DEC 11, 2019 WAWA: “Christmas Lights with a Splash of Repeats”

This week marks the final “formal” WAWA run of the year.  There’s always a chance for a pop-up run or two before we wrap up 2019.  But this Wednesday is the last planned workout.

As such, we’ll be running our annual “light” run, taking in the Christmas lights in the Myers Park neighborhood, primarily on Picardy Place and Hillside Avenue.  And, yes, we will do a few hill repeats on Hillside before heading back to the Cornwell Center.  5 repeats to be exact!  Total run distance is just under 4.5 miles.

Planned route is at this LINK.

Temps will hover around 40 degrees with overcast skies.  And unlike the past two years, I don’t think we’ll see any rain on this year’s “light run”.  This is always a great time, wrapping up the WAWA year and hearing a Christmas devotional message.  Tomorrow’s message will call to mind “Who’s Your Shepherd; Who’s Your Angel; and Where’s Your Field?“.

Meet outside the Cornwell Center at 5:45 am (or inside the main lobby if you’re a few minutes early).

See you in the morning!

WORKOUT Leader:  Mike Lenhart

DEVOTIONAL Leader:  Mike Lenhart

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NOV 13, 2019 Devotional: Exposing the Judas in me…..and, perhaps, you too!

Truthfully, I haven’t had the insight or inspiration to write anything in several weeks.  Maybe months!  Recently however, I came across something that was worth noting.  My Friday morning men’s group finished up a study series on the book, “Twelve Ordinary Men” by John MacArthur.  For several men it was the second time reading the book.  We’ve had a handful of “newbies” join the group so it was worth bringing the book around for a second showing.

The basic premise of the book is to chronicle the backgrounds of each of the twelve disciples who were called by Jesus to “follow” him.  Between the lines of the book is an under-current that might lead readers to think, “If this band of misfits could put it all together, then there’s hope for us today….”.

True, maybe.

The book is nicely organized in order of importance and knowledge on specific disciples.  Peter, for obvious reasons, is profiled first.  Then comes Andrew, James, and John.  These first four of the twelve represent Jesus’ tightest inner circle.

The book continues to describe the stories of the next seven men who became disciples of Jesus.  Finally, the book comes to a close with the story the final disciple, Judas (the Traitor), who as most of us know, was the one who ultimately betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I’ve read story after story about Judas but for some reason, this time the message for me personally was of a different tone.

Why did Judas do what he did after following Jesus for all that time?

Why “Judas” and why not any of the other disciples?

How did Judas get it “all wrong” when he was exposed to just as much teaching from Jesus as the others?

Jesus knew everything about every disciple….yet, still, He allowed Judas to ultimately deliver him up for cruxification.

When my men’s group started the study this time, I asked each of them to write down the name of a disciple each closely identified with before reading the book.  I promised to also ask the same question once we finished the book.  I thought it might be interesting to see if there were any differences between the before and after readings.

And their certainly were some striking differences!

One additional twist was that I had them also identify which disciple they aspired to be like in the future.

So, three disciples was the ask: One, who you identified with before the book.  Two, who after reading the book.  And, three, who longer term you aspired to follow.

As the group gathered for our final lesson last Friday, the chapter about Judas, I gave each person gathered three flat, disc cones: red, yellow and green.  Next, I put twelve index cards on the carpet with the names of each of the twelve disciples.

“Okay, now I want you to place your markers down by the name of specific disciples.  Red is who you aligned with before the book.  Yellow after reading the book.  And green for who you aspire to be.”

For some, the exercise was pretty simple.  One individual even put all three colors on the same disciple.  We were just about finished when the group noticed that I was stalling.  Then, I placed my yellow cone next to Judas.

Gasp!

“What do you mean, choosing Judas?  Are you nuts?”

Remember that I said I’ve read about Judas all my life.  However, this time Judas’ story spoke to me completely upside-down.

If we look closely at Judas, he was arguably just as devoted to Jesus as all the others.  Some might even say he was more devoted than many.  He was into every word spoken by Jesus.  There’s even mention of Judas preaching the Gospel.  Really?

