OCT 26, 2016 Devotional: Baseball, Iowa Cornfields, and Redemption

Last night, I was sitting behind a glowing computer screen, trying to find some inspiration to write today’s devotional.  The first game of the World Series was playing on the TV in the background, and that really didn’t help me much with my concentration.

Most weeks, I try to find some linkage between the workout and the devotional.  So this week, my mind drifted back and forth between “pumpkins” and “baseball”.

“What’s the connection”, I kept asking myself.

Well…there really isn’t a connection, but I do love the game of baseball.  SO….here goes…..!

One of my favorite movies from the late 1980’s was the Kevin Costner film, “Field of Dreams”.  We all know the plot….an Iowa farmer, Ray Kinsella, puts his family’s livelihood at risk all because he heard a mysterious voice that said “Ray….if you build it, he will come….“.  Ray mows down his cornfield, much to the ridicule of others in the town, and pursues the dream of building a baseball field in the middle of the cornfield….in the middle of Iowa!

After much doubt, the story wraps up in a nice, beautiful bow.  Ray builds the field and the “he” does come back.

Side note…..the “build it” quote from the movie is commonly mistaken as “if you build it, THEY will come….“.  But, if you dig into the movie’s plot, you’ll immediately remember that the voice talking to Ray is specifically saying…”He will come“.

So who is the “He” in the movie?  The story’s plot has a formerly banned professional baseball player, Shoeless Joe Jackson, as the “He”.  Ray is a big fan of Shoeless Joe and connects the dots to surmise that he’s supposed to build this baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield so Joe can come back and play another game of baseball. You see, the story is about “redemption”.

And redemption comes in two situations in that Iowa cornfield.

First, indeed redemption comes to Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Joe was a star outfielder with the Chicago White Sox, playing in the World Series of 1919 against the Cincinnati Reds.  The White Sox lost the series and later eight players were accused of intentionally throwing the game.  Of those eight players, one was Shoeless Joe.  Players were accused of accepting bribes from gamblers.  Upon the convening of a grand jury, Shoeless Joe confesses that he has accepted money as part of an effort to throw the series.  He later recanted his confession, but it was too late.  Joe was banned for life from the game of baseball.  Upon his death at age 64, the other seven players said Joe was never involved in the scandal and later still evidence has surfaced that further casts doubt on his involvement.  Joe was the first of the eight players to pass away.

When Ray builds his baseball field and Joe comes “back” to play, he is offering redemption to Shoeless Joe for the scandal that had plagued him into his death.

Next, Ray likewise receives redemption but in a completely different form.  You see, Ray has had a horrible relationship with his own father, who had since passed away.  The building of the baseball field creates a simple way, through playing catch with his dad, that Ray is able to put their relationship at peace after a lifetime of conflict.  Ray’s dad appears along with the other dead baseball players who’ve come to play ball.  At one point, Ray’s dad says to him, “Is this Heaven…”, to which Ray responds…”No, this is Iowa…”.  And as his dad starts to walk away back into the cornfield, Ray says to him, “Dad, would you like to play catch” and his Dad responds, “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

Sports has a way of cleansing our souls, both physically and metaphorically speaking.  Perhaps, however, baseball is the most appropriate game to demonstrate the power of redemption.  I can think of no other games where individuals can play and talk all at the same time.  Simply put, the act of “playing catch” serves as the example of the cleansing of our guilt for whatever the reason.  Biblically speaking, Romans 3:23 reminds us that “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“.  Redemption frees us from our guilt, something we all need regardless of the diversity of our situations.

With the 2016 World Series games officially upon us, I encourage you to see the games as a reminder to seek your own redemption for what might be laying heavily on your mind.  Cheer for the Cubbies, too, but remember the importance of redemption.

Peace!

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OCT 26, 2016 WAWA: The Return of the Pumpkin Run

The last time we ran with pumpkins for WAWA was….well….last October around this same time.  So, we’re bringing back a slightly modified, run-focused, Pumpkin-run workout.

Here’s what we WON’T be doing:  running down Queens and Selwyn Roads, carrying pumpkins.  However, I am combining the festive seasonal nature of “pumpkins” with one of my favorite running locations….the Queens University parking deck stairwell / track.

The Workout:

Warm-Up:

-Stretching outside the Cornwell Center then easy jog to the Queens parking deck stairwell.  Runners will each carry a pumpkin during this easy jog.

Main Set:

We’ll do a total of six sets, focusing mostly on running but complementing with strength exercises…..with your pumpkin.

Set 1:

  • Run to top of stairwell, carrying pumpkin.
  • 25 pumpkin squats at the top of the stairwell.
  • Set down pumpkin and run down the parking deck ramp.

