MAR 29, 2017 Devotional: “Teeing Up the Back Nine of Life: Birdie, Bogey or Par??”

If you’re a sports fan, like me, then this time of year is arguably one of the highlights.  We’ve had two exciting weeks of the NCAA basketball tournament, leading up until this coming weekend’s Final Four.  Adding to the basketball drama this year is the fact that we have a team from North Carolina and South Carolina both playing this weekend.  What will the Carolina’s do if we have an all-Carolina final game?  If could happen, some say!

Then, before we get time to catch our breath, the following weekend brings us the Masters golf tournament from one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world:  Augusta National.

Then, to further prove that God has a hand in all that we do, the Masters wraps up this year nicely enough on the Sunday before Holy Week.  Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Holy Week brings special meaning to me this year, however.  Personally, I’ll hit a major milestone on Good Friday, April 14th, when I’ll celebrate my 50th birthday!  Now for some of you doing WAWA today, you might be saying to yourself, “Been there … done that…”.  And for that group, I hope to still be doing runs like today for years to come.  And for others, the younger ones in the group, you’re probably saying, “Man…50 years old….that explains why he was running slower than the rest of us today!”

Regardless of what peanut gallery you fall into, 50 years gives me time to pause, think about my life, and ask “what am I doing now that I’m on the back nine of my life?  Am I slowing down and scoring bogey?  Am I just coasting along and settling for par?  Or am I living life to the fullest, picking up birdies along the way?”

Well, I can’t exactly answer that just yet.  According to some studies, the current life expectancy for an American white male in the United States is just under 77 years old.  So, if you take that into consideration, I guess I should have written this devotional 10 years ago when I was, figuratively speaking, finishing up the 10th hole.  I actually did the math last night…and at 50 years old, I’m getting ready to putt on the 12th green!

If you’re entering or have already entered the back nine of your life, I want you to ask yourself today, “Is God finished with me yet?”  Here’s a few people you might not know where God said, “I’ve got something big coming down the pipe for you still.”

If I told you the name, “Harland Sanders“, you probably would say “Who’s he?”.  Sanders had a pretty successful restaurant and hotel business in rural Kentucky off highway US 25.  When Interstate 75 opened up just a few miles from his establishments, his business began to dwindle.  No one was stopping or needing to sleepover anymore.

Sanders was nearly 65 when he started envisioning that he would go broke.  He began to work on perfecting his spice blend and quick-cooking technique for making fried chicken in 1952.  “The Colonel”, as his friends would call him, then began touring the country selling Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises, and by the time he sold the business for $2 million in 1964, there were over 900 of them.

Now do you recognize the name?

Next, I’m sure we’ll all recognize the name “Ronald Reagan“, who never held public office until he was elected governor of California at age 55.  In fact, he won that governor’s race by over a million votes.  Later, no one would have ever imagined that Reagan’s political resume would amount to much, including winning two terms as president of the United States.

One more example?  Okay, one of my favorite stories of a Biblical elder is that of Noah.

In a world taken over by evil, violence and corruption, Noah was a righteous man. However, Noah wasn’t just a righteous man; he was the only follower of God left on the earth. The Bible says he was blameless among the people of his time. It also says he walked with God.

Living in a society saturated with sin and rebellion against God, Noah was the only man alive that pleased God.

It’s hard to imagine such unwavering faithfulness in the midst of total godlessness. Over and over again, in the account of Noah’s life, we read, “Noah did everything just as God commanded.” His life of 950 years, exemplified obedience.  That’s certainly a lengthy back nine golf course!

Finally, and closer to home for many of us here in Charlotte, is the story of Edgar Blanton Hamilton, who sadly passed away last weekend.  I was honored to attend the funeral for this great man, who I had never met, but am very fond of his son, Blanton Hamilton, who lives in Charlotte.  The church was filled to the gills.  Every possible seat in the wooden pews in the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Shelby, North Carolina was taken.  Folding chairs were brought out and eventually when every last seat was taken, still others stood along the back of the church to hear a fitting tribute to the man his family simply called “Dat”.  When it came time for family members to share thoughts of remembrance on Dat, our friend Blanton took to the podium first.  His eulogy of his father was a fitting tribute.  Blanton was stoic and genuine in his remarks, something I discovered was one of the many important lessons Dat had taught generations of family members over the years.  I really want to get the list of “Dat-isms” that Blanton referred to during his speech.  If you see Blanton, be sure to ask him about them.  I think he said the family had written down close to ninety Dat-isms at a recent family gathering.

