Tag Archives: running

Moby Dick and How I am Forgiving the Church

By Eugene C Scott

I set Monday aside for practicing forgiveness. Believe me, I need all the practice I can get. Regardless, my thought was that during Holy Week, like Jesus, I would forgive something Big. So, I rummaged around in my past and touched on a particularly putrid wound I had so far bandaged over as “just a flesh wound.” Wiser people call it denial.

Ignorantly I pulled this memory out and laid it on the table. I could’t believe it. This grievance was not that big when I stowed it away for safe keeping, I thought.

But there it lay–a virtual Moby Dick.

I’m supposed to be good at spiritual stuff like forgiveness. I am a pastor, after all. But maybe I should have started this during-Holy-Week-do-one-thing-a-day-that-Jesus-did experiment with something easy like walking on water.

Gaping, I wondered if I could hide Moby away again. But it was too late. I had even told my congregation I was going to work on forgiving something Big on Monday.

“I’m going to forgive the Church,” I said naively.

But it was difficult knowing where to start.

Like many of you, I’ve had several painful experiences in the church.* And yes, I said several. That means I’m like the guy who gets sick from the all-you-can-eat salad bar but keeps going back for more. And I’m not talking a little food poisoning here. I’m talking hemorrhagic colitis or E. coli O157:H7 infection.

But seriously, these three situations crippled me, hurt my family, and if not for God’s tender, firm hand and a few very good friends and counselors, I would have left the pastorate–and the church–and maybe the faith.

Never-the-less, all day Monday, as I went through my work day, I studied my wounds, and prayed, and grieved anew. This new pain piled on old is why we are reluctant to forgive. Mid-day, however, I remembered reading a book on forgiveness by Lewis Smedes. Smedes wrote you have to specifically name the wrong done to you before you can forgive.

I realized it was not mere denial blocking me from forgiving theses churches and moving on in a more free life. Low-grade bitterness stemming from vague forgiveness was keeping me emotionally bedridden. I had told others this truth but never applied it to these wounds of mine. Yes, I knew they hurt me. Yes, I was wronged. But how exactly? I was surprised after the years of moaning and groaning I’d done about this, I could not state the cause of my pain in anything but vague, general terms.

Unlike Aspirin, forgiveness cannot be applied as a general anesthetic.

Monday night I broke out my journals and began pouring over them to find clues as to what the real issues were. First, I recognized I was not hurt by “the church.” But rather I had experienced three separate battle field traumas in churches. Some were inflicted by individuals, some by systems, some by whole groups, some–in part–self-inflicted.

Second, I saw the wrongs ranged from a lack of acceptance resulting in judgement and subsequent isolation to emotional and spiritual manipulation leading to abuse or what is called clergy mobbing.

Suddenly the whale began to break into smaller pieces, pieces I could work on. Something in me floated free. Forgiveness began to feel real and attainable.

Attainable not in one day, however. As I ended Monday writing my newest journal entries on an old story, I adjusted my Holy Week goals. I would still work on my daily list. But forgiving something Big would not be a sprint but rather a marathon.

The next step? I’m not sure. But, as they say in running, I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other. And I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Eugene C. Scott is not a runner but likes to use running metaphors. Metaphors are not nearly as strenuous. You can join the Living Spiritually community by following his blog and clicking here and liking the page. He is also co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

*In saying this I am not claiming to be a victim or innocent. Though I was wronged, I realize my faults and sins added to these situations. **Clergy mobbing is a term researchers have begun using to apply to the abuse of clergy.

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How Running and Living Spiritually Go Hand in Hand: 3 Practical Ways to Live Spiritually

By Brendan Scott: Back in 2003 I decided to become a runner.  Running, for me, has always been a problem.  I’ve suffered from Abdominal Migraines most of my life, which are, as I described them in my blog Dancing Con Aguafiestas, set off by running.  So, why did I take up this difficult task, one most people who don’t suffer from migraines avoid?  Simple, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to challenge myself.  I knew if I kept sitting around I might avoid the migraines, but I’d never live the life I wanted to live.

