his cards.  On the back of the card are written "Ten things I have learned in 99 years." (or 100 according to O.V.):

1.    love is the supreme virtue
2.    family is of great importance
3.    God and His will are vital for personal fulfillment
4.    things are no guarantee of happiness
5.    honesty really is the best policy
6.    God keeps His promises
7.    Life is in God's hands
8.    Learning is a life long process (I'm still learning)
9.    God's divine providence is beyond comprehension
10. Ones only hope of eternal security is God's grace through Jesus

Hebrews 12
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 [a]fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

O.V. ran for many years, in 1978 he ran 1100 miles. At some point, he transitioned from running to walking. On average, he walked about 1100 miles a year.  Now using O.V. math, 1100x100 means he walked 110,000 miles.  The circumference of the earth is 24000 miles.  He walked around the earth 4.5 times. 

He was not a fast mover, but he was a mover.  In a race, no one remembers how you start but all look at how you finish.  Sometimes, people don't finish, they quit, they give up, they look up and the hills that surround them are overwhelming; their eyes no longer look up to the hills and ask where their help comes from, their eyes are downcast.  Their heart, desire, perseverance stops. 

Not O.V.  He ran with endurance, he walked with purpose, he served with compassion, he preached fervently, he loved deeply. 

O.V. kept a journal. He chronicled his life experiences; from the mundane to the thrilling. 
His last entry was Jul 27 and all it said was Bible and Prayer.  O.V.s love story is surrounded and kept true by scripture and communion with God.  His story is one of love for Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

O.V.'s love story of the soul does not end on Feb 10th.  The conclusion is not with his last breath.  Indeed, loved ones, Rev. O. V. Dodson's love story begins with these words:

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'