What was most striking to me about Mr. Hamilton’s legacy was not so much that he had worked for the same bank for over 50 years….which is quite remarkable.  No….what I’ll remember most was when Blanton talked about his father turning down an opportunity to move his family to the northeast when his company offered him a promotion.  Instead, Mr. Hamilton opted to raise his family in the small North Carolina town of Shelby…where he knew the best values could be taught and preached to his children and, in later years, grand children.  Dat took a job at the local bank without having any banking experience.  Eventually, Hamilton became the president and board chairman of that bank….something probably unheard of by today’s corporate standards.

It became very clear to me through many comments shared that this man never put his life into “coasting” mode.  Rather, he used his years at the bank and his presence in the Shelby community to continue to influence others in the most positive ways imaginable.

Blanton’s eulogy left most in the congregation thinking, “That was a life well lived“….and it is certainly the case.  As for me, when I jumped back in my car for the drive back to Charlotte, I realized too that this man had tackled the back nine of his life in the most spectacular way.  He remained focused on his family, instilling wisdom across many generations, sharing his love of church and God without hesitation.

At one point during the service, a comment was shared that Ed, a former starting quarterback at Georgia Tech, excelled at most sports, minus one, however:  The game of golf.  Well, while that may be true, the wonderful man who was honored on Tuesday, might not have done well in the game of golf, but his focus on the “back nine of his life“, are testament of how well he birdied the game of life.

Rest in peace, faithful one….

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MAR 29, 2017 WAWA: Masters Prep….Hitting the Back Nine!

Welcome back to WAWA after a “Spring Break”…..break in our weekly workout!  This week, we’re back running.  A couple weeks ago, I showed you the front 9.  This week, we’re doing the slightly longer and hillier, back 9!  We’ll even do 5 hill repeats near the 17th tee box.

Simple workout….meet outside the Cornwell Center ready to stretch at 5:40 am.  We’ll step off shortly afterwards.

Weather forecast is dry and clear for our workout.  Temps will be mid to upper 50’s F.  Perfect!

See you on Wednesday morning…..Augusta and the Masters are right around the corner!

Approximate Route Distances:

Cornwell Center to MPCC (0.75 miles)

“Back 9” (2.5 miles)

MPCC back to Cornwell Center (0.75 miles)

TOTAL Distance (not including hill repeats) is approximately 4.0 miles

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotion Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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MAR 22, 2017: Spring Break…..Rest….No WAWA this week!

We’re taking a “break” from WAWA this week….as many of our regular participants are observing Spring Break with their families.  And Coach Mike is recovering from dental implant surgery this week too!

“Rest” is not only a good thing for our bodies….but it’s something God set the example for us as well.  We’ll be back in full-force next Wednesday!

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”  GEN 2:2

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MAR 15, 2017 Devotional: “This Song Strikes the Best Chord….”

Last Sunday evening, my wife was putting our two boys to bed, however I wasn’t quite ready to turn in yet.  Maybe it was the “spring ahead” time change that happened the same weekend.  Or maybe it was a long, 22-hour work effort the day before as my company was putting out one of our quarterly software releases.  You know the feeling….when you’re just SO tired…that you can’t even get to sleep?  Strange, I know.

Anyway, I was looking to see what movies might be On Demand and I came across a film I hadn’t heard about before…..it’s called “The Song” and if I told you who stars in it, you’d give me a puzzled look, just as I did when I was reading the summary on the television screen.  Anyway, as a lover of most music genres, but certainly country music, the overview described the plot of the son of a famous country singer, who falls in love with a beautiful young woman, and the story of the rise & fall of stardom.

That’s the “elevator pitch” overview.  However, here’s a little more on what I want to share with you having watched this great film with my wife.

First, it’s a Christian-themed film that was independently released in 2014. Still don’t remember the movie?   Not surprising as the film came out sandwiched between two “bigger” Christian themed movies, Noah and Exodus.  The main character is an aspiring singer-song writer named “Jed”.  Jed is the son of a famous country singer named “David King”, who has sense passed on, but Jed is continuously compared to his more famous father.  Jed really wants to be his own man, but realizes that he needs to leverage his father’s notoriety for traction in his own budding career.