One author describes four things we can learn that are often overlooked from the story of Judas — the traitor.

First, Judas was committed to following Jesus.  And this was evident to Jesus as well.  The Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus calling all twelve together (including Judas), giving them power over demons, the ability to cure diseases, and insight into preaching the “good news”.  There was no wavering between any of the disciples, including Judas, when it came to their commitment to their callings.

Next, despite all the opportunities he was given, Judas still comes up short.  He walked with Jesus for three years, saw countless miracles, and heard personal teachings by Him.  Imagine the things Judas was able to see with his own eyes.  Still, his story reminds us that despite all the opportunities we are given, the environments we are raised, and the people we surround ourselves, those events alone cannot prevent the human heart from going astray.

Third, many believe that Judas welcomed an assault into his heart by Satan.  Judas was committing sins, smaller ones at first, then larger ones.  Yet, while sitting at the table with the other disciples, Judas never confessed his faults.  He was the ideal disciple when in the presence of Jesus and the others.  But the lesson here is that unconfessed sins open the door for further mischief by Satan himself.  Confessing our sins frees us from Satan’s hold….Satan cannot get a foothold on the lives of those who are walking with Jesus.

Finally, the story of Judas reminds us that nothing good can come from abandoning Jesus.  I’m always reminded of a saying: “I’d rather go through life believing that God exists, and find out He doesn’t, then to not believe God exists and find out that He does.”  This story not only reminds us to guard our own hearts from drifting, but to also watch out for others who could drift as well.

Now, back to the story of my men’s group.  You see, the reason I said I’m more like “Judas” is not to say I’m a bad person.  Rather, like Judas, when I’m with my men’s group, with my church, with the “Word”, then I am “all in” and the promise of salvation for me is endless.  But like Judas, who drifted when he was not in the presence of the other disciples, I know that at times, my walk with Christ in words and in deeds is less in step with His.  Truthfully, perhaps, all of us can admit to a little bit of “Judas” in our lives too.

What I love about my church, my men’s group, etc. is the accountability that comes along with those like-minded individuals and organizations.  My prayer today is that my and our accountability is strengthened well beyond being “in the moment”.  I am thankful for the story of Judas….and the reminders that it gives as we aspire to be more Christ-like in all aspects and hours of our lives.  As we lean forward into the season of Advent, won’t you join me in being more intentional about following Christ’s example?

Amen!

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SEP 11, 2019 Devotional: Thinking about “last nights”….

WAWA kicked back into high gear this morning in a very hot and humid way!  I might still be sweating!  Good workout and hoping to see more folks as the seasons change….and interest grows!

I told the group this morning that I had all summer to think about my first devotional when we reconvened.  I had been going down the path for a few weeks about sharing a “whoa is me” story of my recovery back from shoulder surgery, my self consciousness about gaining 10 pounds while experiencing limited activities, and, of course, not being able to hit the golf course for four months.  But last night it hit me that maybe that wasn’t really the message I wanted to share.

I came across a meme earlier on September 10th, that said the following:

“18 years ago today, 3,000 people would be spending their last night with their family.  Think about that for a second.”

I took longer than a few seconds to ponder that reality.

For the past several years, many have asked “where were you on 9/11?”

For me, I was working for IBM in Atlanta, and was in a software planning room with a couple other colleagues as we were going through some tasks on a project for The Home Depot.  I recall when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, I like many thought it was a small twin-engine plane that had lost its way or come under distress.  Soon, however, the world knew the grim reality of the day.

Our world was never again the same.

Fast forward to my summer, I shared with this morning’s runners about a funeral I attended about a month ago in Atlanta.  A dear friend, wonderful husband and wife with twin boys less than a year old….the mother laid down to take an afternoon nap … and never woke up.

Heartbreaking.

And just this week, a friend from my Friday morning men’s group, sent me a text and shared his sad news about his father in law’s passing.

Few things in life are certain; death is certainly one of them.  I hate it.  I’m scared about it.  I don’t want to lose those close to me who I love dearly.

But what am I doing about it?  What are….you….doing about it?

