God’s Tracks and Trails

I fear that I as I head back to school for another exciting school year, many people are going to inquire as to what I did with my three month. The fear derives from the reality that my answer will be rather…basic?

I ran. A lot.

Knowing that within the next few days I’ll be reporting back to school has given me an opportunity to do a mental recap over the summer, and truth be told, without shame, this summer really did revolve around running. I logged a lot of miles in the few months apart from the school year.

While some were difficult, emotional, and challenging, some, such as the experience I had this weekend, were soul fulfilling.

I’ve struggled for recent months (in some cases years) with the current condition of the Church that flies its banner within the political confines of the country that I exist in. Truthfully, the concept and questioning has come to a head over the past several weeks. Notably it’s been stated that running really can provide an amazing opportunity to experience worship. That may sound strange to those who hate running, but to those who lace up frequently, I feel that, that knowledge maybe understood.

Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to stretch out my mileage with some amazing friends early on in the morning hours. Originally I chalked up as just another run, and another chance to log mileage for myself.

What I, shamefully, hadn’t planned on was the experience with God through the miles of wilderness.


Imagine having to take the first mile in stride, seeing only a few feet before due to limitation of dawn’s light. Through mile two and three you begin to coexist with reality for the day. The sky has lightened, life has returned, and you are merely another creature moving about the planet. No talking, no noise, just the idle, repetitive footsteps through God’s terrain. Miles four through six show the ultimate event horizon, where your existence blends into the dirt that you’re attempting to cover. The overhead rocks show your small stature in the world outside of man, and the gentle breeze reminds you of how much you are loved. The final miles bring about celebration! A mix of adrenaline and grace streams through your presence; you recognize how small you really are, and yet how important your life truly is. Finishing eight miles in the woods on a random Saturday morning was not just about logging the required mileage. It was about the opportunity to reconnect to a place, to an entity bigger than ourselves.


So, when people ask what I did this summer. I’ll think back to my random journey’s through the woods and I’ll smile and simply say…

I worshipped. A lot.


XXXI: Trail (Running) of Tears

I never understood teammates that I had played sports with in school.

If they missed the winning shot.
They cried.
If they scored the game winning touchdown.
They cried.
If they broke a state record.
They cried.

I never understood the emotional responses from these student-athletes that I knew through my education years. What could cause someone to be so emotionally distraught that they would break down and cry during a sporting event? In my mind that didn’t register as something that was acceptable. They were not professional athletes, there wasn’t a human life on the line…it…was…just…a…game.


For a few months I had been toying around with the idea of ‘trail running’. There really is marginal running, it’s more about technical footwork, strength, and a lot of hiking. I had established amazing friendships, found incredible support, and most of my nights have been spent traveling around dirt, single path trails along the countryside. It is brutal, it is hard, and yet there is something about surviving that causes you to want to do it again the next day.

This is the world of trail racing.

Saturday morning, 9:00 AM CST I stood in the grass with nearly 100 other souls at a local lake. People were holding bottles of water, vests held food and hydration packs, hats were on, shoes were laced, and the horn blew. We were the last group to take off during this day. An hour prior the runners that were partaking in the 20 Mile and 50K (31 miles) had already begun their journey. The group I was with was running the 10 Mile course. It was the ‘safe’ course for newer runners, compared to the hard mileage that laid ahead for the other two groups.

PS16 I

Real photo at mile 7. Credit: Mile90 Photography

I’ll be honest in saying that the majority of the event is a blur to me now. The air temperature was a stifling 96°F with an extremely dangerous heat index of 103°F. The weather, mixed with being in the woods, resulted in an absolutely awful environment to run for any amount of miles. The first several miles my stomach was tied in a knot. I had ran this course a week prior, I knew it was a hard course, but by mile 4 my legs were completely exhausted. They were too heavy to move. I was in a struggle for this race.

By mile 7 I began seeing signs that stated, “You’re NOT almost there, but you look fabulous” and “Chaffing the dream!” I knew that this meant I was almost to an aid station that was being manned by the group that I run with on Monday nights…the ‘mud babes’. At the station I heard cowbells, screaming, a hairy man in a bikini top, and was inundated with the questions of “What can I get you?” and “Do you need your bottle filled up? Get him a bandana with ice, he needs to cool down.” Within five minutes of that small oasis I was back on the trail for the final three miles.

There was support raining from the trees!

There was support raining from the trees!

Becoming part of the trail running community has shown me so many different sides of humanity. It isn’t necessarily the race that really stuck out to my emotionally/spiritual self; it has been the people that I’ve been blessed to be around. They don’t argue, they’re not mean, and they are not stuck on their ‘pacing’ from their GPS watch. They help each other out through every obstacle. As one person stated, “Trail running isn’t about you against everyone else. It’s you against the mountain, the distance, your demons, yourself.”. In a world that is covered in competition this sporting event requires you to depend on the person your running against in order to survive (literally).

Mud Babes 16 Birthday

Tonight we celebrated birthdays (Mine, Darco, and two others), and then we ran (and ate cupcakes afterwards).

