Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Pikes Peak Challenge

On Saturday, September 12th, Elke and I hiked in the 2009 Pikes Peak Challenge, which is a fundraiser event in support of the Brain Injury Association of Colorado. I have been wanting to do this event for a few years in honor of my good friend Troy Bush, who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) about 8 years ago. In fact, Troy and a bunch of his friends were supposed to join Elke and me this year, but things got in the way, and it ended up being only me and Elke. We had decided, when others were going to be hiking with us, to call ourselves "Team Murdy" (Troy's childhood nickname), but Team Murdy only ended up being a team of two.

The "Challenge" is impressive because it is a 13 mile hike from Manitou Springs, CO up to the top of Pikes Peak via the Barr Trail. This route is the longest and most elevation gaining ascent of any 14,000 foot peak in the USA. Thus to see a host of TBI survivors determined to accomplish this daunting course is very moving.

I have run this course many times in the past, either training for other runs or as a participant in the Pikes Peak Ascent, and this is no easy "hike". It is (again) 13 miles of hiking up 7,500 feet of elevation gain to the 14,115 foot summit. Along the way you pass various shelters and memorial plaques that are dedicated to people who have died on this peak...

...and yet, this does not deter the dedicated survivors of TBI, who in reality, have faced a far greater challenge in their own recoveries. The Challenge for them is simply one more thing that they are able to do again, or, for the first time. Indeed, a sort of theme slogan that many were hiking with was, "Because I Can".

Since this event is not a race, the times are much longer than the Ascent, and therefore, for safety sake, the start time must be much earlier. You have a choice of starting in the first wave, at 5:00am, or in the second wave, at 5:30am. Since Elke and I like to sleep as much as possible, we opted for the 5:30 start.

We actually finally started hiking at about 5:38am, and quickly realized that we would have to curb our desire to move faster in that the trail was simply packed with folks settling into a pace that they would be able to maintain for the next 6-9 hours. So, we walked and talked and just enjoyed what seemed like effortless movement in the dark for about the first 3 miles. Once we hit "No Name Creek" we were able to begin to pick up our pace a bit, and the crowd was clearly thinning out by then.By the time we reached Barr Camp at about 10,000 feet, the hikers had really thinned out and everyone we saw then was part of the first wave starters. During the whole hike we were also running in front of the weather system that was to hit the peak at about noon during the event. We both had dressed light, depending on a certain pace to keep us warm, so we really did need to move at a steady clip.

The week before the event I had talked to Troy, and he encouraged me to make sure I met people and talked with them on the way up, so I made it a habit, as we came up on someone, to ask them what their story was and why they were up here doing this. This was a great exercise and it was really nice to meet various people and hear about their experiences and hardships.

The hours flew by and so did the miles, and by and by, we made the summit. The volunteers were wonderful and thanked us profusely for participating in the event and helping raise awareness and money for TBI. We were struck with just the opposite sentiment, wanting to thank them profusely for all that they had done for the same cause.

At the summit we received our medals for finishing (15th & 16th overall...out of 450), and headed into the shelter building for warmth and to get a bite to eat. As we chatted with a new acquaintance (Tim Allison...who also runs with C.R.U.D.), I noticed that Elke's lips were a deep purply-blue. I asked her if she was cold or if she was feeling bad, to which she said "no". I finally walked her over to the first aid folks and the head doctor said, "Hypoxia". Elke got to be the first to suck on oxygen and since she looked so cute they dubbed her "the oxygen model"!We had a great time and will do our best to be back next year for this event and we hope that many others will join us as Team Murdy rides again...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It is actually the case that rock star Alice Cooper is a confessing Christian. Indeed, Elke and I ran into him at an R.C. Sproul conference in San Diego about 18 years ago. Here is an interesting article that I simply post with no comment:
Alice Cooper, of “School’s Out for Summer” and “I’m 18” fame, was told that his show can’t go on in Finland.

Cooper and his band were booked to perform at Tampere Areena Oy, an arena in Tampere, Finland Dec. 11.

However, the owners of the arena cancelled the event when the supposedly dark nature of Cooper’s “Theatre of Death” show came to light.

Harri Wiherkoski, managing director of the arena said that "artists who express suspicious values from Christianity's point of view cannot be allowed to perform at the venue."

He also told reporters that his venue doesn’t “arrange concerts where Satanism or non-god-worshipping occurs."

Concert promoter Kalle Keskinen, said “We never imagined that a rock veteran who has performed in Finland in four separate decades without any problems and who has spoken in public of his own religious convictions would not be allowed to perform at Tampere Areena in 2009."
Keskinen said the concert will probably be moved to nearby Espoo, however this is contingent on Alice Cooper’s approval, he said.

Cooper, who is a practicing Christian, told Cross Rhythms magazine last year that he reconciles his stage persona with his personal faith without problem.

“As a Christian, I don't declare myself as a 'Christian rock star.' I'm a rock performer who's a Christian. Alice Cooper is the guy who wants to entertain the audience - it happens that he's a Christian. Alice (the character I play on stage) began life as a villain and he remains one. There's a villain and a hero in every Shakespeare play," he said.
" Alice is no more dangerous than a villain in a cartoon or a Disney film. We have fun with him. He snarls and wears make up. He's punished for his crime and he comes back on the stage in white top and tails. We put on a good show. I've always put limits on Alice because I believe there's a certain amount of Alice that's a gentleman. He'd slit your throat, but he'd never swear at you. And there's always a punchline; he may kill you, but he'll slip on a banana peel. I get right-wing Christians down on me and I always ask them the question: 'If I was doing Macbeth, would it be OK?' And they always say that's Shakespeare so of course. I say that's about four times more violent than anything I do on stage."

The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality-By John Piper

This is from John Piper's blog today:

August 20, 2009

I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.” It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected...a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.
The tornado happens on a Wednesday...during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry. The eyewitness of the damage continues:
This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown. The time: 2PM. The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two...and then lifts.
Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.

1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.
Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.
Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)
5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.
Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)
6. Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

...and, here is a news story on it

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where the Columbines Grow

Where the snowy peaks gleam in the moonlight,
above the dark forests of pine,
And the wind foaming waters dash onward,
toward lands where the tropic stars shine;
Where the scream of the bold mountain eagle,
responds to the notes of the dove
Is the purple robed West, the land that is best,
the pioneer land that we love.
That's the first verse of "Where the Columbines Grow", the song written by A.J. Flynn and adopted as the official state song of Colorado on May 8, 1915 by act of the Colorado General Assembly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Against Nature

Too often the Christian life is approached on the basis of the way things seem to work in the natural order. This is not entirely incorrect in that we do in fact live in this world and are subject the laws and maxims of the natural least as far as the perishable aspects of our lives are concerned.

Therefore, if you jump off a high enough building, you will die. No matter how much you believe that you will not get hurt-no matter how much 'faith' you muster up thinking that you will rise above it will die. Because, having faith, walking by faith, and believing, is not about overthrowing the physical order of things. It is not the primary faculty by which we interface with the natural order.

