Standing with the Accused

The world is full of less than perfect people trying to figure out how to best cope with the imperfections in the world all around. When we all approach situations we have to make serious decisions about whether or not go one way or another. Some decisions made are right, some are wrong, and still others are ambiguous. The world is full of people doing wrong or regrettable things. At the same time there is a crowd waiting to pounce, waiting to tear the people apart that don’t have the power to hurt them back.

We live in a world where the powerful do wrong, and then when caught in the act they shrug it off because very often the people that accuse have no power over them, and no ability to enact change in their lives. When this happens we cry and yell about the injustice of the act and that something needs to happen to upend the power structures. In politics, this often turns into the imbalance of the power structures that lead to divisiveness that our political systems thrive upon these days. Power makes you think you can get away with anything, and if that power is not checked you become more bold in doing wrong things. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and any number of tech companies have all been caught in the same traps, that people will follow you and use your product, no matter what you do, because the followers or users feel powerless against the powerful companies doing things that are detrimental with their data, with their privacy, and with their loyalty. In this environment, we feel about power and wrong-doing, when we find wrong-doing that we can affect change upon we pounce.

Unfortunately, this leads to the mob mentality that wants to burn the house down of those caught in the act. You have no power to do anything to me, therefore I will destroy you. This has happened too many times in our society, especially in the social media age. One person gets accused of something, and then their social media accounts get published on the internet, and sometime worse their physical addresses get broadcast, and then the physical safety of the person standing accused is put in danger. The mob justifies the actions based on the accused gave up their freedom when they did wrong, but this justification is truly toothless. Rather, it is just an excuse to get release and try to establish justice in a world that is often devoid of justice, but this justice is not truly justice. Justice is essentially life giving, but the actions of the mob are truly destructive.

Jesus, in John 8, shows us a better way. Here a woman is caught in the act of adultery and the mob is seeking to destroy her and make her pay the price for her misgivings. However, Jesus doesn’t simply allow the mob carry out their intended action, but rather he makes them contemplate and asks if they have no sin then carry on, but if not then drop the stones. He doesn’t do this to point out their sin, but rather to stand in between the woman and the angry mob. Obviously, the only reason they pulled this woman out was that she could do nothing to defend herself, where was the man? Adultery takes at least two, but the man probably had too much power, too much voice to bring out into the light, therefore the justice they wanted to carry out was incomplete and destructive.

Unfortunately, we have a lot of people in our world that are willing to pull the woman out for public scorn, but unwilling to stand up to the mob. Jesus calls us to stand with the woman, and to stand with the accused, even if they have done something wrong, even if they are guilty. There is no chance for reformation, and no chance for shalom if the person is destroyed and stoned and broken, and Jesus came to bring shalom not shame, He came to bring love, and not blame, and we are all invited to join in the Kingdom of God to defend the defenseless.

One last aspect of this is that we encourage those to go and sin no more, and it is vital that we do this. We need to do whatever we can, in order to help them carry this out, but if the mob wins, they do nothing but carry with them the Scarlett Letter and are not granted grace, but surrounded by scorn and ridicule that leads them to feel and know that it doesn’t matter if they turn their lives around, they will always be that of which they are accused. We want to defeat and enjoy the grace that God gives us, and share it with everyone, especially the accused.

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My Team, My Family

This past weekend was filled with dirt, sleep deprivation, wind, cold cold wind, freezing temperatures, calorie deficits, cold, port-o-potties, but mostly running, laughter, encouragement, craziness, eating, and a whole bunch of love. Our running OHANA brought two teams to the Ragnar Trail Los Coyotes Event this past weekend, one team was eight-ish members that ran three different trail loops once a person, and an Ultra team of four members that ran the same loops, except they did it twice per person. This is a relay style event where each team runs around the clock until 24 loops are completed. This is the third year that these teams have participated in this event, and the fourth consecutive year I have done one of these in the fall. This has become the event I look forward to all year long, because it is a mixture of difficult running, spending time with my best friends, and growth as a person.