Being around these people outside of just race day has caused me to question so much in reflection to my own connection and growth within my own faith. How is it that this group of people can drink a beer after a run, moon a camera, and carry on in the heat for 3 to 6 hours…and still get along with each other? Politics are not brought up. Work is rarely touched. Family is mentioned frequently, and the next ‘fix’ of a race tends to be the highlighted conversation. There isn’t music players attached to everyones ears, and there isn’t asphalt for miles all around. Everyone is coated in sweat and mud, not pressed in dresses and slacks. Uniquely, the closest connection I’ve found to the world that God created is everything apart from the stone-faced, mortar-laid, carpet-clean church that I’ve been in for so many years. There is transparency (sometimes way too much of it in relation to bowel movements) on the trail, whereas I find so many hidden agendas laced throughout personalities everywhere else. Ironically, running through the woods feels closer to God than being in church on a Sunday morning.

When you move throughout the trails and enjoy the company of those around you, there is an emotional bond that is being built that individuals like me aren’t aware of until usually when we cross the finish line.


PS16 VIThree hours and six minutes, a time that I will never forget. I remember seeing the clock slowly tick by as the finish line came up to my sweaty, soaked, mud-caked shoes. Three hours and six minutes I had been alone in the woods, fighting off fear and disappointment, dealing with extreme heat and loneliness; all to cross one line and acknowledge that I had completed something I never thought I could ever do.

I crossed the finish line.

I saw Darco waiting for me.

I wrapped my sweat covered arms around her, and buried my head into her shoulder.

And I cried…


XXXI: Prayers of Laughter

We’re laughing in the middle of a prayer; God is going to be so mad at us…

Here’s the truth: Darco and I struggle to come to a middle ground when it comes to church. I struggle with music, but love deep, theological ideas through a sermon. She enjoys music…and people. Needless to say, we’re not exactly on equal terms, but we’re trying.

In recent adventures, through way of Google Maps and Facebook, we found a church near our house that had a young adult group that met every Monday night. We had come to the understanding, and both of us agree, that one of our struggles is not being around people our age. Not the people that are currently having kids (no offense), but the ones that are starting their adult lives, not rushing into families, and trying to make an impression on the world before being whisked away in the world of…family.

That’s when, while visiting this small church, we learned of the small group of young adults that met each Friday night at the leaders apartment a few miles away from where we reside. Last Friday, against all social fears that I could dream up, Darco and I traveled to this strange little apartment to be surrounded by a handful of people…that we’d never met, and that we knew absolutely nothing about.

The group was inviting, relaxed, chilled, and…wait for it…focused on humor, relationships, and faith. There was a quick devotion, some time for singing, and just talking about the real, unique problems that face people our age. Interestingly enough Darco and I are the only married people in the group. That’s an interesting perspective that I never thought I’d witness.

It was warm, comfortable, and inviting. Honestly, it was exactly what Darco and I had been searching for. There were people from India, South Korea, California, Missouri, Kansas, etc…fascinatingly diverse, but still unified on the same grounds of concept; faith, Christ, God, love. Even more awesome to me was the fact that not all the people there attended the same church. Some attended the small church we originally visited, some from a church near my school, and others from throughout the city. They came from all walks of life, and were respected for the unique quirks, concepts, and ideas.

Doctrine wasn’t discussed; only exactly what the Bible had to say and the encouragement to do better, dive deeper, grow stronger as  Christian and to rely on one another. It was so mesmerizing that Darco and I inadvertantly were there for nearly three hours last Friday night.

It was so fascinating that we decided to go again last night. Again, challenged to actually read the Bible, listening to people confess their shortfalls was so humbling to witness, and to know that people supported and prayed for one another was just jaw-dropping. It was basic and simple; it was something that I was extremely comfortable with. I was able to speak thoughts with this group, to listen, and to discover more about all of these people that are so seemingly close to same point in their lives as myself.

Consider it a blessing; I know that I do. It’s incredible that on Sunday nights I can witness the maturity of people and families that are established that we spend time with. On Friday nights it’s comforting being around believers that understand the similarities that each other are going through within the age establishment of the group.

Finally, it is the overcoming sensation of speaking to random strangers. I’m not one to enjoy heading out, being with groups, and talking about faith. That’s a rather stressful point of conversation I’ve learned over the years. However, there is something that can click within the individual to where a suppressed sensation of “this is safe, take a chance” becomes apparent. I consider this small blessing a large victory. It has been nearly nine years since multiple days throughout the week involved multiple groups of people. Again, I consider this gain. The temptation is be quiet, isolated, and individualized…the truth is that I need the fellowship, the wisdom, and the support of those around me.

Overcoming so frequently can become eventual blessings.


XXXI: Failed Institution


Written in a form coinciding with political ideologies and humanities lack of conviction; I type this with sorrowful hands, a trembling heart, and a burning soul.

The institution has failed.