Set 2:

  • Run to top of stairwell and recover the pumpkin you left during Set 1
  • 10 pumpkin curls to overhead press, then run to next landing near the stairwell door.
  • 10 more pumpkin curls to overhead press, then run to next landing near the stairwell door.
  • 10 more pumpkin curls to overhead press, then run to final stairwell door on the bottom level.
  • 10 final pumpkin curls to overhead press.

Set 3:

  • Forward Lunges with Pumpkin Rotation to intermediate landing, then run up the ramp to the 2nd floor stairwell door.
  • Forward Lunges with Pumpkin Rotation to next intermediate landing, then run up the ramp to the 3rd floor stairwell door.
  • Forward Lunges with Pumpkin Rotation to next intermediate landing, then run up the ramp to the roof top stairwell door.
  • Set down pumpkin, then run down the stairwell.

Set 4:

  • Run all the way up the parking deck, zig-zagging to the roof top level.
  • Secure your pumpkin then execute 20 Lateral Jumps over Pumpkin (10 to each side).
  • Grab your pumpkin and travel down the stairwell.

Set 5:

  • Run up stairwell carrying your pumpkin.
  • Execute 25 Pumpkin Jacks on the roof top level, then set down pumpkin and run down the parking deck ramp.

Set 6:

  • Run up the parking deck landings to the roof top.
  • Secure your pumpkin then execute 20 Sit-ups to Pumpkin Overhead presses.
  • Grab your pumpkin and run down the parking deck landing to the bottom.

Once everyone is done with the final set, we’ll easy jog back to the Cornwell Center for cool-down and devotional.

Meet outside the Cornwell Center tomorrow morning, ready to go at 5:40 am.  I will bring the pumpkins.  You bring your legs and your lungs!

And some of you will even get to take a pumpkin home with you after the workout!

You’re welcome!

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotional Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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OCT 19, 2016 Devotional: “He Had to Go That Way”

True story.  Last weekend, I was sitting in my adult Sunday school class around 10 am.  Our preacher….let’s call him “Bob” to protect his real identity….so Reverend Bob has us open our Bibles to the gospel of John, specifically chapter 4, verses 1 through 30.  This one is commonly referred to as the story of the “Woman at the Well”.

Bob launched right into the scripture:

“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria…..”

“Wait….stop right there”, shouted Reverend Bob.  “Now here’s a bit of Bible controversy.  Did Jesus really ‘have’ to go through Samaria…..?”

We scratched our heads a little bit while our teacher explained that there were such prejudices during that time between the Jews and the Samaritans, that most Jewish travelers would bypass going through Samaria.  Instead of taking that direct route, due north, between Judea and Galilee (approximately 70 miles), they would instead travel a hot desert road, avoiding Samaria but nearly doubling the distance.  The hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans dated back several hundred years.  They avoided one another completely.

So, to Reverend Bob’s point, there was no reason to say that Jesus HAD to go due north and travel through Samaria to get back to Galilee.

But Jesus does anyway.  He’s exhausted by the time he gets to Samaria and he stops to rest at the well.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.  

A Samaritan woman comes to the same well to draw water into her jar.  Jesus says to her, “Give me a drink….”.

The woman is shocked.  Knowing he is Jewish, she responds saying “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”

Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

What is this “living water” that Jesus is speaking about?  Sounds like some sort of magical drink, maybe?

Then Jesus begins to tell the woman much of her history; many of the things she hides from others including the fact that she’s had five husbands and that the man she’s staying with now is indeed not her husband.

Talk about some “street cred…”.  The woman had to be asking herself, “This Jewish man is not supposed to know anything about me, much less even talk to me, a Samaritan.  How is that he knows these things….?”

If you read the remainder of this chapter in John, you’ll see how the woman is changed by what Jesus is saying to her.  She immediately leaves her jar at the well, and runs back to the village to evangelize all that she has heard and seen that day.

Notice the symbolism of her leaving behind the water jar.  That jar is probably one of her most prized possessions; something that she does to bring refreshment to the villagers.  She uses it to bring water from the well.  But just as Jesus tells her to take the “living water” that he can provide, she leaves behind the physical water, to preach to the others about the “living water” that Jesus speaks about.  Arguably, the woman at the well is not only a story of change, but also reveals to us the first preacher in the Bible.

Lastly, just as the woman leaves behind her prized possession, we too must shed ourselves of some of our world possessions, in order to see what Jesus is telling us to do.

So, going back to Reverend Bob, who said that perhaps the notion that Jesus HAD to go through Samaria is incorrect.  Geographically, Jesus could have maintained the status-quo and taken the much more desired yet longer route.  Then again, perhaps Jesus “HAD” to go through Samaria, not only to demonstrate putting prejudices aside, but to also demonstrate compassion, healing, and the merits of obedience to God.

Drink it up….!