This is not to say that faith does not inform the way we interface with the natural order, nor that it will not actually affect our behavior in relation to the natural order. It is simply a statement that faith is about, and engages us in, the unseen, spiritual realities of life. It concerns our souls much more directly than it does our bodies (although our bodies will often manifest the results of our faith).

This is why "faith healings" and the whole "Faith Movement" is so wrong. It takes the instrument of faith-which God grants for believing upon Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls-and makes it primarily an instruments for gaining success or longevity for our bodies. This is not only a miss use of a precious gift, it is the denial and downplaying of a glorious future hope...that hope being the resurrection and transformation of our bodies.

Walking by faith is essentially living (in this life and in our bodies now) in light of the realities of our new identity in Jesus Christ and the blessing promised to us "in Him". That against what we might see around us-that the wicked prosper, people live and then die...never to live again, that to gain you must trample over others, etc.-there is another order, another "kingdom" that this present age will give way to. It is living like we are part of that order-because in Christ we are-and thus living "against nature" in the present evil age.

Faith then is our ability-God given-to reach up into the unseen realm and grasp hold of the realities of the coming age. It is the instrument by which we lay hold of Christ-our Savior, Lord, and life. It is that grace which enables us to live "against nature", but while within it. Not "against" it in the sense of hovering instead of walking, claiming instead of working, believing instead of going to a doctor. But "against" it in the sense of-because of our union with Jesus Christ-we have died to sin and no longer can live in it, valuing now God's glory instead of our own well-being, and seeing death as the doorway into closer union with Jesus Christ because once we die, we will then receive the outcome of our faith...the redemption of our bodies.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pastors and Superheroes

I received this email from a family in our congregation that, because of military, has recently moved away to Missouri:
Just a quick little story. Isaiah has asked multiple times today, "Where's Pastor Reese??" (with a very concerned voice). I tried to explain that we had moved to Missouri and Pastor Reese was still in Colorado. After a bit, I discovered that when he was asking where Pastor Reese was, he was referring to an action figure that he kept misplacing!! So I thought you'd get a kick out of knowing that there's a two year old boy that names his action figures after his pastor. :) I guess that means that in his book you're as good as Superman. :)
That kind of made my year!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Horn Peak (13,450 Feet, 8 Miles, 4 Hours)

This past Tuesday morning, while away in the Sangre de Cristo mountains for our church family camp, Elke and I got up early with the aim of running up Horn Peak and back before the morning lecture. This is a peak that I have wanted to summit for many years, but the camp schedule usually doesn't comply with the time needed to get up and down one of the surrounding mountains in a reasonable time. The issue is, that while there is plenty of time in the afternoons, that is when the storms come through, and you don't want to be caught up high when the lightening starts striking.

Elke and I left at 5:30AM from Horn Creek Family Camp and made our way over to the trailhead. We walked up the 1/4 mile path up to the "Rainbow" trail, turned north, and after a nice 3/4 mile run, made it to the Horn Peak trailhead by about 6:00AM. We signed into the hikers log, and noticed that we were the first ones out for the day. Nature "called", and after we both had "answered", we finally started our ascent at about 6:15AM-ish.

The trail to the top is only 3 miles, but the elevation gain is 4,800 feet in those brief 3 miles, making this climb a grueling ordeal. This is a serious mountain and it is so steep that if you were to fall, you would do the "Princes Bride" fall for hundreds of feet. We fast-hiked the majority of the climb, running whenever there was something close to a flat section on the trail, and in about an hour, we broke tree-line.
The morning was cloudy, but as we came through the trees, the sun began to burn through the upper section of the clouds, and we soon were above them in our own, sun-baked mountain paradise. The climb above tree line was beautiful, with vibrant greens and tons of wildflowers. I wish I had a camera because I would look down at Elke coming up, and there was this vast, steep, mountain face behind her, that then dipped into a sea of clouds making the scene awe-striking.

There is a false summit on Horn Peak (Little Horn...I think) which I thought would be a waste to climb over and then down, so we decided to traverse the face for a bit until we got past it and then go straight up to the summit. This was a mistake and it cost us another half of an hour as we death-marched the ridiculously steep tundra and scree, until we finally were able to gain the ridge, which is the proper trail and the way to go.
Once on the ridge, not only did the views open up, but so did our pace. We continued climbing at a pretty good pace, and, in fact, I was able to run some of the ridge right up to the summit. Both Elke and I couldn't believe how strong we were and how good our breathing was during the whole ascent. We were working and breathing hard, but it-that is the breathing-was working too. Neither of us felt like we were at 13,000 feet, and this made the run even more enjoyable.

Looking around the Sangre de Cristos from this peak is a real treat-Crestone, Humbolt, etc, and numerous other mountains are all around you, and this morning, there was a this blanket of clouds that cut the rest of the world off from us and gave us something truly special there up high.

Right as I began to descend, a light rain began to fall. This was an interesting "sub-storm" on top of the other, lower cloud system. Footing at this point became interesting, but this quickly dissipated and we were then treated to the most amazing high altitude rainbow, above the clouds. Standing on the ridge, this multicolor "sign" vibrantly shot across our whole field of vision as we looked to the north and we could see it bend all the way down into the valley floor below, disappearing into the green tundra and trees.

We had donned light rain jackets and beanies, but within about 15 minutes, we shed them and kept our pace up, descending across the ridge and now off of Little Horn. About at this point, Elke said we should have stopped on top and prayed for our kids. Not that this makes us closer to God or anything like that, but it was just that they were in our minds as we were climbing. So, we stopped and I led us in prayer for God's grace upon each of our children (Tava, Elle, Izzy, and Seth).

Coming down Little Horn we could see another party coming up, but just breaking treeline. We quickly got down to them (they were a guided party from Horn Creek camp, being led by "Dave", who does this once a week...lucky!), and talked a moment with them but then kept descending.

When we reached the trees again, Elke just took off! I could not keep up with her and I did not see her again until a prominent creek crossing about a mile and a half down, where she was waiting for me. We kept our pace brisk for the rest of the run, trying to get back for the morning lecture.

We finally made it back down to the trailhead at 9:30AM, signed our of the log, and just needed to run the final mile along the "Rainbow" trail back to camp. We must have been so anxious to get back on time that we turned at the first trail going down, which we soon realized was wrong, causing us to climb the trail again back up to the "Rainbow" trail! This hurt after the pounding downhill.
We got back to the lecture arena at 9:50AM in time to hear the final half of the morning's talk, and then we caught showers during the break before the discussion time. We had got it done, with a couple of wrong turns, and only overestimating our speed by about a half hour (which we still think we could have easily done if we had not taken the two wrong on the way up choosing the face instead of the ridge, and the one on the way down, taking the wrong trail down, and needing to come back up).

We are both sore, and both in the same places, which is funny. We usually don't get to do things like this together, and so we are usually sore in different spots or at different times. But this time we keep saying, "Don't those stairs hurt to come down?!?"

This was a fun one, and one of the best times I have had with Elke in a while... We are very thankful.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Orwellian Move by Amazon

Sunday, Jul 19, 2009, Page 11

In George Orwell’s 1984, government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was 1984 and another Orwell book, Animal Farm, that were dropped down the memory hole — by

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them. Digital books bought for the Kindle are sent to it over a wireless network. Amazon can also use that network to synchronize electronic books between devices — and, apparently, to make them vanish. An authorized digital edition of 1984 from its US publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was still available on the Kindle store on Friday night, but there was no such version of Animal Farm.