Perhaps one of the more polarizing pieces of publication written in the past five years churns alive on the screen. Trying to appropriately find the justification and words to transcribe the flowing thought of organic opinions is a struggle in these lazy hours of life. However, the truth needs to be shared with the public. The reality is that the institution has failed.

What is the institution? It isn’t a government, a system, agency or even a group of people. It’s a thought process, it’s a standard, it’s a form that has been recycled over the years in repetition without qualm of the people. Now, the cracks are showing, the people are vacating, and true images and colors are being displayed.

The institution…is the Church.

The institution has failed.
The Church has failed.
We have failed.

It’s troubling and nearly feeling sacrilegious in typing such troubling words. But, what else do you do when your heart breaks? When your soul is crushed? When the idea of love disappears, replaced with jealousy, rage, and hypocrisy? The truth is, the largest population in the land that I call home has left church…and they’re currently of no interest in returning.

Why are we ignoring this reality? I can walk into nearly any church today and get my fix of guitars, pianos, organs, and choirs. I can hear redemption, education, “three points and a poem”, and walk out the door. If this new generation doesn’t enjoy the comfort of fast food, why would they settle for the same of their spiritual guidance?

I’ve been in church of some sort since I was seven years old; I even went to a Christian affiliated university. I took courses on theology, studied my brain out of history of Christianity, argued nearly every denomination, and finally obtained degrees mixing sociology with a global faith. Yes, I am the person that sounds the bells when I see the failures of our past and our present. Out of twelve people inside a core youth group I was apart of when in high school, only two are currently active in their church (we’re all adults now). That was from a church in a town of 1200. What happened to the rest? Why did they stop, and why are we not going after them?

Currently, as reported by the Pew Research Center, Christians within my own homeland have decreased by nearly 10%. Much of this is being attributed to the Millennial generation not going to church, not seeing its importance, and not necessarily being reached.

From the person who struggles to step into the building each Sunday; it isn’t because of politics, it isn’t because of ease of access, it isn’t because of lack of coffee shops, it’s the struggle of feeling wanted, needed, and reminded that our objective it to rely on God and change the world.

That is my personal conviction, my sin if it’d gloss over the image a bit better. I can’t get enough of God. He guides me, He loves me, and man He takes care of me when I continue to screw up as some awful, trashy piece of human that I am. He picks me up, He cares for me, and He reminds me that I’m worth it.

The Church no longer does.

Can you imagine the strange sensation of being attached to your Father, knowing that God is the way, the truth, the life, the…everything. At the same time, nearly in a split personality, the idea of congregating with other people to hear about the political spectrum, reused candid terminology that establishes Christians similar to corporate jargon, and to repeat it weekly…really, what’s the point?

Yes, you cannot grow in your faith without the construct of the Church body (check out 1 Corinthians for a glimpse of that reality), but are we growing when we do arrive? That’s not just a corporate question, but a personal one.

I have seen cities created, societies manipulated, and hope delivered to millions. I’ve witnessed advancements in health and technology, assisting the people of this world. I’ve seen economies grow and cultures thrive. Now, why are the current leaders of those magnificent concepts no longer a part of the body of Christ? Why do we ignore the elephant in the room, and turn a blind eye to the fact that below our Sunday School/Small Group classes of 30-40 year olds; below that…it gets rather sparse in population.

I caution the Church. If you do not invest in the current fleeing generation, they will make no attempt to return. Additionally, understand that a return isn’t about their number in your box at your church; it’s about the return of understanding God’s love.

Perhaps we’re just a little too focused on us.
Perhaps we’re just a little out of touch.
Perhaps our arrogance has been called by the largest population on this planet.

We have nothing to show for these realizations except the opportunity to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, and to go forward and continue to reach this beautifully flawed world.


XXXI: No Formula

I did not go to church today.

I sat in our living room; marveling at the beautiful, frozen landscape that had created itself over the night.

My wife did not go to church today.

She sat beside me, half asleep, taking in the warmth of solar radiation and a pristine paralysis that surrounded her.

We did not go to church today.

Continue reading

XXXI: Full Circle

I tried on several different occasions to record a video that demonstrates the current setting and situation that I’ve been in. However, between multiple cats, a malfunctioning phone, and well…time, I’ve come to the conclusion that the reality is, it’s better for me to write.

For those of you, the reader, who pop in and out of this site, you’ve known about my journey for the past four…going on five…years. It’s the sadly standard story of so many lives; lost, left, and praying for a second chance at life. Mine began with a divorce, financial collapse, and the utter helplessness and recognizing and accepting that I was all alone.

My, how the times have changed.

The point of this piece isn’t a recap as much as it’s an opportunity to demonstrate a dream coming true for myself: Continue reading

XXXI: A Taste

Sometimes road trips are the most dangerous thing a person can conduct for themselves.

This time last week Darco and I were enjoying ribs with our friends in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Overall it truly was an experience I’ll never forget. It wasn’t just because of the food, the fun, and the atmosphere. It’s because I got a taste of a different life. Continue reading