Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Couch to 5K – Week 8 & 9

I’ve come to the end of the Couch-to-5K 9 week plan to get myself trained to run a 5K in September.
Week 8 was pretty straight forward. All three days with a 5 minute warm-up and a 28 minute run. I ran all three days pretty strong and the week was pretty uneventful.

Week 9 is supposed to be the last week. According to the plan I should be running 5K or approximately 3 miles in 30 minutes; a 10-minute mile. The little street I run on is between .7 and .75 miles long. I can run 3.5 of those in 30 minutes which means I’m running somewhere in the neighborhood of a 12-minute mile. I can run the 30 minutes pretty well and finish strong, but I’ve still got work to do because I’m only running about 2.5 miles. The week started out a little rocky. The first day I had to stop about half-way through to walk for a minute or so. For some reason I thought I was gonna hurl. It was a bit disappointing after finishing the previous week so strong.

No worries, though. I’ve got time to work on either time or distance. I’m not sure which is more important to me at this point. I’d like to build up to a 10K so maybe both. I’m not really that interested in whether I win a race or not. I’m more competitive with myself. I like to go out and best my previous performance. I’ve not had the pleasure of running with buddies, though, so that may change when I’m up against competitors. I do so like to win. 🙂

What I have discovered is that I need a distraction. Whether it’s music, or meditation, or thinking/planning for the day I have to have something to take my mind off of my breathing. If I think about it too much suddenly I can’t. Yeah, I’m a weirdo. All I know is I’m doing it and, well, I’m pretty darned proud of myself.


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I’m So Happy!

I’ve always been the kind of person who stays on an even keel, not prone to depression or elation.  Even tempered is what most people would call it. I’ve kind of always envied those who have a bubbly personality who always smile, you know the ones who are way too happy first thing in the morning.

I’m not a pessimist and I’m not really an optimist.  I’m a realist.  What’s this business of a glass half empty or glass half full?  Who cares?  Just be thankful you have it and drink it, it’s good for you!

So in that spirit and with my demented sense of humor(I’m not sure why, but this made me laugh my butt off) I bring you the following:

What’s your personality like? 

Happy Thursday everybody!


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Welcome To This World

My biggest privilege as a Christian was the great commission, telling others about God and Jesus and winning souls for Christ.  I nervously shared my faith with many others and to my knowledge not a one of them were converted.  That’s kind of a relief now, honestly.

My biggest pleasure and proudest moment as a Christian parent was supposed to be raising my child in the faith, leading him or her to Christ and rejoicing with the angels when he or she was baptized.  I don’t have any children, yet.  But I couldn’t wait to have babies and teach them all about the love of God and Jesus.  I’d looked so forward to singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” and a host of other children’s songs that revolved around God to my bundle of joy. 

Due to my circumstances I’d given up on the notion of having children.  But now the opportunity presents itself anew.  I don’t think I’d ever given any honest thought as to how or what I would tell my children about my beliefs, just that I would.  Suddenly the thought fueled my doubts about Christianity.  What exactly would I teach my children about God?    What I would say sounded a lot like the above video.  So what…would I….scare the hell out of my children?  Literally?  The truth of the gospel began to sound ugly and cruel, not loving and kind.

I have friends who post regularly on facebook how excited and proud they are that their child accepted Christ and they’re being baptized this Sunday.  Now when I see that I have a bit of sadness.  All of my other friends race to congratulate the lovely parents on a job well done and at the end of the day they have a bazillion “likes”.

One of the last times I attended church a five-year-old little boy walked the aisle and “gave his heart to Jesus”.  His grandmother is the pianist and an avid KJV only advocate.  She’s the one who sits in Sunday School and when she hears other people talking about grey areas like alcohol and playing cards she pipes up with “Hell is hot and Jesus lives”.    She couldn’t resist the opportunity to speak.  Hell hasn’t frozen over after all.  “I’m so proud to know my grandson has been raised in a loving Christian home and that he knows about heaven and hell and the sacrifice of Jesus.” Yes, what a touching testimony of love indeed.

This is, after all, the credo among Southern Baptists.  Get ’em while they’re young.  Brainwash them now before they’re old enough to realize it’s all slight of hand, hocus pocus.  I’ve decided for my part I can’t do it.  The church I attend recently hosted VBS a couple of weeks ago.  No one has come right out and asked why I didn’t participate.  For someone who was so gung ho, so vocal about her beliefs they all look in askance about what has happened to me.  They presume I’m backslidden.

If and when I do get the opportunity to hold my own precious child in my arms I’m going to say, “Welcome to this world.  It’s beautiful out here. Enjoy the ride.”


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Good Grief!

