FEB 28, 2018 WAWA: “Building Stairs”

This week, we’re taking a break from the “streets” and getting in some stair work!  So, if you’ve been reluctant to join us because you’re “not a runner”, then this is the week for you!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center per usual at 5:45 am.

We’ll jog across the street to Queens University to the taller of the two parking deck stairwells.

Here’s the workout:

There are six landings in the larger stairwell, I think.  We’ll run up to the first landing, then back down,  Then run up to the second landing, then back down; then up to the third, and back down.  All the way until we hit the final landing, and all the way back down.

But…wait…there’s more!

After finishing the final “up and down”, we’ll exit the stairwell and do one lap around the Myers Park Traditional track.

Finish at the base of the stairwell.  And that’s the first set!

We’ll repeat two more times, as time permits!

Cooler temps in the morning EXCEPT for the stairwell, which is always heated.  Plan accordingly.

Temperatures expected to be around 41 degrees F outside when we start.  Sunrise is at 6:45 am.

See you in the morning!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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FEB 21, 2018 Devotional: “Sharing the Stench”

Many Sundays, I sit in the pew of my church and hear messages from our senior pastor, saying to myself, “Man, I wish I had thought about that message….”.  So, one of the challenges for me for these weekly devotionals is to come up with some original thoughts of how scripture is speaking to me.  Heavy comments for a Wednesday, I know.

Today, however, I am taking a slight deviation from that path.  The message last week from my pastor was compelling enough and very relevant to what I sense and feel from many.  We have a ton of hurt and pain in our country; and equally a lot of that in our own neighborhoods.

We watch the news, read stories on the Internet and can’t help but have a feeling of loss.  Violence in our schools, shootings at entertainment events, and fears across the board from all political sides of the spectrum.  And beyond all that, here locally in Charlotte, many have or are currently dealing with the personal loss of friends and family members.  I feel like I’ve been to a few more funerals than I ever expected this year and last.

In all of this, it’s natural to say, “Where is God in all of this?”.  It’s an age-old question that gets answered many times throughout the years.  But I find myself saying, “Yes, but it that really the right answer to Where is God in all of this...”

And, finally, last weekend, I think I heard it as best as I’ve ever heard.

Remember the story of Lazarus?  (Side note….there’s actually two Lazarus-es in the Bible.  I’m talking about the one who was a close friend of Jesus.)

From the 11th chapter of John, we recall:

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”  JOHN 11: 32-37

How many of us, like Mary, immediately blame God when things go wrong?  As if to say in this case, “Lord, if you had been here, things would be alright.”  But if we truly believe in an omnipresent Father, then perhaps we’d realize that God is there all along.

Now, this is also not to say that things will always go right.  Pain in our world and in our neighborhoods is testament that bad things continue to happen.  And that really stinks, right?

Years ago, I had a brick ranch home in Atlanta.  And the city had taken over a few blocks of homes that were otherwise slowly being abandoned.  The city decided to buy the block of homes, tear them down, and create a large park/green-space, thereby making better use of the land.  Great idea, except for the notion that much of the rodent population that had infiltrated those abandoned homes, was now being displaced when the bulldozers came to knock down the homes.  One such critter found a comfortable home in the duct systems beneath my home in the crawl space.  I noticed the animal when a fowl smell started to erode through the vents in the house.  Yuk!

I called a critter exterminator….one of strangest guys I’ve ever met…but in his field of work, that was probably a job prerequisite….not kidding!  Within five or ten minutes, he found the dead animal in the crawl space and removed the smell.

That smell was pretty bad.

Now, back to our story in the book of John:

 39Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’  JOHN 11: 39-44

When I heard pastor Joe Clifford reading this passage last Sunday, emphasizing the word “stench” as I have here, my thoughts drifted back to that rodent caught in my duct system.  I can only imagine how bad the smell might have been from a human being, dead for four days, in the heat of the Middle East, in the summer time.  Simply unbearable.

Yet, as Joe shared, Jesus shows up when things really stunk….literally and figuratively.  Jesus shows up in the stench of four days and, maybe, the stench of many years and months for others in the book of John.

And if God shows up during the stench of our lives, I know He’s there when things are smelling very rosy as well.  And while there is some comfort in knowing he’s there in both scenarios, I am especially grateful He’s there with me and with you in the stench of our lives.

It’s been nearly a week since Joe’s sermon and I hope you’ll see why I felt it was important to share his message about the “stench”.  It took a weird critter exterminator to remove the bad smell in my crawl space.  But it takes our loving Father to remove the stench of our lives.  Thanks be to God for that.

Prayers this week, continue, for our world, our nation, and our neighbors here in Charlotte.

Amen!

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FEB 21, 2018 WAWA: “New Hill Repeats with an Old Hill Finisher!”

Temps this week for WAWA will be a “balmy” 65 degrees, under partly cloudy skies!  We’ve got a great hill repeats run planned, taking us up a “new” hill for the repeats, then going up an old familiar hill as our finisher!  Think of the old hill as a gigantic cherry on top of an already great workout!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center ready to go at 5:45 amHere’s the run route LINK.

