I am grateful and amazed to say that my #CouchToMarathon journey ended last Saturday. As a life-long committed non-runner, I ran my first marathon. That is both a thing I never thought I would do and a sentence I never thought I would say.
So, the good news for y’all is that I’ll be done talking about running for awhile. But, before I run off (oof), I thought I’d share a few thoughts from the race.
There really were three clear stages to the race: The Normal, The Hard, and The Darkness.
The Normal part of the race lasted from the first mile through about mile 12. I actually enjoyed this phase, even though for a good portion of it I was in last place. I started out with an intentional pacing plan that kept me slow in the beginning – and everyone else (and I mean everyone) took off well ahead of my pace. I ran the first five miles with the emergency bicycle guy and the final pace car right behind me! People looked at me quizzically when I ran past, often trying to encourage me not to give up yet. But I felt great and was having fun. In fact, I tried to out cheer anyone who cheered me on.
“You’re doing great! Don’t give up!” they would yell.
“No, you’re doing great! You are the best chair sitter I’ve ever seen! And you, Mr. Sign-Holder – you are the best sign-holder ever! And, you, kid just hanging out over there, you are looking at your phone better than anyone I’ve ever seen!” I would reply.
I didn’t pass my first person until mile five, but I passed a couple dozen more by mile 12. I high fived or fist bumped every person I passed and tried to encourage them as I went.
Wasn’t I uncomfortable? Wasn’t that part of the run challenging? Didn’t I have some pains and feel some fatigue? Yes, to all of that.
But over the last nine months, as I have conditioned my body for running, I have disciplined my mind not to focus on the discomfort. In fact, I’ve come up with a saying that I often repeat to myself when I have to dig deep: Gratitude is my strength and generosity is my fuel.
As I run, I give thanks for whatever blessing the Lord brings to mind. It could be the blue sky or the trees. It could be a good friend or my family. It could simply be the fact that I am healthy enough to push myself physically. It could be a recent thing I read or a scripture passage that has struck me. But I give thanks, and keep giving thanks, until I feel truly grateful.
Then I look for ways to be generous. It might be a smile at a passing walker or runner. It might be an encouraging word to someone on the trail. It might be hatching a new ministry plan that will bring blessing to others, or it might be a prayer of blessing for someone who has made life kind of hard for me or even has brought me pain lately.
Both of these things help me from getting trapped in the prison of my discomfort. In fact, practicing gratitude and generosity help me to even enjoy the struggle. Gratitude warms my heart with joy and gives energy to my weary limbs. Generosity moves me from becoming self-focused and energy-hoarding to being others-focused and energy-giving.
Gratitude is my strength and generosity is my fuel.
That carried me through the first part of the race and helped me find real joy in it. It also helped me through the next section of the race. I call Miles 12-17 “The Hard” because they were just plain hard. I still fought to find gratitude and to practice generosity, but the energy it took to keep running was becoming greater than the joy and my cheers for others were diminishing into head nods and weak smiles. It was a struggle, but I was still thankful to be out there and able to do it.
The last part of the race, The Darkness, made me question every life choice I had ever made that led to that moment. Miles 18-26 (especially 21-26) were grueling and brutal. It took everything in me to simply keep my feet moving and my body upright. I wouldn’t know until I finished that I had become extremely dehydrated, but I was having a hard time just moving in a straight line. I wasn’t ungrateful, and I wasn’t against generosity – I just had absolutely nothing to give. The only thing that kept me going in this stage was hope – that what was ahead of me was better than where I was and that it would, in the end, all be worth it. Even then, gratitude was my strength, though joy felt a million miles away (or at least five more).
Y’all, do not underestimate the power of gratitude or the energy that generosity lets loose in your soul. When you feel like pulling back and self-protecting, self-obsessing, or self-fixating – that is the very moment you will benefit the most from pushing out of the pain to gratitude and out of the discomfort to be a blessing to others.
That’s the way grace works. It energizes us and makes us stronger for the struggle. It keeps us from getting imprisoned in our heads and hearts by resentment or fear or self-pity.
It helps us embrace the principle of “It is more blessed to give than to receive” at the very moment we most need to be refreshed by blessing.
Gratitude is our strength and generosity is our fuel.
He is risen.
He is risen, indeed!
Building Work Day: May 22
Ok, y’all. We’ve got a building work day scheduled for May 22nd, from 8am-12pm. Our primary focus will be on deep cleaning the classrooms and lobby in preparation of Trailhead Kids returning!
But we’ll also have some outside projects happening too. We’ll be finishing the path from the sanctuary exit staircase to the sidewalk with pavers. We’ll also be tackling phase 1 of scraping and painting the basement walls and windows (there are 26 basement windows to do – so, we’ll be doing them in phases!).
Please sign up on Church Center app (Events Tab) or online
If you have any questions, please contact Lori Louderback at email@example.com.
Media Team Training (A Great Time to Jump In!)
On Saturday afternoon on May 22nd from 1-3pm, the media team will be conducting a training on its new software (ProPresenter 7).
The media team is a tight community of people dedicated to making sure our slides are organized and presented well on Sundays. These guys equip the stage leaders to lead the church into gospel transformation by providing the media support necessary for engagement.
If you are looking for an impactful way to serve (without being in front of a ton of people), this team would be a great fit. To find out more about serving on the media team or to attend the media training event, feel free to contact Lori at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connect with Us!
Text List: If you haven’t yet, please text Yeah Buddy to 618-266-3210 to get on our text list – this will allow us to connect with you quickly in case of urgency as well as send you weekly reminders and encouragements.
Prayer and Needs Request: If you have a prayer request,, we’d love to know! We have people eager to pray with and for you! Do you have a need request? You can let us know here!
Online Bulletin: I’d love for you to check out our bulletin each week. It has important announcements, links, and of course, the weekly sermon quotes. You can access it directly on our website, from the Church Center App, or you can get it here.
Looking forward to Sunday
We’ll be wrapping up Romans 6 this weekend – Paul’s closing appeal for us to leave the asylum and step out boldly into freedom!
Sermon Text: Romans 6:19-23
We need to live soberly, because the world is an easy thing to get drunk on. – Joe Thorn
We should not ask, “What is wrong with the world?” for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, “What has happened to the salt and light?” – John R.W. Stott
Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness … almost all our modem philosophies have been devised to convince us that the good of man is to be found on this earth. – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Every generation of Christians seems to re-evaluate the question: Should we partner with the Powers and Principalities to change the world? – Dan White, Jr.
The world’s philosophy is that joy comes from aggression: fight everybody to get what you want, and you will get it and be happy. The example of Jesus is proof enough that the world’s philosophy is wrong. He never used a sword or any other weapon, yet He won the greatest battle in history—the battle against sin and death and hell. He defeated hatred by manifesting love; He overcame lies with truth. – Warren W. Wiersbe