People who bought the rescinded editions of the books reacted with indignation, while acknowledging the literary ironies involved. “Of all the books to recall,” said Charles Slater, an executive with a sheet-music retailer in Philadelphia, who bought the digital edition of 1984 for US$0.99 last month. “I never imagined that Amazon actually had the right, the authority or even the ability to delete something that I had already purchased.”

Antoine Bruguier, an engineer in Silicon Valley, said he had noticed that his digital copy of 1984 appeared to be a scan of a paper edition of the book. “If this Kindle breaks, I won’t buy a new one, that’s for sure,” he said. Amazon appears to have deleted other purchased e-books from Kindles recently. Customers commenting on Web forums reported the disappearance of digital editions of the Harry Potter books and the novels of Ayn Rand...

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.” Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer’s home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.

“As a Kindle owner, I’m frustrated. I can’t lend people books and I can’t sell books that I’ve already read, and now it turns out that I can’t even count on still having my books tomorrow,” Schneier said. Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading 1984 on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” Gawronski said.

Ephesians 2:1-10

I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, by way of a sermon by Dr. Martin Llyod-Jones on this glorious text, and each time I preach from it I get emotional. Those who know me know I am not an emotional person. I usually have cold hands, which I kiddingly say, comes from having a cold heart. But each time I think about the plight of man (and being a man myself), and then the power of God to save, I am brought back to that time of awe and wonder when my eyes were finally opened. Paul strips us of our individualism in this passage, first noting that this is a universal problem (not just Dave's problem), but also showing that we are condemned in Adam...not ultimately upon what we have or haven't done. It is in light of this wrath-deserving state, that we read in 2:4, "But God..." His rich mercy and great love sent His Son to secure redemption for sinners like me.

I preached this message to my congregation this morning, and I got choked-up, again...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Defecting to Faith

Pastor Richard Bacon has posted that a new Pew Research study
reported that more than half of those raised in atheistic or agnostic families have abandoned disbelief. "The New York Times" described them as "defecting to faith." Only 13% of those raised Roman Catholic and 14% of those raised Protestant abandoned their childhood faith and there is no information whether they abandoned faith altogether or transferred to another branch of Christianity or another religion. Half of those converting to theism said they had unmet spiritual needs. And the other half? Perhaps they missed the holidays.
This is significant news and especially in light of the rise of "new-atheism".

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gospel Sanctification-Direction #1

That we may acceptably perform the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the law, our first work is to learn the powerful and effectual means by which we may attain to so great an end.
Marshall begins by stating the purpose of the entire book which is,
"to teach you how you may attain to that practice and manner of life which we call holiness, righteousness, or godliness, obedience, true religion; and which God requireth of us in the law, particularly the moral law, summed up in the ten commandments, and more briefly in those two great commandments of love to God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37, 39)"
From this purpose it is clear that although the Gospel way of sanctification is not by the way of the Law, it is not "antinomian" or against the Law. So this avoids mistaking the ends for the means, but it does not neglect the ends, which is to bring us into conformity and obedience with those principle duties of loving God and loving each other. Of these Marshall writes:
"They are the chief works for which we were at first framed in the image of God, engraven upon man in the first creation, and for which that beautiful image is renewed upon us in our new creation and sanctification by Jesus Christ, and shall be perfected in our glorification."
Now, the importance of knowing the proper means cannot be overstated. Many think that once you know your duty, all that is left is to go at it with gusto. Marshall cites the way that the Israelites responded to the commands of God "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8), as naive and ultimately disastrous. And so we must know the means by which we can do them, before we set off in our attempts.

Marshall is not concerned in this book to expound on the Law, citing that this has been done ably by many others before him. He only wants to underscore that when we talk about keeping the Law, we mean perfection, and not some lesser standard that we think we can attain on our own. He also notes that learning the true, biblical way of sanctification will take some time and effort in that it does not come as easily to us, nor resinate with us, as do the commandments of the Law. He explains this by reminding us that we know the Law from natural revelation, and therefore we are more accepting of it when we read it in the Word. On the other hand, sanctification is a revealed mystery, and therefore not as easily taken in by us.

In the end, his purpose and task is one of compassion and care for souls struggling under the weight of their sin and desiring to render true love to God and neighbor. He is concerned that if one does not learn the right way, one will ultimately become discouraged and just throw in the towel. He concludes this first chapter hoping that maybe:
God may bless my discovery of the powerful means of holiness so far as to save some one or other from killing themselves. And such a fruit as this would countervail my labour; though I hope God will enlarge the hearts of many by it to run with great cheerfulness, joy and thanksgiving in the ways of His commandments.
So, we are on a mission to learn the powerful and effectual, biblical means whereby we can progress in holiness. There really is no more important study than this and therefore I hope that you will tune in for each direction, reading them and meditating upon them as we proceed. I hope that you are convinced at this point that if you are going to be able to walk in new obedience, you must learn the Gospel-way of doing so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification

The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall was first published in 1692. Marshall was an English Presbyterian minister – a Puritan born in 1628. He was forced to leave his parish in the infamous Great Ejection of 1662, but being faithful to the call of God, he soon found another congregation which he pastored until his death in 1680.

It was out of his own struggles and striving for Christlikeness that The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification came to be written. He had originally sought counsel from Richard Baxter, but soon realized that Baxter was preaching sanctification by way of the Law...this led him to seek counsel from Thomas Goodwin, who spoke to him of sanctification by way of the Gospel.

Goodwin said something to Marshall, which changed his life and got him going down the road of true holiness. When Marshall had spoken about the great struggle and weight of his sin and how he was trying to be free of it, Goodwin pointed out that Marshall had never even considered the greatest sin of all...lack of faith in Christ to save and sanctify him.

In this volume, Marshall propounds the forgotten, Reformed, truth of sanctification by faith in Christ alone, and this is a much needed message today. Too often it is preached, or at least insinuated, that we are justified by the Gospel, but sanctified by the Law. Marshall shows how and why this is such a damnable heresy, and why it never can help a person progress in holiness.

I will be laying out Marshall's "Directions" in a series of entries here at Linkin' bLogs, and I hope that you will not only be edified by the content of each direction, but that you will pick up a copy of The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification and read the whole thing yourself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Leadville Trail Marathon

This past Saturday I ran the Leadville Trail Marathon in Leadville, CO. It is a high-altitude race starting at 10,200 feet and running up to Mosquito Pass at 13,128 feet (22 miles of the 26.2 are over 11,000 feet). I have been traveling a bit lately, and so I was not really in great shape for the run (not that I have ever been in great shape), but I knew I could do it...even if it was ugly.

Elke and I drove the Westy up on Friday afternoon and "camped" at the Leadville RV Corral. We actually got a good-night's sleep and the guy only charged us for a tent site. The bathrooms were clean and a hot shower felt great before and after the run.