When I lay my head down to rest at night, I rarely think about my salvation.  Am I going to heaven?  Am I certained to get there?  Will God give me a pass because I’m “mostly a good guy?”

What am I doing to ensure that will happen?

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Matthew 24: 36-30

I know very little about the 3,000.  And I know little about my friend’s father in law.  As for my friend from Atlanta, she lived her life both outwardly and inwardly as God would want her to live.  She continues to be one of my heros today.  While her passing was untimely by our earthly standards, her preparations for salvation were always reverent.

I want to do a better job in my own preparations.

My prayer this week, as we lean forward into a new season of WAWA is that we live our days to the fullest, yet as God would want us to live.  May we be an example to others that we are prepared for salvation. And in doing these things, may we not be worried, for the invitation to our Father’s kingdom awaits us.

Amen.

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FEB 13, 2019 Devotional: “Getting dirty on my way to getting Clean!”

I’m going to tread lightly on this week’s devotional in order to protect the names of the “innocent”.  Mostly because the story I’ll share this week was fostered out of comments from a friend who I know did not mean to imply what ultimately came across by the comments.  Anyway….so here goes…

Most people who know me might tell strangers that “Mike loves to be involved in community…”.  And that’s true.  The flip side, however, is that it’s always a fine balance for me with the other responsibilities in my life….family, work, chickens….(okay, maybe not so much the chickens…).  When you stay involved in community efforts over time, eventually you get asked to become the “leader” of such groups.  Such is the case for me…and for one particular church effort, where I get to help several leaders assist some of the wellness interests of our members and the goals of our church.

All well intentions….always.

One such focus has been a program through a partner organization, Urban Ministry, and “Room In The Inn”.  The committee was discussing how we might assist with a perceived laundry bottleneck that occurs when “guests” from less fortunate members of our community come and stay overnight on church property one night a week during the winter months where sleeping on the street might otherwise be dangerous or even deadly.  Twenty-four guests are provided a warm dinner, access to showers, comfortable sleeping arrangements, and access to two pairs of washer and dryers.  And while the overall program is very efficiently run, its been my observation that the sheer volume of laundry from our guests and the limitations of only two washer/two dryers contributes to the bottlenecks that ensues.

“What’s our role here, Mike”, I was asked by the committee.  My response was a longer explanation to which if we cannot provide “rest” for our guests because many are staying up all night waiting in line for laundry machines to free up, then I don’t think we’re contributing to the full wellness of these same individuals.

“Let’s just add more machines” was one solution offered up.  Yes…maybe, but that requires some intervention by facilities management, potentially a new laundry room, renovations to existing infrastructure, etc.  Could be a longer process, if you ask me.

And there’s the ideal of a mobile laundry service that I talked about after reading of a similar offering out in San Diego.  Think of a food truck, of sorts, but the truck is filled with a bay of washers and dryers.  Could be a solution down the road, but again, there’s a lot of planning involved.

I heard about a church north of Charlotte that tackled this problem another way.  When the guests arrive, there’s a team of church members who are standing “at-the-ready” with laundry bags to take dirty belongings from the guests.  There’s a dialog that occurs, a quick inventory of items, and a commitment from the church member to bring back the dirty clothes “clean” in a couple hours.  And, during the two hours of separation, the guest can relax, take a shower, get off his/her feet, etc.

Without knowing all the details, my initial thoughts for this third solution are “man, there must be a huge amount of trust….”.  For many of these guests, their laundry in a plastic garbage bag represents most if not all of their personal belongs.  Their “life” is inside that plastic bag.  Would you be willing to part with your worldly possessions to a total stranger?

When I shared this story with the committee, one individual said, “I think we’d have trouble with this type of solution….I mean, think of all the dirt and grime in those clothes.  Imagine what we might find…..”.

Now, as I said above, I am 100% certain the person who expressed those concerns did not mean for it the way it came out.  But while the room became completely silent….I politely replied…..”I think that’s the entire point…”.

Picture me up on my soap box for a minute now.  I firmly believe that we have an obligation to serve those in our community who are far less fortunate than us.  And many times that means we’re getting dirty and filthy along the way.  I checked my answer to my fellow committee member…but what I really wanted to say was “while we might experience two hours of filth and dirt…..that’s nothing compared to those individuals less fortunate who deal with it every day…”.