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Throughout my later in life running life, I have many accomplishments having run ultramarathons, marathons, half marathons, obstacle course races, among other races, but I would have to say the accomplishment of running this race with three of my running beasties (spelled that way on purpose), covering over 112 miles in a little over 30 hours, is one for which I hold in a special special place. This was hard, probably harder than I had given it credit, but I believe we need to do hard things to push us and mold us into being better tomorrow than we were yesterday. We are better having done this, when the soreness wears away, and I ask them if they are ready to do it again, I know without hesitation the three of them will reply, “Let’s do it!”

I am proud to be their captain, but I am filled with joy that they call me friend, and family. We have been on many adventures together, some running related, others not as much, we have rejoiced together in our successes, and been there for one another in our failures. This group is my blessing, they push me beyond what I thought I could be, and they make me want to constantly strive to be better. A better runner, a better friend, a better human being, just better. I am thankful for them, and that is why this medal will always mean more because I didn’t earn it alone, I earned it with them.

Running in an event like this breaks you down because you get deprived of sleep, the elements are something to contend with, and you are not at your best. It is setup to throw you off schedule, run at crazy hours, always trying to figure out how to get enough calories in your system, and push you to your breaking point. However, when you have the right family behind you, they tell you when to sit down, shut up, and let yourself get taken care of. That is what I experienced with this crew, and because of them I am blessed.

I raise my proverbial glass to you my Crazy.Ultra.Love and Crazy.Slower.Love Ohana! You are a blessing and I thank you for letting me be your captain!

Stress and Embarrassment

My life has many stresses on it right now, as most of us live with some sort of stress at one time or another. However, my constant focus has always been to allow the stress of the situation make you stronger, but don’t let it break you. Unfortunately, it almost broke me last night, as I drove home in tears, sad, disappointed, and grasping for control. The signs were there that I was allowing the stress to pile on without a valve to release. My blood pressure was high, my emotional control was waning, and I was feeling isolated in a room full of friends.

The thing about stress is that it can either break you, or make you stronger, but if you just allow it to pile on without a release valve, then it will break you. I was beginning to crack, and even though I always tried to put up the facade that I was alright, my body was physically rejecting that, and was telling me I needed a relief valve pulled. I have always had running and exercise as a valve to give me relief, but with a leg injury that has finally sidelined me, I needed something else as a relief valve.

Sorrow and embarrassment clouded my mind last night, and I was not my usual jovial self. I was not a person that anyone would want to be around. I was lost in my own mind while my body was paying the price; my relationships were paying the price; my sanity was paying the price. I felt out of control, I felt for the first time since I had lost my weight as if I was the unhealthy person, which was too much for me to handle. My pride broke. The stresses were mounting, and my blood pressure was spiking.

I ultimately did something I had to do, and I sought solitude. Ironically, I had just preached on how Jesus needed solitude after feeding the 5000, but I literally had a hard time practicing what I preach. The mounting stress had caused me to isolate myself even among a group of people I call friends, and the only way to break from this isolation was to find solitude. To find a place where my mind was free, and I could commune with a loving God that wants me to simply raise my arms and cry out, “Save me!”

Stress can only make me stronger if I manage it, and admit that I need help dealing with it, dispersing and relieving it when necessary, for that I need to acknowledge I am mortal and I need saving. When I need solitude, I need to go and seek solitude. When I need relief, I need to seek relief. Life is a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, but I don’t ride this ride alone, God is with me. When I forget; I embarrass myself, I lose control, and I begin to break.

Driving Out Fear

When I was younger, I was a timid person, and had many things that I feared. I didn’t want to go on roller-coasters, I avoided anything that had to do with heights, which often puzzled those around me since I have been more than six feet tall since I was twelve years old. “Are you afraid of standing up?” was a question I would often receive from my peers. However, as I grew older, I began pushing myself a little more, and even though I feared them, I pushed myself to go onto them, or maybe it was the peer pressure, either way I went on them. At first I would close my eyes tight, and not allow my eyes to increase or validate that which my mind feared.