The course is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking (on a few levels!). You start in the town of Leadville, run through the old mining district, and then up into the mountains, alternating 4WD roads and single-track. With all the water this year, the mountains are green and the wild flowers are in full bloom, making the run visually spectacular.

I ran most of the first half of the race with fellow Team C.R.U.D. runners Keith Grimes (this is the start of his Leadman attempt) and John Courtney (18th marathon this year). There were actually about 8 or so C.R.U.D. runners running officially this year, and Paul DeWitt, the course record holder until this year, ran "un-officially" pacing his father who was shooting for a sub-5 hour finish (which he accomplished).

Well, with me, it did get ugly! I actually started out strong and ran the first 10 miles feeling fine. It was really hot, and I sweat a lot, but I was hitting the S! Caps about every 45 minutes so I never did have cramping issues. What I did have was stomach issues. I started to get nauseous about 10 miles in, and this did not let up for another 12-13 miles. I either had to slow way down to a walk or throw up. In fact, indicative of how slow I had to go, I do not have sore legs after the race at all...I hardly was able to push them!

I finally had a big "purge" at the final aid station (I actually walked away and behind some bushes), and then flew down the final 4 miles back into Leadville. But by this time I had lost over an hour of time off of what I should have come in at (around 5:30), finishing at 6 hours and 31 minutes. I finished strong, passing lots of runners (and never being passed by anyone) down the final leg of the race, and was amazed at how good it felt to be breathing the thick air at 10,000 feet again!

In the end, it was fun. I enjoyed the conversation and trash-talking with guys early on in the race, and the atmosphere and vibe in Leadville are comfortable. This event and its hosts are top-notch, except the T-shirt is way ugly (Note to those who design race/event T-shirts: Photos don't look good on shirts...its like those frosting portraits on birthday cakes from Wal-Mart). I do plan to run the race again next year, and I am hoping to be in better shape by then. This run is a kicker but one you feel good having completed.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Grand Canyon Rim-To-Rim-To-Rim (45 miles, South Kaibab-North Kaibab-Bright Angel, 15:40)

This past weekend I was blessed to be able to accomplished an ultra-trail running goal that few get the chance to do. That goal was running the Grand Canyon "Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim" (or "GCRX3", or "Triple R", or "RRR") in a self-supported, single-day, effort. The RRR is going from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other, and then back again. I was there with other members of Team C.R.U.D. (Coloradans Running Ultra Distances)-Paul DeWitt, Rick and Jill Hesseck, Eric Gabe, and Paul Smith-along with my wonderful and supportive family (Elke, Tava, Elle, Izzy, and Seth).

We had traveled to Santa Fe, NM the previous night, and therefore were able to get into the GC by about 6PM on Friday night. We quickly unpacked and then I headed over to the rim with the C.R.U.D. group to get a peak at the canyon and put my feet on the trail a bit. It is a psychological thing for me, but I always seem to do better when I have seen the route a bit before I step onto it for the run or race.

We had decided that for the run, we would head down the South Rim via the South Kaibab Trail, then through Phantom Ranch and up the North Kaibab Trail up to the North Rim. But instead of doing a "camera in reverse" and going back out the way we came (which is what most people do), we decided to run back down the North Rim to Phantom Ranch via the North Kaibab and then take a different route back by ascending the South Rim out of the Canyon via the Bright Angel Trail. This alternative adds another 2 miles, but after 43, it doesn't matter much.

My beautiful wife Elke, who is a great runner (but didn't run so she could hike with the kids on Saturday while we ran), got up 3:50AM to drive us to the trailhead. I hadn't slept all night so I got up at about 3:15AM to get my stuff together and see if I could have a BM before the run started. I finished my morning "reading", when Elke banged on the bathroom door and yell-whispered "They're all waiting for you!"

All 7 of us piled into the 5 seater with Paul Smith in the trunk area, Elke on my lap in the front seat, Jill, Rick, and Eric in the back seat, and Paul DeWitt driving his wife's Audi A3. Half way to the trailhead, Eric realized, and exclaimed, that he left his water/fuel pack back at the camp. When we all asked if he was serious, he said, "Yep. My bad." then proceeded to talk about the time he had started the Lake City 50 without his fuel pack. He figured it out too late and started the race without it. At the first aid, after having run the first 15 miles without fuel, he took off his jacket, filled the pockets with the gels at the station, and used it (tied around his waist) for his fuel belt the rest of the race!

Even with Gabe's mishap we got to the trailhead by about 4:27AM. I kissed Elke goodbye, told her not to worry, clicked on my headlamp, and headed down the trail right behind Paul Smith, with Gabe behind me, then Paul DeWitt, and then Rick and Jill. The morning was surprisingly warm and we were all sweating within a couple steps down the trail. About a mile or two down, we stopped at a big, open spot and shed layers while waiting for the whole group to get there (we didn't want anyone to miss the trail since it was so dark and we were at a place that had several options leading out of it). Soon after this point, as the light began to get better, I took the lead (for the last time on the entire run), as I tend to run down hill fairly well (it is merely a matter of weight and gravity!).

The South Kaibab Trail, starting at about 7,200 feet, is simply amazing. As you are coming down it and looking down in the distance at what you will be running, it looks fake. In fact, at one point Eric Gabe said "It looks like some kind of a fiction". It really does look like something out of the Lord of the Rings or something from another world...

We reached the bottom of the Canyon in about an hour and a half. We refilled our water bottles and headed through Phantom Ranch towards the North Rim. About a mile after Phantom Ranch we stopped at a sign that said "13.4 Miles to the North Rim". We stood there and realized that we would need to run the equivalent of a Pikes Peak Marathon to get back to this point. That is after having run 8 miles, and then after the "marathon" you have to run almost a Pikes Peak Ascent.

Now mind you, to the other guys, this is no problem, all of them having completed 100 mile trail runs (for instance, Rick placed 4th last year at the Leadville Trail 100), but for me, the longest I had run before last Saturday was a 50K (31 miles). Needless to say, I began to secretly think of quitting part way through...

We started out from this sign, in a total reversal of the order of the initial descent, with Rick Hesseck leading the way, Eric Gabe behind him, then me, and then Paul Smith. Jill, Rick's wife, and Paul DeWitt (who recently had surgery) hadn't planned on doing the whole run and headed up Bright Angel to do "only" a 19 miler that day (nothing to balk at, at all).

The run through the floor of the Canyon was beautiful. It is a rolling trail that follows a major water vein coming off of Roaring Springs and a few other water falls. Paul Smith suffered with stomach problems for the first 22.5 miles of the run, but even with these problems, he still eventually passed me going up North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim. The climb up the North Rim wall is epic. The trail is cut into the sheer cliff wall and your just running through this notch in the side as you ascend thousands of feet up.

We all reached the North Rim, about 21.5 miles into the run, in the same time proximity (about 45 minutes apart), with Rick and Eric getting there first (Eric was just amazing, coming from Texas elevation and keeping up with Rick during the first 3/4s of the run). Rick and Eric were 5 minutes into their decent when they saw me coming up the last part of the North Rim ascent. I had made it to the North Rim in 6 hours, just a few minutes behind Paul.