 

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OCT 19, 2016 WAWA: What’s Your Number?

Going back to a non-running WAWA we did back in July…with some minor tweaks.

In the days of cell phones, it’s hard to find a telephone key pad anymore.  I had to look at the phone on my office desk at work today just to plan for this week’s workout!  I’m calling this one “What’s your number?”.  I’ll have a blown-up telephone keypad on the floor of that basketball court.  Depending on the workout set, you’ll have to go to the keypad to figure out your sequence of exercises.  For example, if the first set is the phone number (704) 555-1212, then you’ll piece together the prescribed exercises based on what’s noted on the keypad.

Keypad Digits Summary:

1:  10 Sit Ups to Dumb bell Press

2:  15 Release Push Ups

3:  10 Plate Presses

4:  5 Manmakers

5:  20 Walking Lunges

6:  10 Wall Balls

7:  25 Bench Dips

8:  10 High Riser Jumps

9:  10 Single Leg to Reverse Lunges (5 each leg)

*:  50 Flutter Kicks

0:  10 Dive Bombers

#:  50 Russian Twists

Can you hear me now???

Don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense now.  It will be crystal clear in the morning!

See you at 5:40 am at The Cornwell Center ready to go!

The Warm Up:

-Ballistic stretching

-5 laps around basketball court

The Workout:

Set 1:  Cell Phone Number

Set 2:  SSN

Set 3:  Middle Name

Set 4:  # “describe you”

Set 5:  Favorite Day of the Week

The Cool Down and Devotion:

Exercise Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotion Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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OCT 12, 2016 Devotional: The Goodness of Fire

Today’s running workout was around the theme of “fire”.

It’s been nearly a month since my wife and I were awaken in the middle of the night.  The cell phone next to her side of the bed rang and startled both of us.  I was barely awake, but I remember her turning to me saying, “The Brasser’s house is on fire….“.  Without thinking, I reached across the floor in the darkness and found my running shoes.  Within seconds, I had the shoes on and was out the door.

I’ve been to many a bonfire in my life.  Mostly, they were related to sporting events like Army – Navy spirit week at West Point when I was a cadet.  Or, more recently, while I was camping with my two boys at the annual Pack 55 Cub Scout “Cuboree”.  But I promise you that nothing will prepare you when you see something like your neighbor’s home a towering glow of burning timbers.  Luckily, our dear friends, Megan and Richard Brasser, along with their four children, escaped in the nick of time.  They were standing across the street when I arrived, all their eyes fixated on the burning home.  At one point, I counted ten fire trucks parked along the street, working on the blaze that would take about 30 minutes to extinguish.

I think it was sometime around 3:30 in the morning, when everything had died down, and most of the neighbors had gone back to their homes.  Richard, Megan and I stood in the middle of the street, watching the fire fighters pull piles of smoldering debris from the home.  The children had gone to my in-laws house just around the corner.  I can only imagine what they were thinking.  Richard turned to me at one point and said, “You know….you always imagine if you’re caught in a house fire that you’ll be able to grab this or that.  We literally grabbed the kids and headed out the door.”  The fire inspectors would later tell us that had the Brassers hesitated another 3 minutes or so, they might have been trapped inside.

My heart stops when I think about that part…..

Fire.  It destroys.  It brings chaos.  And many times, it kills.  The Bible is full of stories about fire.  John the Baptist tells of someone greater than him who will come to baptize those with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  In Exodus, the voice of God can be heard from within the flames of a burning bush.  The book of Acts, of course, talks about tongues of fire.  And in Hebrews, we are told of our God as a “consuming fire”.

Probably, most of us think about fire in the Bible as the alternative to Heaven….Hell, which is described as a place where the fire is never quenched.

Simply said, many of you have a negative perception of fire.  On the flip-side, fire can purify.  Fire can sterilize.  Fire provides warmth in the cold and provides light in the darkness.

Fire took away our friends’ home that terrible evening.  And while this tragedy will stay with many of us for a very long time, the fire brought out some goodness as I’ve never seen.  Almost immediately, the next day, piles of clothing, gift cards, and food began to accumulate on my in-laws front porch for the Brasser family.  Sign up lists were constructed to provide meals for the family.  A car was loaned.  Youth sports teams began fund-raisers.  And distractions were slowly removed to allow Megan and Richard to focus on the daunting tasks of insurance claims, investigations, and moving on with their lives.

Fire brought us together that night.  Fire has reminded us to be thankful.  Fire made us caring neighbors.  Fire warmed our hearts and sterilized our souls.