Learning to be a runner was a challenge, it took me a little more than three years to lose any weight, but I did it.  Leaning to be a runner taught me how to set my mind on a goal.  Training for a half-marathon taught me how to achieve my goals.

Running and losing weight take perseverance and eating healthy.   At this point you might be wondering when I am going to get spiritual on you guys.  Well, follow me on this one.  Living Spiritually is just like running.  When I started running seriously, I took all of the advice I ran across.  So, here are three practical ways to help us all live spiritually.

1. Be Attentive:  Being attentive as a runner means paying attention to your body, which is important when trying to stay healthy.  Likewise, spiritual health requires attentiveness.  We can’t see God at work if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  Being physically healthy means paying attention to what you consume.

Being spiritually healthy is exactly the same.  So, take care of yourself by reading your Bible and spending time in prayer.  I spend at least twenty minutes every night reading my Bible and praying.  Another thing I try to do so I can see God at work in my life during the day is get a good night sleep.  We must treat every day like a big race day, which means getting a good night’s sleep.  It is impossible to stay attentive to God’s doings, let alone run, if you can’t even keep your eyes open.  So go to bed early.

2. Be in Position: During a race I try to find my mental sweet spot, which always seems to be Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida.  I pace myself to its tracks as I run, but if I were to stop running for two months before the race and then position myself at the starting line on race day, I can’t expect myself to succeed.  Therefore, I position myself for success by going to the gym at least six times a week.

Positioning is important with spiritual success too.  I find my spiritual sweet spot when I am hiking with a friend.  Hiking in the mountains with a friend gets me going, but if I position myself inside of the wrong group of people, negative people, I tend to lose focus on God.  Likewise, if I seclude myself, not go on any hikes, I typically feel like God isn’t with me.  And so I know I must go out and engage with people, ones who support me, to be able to see God work.  I do know that there are people who feel God’s presence when they are alone, for those people I encourage them to turn off their tv, or whatever is distracting them, and spend some quiet time with God.  Find your sweet spot and position yourself in a place where you are most likely to see God.

3. Be Submissive: When I train for a half-marathon, I know if I want to run the race to the best of my abilities, I must train and training means giving up certain desires, like sleeping in on the weekends.  I must submit myself to a training schedule, which typically requires long hours and lots of sweat.  But I know if I place that schedule above me, as my master, I will have a great opportunity to succeed during my race.

Again, and you’ve probably already got my point, heck you’ve probably already become Jedi’s at all of this, but I’ll say it anyway, Living Spiritually is the same.  We must live with our palms up, submitted to God.  As said in Proverbs, “In all of your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Turn your hands up to God in an act of submission.  He may ask you to do something out of the ordinary, but He will not lead you astray.

For we are submitting to one who has run this race before us.  We are letting Jesus be our master.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says and Tim Tebow tweeted before his first playoff game, “Therefore, as we are  surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, and all its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Brendan is an avid runner and was inspired by God while running late at night to write this blog.  And so he didn’t take his own advice and stayed up late writing this blog. He’s learned being submissive means doing what God asks even if it means giving up a good night’s sleep.

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Everyone Who Finishes, Wins

Today, you are officially 90 days into our 360 day epic journey through the Bible in a year. That means you’re a quarter of the way through. Congratulations!

You may feel a little ragged from the run, but you are stronger today than you were three months ago. And, you’re planting seeds into your soul that will yield a harvest for years to come.

If, for some reason, you’ve been forced to drop out of the race here or there, that’s okay too.

Everyone who finishes, wins.

TODAY’S READING

Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20
Luke 9:7-27
Psalm 72:1-20
Proverbs 12:8-9

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Deuteronomy 16. How fortuitous that we would read about Passover during Holy Week!

I never noticed this before, but Moses refers to the Passover bread as the “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). It’s the only time the phrase is used in Scripture. The “bread of affliction” refers to their time in slavery and deprivation while in bondage to Egypt. But it also symbolizes their deliverance from captivity and freedom.