Jed is getting mediocre singing gigs where audiences at best are around 25 people.  His manager suggests that Jed consider playing at a larger venue than he’s used to….a county festival, of sorts, in a neighboring town.  Jed reluctantly agrees.  In the next scene of the movie, we find Jed showing up early for the festival, making the necessary coordination for the show he’s to perform later that evening.  Enter “Rose” into the movie.  She’s Jed’s main contact for the festival, but also the festival owner’s daughter.  If ever there was a classic example of stumbling into something or someone unexpected, then this is it for Jed.  In the midst of his own efforts to find himself, he finds Rose….which leads to romance, courtship, and eventual marriage.

So far, so good for this Christian-based film, right?

Next, Jed gets his big break when he writes a beautiful ballad about his new bride, Rose, and it strikes a positive chord with fans across the country. Jed’s stock rises, as does his time away from home.  2-week tours, become 2-month tours, and before he realizes it, Jed is spending more time on the road than he is with is new bride and now, new son.  As Jed yearns for growing fame and success, he drifts away from his family and his values.  He becomes lost in all that is suddenly surrounding him.

The story reaches a crescendo as Jed admits to Rose that he’s been unfaithful to her while he’s been away.  She kicks him out of the house and tries to put the pieces back together of their failing marriage.  Pressures mount all around.  Jed even destroys the windows of a small church he is building for them on her father’s vineyard.  Symbolism is huge in this film.  Jed is destroying the church, his faith, and attempting to burn the bridge with God.

I won’t give away all the story lines.  I’d really like you to watch the movie, if I haven’t sold you on it already.

Finally, and most importantly, the story is a modern day version of the tale of King Solomon, complete with many overtones of the Song of Solomon.  Remember who I said was Jed’s famous father….?  David King.  Flip that around for a moment and you see one of the hidden overtones….”King David”, who was Solomon’s father from Biblical times.  Early on in the movie, Rose’s self-admission that she has but one favorite song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds, indicates yet another parallel to the Bible; more specifically, Ecclesiastics.  Recall the lyrics of that song taken nearly verbatim from Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastics:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

These lyrics and Biblical passage are key to the healing that takes place later in the story.

Grab some time this coming weekend or the days ahead to watch this film.  While this week’s devotional may be lighter in meaning to some, my prayer today is that you find a way to see The Song, look and listen for the Biblical narratives, and apply them as lessons in your own lives.

And, if you decide you like country music at the end of the movie, then I really have struck the best chord with you afterall!  Then again, maybe that’s asking a little too much!

Peace!

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MAR 15, 2017 WAWA: “Negative Splits, Positive Results”

Run-focused WAWA again this week…..interval training!

Temps will be a little bit on the chilly side this Wednesday morning….hovering around 30 degrees, but clear and dry.  I’ve got a great “stair repeats” workout planned for this week.  And it’s always nice and warm inside the stairwell!

Planning on seven sets.  Here’s the planned “route”:

-Start at the base of the “newer” stairwell at the Queens University parking deck.

-Run up the stairs

-Exit at the door at the top of the stairs, then run down the parking deck ramps.

-Once at the bottom, quickly turn around and run back up the ramps

-Enter the top of the stairwell through the door from the parking deck ramps

-Run back down the stairwell to the bottom…..done!

Here’s the catch.  We’re going to impose some time elements to each set as follows:

SET 1:  5:00 minutes to complete

SET 2:  4:30 minutes to complete

SET 3:  4:15 minutes to complete

SET 4:  4:00 minutes to complete

SET 5:  4:15 minutes to complete

SET 6:  4:30 minutes to complete

SET 7:  5:00 minutes to complete

“Rest time” between sets is dictated by the amount of time remaining from the targeted minutes to complete!

Total workout time on the seven sets is 31 minutes, 30 seconds.

Gather outside the Cornwell Center at 5:40 am….ready to stretch and run to the stairwell.

See you then!

WORKOUT LEADER:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL LEADER:  Mike Lenhart

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MAR 8, 2017 Devotional: “Run, Richard….Run!”

I have been extremely fortunate to run in the Boston Marathon three times.  But I’ve never qualified for the marathon and you’ll never see my name under any of the finishing times or official start lists for the race.  In 2013, I nearly completed the entire 26.2 miles of the course.  But just shy of the finish line on Boyston Street, four blocks to be more specific, my race was cut short due to explosions that rocked the historic race by cowardly home grown terrorists.