However, simply closing our eyes, locking our doors, putting barriers between us and that which we fear, don’t keep us “safe”, but rather they give us a sense of security within which we are willing to live. The idea that there is always someone bigger, someone faster, someone smarter, someone stronger, is true, and if that person means to do me harm, them no amount of fortification I attempt, there is always a vulnerability.

Even the Empire, in Star Wars, thought they had built a SUPER weapon, THE DEATH STAR, a weapon intended to bring mass destruction, and with this weapon they would bring the universe to bow down before the power of the Dark Side. However, in two different episodes of the story, the Rebels were able to destroy this because of its vulnerabilities. While this vulnerability was exploited for the Light Side and Rebellion against the Empire, we too have darkness that seemingly overwhelms us at times.

Jesus disciples were not immune to fear, and they thought they could keep the Roman Empire out by simply locking a door behind them. Fear gripped them, fear kept them from doing what they were called to do, and fear made them act and think small and timid. That is how fear wins, by making us think and act timid.

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jn 20:19–23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

The disciples feared the Romans, their eyes had seen what the Romans and enemies of Christ could do, they feared that they would meet the same fate, they feared the Jewish leaders would push the Romans to root out all of the followers and kill them. However, Jesus had plans for his disciples, and first gave them PEACE, or Shalom, to rest their minds and allow them to set aside fear. This PEACE was power to set aside fear, and become their true and complete selves, no longer slaves to the fear that had once gripped them.

While fear should not take hold of us and be the cause for our inaction, the circumstances leading us to fear are real. The Romans crucified Christ, Jesus shows the disciples the results, his hands and side were pierced and broken. The things we fear are often real. We can fall from great heights and hurt ourselves. We can get bitten by a spider and get sick. We can get cancer, and that cancer can break us down, and make us weak. These things cannot be taken lightly, or treated recklessly, but they are opportunities where we can make a stand and say “NO” to fear. Much like Jesus showed the disciples that crucifixion was real and not a joking matter, in showing up before them he also stood up showing that even death was conquered with perfect love. So too, the things we fear, while real, can and will be conquered by love.

This indicates that the things that potentially cause us to fear, more than just being scared about going on a frightening roller-coaster, something that really invokes petrifying fear, such as a loved one facing cancer, or needing to speak up in the face of injustice when there will be almost certain consequences of doing so. We are called to answer that fear with LOVE. Love of God and love of neighbor must be that which we answer these real fears. We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect systems, and often time there is the temptation to just take a step back and wish for somebody else to step up.

I admit this is often my default response. Somebody else can step up and take this head on, I will give support, but not really stick my neck out and take it on. A few times I have stepped up and said something, but it doesn’t really go that far. I have even seen a couple friends really make some bold steps as to take on injustice in our country, and have risked future employment to speak out against injustice in our country. Other friends and families have done the unpopular task of going and standing with and/or fighting for those that are powerless in our society. I dearly admire these leaders and fighters.

Some, like my dear friend and sister, Jackie, have, in the face of a cancer diagnosis, bravely looked in the face of cancer and proclaimed, that it cannot win, it cannot break her spirit, it messed with the wrong woman! Her bravery, her boldness, her fight reminds me, and instructs me that I cannot be silent, I cannot be someone that sits on the sidelines and allows someone else to take this, I will respond to cancer, with LOVE. I will stand for, I will fight for, I will show cancer that LOVE will win the day. I may not be medicine, I may not be a surgeon, but I can pray, I can love, I can help in any number of ways. AND I WILL.

It is this Spirit, the HOLY SPIRIT, that Christ blows onto his disciples. No longer a spirit of fear, but THE HOLY SPIRIT, a SPIRIT of POWER, a SPIRIT of MOVEMENT, a SPIRIT of STRENGTH, and most importantly a SPIRIT of LOVE! With this SPIRIT we drive out fear, we are more than conquerors, and we allow God to utilize us to our full potential. This SPIRIT brings with it power and strength, and with this SPIRIT injustice is rooted out, cancer is defeated, and GRACE wins!

