Thou, O Lord


2009 was a tough year.

Threats & concerns that my ministry here was over. My errors & shortcomings discussed evident. Stung by some. Embraced by others. My failure palpable. My grief overwhelming at times. Trying to live life as a hubby & daddy, continue to minister, & act like all is well. Broken & humbled. Experiencing God’s grace profoundly.

Late Autumn during a week away with family God gave me peace. No matter what. Stay or go. He was in control. He’d take care of my family. My church. Me. He loved more than I could know or imagine.

Weeks later I headed out for a Saturday morning long run. Eight degrees. New worship music loaded on my iPod. My first listen. I did worship. With each breath. Each step. Through the cold. The dark. Each note. Each word. Through my pain. The grief.

And then. First time I’d ever heard it.

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

Tears. Rolling down. Weeping. As I ran.

But thou, O Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

Tears. Freezing on my cheeks. Joyful. As I ran. 

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Arms. Uplifted in praise. Emboldened. As I ran.

Thou, O Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, O Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head

Voice. Lifted in worship. Strengthened. As I ran.

Don’t know how many times I replayed it. Felt like I was running on air the remaining eight miles to loop back home. Those words of the Third Psalm inspiring me.

I have a second chance. Redemption.

We have a God of second chances. A Redeemer.

Why don’t you come back to Him? Your Protector, Provider, Redeemer.

Laying Tracks

Saturday morning long run. 28 degrees. Near still winds. Snow gently tossing as it fell. Accentuating every branch it clung. Half-inch overnight blanket on the trail. Cleared the night before. Smooth as a freshly made bed. Quiet in the city. Few about at five. Squishy sound of snow. Rhythmic under foot. Breath puffing in time. The first to lay tracks. Joyful I run.

Southwest Lincoln Loop I call it. For Lincolnites that wanna know: Northeast from Col. Densmore Park off S. 14th up the Rock Island Trail to Hwy. 2 & 27th turning back Southeast along the Tierra Williamsburg Trail down to the SouthPointe Trail & back West along Pine Lake to 14th. For everyone: these "commuter trails" are 10 foot wide concrete; generally sooner & better cleared of snow than arterial streets; Rock Island is the former railroad of this "rails to trails" section; perfect for snowbound running.
Back to my story.
First seven mile loop: I lay the first tracks. Second loop: I was following my own tracks. Still the only tracks down. About a mile on I think, "Why don't I see if I can step in the same places as my first loop." (Insert your crazy too cold, too early, too whatever runner comment here.)
Sounds easy.
It's not.
Precision footsteps. Even when simply running. Are difficult.
Got dizzy trying to watch my feet.
Leaning forward just that extra bit to look down threw off my gait. Reaching a bit further with each step to land it like loop one.
Footing was unstable. When laying the first tracks on my first loop it was even. When trying to match & missing each a bit in loop two it was rough. I was stepping half in & half out of my own tracks.
And even though I'm running on a relatively straight trail with no others about I couldn't see where I was going. My head down watching feet. My eyes weren't ahead anticipating what was coming.
Gave it up in three minutes. More difficult than I'd imagined. Yet, l did learn a few things as the Spirit spoke through the miles ahead.
When following Jesus: keep your eyes on him. Don't worry over every specific step.
Don't try to make each life experience just like the one before. It is an impossibility. You just can't do it. The only way to produce a duplicate is via recording.
Live in the moment. Enjoy each new loop or each new day for what it offers different from the one before. My first loop was all me. Plus three deer & a few bunnies. It was dark expect for some ambient street lights. My second loop had a coon & birdsong & a few other runners by mile 10. The sun was coming up. My third loop had plenty of other runners to exchange passing words with & the sun had changed the look of everything.
Life your life.
Follow Jesus.
Lay your tracks.
(Just in case you wondered: The above photo is not me. First, my trail had more trees. Second, who is gonna take my picture sub-freezing at 5am? And I am, of course, more handsome.)


Four Footsteps

It was so cold & more windy than it was cold yesterday that even I ran indoors. Yes, "I'm not a hamster" intrepid Aaron, did time on the treadmill at the gym.

My gym's a nice place to be, although I think they keep it to warm. (Why is it that gyms where you'll be sweating are too warm & hospitals where you lay around are always way too cold?) Anyhow, it's a balmy 72 degrees in the middle of midwinter Nebraska inside there with all the shiny equipment & sweaty people. I finish my run. Head to the locker room. Dry off. Sweaty person as I was. Put on all my layers. Feel too hot walking to the door. And in the four footsteps it took me to walk through the revolving door into the subarctic blast I lost 75 degrees. It was negative 3 outside.

It is hard to describe a four footstep 75 degree plunge. Bone-chilling is too weak. Breathtaking falls short. Maybe heart-arresting. Thought-halting. Don't forget to add, or is that subtract, a windchill of more than 20 below!

I hardly remember my walk to the car. My thoughts were at full halt. Maybe my synapses were temporarily frozen. I just don't see how Canadians do it. Maybe that's why they say, "eh," so much. They just can't think of something else to say. Frozen synapses. Thoughts halt.

A 75 degree drop in four footsteps can do that.

When is the last time you were shocked like those four footsteps? Inconceivable announcement? Doctor's diagnosis? Employment termination? Death pronouncement? Relationship implosion?

God spoke into the halt, through the cold, to me.

"Aaron, if you were to see your sinfulness as I see it... this is how you would feel. I love you. I am Jealous. I am Holy God."

Four humbling footsteps.

24 degrees

I imagine that this morning was my last one to run with the temperature below freezing until next winter.

It was glorious.

Cold. Crisp. Still. Sunrise. Rhythmic steps. Inspiring iPod lyrics. Up a hill. And down. Through the neighborhood. And back. Thank you, Father, for one more glorious, cold morning.

Near perfect. World seems right.

Just me & the Father talking about life.

Running down the road.

I'll miss the bracing cold stepping out the door. I'll miss the steam rising from me before stepping back in.

24 degrees is gone for the season. But thank you, Father, that you are not seasonal.

You are with me no matter the weather.