Frenetic morning

First, our dog unplugged my alarm. I usually wake up between 6 and 6:30, but instead April woke me at 6:50.

Then, I immediately took the dog for a walk… and discovered that a cat had been hit by a car last night and was lying at the end of the driveway. I couldn’t be certain, but I thought it was our neighbour’s cat, Mellow, which was heartbreaking. I grew up in the country, and if one of our outside animals was hit by a car, a neighbour always brought it home in a trashbag with condolences, so I figured I ought to do the same. After the walk, I got the cat and knocked on the neighbour’s door.

Then I showered, dressed, grabbed some breakfast, and got to work a few minutes late after dropping April off at OTC. I tried to call people to let them know I would be late, but my phone kept dropping the connection, potentially due to the storm we’ve got in the area right now.

It turns out that it wasn’t Mellow. I’m glad–that makes it better, somehow. But it was still a very sad thing, and I want to go home and sit on the couch with our cats and dog.

My first real go

Time: 1:03:16
Distance: 3.67 miles
Music: The Crane Wife by The Decemberists
Runkeeper Report

I rolled out of bed a little after 7 this morning (don’t have to go to work thanks to Memorial Day) and got out the door shortly thereafter. Between getting dressed and stretching, though, I realized that my pre-exercise routine is going to take longer than I had anticipated, so instead of getting up at 6 a.m. on weekdays, I’ll need to be up at 5:45 to stretch and get ready. I also took along my iPhone so I could use Runkeeper.

My left shoe wasn’t settling right, which was frustrating–it felt like it was twisted, so the heel was a bit too far to the left, and I worried that this would cause problems down the road. I made it just over half a mile before I finally paused to take that shoe off and put it back on, which took care of the problem.

If you don’t find that terribly exciting, I won’t blame you. As things go, it wasn’t an exciting time, but let me share a couple of memorable moments:

1) I saw two men walking down the street or sidewalk during my hour long excursion. I don’t know if they were homeless or just walking, but I overcame my natural inclination to shy away, cross the road, and generally act like I don’t know the other person exists. Encountering people out in the world always makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable, and I hide that by withdrawing–I get away, either mentally or physically. But I smiled and nodded as I passed, greeting them as another human being. It wasn’t much, but I know that it makes me feel warm and happy when people accord me the same, so I hope it was a positive thing for them.

2) I dodged around some refuse on the sidewalk at one point. This wasn’t hard because I’d seen it coming, just some mud and leaves and the litter that gets stuck in such places. It was near a greener place–not a forest, not here, but an overgrown part that is still a little wild. During a rain the soil had eroded and washed onto the sidewalk, but it didn’t cover it completely.

I was on the street and looked down at it, for a flash of white had caught my attention. On closer inspection, it was the bared spine of an opossum, lying belly up–or at least, it would have been had its belly remained. Instead there was just spine and a supine head, gaping mouth and damp fur caked in mud.

***

I look forward to getting into the routine of the exercise. I want it to become everyday, humdrum, and methodical. I don’t want to have to think about it. When that day comes, I can turn my mind to more interesting things while my body goes through the process of burning calories and strengthening bones and muscles and joints. I seriously considered turning on an audio recorder on my iPhone so I could talk to myself while I walked–take some notes, record my thoughts, etc. Maybe I’ll do that sometime, who knows. With the way iPhones work now, though, I don’t think it’ll run more than music and Runkeeper, and I really want to use Runkeeper so I think audio recording is out until later this summer (when OS 4 comes out for the iPhone).

20 pushups and 20 crunches when I got home. Going to try and increase those counts by 10 a week throughout this.

Oh, and I have a blister on the inside of my right foot. Pain is just the body’s way of communicating with the mind, telling it that something isn’t right, or that it doesn’t want to do something. The body tends to be lazy, though, and doesn’t know what’s good for it. I hear you loud and clear, good buddy–message received. Now shut up and keep going.

A new plan to go with a new pair of shoes

I’m not really a big fan of sport. The sun hurts my eyes, and the outside world is dirty and abrasive. Nothing is as nice as my giant SumoSac, a hot cup of coffee, and a good book. Nothing is as extensive or encompassing as my office with my computer, comfy chair, and high-speed Internet. There isn’t a lot for the outside world to offer me in which I am interested.