Then, in 2014, I was determined to cross the finish line, but about a mile into the run, I stumbled on a small divot in the road that I didn’t notice.  Years of ankle injuries playing soccer and lacrosse have left me with pretty poor support and I have to be careful to notice things in the roadway that could potentially trip me up….literally!  I continued to run forward thinking maybe I had just rolled my ankle and could run it off after a few strides.  But after another 2 miles of a glorious “hobble”, I pulled up into a medial tent to realize I had broken a small bone in my foot.

Finally, in 2015, I returned once again, and was finally able to cross the finish line.  The weather was cold and rainy that year, but my heart was warm to finally run across the famous finish line.

So how is it that I’ve been able to run in this race for three years in a row without having to submit a qualifying time?  Actually, it’s all Richard’s fault…..Richard Blalock, that is.  Ironically, I was thinking about him this week as he prepares for retirement from a long career managing a technology team in South Carolina.  But he also celebrated a birthday….a milestone that has more meaning that many realize.  At a very young age, Richard injured his right foot when a school bus ran over it.  The injury never healed correctly and years later, as an adult, he elected to have his leg amputated below the knee in order to be able to live a more healthy active life doing things he enjoyed, especially running.  Many amputees I’ve meet over the years often refer to the date of their surgery as their “alive day” since it represents a moment where their life changed or, perhaps, a day they got their “life back”.  Regardless of what the situation is for my friend, Richard, there’s no coincidence that his “alive day” is April 14th….the same day as my own birthday.  Perhaps our paths were meant to cross?

The reason I’ve been able to participate in three Boston Marathon events is because individuals who have a physical disability and do qualify for the race by meeting a certain time standard, can enter a lottery for placement into the Mobility Impaired division.  And those individuals can select a Guide runner to accompany them during the race, offering technical assistance with prosthetics or other adaptive devices so the mobility runner can have the best chance of finishing the race.  Such was the case for me and late in 2012, Richard called me one day as asked me if I’d run with him in the 2013 Boston Marathon.

I was thrilled, as you might imagine.  I had run a few marathons but this would certainly be the pinnacle of my running career!  And since my sister, who had qualified for the race, would be running that year too, it made the opportunity even more special.  My girlfriend at the time, Janelle, who’s now my wife, would also accompany me to Boston, and planned on being a spectator / cheerleader for “Team Richard” that year.

I remember bits and pieces of the race in 2013.  I distinctly remember how it ended.  The abrupt halt less than a mile from the finish line.  The initial rumors that there had been a pyrotechnic explosion at the finish line and that the race would resume shortly.  And all the endless sirens and emergency response vehicles that raced through previously blocked off streets towards the finish line area that Richard and I would never see that year.

In 2014, Richard was invited to return to the Boston Marathon and again he asked me to serve as his Guide runner.  All the runners participating in 2014 were bound and determined to finish the race, especially those who had run the previous year but like Richard and me, had come up short.  In 2014, Richard had two guide runners, myself and another friend named Randy Spellman, but race officials would not let us run together with Richard.  Instead, we had to divide up the course so that only one of us was with our runner at any given moment and for security reasons, the race management ensured fewer people on the course, one of the many lessons learned from the previous year.  Randy started the race with Richard and our designated Guide Exchange point was just about Mile 10 on the course.  The exchange occurred without fanfare; more or less a simple high-five between Randy and me.  And I picked up Guide duties at that point, heading up a gradual hill towards Mile Marker 11 and the famous Wellesley College, an all girls school that runners call the “fastest mile” on the course because many men pick up the pace while running past hundreds of screaming Wellesley college girls for nearly a mile along that stretch.

I remember positioning myself to the outside of Richard as we ran through Wellesley, keeping the college girls to his immediate right, and me on the opposite side of the road, where there weren’t any distractions.  Richard was enjoying the moment, raising his hands several times which in turn only made the college girls scream even louder.  It wasn’t difficult to see his tall stature lumbering between Mile 11 and 12, with his prosthetic running blade.  Both Randy and I had created running shirts that read “Go Richard” on the front so when we ran past crowds that day, they would yell the same thing printed on the shirt, there-by offering additional encouragement to our runner.

My stumble in the roadway was enough to catch Richard’s eye as he saw me break my stride.  “Are you okay”, he asked.  To which I replied, “Yeh…I think I rolled my ankle but I’ll be fine….”.  But Richard, a seasoned runner, knew better.  He didn’t say anything, but we both knew the reality.  I tried my best to hide the pain for the next two miles, and when I saw the aide station approaching at Mile 14, I suggested to Richard that I pop inside to get my ankle taped up.  He could continue along the route and I’d catch up to him after getting some quick medical attention.  We agreed to the plan, but once I got inside, the medical staff knew my fate without even taking an x-ray.  “You’ve most likely broken you foot”, the doctor would say.  I didn’t believe it until he had me stand on one foot….that bad one….and I grimaced in pain.  My day ended less than 5 km into the race.