The reason why the people couldn’t include yeast in their bread or the evening Passover sacrifice to remain until morning was because both symbolized the presence of spoilage.

The Feast of Weeks mentioned in verses 9-12 is better known as Pentecost.

In his summary of the Feast of Tabernacles, Moses tells the people to be joyful in the celebration and that as a result, their “joy will be complete.” This is the only time the phrase is used in the Old Testament, but it is used six times in the New Testament. If you want to learn more about how you joy can be complete, look up John 3:29; 15:11; 16:24; Philippians 2:2; 1 John 1:4; and 2 John 12.

Deuteronomy 17. Reading through the Pentateuch, it’s hard to escape the fact that our present laws governing western civilization are built upon Old Testament laws. First, God issues a command that judges must not take bribes. Then he says that no person can be put to death for doing evil in the eyes of the Lord except for the testimony of two or three witnesses. But most interesting (to me at least), if a person is put to death, the witness must be the first one to “pull the trigger,” so to speak. If the accuser is lying, then the he must wrestle with the guilt of putting another person to death for the rest of his life. That probably provided some kind of deterrent to false witnesses.

Reading over the rules concerning Israel’s future king in verses 14-20, I couldn’t help thinking about King Solomon, who violated these very commands.

Psalm 72. In case you didn’t notice, this psalm was written by King Solomon—one of only two psalms he contributed to this book. The other one is Psalm 127.

Reading through the psalm, however, it quickly becomes obvious that Solomon could never fulfill his request. Only through Jesus, the king of kings, could his request become reality.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Although we’ve studied the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 earlier in the gospels, what struck me this time (Luke 9:10-17) was how Jesus’ disciples limited their leader. After watching Jesus calm the storm, cast out demons, and raise a little girl from the dead—and then ministering on Jesus’ behalf with the authority to drive out demons and heals diseases, they still doubted him.

We read that they reported to Jesus what they had done and then took a long, hard look at the large, hungry crowd.

“Send the crowd away,” they instructed Jesus.

“You give them something to eat,” he retorted.

“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

Despite their first-hand, front row seat watching Jesus in action, the disciples still limited him according to the confines of this temporal existence.

But Jesus is so much bigger than that!

And I’m no different than the disciples. So often when I encounter a problem, I try to solve it on my own rather than invite Jesus—the Lord of heaven and earth—into my difficulty.

Since returning from my getaway almost a week ago, I’ve felt extremely tired and lethargic. Granted, I hobbled through a marathon the week before, but my weariness was beyond explanation. While laying in bed at 2:30 this morning contemplating another day of exhaustion, I finally prayed Jesus, would you please deliver me from this lethargy?

And you know what? Today I felt 100%.

My recovery might be a coincidence, but then again, I might be assuming too little of Jesus.

Obviously, God is greater than any formula, but it prompts me to ask myself, How often do I respond to problems as if Jesus can do nothing to change them?

When I observe the interaction between Jesus and his disciples, it quickly becomes obvious that he continually tried to convince them that he was greater than their minds could conceive.

If you’re a disciple of Jesus, he’s probably trying to convince you of the same thing.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What everyday problems do you inadvertently leave Jesus out of? Why do you think you do this?
  3. How can you better include Jesus in your plans?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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Finishing Well

My wife Kelley and I spent the last six days or so in Los Angeles to see our oldest daughter, Anna, who’s a sophomore at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. And since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to run in the Los Angeles Marathon. This was Kelley’s second marathon and my first. The video above shows the race from one person’s balcony.

In a departure from the norm, I’m going to share a few thoughts about the race that have absolutely nothing with today’s reading, but everything with following Jesus.

Please join me…

Thank to our guest bloggers who filled in most admirably in my absence. Eugene, Jeff, Mike, and Mark, thank you for allowing me to take a little break!

TODAY’S READING

Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29
Luke 6:12-38
Psalm 67:1-7
Proverbs 11:27

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Deuteronomy 2. The book of Deuteronomy comprises Moses’ last words to Israel before they crossed in the Promised Land. Like the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, it reads almost like a sermon transcription.