That said, there are some activities that can only be practiced outside, and paramount are those that keep my gut from expanding. I’ve tried a gym membership twice with hesitant success, but both attempts ended with months of not attending and the membership lapsing. We bought bicycles a year and a half ago with the goal of exercising outside the gym, investing in those rather than a renewed membership, and then I broke my collarbone and couldn’t really do anything for four months.

A year has passed since that injury, and I’m tired of the state of things. I want to shed thirty pounds, and I want to start getting more active again. I’m anxious to get my bike fixed, but I have always wanted to try something else: running. I enjoy walking, and I’ve enjoyed jogging on a treadmill, but I’ve never been able to do it off the treadmill. It just hurts my shins, and knees, and back. Everything hurts, really, which is part of why I avoid the outdoors and its various demands.

Yesterday I committed myself to changing that and purchased a pair of Vibram Fivefingers. For the next nine weeks I’m going to advance along a fitness plan centered on walking and jogging. I want to do an hour a day, and I will be using a 7-minute method a technical trainer described to me. At the beginning, I’m overweight and out of shape, unable to do a lot, so I’ll walk for six minutes and jog for one. A week later, I will walk for five minutes and jog for two. In week three, I will walk for four minutes, jogging for three, and so on.

My first walk/jog this morning, though not an hour long, was quite enjoyable. Not only that, it was surprising. I’ve been reading about Vibram Fivefingers for a year now, and have had them recommended to me by several friends, but I was hesitant to put the cash down for them. The last pair of expensive shoes I’d bought didn’t go well: high-priced Nike’s sneakers purchased for basketball that I just don’t enjoy walking in, let alone jogging (they’re uncomfortable and make my feet hurt after a while, which discourages me from doing anything). In addition, I’ve been reading about the health benefits of barefoot walking/running over modern tennis shoes; having spent most of my youth barefoot, I was confident that what I had read was correct. To do anything, I needed a new pair of shoes: the only comfortable shoes for walking I had were my expensive, leather work shoes, and I didn’t want to introduce the wear and tear on them that would occur with walking regularly outside of work.

So I bought Vibrams after trying on four different pairs, and I’m really digging them. I walked for a few minutes this morning, psyching myself up to jog, and then finally rolled into my first step. My foot took me by surprise as I bounced onto the ball of my foot, mostly avoiding my heel altogether. My body knew what it needed to do, and it handled everything. My shins didn’t hurt, and neither did my knee. I did three intervals before returning home, pleased with my morning’s exertion.

We’re probably going to get April a pair today (though she’s going to get some Classics so she can wear them to work and most everywhere else). I’m also going to get my bike fixed (the front wheel is bent, I think) and start taking long rides on Saturday/Sunday mornings. Nine weeks should be more than enough to get the habit built while making some definite health improvements, and it’d be really cool if I could do a marathon of some sort next summer. I want to get healthy and lose some weight, and I’m excited to have a means to do so.

I’ll be blogging daily about this to record my feelings, experiences, and progress, so check back and chime in with any advice or encouragement you might have 🙂

Fear is the Beginning of Wisdom

Four years ago I really pissed Satan off. I had sinned, as happens on a regular basis, and he was using my failing against me. ((You might be wondering, “Were you having a conversation with Satan? o.O ” and the answer is yes. Before I was Christian, I spoke with Satan often, though I didn’t know it was Satan at the time for what it’s worth. Satan had first led me to believe he was an angel (and female), and then deceived me into thinking he was the Goddess as Wiccans understand deity. For several years after I became Christian, he would still rear up occasionally to torment me, though that hasn’t happened in some time.)) “See what a failure you are? God will never accept you, and neither will your friends. You’ll always be alone. You’ll always be worthless. You’ll never be able to overcome.”