Richard continued on the course and miraculously we were able to get in touch with Randy, who linked up with him around Mile 18.  Richard and Randy crossed the finish line together, an especially happy occasion for Richard, who had longed to reach that milestone in his personal running career.

As for me, on the other hand, I was pretty livid.  I was not happy with the broken foot and for several weeks afterwards, complained, griped and moaned at every chance I could.  My temporary injury was a good excuse for me to feel sorry for myself, complain about life giving me a raw deal.  I’m pretty sure I even blamed God for my current situation…..even though it was …. temporary.

Then one day, I thought about Richard.  The guy had just finished running and finishing the Boston Marathon…on a prosthetic running leg!  Wow….what a feat!  In the years I’d known him, he was doing more with one leg than many do with two legs.  And then there was me….feeling sorry for myself.  Like a ton of bricks, it finally hit me that my temporary injury would eventually heal….But Richard’s leg was not going to be like a starfish, and eventually grow back.  Talk about a reality check.

Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation as me, feeling sorry for yourself, asking God “why me?”  What could you or I have ever done to be singled out and punished by our Heavenly Father?  It’s in our human nature to question God.  We want to know every reason why things happen.  We want to be in control, don’t we?  And when we’re not in control or we don’t know the answers, we feel like God has betrayed us.

But that’s not our God.

God doesn’t want us to be victims.  He wants us to be victors.

He doesn’t want us to feel singled out.  He wants us to be one of many in His kingdom.

And God wants our attention….and sometimes, when things don’t go according to our plan, it’s God’s way of giving us a wake up call.

Like it or not, that’s God’s way.

Remember the promise in Romans 8:28 where scripture says:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

What’s holding you back today from realizing what God has in store for you?  What wake up call is He placing on your heart?

My prayer for all of us today is that our eyes are opened to the road blocks, the changes in directions, the set backs, and the failures….all part of God’s plan to enrich, fulfill, and strengthen our lives and those who we are called to serve.

Amen!

 

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MAR 8, 2017 WAWA: “Losing My Religion Run”

We’ve all heard the REM song, “Losing My Religion”, right?  This week’s WAWA is run-focused with special attention to the three Myers Park churches closest to our run route:  Myers Park Baptist, Myers Park Presbyterian, and Myers Park Methodist.  The course will be somewhat “plug and play”, meaning you’ll get to pick your own distance for this WAWA.  We’ll start at 5:40 am….and everyone should be done by 6:25 am for cool down and devotional.

And, depending on the route you select, like me you might “lose” or “gain” a new religion!

Here’s the workout:

First Loop (everyone does):  Starting at The Cornwell Center (CC), participants will run down Selwyn Avenue towards Myers Park Baptist Church (MPBC), turning around at the intersection of Queens & Selwyn.

Once participants return to The Cornwell Center, they’ll immediately head back towards MPBC, go past the Baptist church and continue towards Myers Park Presbyterian Church (MPPC).  At the intersection of Queens & Oxford, runners will turn around and head back to The Cornwell Center.

Finally, runners will again turn around in front of The Cornwell Center and head back up Selwyn/Queens, this time running towards/past Myers Park Methodist Church (MPMC).  At the intersection of Queens & Providence, runners will complete the last loop heading back to The Cornwell Center.

Total distance on the three church run for the first loop is 2.5 miles.

Second Loop (runner’s choice):  Using the distances below, runners will choose their route for the second loop.  For example, here’s a few options:

-Baptist & Methodist route:  0.80 miles total

-Presbyterian & Methodist route:  1.1 miles total

-Baptist & Presbyterian route:  0.6 miles total

-2 Methodists route:  1.3 miles total

Or you can simply repeat the three churches for 2.5 miles total on the second loop!

Distance diagram:

Cornwell Center < —— > Myers Park Baptist (0.15 miles)

Cornwell Center < —– >  Myers Park Presbyterian (0.45 miles)

Cornwell Center < —– >  Myers Park Methodist (0.65 miles)

 

Cool Down / Devotional at 6:25 am in front of the Cornwell Center.

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotion Leader:  Mike Lenhart

See you at 5:40 am outside the Cornwell Center…..rain or shine!

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