For those wanting a shorter option, you’ll be able to cut out the “cherry” and follow a more forgiving return back to the Cornwell Center.

All will do the hill repeats portion of the workout; the hill is one-tenth of a mile; we’ll execute it 5 times.

Total distance planned is 5.4 miles.  Shorter distance is closer to 4 miles.

See you in the morning!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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FEB 14, 2018 Devotional: “Are you giving up FOR or giving up ON Lent this year?”

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, historically the last day before “fasting” should start at the beginning of the Lenten season.  Most of you, hopefully, are familiar with what I’m taking about when I say the “Lenten Season”.  This is the period of 40 days between Ash Wednesday (today) until Easter Sunday.  It’s a six week period, generally speaking, and if you do the math you’ll recognize that it’s actually 46 days.  But, many modern religions do not count the six Sundays during Lent…so that’s where magically we reach 40 days.

40 days is also significant as it represents the number of days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting shortly after His baptism by John the Baptist.  During His time in the desert, Satan visited him and tempted Him in every way possible.  Eventually, Satan departed, most likely very frustrated, and then Jesus returned to Galilee to begin His ministry.  Jesus’ forty days in the desert story is explained in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Now I grew up Catholic and Lent was always a big deal around our household.  We not only had to proclaim to mom and dad at the dinner table one evening shortly before Ash Wednesday what we’d be giving up, but also had to plan on fish for dinner every Friday night up to and including Good Friday.  Ah….I can still taste those frozen fish stick dinners today!

At work yesterday, I made mention about it being Fat Tuesday….and more than one person seemed a little puzzled by the connection between today’s beginning of a 40 day period of “fasting” leading up to Easter.  I was a little puzzled by the lack of information.  Are we a less informed society?  Have we forgotten about the significance of the Lenten season? Or have we simply given up on observing and honoring this season altogether?

What about us?  Are we giving up on or giving up for Lent this year?

I did a little research and found a great story one author wrote to explain what he’s learned over the year’s of observing the season of Lent.  It’s worth sharing!

First, the author reminds us that giving up something for Lent helps us realize something very tangible.  Maybe you’ve decided to give up watching too much television over the next several weeks.  We rarely give up something on a daily basis in our life, so making the sacrifice each day during Lent, makes it a great opportunity to place God first in our lives.  Think of it as a way of removing some of our daily distractions that keep us from listening to God.

Second, the author explains that when something he was accustomed to on a daily basis is taken away, he found himself desiring that “thing” more and more.  He talks about how his awareness to these other things in his life were creating a dependency on those earthy things rather than on our Heavenly Father.  He goes so far as to describe the earthly things as “little idols” and through fasting, he saw the ability to give up those “little idols” to God.

Next, by giving up something he likes, and recognizing the unquenched desire for it, the author further explained how much of a “needy” person he’d become.  He says, of neediness, “It’s the heart of true spirituality.”  In scripture, we know that:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Matthew 5:3, 6

While the author realized his “hunger” for other things in his life, he realized too the ability to redirect that hunger towards a more positive neediness towards God.

And finally, the author explains that the further he got along with his Lenten sacrifice, the less he found himself needing the other “thing” in his life that he had decided to give up for the season.  The neediness of the one thing went away and ultimately allowed him to focus more importantly on God.

I know that one example from this unnamed author might seem very academic.  That’s true.  Admittedly, I had to read the passage a few times to see how to connect the dots in his example.  The better lesson for me came when the author wrapped up his message describing another Lenten Season tactic that involves adding a spiritual exercise or discipline to your daily life.  His suggestion was to start by ready a chapter a day in the book of Mark.  Then when you’re finished with that one, you’ll still have enough time to finish up a second gospel before Good Friday arrives.  I’m personally thinking about tackling that recommendation this year!

So, whatever you decide to do FOR Lent this year, I hope you’ll do just that.  Do something.  Find a way to connect the dots, if an academic approach is more your style.  Or find a way to stretch your daily spiritual exercises by digging into a couple of the Gospels.  If it takes 28 days, arguably, to make something a lasting habit, imagine what good you could set yourself up for by observing a 40-day cadence?

Prayers for each of us, as we enter this season of Lent.  Prayers specifically that we don’t give up ON Lent.  Prayers that we do something FOR Lent.

Peace!

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FEB 14, 2018 WAWA: “A Heartfelt Start to the Season of Lent”

Tomorrow brings Valentine’s Day to our calendar but it also marks the beginning of the season of Lent….sometimes referred to as the “40 days leading up to Easter”.  The planned run tomorrow is just under 4 miles so we should finish within 40 minutes….ironic, maybe?

We’re going to play a little game of “connect the dots” tomorrow.  It will make more sense in the morning…but we’ll have nine dots to connect.  If you really think about it and look at the route, you’ll figure it out very quickly.

Shorter distance and somewhat hilly.  And that’s where you might need a little “heart” to push through!  You can do this!