When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in the upper room, it was symbolic in many ways.  But above all, it was His demonstration of humility and servant-hood.  Frankly, I bet the disciples were stunned.  But this was just one of the many ways Jesus reiterated that He came to serve….and not to be served.

Remember too when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan….and He asks “which among the three was a neighbor to the (Samaritan) man…”?  And, after the correct response is given, Jesus reminds them to “go and do likewise.”.

I believe we need to stand face-to-face, toe-to-toe and (perhaps) shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors who are less fortunate.  Maybe it’s as simple as doing a dirty laundry inventory and agreeing to bring back someone’s worldly possessions.  Maybe it’s building a Habitat home.  Or maybe it’s tutoring a fatherless child in his/her math homework.

Regardless of what we’re doing, my prayer this week is that we remember Christ’s call to us to do “likewise”.  I promise you will get much more out of serving than those who are being served.

….stepping down from soapbox now…..

Amen!

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JAN 24, 2019 Devotional: “Life, Death, and Getting Clean In-between”

In our new-age of “on demand” television, I’m becoming more and more of a binge watcher for programs that strike a chord with me.  Such is the case with a new series I’ve been watching called “The Cleaner”.  This show aired on the A&E network for two seasons (2008-2009) and now can be viewed on Amazon Prime.  My wife and I finished up season 1 last week, and we’re already four episodes into season 2.  It’s becoming our routine before heading to bed for the night.

The star of the show is Benjamin Bratt who portrays the character, William Banks.  Banks’ character is based on real-life person, Warren Boyd.  Both Boyd, and “Banks” are recovering addicts, mainly drugs and alcohol.  Banks makes a deal with God as his daughter in born and his life is a rapid, downward spiral of heroin and other drugs.  He tells God that he will commit his life to getting others “clean” if God would help him beat his drug addiction.  God does….and now Banks is working through his side of the deal.

Now whether or not you believe this type of conversation can or does happen between God and us is another question.  As for me, I’m absolutely convinced conversations like this occur….and more often than we understand.  Part of God taking us “as we are” means he also connects with us in a myriad of different ways too.

Banks, himself, admits that he has an interesting way of communicating with God.  “I don’t pray, all right?  I talk….”.  His elder son early in season 1 accuses Banks of being a little crazy as he appears to be talking to himself.  One of the other story lines is the relationship between Banks and his son….very rocky at first, but evolves in season 1 and carries over into season 2.

With each episode, Banks and his team of ex-junkies are faced with the addictions of many.  There’s the cop who stays high so he won’t feel the pain of shooting an innocent victim, a dad who’s so enslaved to alcohol that he asks his daughter to pour his drinks for him, and the prodigal daughter who sells her body to pay for her drug habits all the while her twin sister, also a junkie, masks as “at least I’m not as bad as her…”.

The monologues that represent Banks’ conversations with God are most poignant to me.  Sometimes, they’re accusatory.  Other times, very questioning.  Often times, retrospective.  Upon the death of Banks’ dad’s best friend, the interventionist says to God:

“You make birth.  You make death.  And you ask us to hang out in between and figure out the rest.

Very telling, right?  I mean, is Banks suggesting that God leaves us alone during the long stretch between life and death?  Probably not…but I think what he’s revealing is that God expects us to take some responsibilities of how we’re living our lives, and the consequences there-in.  I think that’s what’s called “free will….”.

At best, I believe a review of The Cleaner series in Christianity Today magazine sums it up quite well:

“Of course, the messy work of addiction recovery is smoothed over for TV audiences; each junkie-of-the-week story-line is wrapped up in an hour.  But all along, we see the complicated nature of Banks’ journey, living with the consequences of his past while slogging through the full, complex cycle of rebirth.  All of us have hit a point where we have recognized our sin, cried out to God, repented, been made new, and shared what we’ve found with others.  And, in that sense, we are all cleaners….”

Here’s to the messiness in our lives….and our efforts to clean them all up.

Amen.

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