Never Fear

So many industries and campaigns are driven by a truly NASTY and BAD word, FEAR. “If you only knew the truth about this, then you wouldn’t buy that, or you wouldn’t vote this way.” “If this happens then it will mean the literal end of the world, or our nation.” “This thing/ person/ idea will kill you.” We are prone to this type of marketing, as it preys on our insecurities and feelings of helplessness. When we are marketed to in this way we tend to react in a couple ways, either we move forward in reaction, or we recoil into our fear.

Fear is powerful, it can control us and make us do things that are strictly against our principles. The power is so great that it can even paralyze us from doing what we know we can do. It prevents us from being and doing great things. Fear will lead us to say the following: “I could never do that” or even worse, “I give up!” I hate that fear lies to us like that, and I hate how it is infectious, which is probably why it is so often used to try and sell us on ideas, people, or things.

We don’t have to live in fear. There is hope! The power that God has placed inside you to overcome fear is present. You are not alone. Fear is a liar, you are a warrior, and you can overcome fear with hope, peace, and love. Whether you are aware of how fear is affecting you right now, God will equip you to tackle these problems in the world. However, it may be fear that holds you back and prevents you from asking for help, because simply asking for help is your first step in defiantly attacking fear.

I would be lying if I said i never succumbed to fear, and I’d be lying even worse if I said that I still don’t have any fear. I fear for my life, I fear for my family, I fear for my extended Ohana, I fear for a lot of things, and I fear a lot of things, but I WILL NOT SUCCUMB TO FEAR! I cannot allow fear to prevent me from doing.

Writing is something I enjoy, and writing is a way that I process my emotions.  However, fear of how things will be interpreted, or how people will think about me, keep me from writing. Even writing in my journal takes a hit, just in case someone might read what I have written. The only times it feels authentic, is when I am desperate and need an outlet, or when I am particularly inspired. Thankfully, I am inspired by a powerful young woman that is screaming in the face of fear and bravely fighting cancer. I am thinking about and writing this as she goes into to face cancer and gain knowledge about what her fight is going to look like. Your OHANA is behind you, and you inspire us to be more than we were.

Today, knowledge is gained, and with knowledge there is power. However, fear often attempts to usurp that power and cause that knowledge to become something that is to be feared. However, even with that knowledge, even with the temptation to fall back into a position of fear, it is imperative to stand up to that fear. Following the crucifixion of Christ, the disciples knew that they could easily be next. Peter responded by denying that he even knew Jesus, this was the fear that took hold, and paralyzed him from acting boldly. This paralysis was answered through God sending of the Holy Spirit, and then the church began to grow. God is bigger and more powerful than fear.

On a smaller scale, in a couple weeks, our running OHANA is going to embark on a race that goes around the clock. Some of us have run a similar race, some have not, but many of us are nervous, and sensing that I hoped to help alleviate some of the uncertainty by going on a few trail runs and having a couple team meetings. However, as we get closer to the date, and as more information has become available, many have doubts and fears that are creeping in. None of us have been to the location, and thus there is uncertainty about how the camp will be organized. The details about the different courses we will run have been released and there is a tough climb ahead of all of us. We will all have to run a part of the race in the dark. The race will not be easy, and no matter whether you are in peak shape, or whether you think you are fully prepared, there are going to be things that are worthy of being feared. What we have to remember, however, is that we are a team, and as a team we will get through the tough parts, and more than a team we have become a family, or OHANA.

Family helps us to draw together and realize we are not isolated, this is our blessing from God. Fear pulls us in and focus on what I can and cannot do, but family pulls us out of that internal paralysis, and pushes us to work together and become more than just our individual selves, but more than our mind can even fathom. Family, is there to remind us that nothing is beyond HOPE, and fear of the unknown cannot stand in the face of family. Whenever we feel weak, when we feel as if we are just going to give into fear, we need to RISE UP and boldly proclaim that fear has no place, and that our tribe, our family, our OHANA is here to stand up with us. Lean into God, lean into your family, and boldly proclaim HOPE in the face of FEAR.