Please gather outside the Cornwell Center, ready to go at 5:45 am.  Temps will be in the low 40’s when we take off so dress accordingly, as always!

See you in the morning.  Valentine’s cards are optional……!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTION Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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FEB 8, 2018 Devotional: “Women, Girls, and Loving Thy Neighbors”

It’s taken me about a day to put down what I talked about after yesterday’s great morning run with our WAWA group.  The topic is a little bit edgy, and I wanted to make sure I put down some thoughts that ultimately trace back to biblical teachings.  That’s kinda the point of these devotionals, right?

Earlier in the week, I was invited to attend a meeting between my church’s Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders, as well as leaders from the church’s youth ministry team.  The broader purpose of the meeting was to talk about communications between the two scout organizations, which all agreed was fairly smooth so far.  But one item during the latter portion of the meeting brought about the most discussion.  Late last year, national leaders from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) unanimously agreed to allow girls into the cub scout programs beginning in 2018.  And, perhaps, the writing is on the wall for the boy scouts to likely have the same requirements in the future.

The discussion, somewhat surprisingly, was very mixed.  Some, felt like this was where society has been moving for some time, and the integration between genders is more prevalent.  Others, sided more with “tradition”, saying boys needed to spend time with boys; girls needed to spend time with girls.

One of the more striking comments came from a father who said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do if a girl is doing better at scouting stuff than my son.”

Interesting.

A couple years ago, the Army allowed women to attend the prestigious Ranger School.  As a graduate, I can tell you that it was one of the most difficult schools in all my Army career.  The military calls Ranger School (and the SEALs school) a “leadership” program.  And that’s mostly correct.  I mean, teaching individuals how to perform under extreme conditions such as food deprivation, lack of sleep, swamps, frozen temps, etc., certainly has it’s merits.  Personally, I lost about 30 pounds in 64 days of training.  When my parents came down to Fort Benning, GA for the graduation ceremony, my mom nearly didn’t recognize me because my face and body seemed so emaciated.

The inclusion of women into the Ranger School program doesn’t phase me.  And I’m confident that the standards have not been lowered to allowed an easier bar for women.  A few women have graduated but still many have not passed.  Guess what.  Same thing goes for the men.  My graduating class in 1991 had 32 men finish straight through without recycling any of the four phases out of an initial starting group of 320 men.  I was fortunate or lucky or both…to be one of those 32 men.

Do I feel like my Ranger tab is tarnished with the inclusion of women?  Have I burned it in our backyard fire pit?  Certainly not.

I think the issue of “boy scout / girl scouts” goes well beyond gender.  What about disabled and able-bodied?  How about rich and poor?  Or black and white?  Is it not better to teach our kids now those issues, albeit uncomfortable to them and, heaven forbid, us as parents?

In all honestly, I’m not 100% sold on the integration.  But I’m willing to explore how this can….and will happen.  (My wife says she was shocked when she heard me say that last part!)

Jesus teaches us to love our neighbors.  He doesn’t teach us to love some….no, He teaches us to love all of them.  And I believe that inclusion, despite all it’s fears and challenges, is the first step towards loving one another as Jesus has taught.

I did a quick search on “why” should I love my neighbor.  And I loved what Google revealed.  Here’s three great reasons why:

First, it reminds us of God’s grace.  It is by His grace that we are loved….and it’s that same grace that we can extend to others.

Second, it demonstrates God’s love to one another.  In a world that seems to be doubling-down on hatred in our cultures, God tells us to love one another despite religion, creed, color, race, or economic status, just to name a few.

And finally, it creates opportunities.  There’s a Gallup poll that says 60% of Americans would attend a religious service if they were simply asked.  So, maybe, loving one another opens the door for us all to be more inviting.

I really want my sons to see the value of all people, especially those who are more like “us” than not.  I want them to serve others not like them, play with others not like them, cry with others not like them, and learn to live in a world of more differences than similarities.  And it’s my prayer that opportunities of inclusion between genders, between economic status, and between abilities, can foster that kind of spiritual growth for them and for me…and for all of us as well.

Amen!

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FEB 7, 2018 WAWA: “Lovely Latta, Hills and All!”

Brace yourself for this week’s WAWA….challenging BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE!

263 feet of climbing along a 5.5 mile route.  We’re going primarily through the Dilworth neighborhood again this week,  starting on the western side then running over to the eastern side where we’ll find Latta Park.  We’ll run along Latta Park, then down Dilworth Road East, and back out to East Blvd.  The “cherry on top” for this week’s workout is the final stretch that takes us up Sherwood Avenue before heading back to the Cornwell Center!

Whew! Here’s the route.

I’ve also added an “Option 2” which is only 3.75 miles for those who’d rather do that distance.

Everyone take a deep breath!  We’ll get there!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center at 5:45 am, ready to go.  Weather calls for upper 40’s and overcast.  Dress accordingly!  Still dark out so wear reflective gear and headlamps if you’ve got them!

See you this Friday!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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