Paul was bone dry and out of water, thinking that there was going to be water on the North Rim. There wasn't. There is nothing there except a deserted parking lot and a bathroom with no running water. Thankfully there was still some snow and Paul was able to refill his bottle (note that singular...he ran the entire RRR with one 20 oz water bottle!) in a puddle of melted snow. Paul went off to the bathroom, and I started my descent, knowing he would easily catch me and because I was getting cold at 8,200 feet.

Paul did easily catch me, as it was right about then that my suffering began. I had been burning through S! Caps (electrolyte tablets) and I knew I didn't have enough to finish the run. When your sodium level decreases, your stomach gets queazy. When your stomach gets queazy you can't get fuel in. When you can't get fuel in, you start to fade fast. I was fading and trying not to throw-up. Paul graciously waited for me at a campground/fill up stop, but once I reached him, I told him not to wait for me, in that I was really starting to fade and did not want him to have to be out there any longer than necessary. Amazingly, I was actaully able to run with him to the next camp ground and it was after that one that he started to gain more and more distance on me.

These next 7 miles were very hard. The sun was up in full force and the heat at the bottom was in the 80s. On the trail itself, with the heated rock of the path, it had to be in the 90s. I continued to lose water through sweat and desperately needed those electrolytes that I was out of. I ran as much as I could, setting small goals to run from the sunny parts to the shaded parts. When I reached a shaded section of trail, I would take off my hat, walk the section, and let my head vent the heat. Every once in a while, I would pass a group of hikers and ask how much further it was to Phantom Ranch. Their estimates didn't help, but it was my fault for asking.

I finally made it to Phantom Ranch which is a bustling camp with a store, etc. (there had been no manned camp for the past 30 miles...just water spots here and there). I went into the dining hall looking for a Coke, which is often the only thing that can cut my thirst, but they only had beer, lemonade, and ice tea. I made a half-and-half of the ice tea and lemonade and guzzled it. My stomach was still really queazy so I went outside to sit on a bench and to try to get some fuel in for the final 9.5 mile, 5,000-6,000 foot climb out of the Canyon.

I sat there on the bench at Phantom Ranch with a hiker that I had passed and listened to him talk, mumbling every once in a while so as not to be rude. But, the reality was, I could hardly concentrate on anything he said because of my condition. I eventually went and found a pay phone and called Elke to tell her not to worry about me, that I was moving slow, and I expected that I would be about 5 hours later than I had hoped. She didn't answer and I only got her message service, which she never heard...

I went back, sat next to my hiker friend, and resumed listening to him talk as I hoped my stomach would calm down. It did not. As he talked, I realized that I was not only NOT going to get anything down, but that what was down, was going to come up! I walked away without telling him why and threw up a few times away from where everyone was sitting...

...I spent over an hour in Phantom Ranch, and when nothing changed with my condition, I realized that I better start moving or figure out what I was going to do for the night. I started out of Phantom Ranch, and actually ran a bit before hitting the sand at the bottom of Bright Angel Trail, which Eric Gabe would later describe as a "some kind of bad joke".

The next 5 miles to Indian Gardens was an eternity. When I finally reached its' water facet, I sat there for about 30 minutes. I finally got myself to move and began to death-march up the last 4.6 miles. By this time, I was empty. No power. No motivation. Very thirsty.

Different thoughts were going through my head. I kept thinking about the humiliation I would experience if I had to be rescued. I thought about all those signs that warn you to not attempt to travel to the floor of the Canyon and back in a day...and here I was doing that forbidden activity twice in a day! I wondered about my worrying family, knowing that they probably thought the worst...I just kept walking up and trying to keep myself moving.

Eventually the light faded and I walked in the dusk of evening. This was actually helpful for me, because when it was light out, I had to deal with looking up and seeing how far the South Rim still was from where I was. Each time I would look up, I just about died...I could not imagine being able to finish. The Canyon Rim towered thousands of feet above me and I just couldn't fathom finishing this thing.

But then, I got to the 3 mile hut...then, after another eternity, the 1.5 mile hut. Now it was dark. I clicked my headlamp on and just kept walking/death-marching. By this time, my equilibrium was off, so I stayed as close to the wall-edge of the trail as possible so I wouldn't be at risk of falling off. Interestingly, my legs were surprisingly strong, so I kept pounding with them, even while my mind was fading and my balance was failing. It was weird how the top half of my body was shot, but the bottom half was still working pretty well.

Finally, I rounded a switchback and saw a light coming towards me (no...not that kind of light!). I hoped against hope that it was someone in my party...even Elke...and then I heard her voice. She called out my name, I responded, and she began to cry. She had not gotten my phone message, and I had WAY over estimated myself thinking I would be in hours earlier. She had given me 15 hours in her mind, and then when it got dark, and I was 40 minutes past that, she had gotten worried. Plus, I hadn't ever done anything this hard before, and so she had no idea what I could or couldn't do...and neither did I.

She asked if she could carry anything for me, but at that point, I wanted to finish the whole thing entirely by my own strength. It was a joy to walk the final 200-400 yards with her and then touch the kiosk at the top at 15:40. I had finished the GC RRR.

I am not sure I will do this again (unless a really good friend wanted to do it, or, someone in my family gets into ultra-running and wants to run it), but I am extremely grateful to God for now having finished it. It was beautiful, extremely challenging, revealing as to where I am at with my endurance-running abilities, and, just plain epic in proportions.

Humbly submitted advise for others from a total novice who just experienced his first true ultra run:

1. Never do this as your first long run (i.e. 50 miler). You can't DNF, you have no support, it is too dangerous. You need to get this distance under your feet in more controllable conditions.

2. Take an entire bottle of S!Caps with you if you sweat a lot. You need the electrolytes...without them you are toast.

3. Take 2, 20 oz bottles if you sweat a lot. There is a lot of water available, but every once in a while, there is no water at a stop, and you do not want to go dry out there.

4. Take some comfort food (e.g. something easily digestible, but solid) because the gels will make you sick after about 10 or so.

5. Take it easy and enjoy the run. It is not a race and you are in one of the most beautiful places you will ever be.

6. Go with some really great people...I did and it made the experience more meaningful and enjoyable.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Garden of the Gods/Rampart Range Road...About 13 Miles

Had a good long run today (2 hours and 35 minutes), from my house, around the perimeter of the Garden of the Gods, then up Rampart Range Road for about 2 miles (to the forest information sign?), and then back home. Felt good and played around with various 'fuels' that I recently purchased (S! Caps, Hammer Gels, etc.).

I ran long and slow, trying to get time on my feet, in preparation for the Grand Canyon R2R2R. I am sore now from about 13 miles...I am wondering if I am biting off too much trying 43 in the Grand Canyon...?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Imputation & Adoption

I am beginning to study the connection between the imputation of Christ's righteousness (His "active" obedience), and our own adoption as sons and daughters of God. Last Lord's Day I preached on this theme from Luke 23:46-48 saying:

There is a theme that runs through the NT, and it is particularly seen in a careful study of the Gospels, and that is the theme of righteousness and sonship. We see it as Jesus cries out, “Father” implying that He is the Son, but, it might be that that connection is in no other place made more clearly than right here at the place of the declaration of this centurion. For you see, both Matthew and Mark tells us that when the centurion saw these things he declared, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54; Mk. 15:39).