Never fear, HOPE is here!

My Heartbreak, My Hope

This has been a tough couple of weeks, death, disease, and despair have surrounded my life, my friends, and my family. Tears are welling up in my eyes just thinking about the pain I have seen and experienced. However, in the midst of that deepest sorrow, there is hope. No matter what death tries to invade my space, no matter how disease ridiculously thinks it can invade and hurt the ones I love dearly, no matter how powerless we might feel, it cannot overcome the HOPE that dwells inside.

Last week illness took two lives from two parts of my family. I struggle to find the words of comfort for these dear friends and family. Death had not only taken lives, but also it had taken my voice, it had me second guessing my ability to be compassionate and offering a word of sorrow and condolence. While I certainly wish I could jump back in time and be that word necessary at that time, I know that I am not powerless to offer words now, and I will not be silent, I will “not throw away my shot!” Loss hurts, just as it should. It can paralyze us, not knowing where to go next. What do we do with those emotions and feelings? I don’t have the ultimate answer, maybe because we all have to deal with them differently, our relationships are complex, but I know that we cannot bury them inside. Speak them aloud to a crowd, or maybe just confide in someone close, or even the act of writing them out, as I think I am trying to do that here, but do something with them. I am inspired by so many that have turned their losses into something more, something that has turned around and benefited those struggling to find hope of any kind in the midst of their grief. However, they are able to tap into that central truth that no matter how dark life gets, it does not extinguish hope. The words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5 lead us toward that hope, the eager anticipation, that salvation and freedom are present and coming. God pours into us, and God loves us, and God’s love for us is not only for us when we have the answers, but the character of the Almighty is that God’s love for us is ESPECIALLY there for us when we are blinded and feel darkness creeping in.

However, we have those still with us, that also have to deal with the effects of disease, like my good friend, that is more of a sister to me, that recently told us that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My response to that was tears, anger, sadness, and “NO!” No cancer, you don’t get this one, no I will not sit idly by, no I will not let defeatism win this day, no I will not sit idly by. I will fight. I will run. I will write. I will love with my whole heart. I will be present. I will be active. I will stand. I will be whatever I need to be, but I WILL BE! I love this sister dearly, and I put this on the public record that I will do whatever I can to tell cancer, to tell darkness, to tell death, that it has no place here and it will be defeated. You messed with the wrong woman! You messed with the wrong family! Cancer, your days are numbered. Why? We have hope. We are hope. We serve a God that is the embodiment of HOPE!

In stillness, in quiet, in solitude, my mind swirls about what I could have done, and then I wake up and realize that I am here right now, I am capable of doing something, and by the GRACE OF GOD, I will fight my hardest to show HOPE is MUCH MUCH greater than darkness and disease.

The New You, and a New Year

In 2016, we begin a new year, and so many people make resolutions and goals, and so many of them go “unacheived” as my Runkeeper reminded me last night. We try to be better people, but these goals and resolutions are really our trying to make ourselves better. This was clear as I introduced my wife to the Star Wars franchise this week, and as Yoda is training a young Luke Skywalker, he responds to Luke’s whining about trying, by saying, “You either do, or do not, there is no try.” Thus informing us thatwe all need to stop trying to be better people, and just be better people.

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Luke completed his training by controlling his feelings and allowing the force to move through him, but we have a powerful “force” that enables us to be a new creation, in our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. We need to humble ourselves and allow the power of Christ to make us into more than we were.

The Message paraphrases this passage in 2 Corinthians 5 as the following:

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 MSG

Therefore, the power and force that leads us into becoming more, and bringing peace and hope to the world begins with a step toward Christ. The work that will be done through you is mighty and miraculous and is not about goal setting, but about witnessing the power of God at work within each of us.