Angry, I fired back at him. “Try all you want, but nothing you say matters. You’ve already lost, and now you’re just scrambling to take others down with you. You’re a pitiful, inexcusable worm that doesn’t deserve even the memory of the light.” Or something to that effect. I was definitely not the loving Christian God calls me to be. ((I truly believe that Christians are supposed to treat everyone with love, and I’ve come to pity Satan much like Frodo comes to pity Gollum. That doesn’t mean I really treat him with love, but I recognize that I ought to.))

“You’ll regret this night,” Satan replied, and was gone. A bit shaken, but mostly smug, I went to bed.

A few hours later I woke to the sound and feeling of earth-shaking thunder, and not thirty seconds later the tornado sirens went off. I was terrified, more frightened than I had been since I was a child, partly because I had just moved to a new second-story apartment and partly because I knew this was my fault. I had pissed the prince of this world off and he had pulled up a terrible, tornadic storm.

Freaking out, I paced back and forth in my apartment and then asked God what to do.

“Walk with me.”

I froze, mind spinning in circles like a tiny dog chasing its tail, and then jerkily pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, a windbreaker, and my cowboy boots before going out into the torrent. I felt like my life was completely in Jesus’ hands, and that in addition to the devil, God wasn’t too pleased with me either. His anger was palpable, and I walked in fear of my life.

But I didn’t walk alone. Jesus was with me, and I began to pray powerfully and out loud against the storm. I was buffeted by winds and incredibly sharp hail, soaked completely, and rushing on adrenaline for three hours before the storm really abated. It had passed, and I felt like I had taken an important step in my relationship with God.

1. I had learned fear and respect

Don’t whack a wasps’ nest for no damned reason. ((This is an important example for me because wasps are one of the few things on this earth that terrify me. I hate wasps.)) Demonic forces are our enemies, but that doesn’t mean we should challenge or threaten them without forethought. Rather, we must “put on the full armour of God,” a phrase that is talked about so much that it seems to have lost all meaning for most people. They hear, “This is a life and death struggle,” and they nod and smile and say, “Yuss, yuss, we don’t want none of the devil in our lives.”

Most Americans don’t know what it is to be on the edge of death. Most haven’t even been really threatened, and a lot haven’t known anyone who violently died. If they did, in most cases it was a sudden accident like a car crash, not murder. People fear some things, but they don’t fear Satan. At best, they think God will protect them 100%. ((I think we often assume God cares about our bodily comfort more than our eternal souls.)) At worst, they simply don’t believe he exists.

God tells us it’s OK to fear, and even that it’s a good thing. Be humble about challenging the demonic, because you are weak. You have no power. You’re nothing compared to them. Be afraid for your loved ones, and of the suffering that may (and probably will) occur because you challenge the rule of those who set themselves up as rulers.

God will work through you and help you fight, but it’s God’s power. Satan and those with him are fallen angels, but they’re still angels. It’s important to not forget.

God will honour this humility, and he will take care of you. Be not proud. ((As a side/end note: The only protection against the fear of your life about to be taken is to have already given it up.))

2. I learned to trust in God

God said walk, and I did. It was scary, but he was with me. I once thought I could fight Satan with my own power, and I learned that my power was nothing compared to the devil. God is sovereign, and if he wills it, I will prevail.

If he doesn’t, I will fall. That’s fine too.

In a sense, it’s the only option available to me. In another, it’s wonderfully full of love. God has never let me down. He’s always right there, holding my hand or walking in step. When I shouted at the storm, his stern countenance was visible from the corner of my eye. His feet pounded the sidewalk beside my own.

When I lay in the dark, sick and alone and afraid, he didn’t leave me.

I’m afraid God will leave me. He never has. I won’t take that for granted.

3. I learned how to fight

God gives us power, an authority I don’t really understand, but I know two things about it.

  1. It involves being filled with the Holy Spirit.
  2. It involves direct command, rather than a requesting prayer.

Learning how to really open myself to the Holy Spirit is one of the more complex things, but it seems to come easier when threatened. Someday I’ll have to puzzle this out so I can write more about it.

Authoritative prayer is a bit easier to describe though, and it involves praying in the power of God rather than praying out of supplication. By way of example, compare the following two prayers:

Supplicative Prayer

Dear God, we ask that you stop this storm. Protect the people in this city and place your hand over it. Stop the tornadoes and the lightning, and drive fear from the hearts of the people. Jesus, don’t let us fall to this threat. Oh God, be with us.