That is, to declare that Jesus is innocent or righteous—which again, we need to remember, is justification language...this is the word dikaos—is to declare Him to be the Son of God. Another place that we can see this connection is at Jesus' baptism when the Father declared from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” (Lk. 3:22)—that again, is the pairing of righteousness and sonship.

This connection between righteousness and sonship is further tied to that theme found throughout the Scriptures that to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22; cf. Heb. 10:5-10). You see, God delights in obedience to His will. When He created Adam as His Son (Lk. 3:38), He delighted in him as long as he was obedient to Him. Thus, sometimes we refer to the Covenant of Works as the Covenant of Sonship. But Sonship and the demand for obedience are not mutually exclusive...rather they are necessitated by each other.

And now that mankind has fallen into sin, God is still looking for positive, active obedience, as well as the sin-necessitated, passive obedience of sacrifice. And therefore, He sent His Son—the righteous One—to live and die in the place of His people, so that they too might take part in this sonship again—that is, that they too might now receive that adopted status of “children of God”. Because, that status is entirely tied to innocence and righteousness.

Now, why this is important to us is because our salvation—in the full scope and picture of it— depends upon the obedience of Jesus Christ as well as His sin-bearing. You see Adam was to inherit eternal life by His filial or sonship obedience. That is, he would confirm himself and his posterity in the glorious state of unlosable sonship if he would image his Father—simply be who he was. Because, in God's economy, inheritance is based upon sonship, and sonship is based upon resemblance. Therefore, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ—His innocence—that gives us the right to our heavenly reward—eternal life—and the title of sonship.

I was asked by some folks after the service about where they could go to find more on this connection. I turned one young man to John L. Girardeau's Discussions on Theological Topics and the final chapter entitled "The Doctrine of Adoption". But then, look what I found in Calvin's Of The Necessity of Reforming The Church Book II:

First, we maintain, that of what description soever any man's works may be, he is regarded as righteous before God, simply on the footing of gratuitous mercy; because God, without any respect to works, freely adopts him in Christ, by imputing the righteousness of Christ to him, as if it were his own. This we call the righteousness of faith, viz., when a man, made void and empty of all confidence in works, feels convinced that the only ground of his acceptance with God is a righteousness which is wanting to himself, and is borrowed from Christ. The point on which the world always goes astray, (for this error has prevailed in almost every age,) is in imagining that man, however partially defective he may be, still in some degree merits the favour of God by works. But Scripture declares, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." Under this curse must necessarily lie all who are judged by works—none being exempted save those who entirely renounce all confidence in works, and put on Christ, that they may be justified in Him, by the gratuitous acceptance of God. The ground of our justification, therefore, is, that God reconciles us to himself, from regard not to our works, but to Christ alone, and, by gratuitous adoption, makes us, instead of children of wrath, to be his own children. So long as God looks to our works, he perceives no reason why he ought to love us. Wherefore, it is necessary to bury our sins, and impute to us the obedience of Christ, (because the only obedience which can stand his scrutiny,) and adopt us as righteous through His merits. This is the clear and uniform doctrine of Scripture, "witnessed," as Paul says, "by the law and the prophets," (Rom. iii. 21;) and so explained by the gospel, that a clearer law cannot be desired. Paul contrasts the righteousness of the law with the righteousness of the gospel, placing the former in works, and the latter in the grace of Christ, (Rom. x. 5, &c.) he does not divide it into two halves, giving works the one, and Christ the other; but he ascribes it to Christ entirely, that we are judged righteous in the sight of God.

Well...I will be writing more on this in future posts, but I think that this is an underdeveloped aspect of the work of Christ, and an underdeveloped connection between righteousness and sonship...

Friday, February 06, 2009

Funny Commercial...

Posting this will probably make some of you think less of me (if that is possible), but my boys (ages 8 & 11) thought this was very funny. And, if truth be told, so did I...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

My Aunt on the David Letterman Show

My late cousin is the infamous, irreverent comedian, Bill Hicks. He died about 15 years ago at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer, and a few months before he died, he had been censored on the David Letterman show, meaning that they did not air his final comedy routine.

Well, here now, 15 years later, and maybe because there is a major movie being made about his life coming out in the near future starring Russell Crowe, Letterman had my Aunt Mary (my late father's sister) on to apologize to her for censoring Bill right before he died.

I had never seen Letterman this apologetic and was really kind of strange. I don't really know how to read the whole thing...nor do I care that much to. I was/am no fan of my cousin Bill Hicks. One of my critiques of his work is that it showed a lack of reflection. In other words, sometimes things come into our minds...that sort of knee-jerk reaction that we all experience to one degree or another over this issue or that issue...but then, thankfully, we stop (or are stopped) from expressing that "first reaction". We think about it, read more on the issue, reflect intellectually on it, and very often we cool down and usually, on second thought, would not say what we initially thought we "should" say.

Well, it seems to me that that process was severely lacking in my cousin. And, just like the teenage, psuedo-intellectual, who has a few 'friends' around him that will affirm him in his 'insight', by a just-as-unthoughtful, "Totally man!", Bill spread his wares before a largely anti-intellectual audience that gets titillated by unvarnished vulgarity.

I am not saying that there were not funny instances and keen insights from him. He was clearly a passionate and articulate man. He was good at his craft. What I am saying though is, that to think that every thought 'you' think is worthy of public exhibition, is arrogant and ignorant. I wish certain thoughts would never cross my mind. I wish I could excise them from my brain. I am ashamed by things that I think...

...anyway, here is one of the segments from the show...

C. C. Tempo Run 2-5-2009

Much better run today. It was about double the degrees temperature-wise than it was last week (actually above freezing), and I knocked over 2 minutes off my time. There were 12 people out this morning and most everyone set PRs for the year...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Calvin Book 1, Chapter 9

Recently, while on Oprah, Ted Haggard revealed,

"I was dying. I had settled in my mind exactly how I was going to commit suicide. I was preparing, and in my life, Jesus came to me and he said, 'Now, now I can save you.' "

This is a sad admission. I do not rejoice in the revelation that Mr. Haggard was on the brink of suicide, but I also do not rejoice that he still thinks that he has a special line to Jesus. Haggard needs to read Calvin's 9th Chapter of Book 1 of the Institutes entitled "Fanatics, Abandoning Scripture and Flying Over To Revelation, Cast Down All the Principles of Godliness".

Calvin begins this section by saying, "...those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God...". You see, Haggard, with all his pretended "humility" here is really asserting something very arrogant. He is saying that the Word of God is not sufficient on the one hand, and that God specially speaks to him on the other. The man is not a Christian, but rather, as historically labeled, he is a "Libertine". He believes that he gets special messages from God and in that belief he continues to promote the idea that the Scriptures are not enough for people.

I hope that folks will look at this false teacher's life and see that his heresy is destructive to godliness, as Calvin asserts here. This section of the Institutes could have been a helpful corrective for Haggard, noting so clearly that the Spirit and the Word will never be divorced from one another, and that the way to hear the voice of God is to hear His Word. What an insult to Christ, His salvation, and His Word...