One afternoon, just a couple days after the fire, we were sitting on my in-laws front porch talking with the Brassers about what they were able to salvage from the ashes.  Megan described going into one of the rooms that was covered with charred walls and soot.  Somehow, in the midst of the black and grey, Megan discovered a white linen shirt or perhaps one their youngest child’s dresses, hanging untouched from the fire.  She told us how the purity of that linen stood out among the charred remains of the rest of the room.  Why that cloth was left unscathed we may never know.  Megan described the image as seeing an “angel” in the midst of the ashes.

Maybe the fire fighters caught that room at just the right moment and the white linen was saved.  Or, perhaps, there really was an angel that night….and the purity of the linen was a reminder left behind to help us all through the days ahead.

I’ll let you be the judge on that one….

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OCT 12, 2016 WAWA: Leg Burner Run

This week’s workout is focused on purely running!  And since it’s still fairly dark in the morning’s, we’re going to stick to the primary roads and well-lite sidewalks.  The total running distance is “just” 3 miles.  However, to make things a little more challenging, I’m including some stairs and some exercises designed to let you “feel the burn”!

Meet outside The Cornwell Center ready to stretch at 5:40 am.  We’ll launch shortly thereafter.

The WAWA has three parts:

Part 1:  “Run to Burn” (1.5 miles)

We’ll run as a group from our start location down to Freedom Park, taking Wellesley to Sterling to Princeton to the Greenway, and finishing up near the northeast corner of the pond.  We’ll regroup at the base of the steps leading up to Mahlon Adams Pavillion.

Part 2:  “Burn” (15 sets of stairs)

For the “burn” portion of the WAWA, we’ll do three sets as follows:

-Set 1:  Run up the stairs.  Do 10 standing squats at the top.  Run back down.  (Repeat 4 more times.)

-Set 2:  Run up the stairs.  Do 10 walking lunges at the top.  Run back down.  (Repeat 4 more times.)

-Set 3:  Run up the stairs.  Do 10 single-leg dead-lift to reverse lunges (5 each side).  Run back down.  (Repeat 4 more times.)

Part 3:  “Burn to Run” (1.5 miles)

Slightly different route running back.  We’ll go around the pond to the park exit onto Princeton.  Take Princeton all the way across Queens Road West.  Turn left onto QRW, then right onto Wellesley.  Follow Wellesley back to The Cornwell Center.

Cool down then devotional.

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotion Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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OCT 5, 2016 Devotional: #yourlifematters

I’m either going to be way out of my league this morning, or spot on.  It’s been a rough few weeks, months, and perhaps, year or two in our nation.  The simmering pot on the stove has been left unattended to for (maybe) a myriad of reasons, and now the pot is spewing over making a huge mess.  I don’t have a dog in this fight…but then again, maybe I should.  I went to a public high school in Fayetteville, North Carolina that was 65% African American.  My father was a career Army officer who served in the military police corps.  My two closest peers at work are African American and my boss likewise is black.  I manage a team of mostly non-Christian individuals from India who profess to be Hindu.

Translated, that means I have an awareness to those who are concerned with black lives mattering.  I have an awareness to those who say “blue lives matters”.  And I have a sensitivity to other religions and other cultures.  So this usually makes me really confused most days and I am torn up inside with feelings of anger and compassion all at the same time.

How did we get to this place in the most blessed nation in the world?  Perhaps it’s the social media world that we live in that makes every tragedy an immediate sensational story.  Or maybe polarization of democrats and republicans, independents and others, where we’ve formed camps of like-minded individuals who use group think to justify ugly attacks against one another.  Just last night, I watched two candidates for vice-president who side-tracked many of the important issues, choosing instead to sling mud at each others respective running mates.  I remain sick to my stomach.  How can anyone escape the bombardment that hits us on a daily basis?

Here’s a thought.  Does our heavenly Father draw battle lines between black lives, blue lives, red, yellow, or green lives?  And does our heavenly Father highlight the strengths of one group by similarly knocking down the perceived weaknesses of others?

Think about this the next time you gaze down at your hairbrush.  I bet that brush has many strands of hair tangled across its bristles. How long would it take you to pull those strands out, maybe lay them on the sink and attempt the arduous task of counting those same strands?  Personally, between my fading eyesight, and even faster fading patience, I know I would not be up to that task.  And as much as I love my wife and family, I have never made any effort to count the hairs on their heads.  The book of Matthew says, in chapter 10, the following:

“But the very hairs of your head are numbered….Matthew 10:30”

Matthew does not point out that our heavenly Father knows the hairs on certain groups, certain individuals, or even certain cultures.  No.  His counting of hairs is for all humanity.  Why?  Because all the hairs on your head matter.  And all the hairs on my head matter.  God doesn’t say He knows how many hairs are in the world.  He knows the counts by each individual.  Know yours and knows mine, too.

Simply said, your life matters!

It’s time to start counting hairs on our neighbors, on loved ones, and on others in this world.

It’s really not that difficult…..

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