At this point in Deuteronomy, Moses is recounting Israel’s wilderness history up to the present moment. Recounting our past is important. All too often, our society functions as if we’re only 5-10 years old. But we are the sum total of our past. All of us bring our history—good and bad—into our present relationships.

Deuteronomy 3. Notice how God refers to King Og of Bashan in verse 2: “Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land” (italics added). God refers to Israel’s defeat of Og as if it already occurred. In God’s economy, all of history is past tense. Even our current struggles. Hmmm, that gives me a different perspective on my struggles. I wonder how I would respond to my challenges if I treated them as past struggles?

Luke 6:12-38. This section is quite similar to Matthew 5-7. Matthew’s account contains the Sermon on the Mount. This account in Luke is called the Sermon on the Plain. Matthew tells us Jesus “went up on a mountainside and sat down” (Matthew 5:1). Luke tells us Jesus “stood on a level place” (verse 17). So are they one account or two? They’re probably versions of the same account, with each writer highlighting different aspects of Jesus’ sermon. Details specifying the location of Jesus’ sermon weren’t important to the people of that day—so making it fit exactly isn’t nearly as important as paying attention to Jesus’ words.

What strikes me in the Sermon on the Plain is the heavenward focus:

  • “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.”
  • “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.”

At the same time, the social ramifications of Luke’s gospel are quite evident:

  • But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
  • Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Proverbs 11:27. Books like The Secret tell us that we attract whatever we think. Although I have serious concerns about the book, I will say that the principle of good attracting good is for the most part, true. People who seek good, find goodwill. People who search for evil, find it.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Running a marathon is probably the third hardest thing I’ve ever done—after writing a book (13 and counting) and being married. Here are a few thoughts that hit me during the run:

Every person runs a different race. Despite running the same 26.2 mile route, all 26,000 people ran the Los Angeles Marathon with different concerns in mind. I was concerned about re-tearing my calf (which I tore 2 weeks earlier). Kelley was concerned about aggravating the plantar fasciitis in her heel. Everyone was concerned about finishing. Ironically, my calf never bothered me while Kelley’s heel refused to cooperate. Nevertheless, I sustained a painful foot injury on mile 13 and hobbled the rest of the way to the end. Weird injuries can materialize out of nowhere.

Injuries happen. Days before the race, I explained my concerns about my calf injury to a veteran marathoner. She told me, “Everybody who runs a marathon is dealing with some kind of an injury.” Most of us begin our lives injury-free, only to sustain bumps and bruises along the way. We all get knocked around in the course of our lives. How we respond to those injuries determines how we finish the race.

Everyone who finishes wins. While training, veterans advised me, “Don’t try to break any records on your first race—just make it your goal to finish.” When my foot injury materialized out of nowhere, I asked myself, How will I ever run another 13 miles with this kind of pain? Everything within me wanted to quit. I actually considered spending the $20 in my pocket to pay for a cab that would transport me to the finish line.

In the middle of my pain, I ran past a café, where a man sat at a table enjoying his breakfast. When he saw the grimace on my face, he looked at me, pointed at an empty chair next to him and said, “Want to join me?” I shook my head and kept running.

I couldn’t think about mile 15 or mile 21—all I could think about was finishing. But in order to reach my goal, I would have to run one mile at a time. When I completed mile 13, my next goal became mile 14, then mile 15.

Although my time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, I was relieved once I crossed the finish line. At that point, my time didn’t matter. I finished. Sometimes life is painful…but you just keep going on.

We’re all in a race, but the goal isn’t to beat everybody else, the goal is to finish. Sometimes you just have to bear down and work through the pain. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is stand. You don’t have to look victorious–all you must do is not give up.

We all run re in a race. We all sustain injuries along the way and we all can come up with excuses to quit.

So what will you do?

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you were in Moses’ shoes, what last words would you leave with the children of Israel?
  3. How you would respond to your challenges if you treated them as past struggles?
  4. What social implications do you read in Luke 6? What do they look like lived out in your life?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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