Calvin Book 1, Chapters 6-8

Throughout these chapters, Calvin is giving brilliant arguments for the divine inspiration of Scripture. He notes things such as the fact that Moses' contemporaries could have revolted against him for making up lies when he wrote that he did this or that, or that this supernatural event happened or that one. He also notes that the inclusion of self-incriminating facts lends great support to the idea that Moses was not merely writing lies. In other words, why include stories about your own blunders and weaknesses if you are trying to scare people into submission to you by writing lies? He answers those that think that too much time had elapsed between the supposed origin of the writings and today, by reminded us that Scripture itself records times in Israel's history of its own disuse. That is, it laid unused for decades and at different times God had to urge His people to pick it up again and guard it. Indeed Calvin notes that by the end of the Exile, hardly anyone knew Hebrew and therefore the extant copies of the ancient writings in Hebrew at that time gave witness to their antiquity...

...these and many more 'proofs' are catalogued by Calvin, and should be a source of comfort to believers that their God has miraculously preserved His Word for them and their edification, but Calvin also goes on here to argue that it is not these 'proofs' and arguments that prove the truthfulness of Scripture, but rather this is a persuasion that the Holy Spirit alone can give a person. God must open the heart-and He does so with His children-to 'hear Him'. A great quote in this regard is,

"...those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known." (1.8.13)

Happenings South of the Border, and Now, North of It...

I have a friend and former seminary classmate who is involved in training Special Forces and law enforcement agencies in hand-to-hand combat (while in seminary he foiled a would-be robber in a local store in Pittsburgh by breaking the perp's thumbs). He recently sent me an email explaining some of the reality behind the growing violence along the U.S./Mexico border. As most are aware, there are daily reports of grotesque mass murders to the tune of over 6,000 deaths in the Mexican border towns just last year. We continue to hear that these are "drug gangs" and that the local law enforcement and Mexican military is doing their best to fight them and get this under control. Well, has it ever concerned you that for all this "fire-power" the problem continues to escalate? Have you ever found yourself wonder just what kind of "gangs" these are that are able to walk all over the Mexican military? My friend's recent email explained a lot of this and I think it is important to get the word out.

We trained-that is, the U.S. by way of tax-payer's money trained-Mexican Special Forces at Ft. Benning here in the U.S. I believe the intention was good and noble, being that we would have an elite, U.S.-trained force on the Mexican side of the border, able to greatly hinder the drug smuggling into the U.S. But what has happen is that the drug cartels have bought these U.S.-trained, Mexican Special Forces and they are now aiding the smuggling of people and drugs into the United States. That is why they are basically operating unchecked in Northern Mexico and the Mexican military seems impotent to stop them. Here is a Wikipedia article that will basically back up everything I have said here, but with much more detail and documentation.

Also, and related, here is a report from MSNBC on the problem of Mexican Military incursions over the border onto U.S. soil. Two things about this are, 1) It is not from an overly biased source (e.g. FOX News), so keep in mind that this was reported through a "mainstream" outlet, and 2) Note that the female reporter that they are interviewing mentions the fact that there have been defections from the U.S.-trained, Mexican Special Forces to the drug cartels.

Many security analysts are contending that this growing problem along our southern border is a greater threat to the security of America than Al Qaeda.

Friday, January 30, 2009

C.C. Tempo Run 1-29-09

Everything was going great until I got out of my car...

That's not me...but that's how I felt. was hard this morning. I ran slow and out of breath. Granted it was 14 degrees and the roads were covered with snow and ice, but that really wasn't the problem...

I went out too fast, lost control of my breathing, and ended up posting my worst time this year: 52:43. Yet, I am glad I went and I will keep plugging away at it...

...I am thankful for my health right now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Extreme Belly Flop

This is just plan funny. I got it from a newsletter over at Here are some comments by them about this:

"It’s hard to imagine anything worse than belly flopping into a foot of water from a height of thirty feet. The only thing more damaging would be growing up with the name Danny Higgenbottom, which is the dude’s name that pulled off this daring feat."

A Review of "The Shack" by Lane Keister

The following is from Lane Kiester over at Greenbaggins.

Job and Bunyan Vs. The Shack

The book entitled The Shack has been a marketing phenomenon among “evangelicals.” Blurbs compare the Shack to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I am here to tell you that the hype is a bit forced. Let’s do a bit of comparison, first with the book of Job, then with Bunyan, interjecting a bit of C.S. Lewis in for fun.

The Shack is the story of a man whose beautiful daughter is brutally murdered. The man leaves the faith, only to receive a message from God to meet him at the shack, the very place where his daughter was murdered. He then meets God. The Father is a big jolly black woman, the Son is a Jewish carpenter, and the Holy Spirit is a wispy, mysterious Asian woman (we’ll get to that blasphemy in a moment). The upshot of the plot is that God explains to the main character the why’s and the wherefore’s, and the man is healed. The theological upshot is that God is good, but not all-powerful. Young takes Rabbi Kushner’s prong of the dilemma. What is important to notice here is a combination of rationalism and experientalism. On the one hand, Young tears at the heart strings, making the reader bleed for the main character. On the other hand, in order for the man’s faith to be “restored,” God has to explain himself.

Contrast Job. Job lost much more than the man in the story (ten children!), and it was due to the prince of demons being opposed to him, not a mere man, even if Job didn’t know that. He lost all his possessions, and then finally his health. He had much more to complain about than the man in The Shack. He too wanted God to explain. He wanted to vindicate himself as well. But when God finally has His say, He tells Job that He does not have to come to the bar of human reason. Humans have to come to the bar of God. This is where C.S. Lewis comes in. In his brilliant essay entitled “God in the Dock,” he makes the point that the really important thing for autonomous man is that he is the judge, and that God is in the dock. The man may very well be a kindly judge and acquit God of wrong-doing, if God shows Himself up to the task of defending himself. But the really important thing is that man is the judge, and God is in the dock (on trial). Job shows us that the reverse is true. God is the judge, and man is in the dock.

Rationalism always results in God losing one of His attributes. If God is all-powerful and all-good, then how come evil exists? The Bible does not allow us to lessen the difficulty of this question by jettisoning one of these attributes. The reason the problem is so acute for the believer is that God is both all-benevolent and all-powerful.

Just to begin an answer (and not leave the readers hanging), God allows evil to exist for various reasons, but evil will not continue to last. God has dealt with the problem of evil on the cross and the empty tomb, and will finally eradicate the very presence of evil in this world in the future. No other religion, by the way, or atheism, has an answer to this question. Pantheism believes that evil is naturally part of the world. No hope of eradication there. Atheism cannot define right and wrong, so his faith in his own reason becomes shockingly apparent when he confidently talks about the problem of evil. Deists don’t believe that God has anything to do with the world. These all lack hope and eschatology.

Bunyan and Young go in fundamentally different directions. Christian’s journey is to the bar of judgment as a defendant whom God will acquit based on the spotless righteousness of Christ imputed to him. The man’s journey in The Shack is to the bench, where he magnanimously acquits God of wrong-doing, once it becomes evident that God is really powerless to stop it. Of course, if God is powerless to stop evil, then He is also powerless to eradicate evil, and so that road is also a dead end eschatologically speaking.