Authoritative Prayer

I pray against the wind and the lightning, that it will not bow this city. We will not succumb to the fear you would instill in us, Satan; you cannot take our faith, you cannot separate us from God. I pray against the tornadoes and the hail, that they will not damage property and be a burden to the faithful. In the power of the almighty Christ, I pray against you, and I will not be shaken.

I’m trying to remember roughly what went down four years ago, so this is far less powerful than it was then, but hopefully you get the idea.

Conclusion

If you’re going to engage in spiritual warfare, you need to know what you’re up against. If you’re not afraid, then you are ignorant.

Someone could make all kinds of statements like, “Well, if you really had faith, you wouldn’t be afraid.” I’m tempted to even pursue the Buddhist line of reasoning that if we just released all worldly attachment, we wouldn’t fear and would be stronger.

But God designed us to love others and to form relationships, so we sort of have it wired into us to care about the well being of others. In this war, I’m not so much afraid for myself as I am for my wife and family, or for my friends. Everyone’s in this whether they know it or not. This deal isn’t just for those who actively engage–every human soul was part of this battle from the moment Adam and Eve picked the fruit.

Fear shouldn’t consume us. God is our strength, and his strength is great. But we shouldn’t be stupid either. Know what you’re up against and recognize what the stakes are. Recognize the fear, and never let go of your faith.

Fight well.

First Prayer Walk in GBPN

April and I have been taking a close look at the Springfield Vineyard church recently, and after having attended several Sunday morning services we wanted to learn more about the community. As such, we are attending various church events in a bid to meet people, and last night was the second of those attempts. Though April was sadly unable to join me, I met a number (10, to be exact) of other Vineyard-goers for a prayer walk around our neighbourhood.

I was particularly excited about this because it really is around our neighbourhood. Specifically, we prayed for the Grant Beach Park Neighbourhood, and Grant Beach Park is just outside our back door. It is not just a blessing to me that the Vineyard is serving the community in which I live, but I’m also really excited about [potentially] having the opportunity to join them in further service in the future. April and I, if you aren’t aware, are pretty introverted and quiet people, so we’re hesitant to just go out and meet our neighbours and be unilaterally active. Having a group we can join that is already doing these things is a lot easier.

The prayer walk was really good, but talking afterwards with everyone was even better. I feel like I may have potentially found the community I’ve been looking for for years, right here in my back yard. It’s startling to me and I keep waiting for the hammer to fall, for everything to fall through, but I can’t foresee that at this time. What’s more, when I have had glimpses of this sort of community, they were always in the context of college ministry, which is transient at best. People are in and out, and its ever-evolving nature means that what community can be established is quickly gone. It has to be continually rebuilt, relearned, and reshaped, and there is never enough time.

Most of the people at the Vineyard are here to stay though, and that gives me hope. The girl at whose house we met lives just a few blocks south of us, and another is moving in even closer. Opportunities abound, and I’m thrilled.

In addition to the communal aspects, the prayer walk was humbling as I found myself having a great deal of difficulty listening to God. I always have some trouble with this, but I can usually get to a quiet place, close my eyes, still my mind, and hear God speak. I can’t when walking, and the truth is that I won’t always have the luxury to get away physically. I need to learn how to separate myself from this world spiritually so I can hear God no matter the circumstances, and I think there are people at the Vineyard who can help me with that. The people I walked with seemed to have it down better than me, that’s for sure.

We’re out of town this weekend so we won’t be able to attend church, but next weekend we’ll be bringing food and helping cook at the Church Paintin’, which is something of a dedication of the new church building where a bunch of people will be painting the outside. The best way to get to know people is by serving them, and that’s what we’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. At that point, we’ll have done all the community-based things we can except attending small groups, which April might try (though she hasn’t said anything about it yet). Sadly, I won’t have time for small groups until after I graduate next spring, but I’m already pretty confident about this church. No final decision yet, but I’m pretty darned ready.

Great times tonight, and God’s sovereignty was foremost in my mind. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. Hallelujah.