In talking with one of my friends, he made the very interesting point also about faith. What moves Christian? It is the scroll, the evangelist, the Interpreter, the fellow believers he meets on the way, the key of faith in Doubting Castle. It is the means of grace which compels Christian to a life of faith. In The Shack, it is a one-time rationalistic showdown where God pleads and begs with the man (in effect) not only to give Him a hearing, but to acquit Him of wrong-doing. Ultimately, the man’s faith is in himself.

My friend also noted the contrast between the way in which God is portrayed in the Bible as opposed to how God is portrayed in The Shack. The God of The Shack is hardly a God with the least little hint of awe and majesty. He is not the God of the whirlwind, which is how God treated Job. He is not the God before whom all bow their faces to the ground. Instead, He is a God whose booty sways to the music. Anyone who cannot see the blasphemy and rank heresy of this portrayal of God is seriously lacking in discernment. God is Spirit, and only the Second Person of the Trinity has a human body which exists only in hypostatic union with the divine nature, and is currently a glorified body. I choose to believe the God of the Bible, who will eradicate evil because He is completely omnipotent and completely free of sin.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stunning Article by Atheist Matthew Paris: "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God"

This is an amazing read. The original article is found here, but I have reproduced it in its entirety:

Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset

Matthew Parris

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Cheyenne Canyon Tempo Run

(Got this image off of Krupicka's blog)

I finally got back out for a Thursday morning run with C.R.U.D., and my knee is doing great. I am energized simply by the fact that I have no pain after the run! As you can see by the topo and elevation chart above (if you click on the picture you can see a very clear map and numbers), these "tempo" runs are 4.2-ish miles up (to just shy of 8,000 ft.), and then its just a leisurely run back down. Everyone starts at their own start-time, trying to get to the top at 6:40AM. The times range from about 34 minutes to just over an hour. I am right at about 50 minutes, which makes me one of the slowest out there...

...but the workout is great, the views are amazing (you see the city lights on the way up, and then the sun rises for the run down), and realizing that others are out there also, and running up the hill WAY faster than you are, it keeps you going.

I did these runs as part of my training for the Death Valley Trail Marathon last year, and, I am planning on keeping them up as I think that they will help build a good base for the Grand Canyon R2R2R this May (43 miles; 13,000 ft. of elevation gain). As soon as we can coordinate it with the kid's school schedule, Elke plans to come out for these runs as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The War In Gaza: A Biblical Perspective & Plea

Here is a letter from a minister in Beirut who knows what he is talking about...

...please take the time to read it.
Until now I have refrained from sending out a missive on the tragedy of Gaza. This will be brief, for I plan to write a comprehensive assessment of the Middle East situation later.

I am livid over the unchristian statements of those perverters of biblical truth known as Christian Zionists. John Hagee, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Hal Lindsey, and a host of others of that ilk, have little or no understanding of the biblical hierarchy of values, the role of Israel in prophecy, and Middle Eastern history, especially its history for the last 100 years.

Benny Hinn recently made a statement in an interview with Benjamin Netanyahu that epitomizes the twisted thinking of all Christian Zionists. He said, "The future of the United States depends on America's treatment of Israel."

Instead of stating biblical truth, he mindlessly mouthed this watchword of Christian Zionist ignorance, which is based on a radical misunderstanding of Genesis 12:3. The truth is that the future of the United States depends on America doing the right thing, which means getting back to the Gospel of Christ and consistently demonstrating the impartial justice and even-handed compassion to all people that the Gospel requires. Anything other than that is an implicit denial of the one true Gospel given by the one true God who "so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life."

Putting Israel above justice and love, as Christian Zionists do, is blatant idolatry. Israel treats the Palestinians as sub-human, as its Zionist founders have done from the time they conceived the establishment of the state of Israel by displacing the indigenous inhabitants of the land, which they succeeded in doing in the late 1940s.

I do not condone terrorist attacks perpetrated by anyone, including Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. All hatred and murder are evil. I am also opposed to all antisemitism--recognizing that both Jews and Arabs are semitic--and I am equally opposed to the destruction of the state of Israel and to the destruction of the Palestinian people.

The ad nauseam repetition of the Christian Zionist refrain that "there are no Palestinians and there never was a Palestine" not only shows their ignorance about linguistic usage but also reveals their biased attempt to negate the personhood, dignity, and human rights of the majority of the people who lived in the land that the Zionists occupied in the twentieth century. Like all movements with an ungodly and perverted agenda, they find it necessary to make semantic and linguistic accommodations to suit their own agenda.

Since some will erroneously think that my perspective is partisan in favor of Palestinians and Arabs over against Israelis and Jews, I urge you to read the balanced, brilliant essay of one of the most highly qualified people in the world. He addressed the Israel-Gaza tragedy just last week. He is a Jew who served in the Israeli army and is now an Oxford professor of international relations. His name is Avi Shlaim, and I hope you will read every line of his brief essay. If you want to understand what is happening there today, you must understand why it is happening, and Professor Shlaim does a masterly job of explaining the context of this enormous Gazan tragedy. Here is the website where you can read his essay [DR: I am not endorsing this essay...but it is an interesting read].

Whatever one's views about prophecy may be, let us believe and act like Christians who represent the love of Christ for all peoples. Although loyalty to Christ does not exclude legitimate patriotism, it does entail the repudiation of the worship of Caesar in all forms. God's ultimacy and absolute claim to exclusive worship must never be subordinated to anything--any ideology, movement, institution, or state, including the state of Israel.

As Christians, we must earnestly and unswervingly seek to treat all people impartially according to the righteous standards revealed in the Bible. So-called Christian Zionism, which has aligned itself with anti-Christian, political Zionism, is an ideology and movement that blatantly contravenes this fundamental truth.

Compassion for Christian Zionists leads me to attribute their wrongheadedness not to evil but to ignorance. It would be hubris for me to claim that they are ignorant but I am not if the issue in question were complicated and subtle. But biblical teaching on this matter is so simple and perspicuous that even a child can understand it: God first, not Israel first.

God first means that His character and His ethical standards must not be compromised for the sake of Israel but must stand in judgment over Israel, the United States, and every other nation.
The obtuseness that prevents the understanding of this plain, biblical truth is enough to boggle the mind.

Christian Zionists can only be understood as the victims of long-term indoctrination in an aberrant eschatology. Contrary to the belief of many, that aberration is not advocated by dispensationalism or supported by it. Christian Zionists have abandoned normative dispensationalism and have replaced it with a radically warped reinterpretation of it.

I have sought to explain this in detail in other papers--which were sent to some of the main leaders in Christian Zionism--and so far no Christian Zionist has even attempted to refute my thesis. Like Ephraim (Hosea 4:17), they are joined to their idols and refuse to relinquish them. How sad for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and the witness of Christians to the world, which is often confused and alienated by the unloving, chauvinistic voices of Christian Zionists.

Let us stand firm for the cause of Christ,

Mark Hanna
January 14, 2009