I alluded briefly to my existential nightmare in The Wonder of It All, and The Agnostic Wife wrote a post about the anger she felt as she dealt with her existential crisis.  The stages of grief are no different for the death of faith than they are the death of a loved one, the death of a marriage, the loss of a friend.

The reasons why should be blatantly clear, but alas I fear they are not.  Because we go through these various stages we are assumed to be turning our backs on God because we are angry or disappointed or disillusioned. That’s generally not the case at all.  Anger, disappointment, and depression are all responses to the loss;  precisely the opposite of what is typically thought by Christians to be the case.

When faith is lost this is what happens:  denial.  At first there’s shock and disbelief that what you’ve believed for so long could even possibly be false.  What?  How can this be?  Once the notion settles in that, indeed, that could be the case there’s anger; anger at oneself for having been deceived, feeling foolish that more thought and reason didn’t go into the decision to believe a given proposition to begin with. There’s anger at those who did the deceiving.  How can they live with themselves?!?  After the anger wears off there’s bargaining.  You don’t want to have been deceived.  You don’t want to be wrong.  God has been such a part of who you are you don’t want to let him go.  So you bargain, like a soldier in a foxhole.  I’ll do anything you ask, God, if you’ll just show yourself to me.  You go on a fact finding mission, looking for evidence.  Soon you realize that your religion is so much more convoluted and hazy and absolutely not absolute than you ever dreamed it was.  Confused, disappointed, disillusioned depression sets in.  You wonder how long that black cloud will follow you around.  What is the meaning to life?  What is the point to existence?  Why even get out of bed in the morning?  Slowly you realize that life does go on.  You begin to accept the uncertainty.  You begin to accept the possibility that God is not at all that you once thought he might be.

How long and how strong the individual held their given beliefs and their individual personality will determine how long and how strong their reaction and their stent in each phase.  For instance, I was in denial for the longest time. I tried my dead-level best to hang on to a young earth and the flood, looking desperately for evidence for both.  Anger at others didn’t last very long, though anger at myself is still rearing it’s ugly head from time to time.  I wonder how I could have been so ignorant.  I didn’t bargain for very long because if my beliefs and my faith taught me anything it’s that there is no bargaining with God.  I settled in to depression rather nicely. The sky was falling right on my head, slowly killing me sending me to the certain fate of hell.  But then slowly, with the help of The Tour Guide, my family, my friends and my new found iFriends I began to realize that life does go on, the grass does turn to green again and the sun rises and sets with the same beauty as before.

The reason the grief is so palpable is because, as S.W. Atwell puts it so eloquently,  in a very real sense something or someone has died.  Something inside of you, a part of you is gone.  You’ll never get it back. It may be replaced with a new something, but that piece is forever changed.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.  In fact I’m finding it to be liberating and freeing.  But it will never be the same again.  One thing that I have learned is that grief is necessary and grief can be good.

What about you?  If you lost your faith did you find yourself going through the five stages of grief?

*Blame the artwork on Michael Mock for unleashing me on Gimp 2.0. :~)  I owe him a big thank you for helping me create an awesome website!


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The Wonder Of It All

I used to think thoughts like:  “If this fantastically painted sunset is God’s throw rug His throne room must be truly something to behold”, “Just look at all the colors on that mountainside in the fall, it’s as if God painted each leaf with His own fingertip”.  My every thought about nature and life was encompassed by God and His hand in it’s creation. Naturally when I began to doubt I wondered if I could ever see nature and life with the same amazement and wonder as I had.  Would it have the same meaning?  Would there be a point to our existence?  Moreover would there be a point to my existence?

Some of those who enter the Dark Night of the Soul have come away nihilists. They feel empty, depressed, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied.  I can understand why, when everything you were before was ensconced in belief in YAHWEH,  nihilism would set in.  With your worldview shattered you ponder the meaning of it all.  Agnosticism/Atheism leaves something…well…missing.  Just like any other habitual practice, the void left unfilled creates a vacuum, a black hole, an empty space.  I can see why many who travel this road have lost their moral bearings without their God to hold them accountable.  This is the road I began to travel.  This is the route which can lead to self-destruction. 

I did not get very far down this road when I realized something very important. My life has the meaning I choose to give it.  It has no less meaning without a God.  That empty void is filled with family, friends and love – real love that I choose to give, not fake, forced love that I’m commanded to give – and living.  It is filled with watching my adorable three-year-old nephew and my precious Carmen and Alison grow and learn.  It is filled with work and travel and future plans.  It is filled with living in the moment. 

As for accountability; oh, I’m still accountable – not to an invisible God who will smite me for the least infraction of the rules – to my fellow man and to future generations.  While I was caught up in my God I didn’t give much thought to preserving this beautiful planet for future generations. I was going to be raptured at any moment.  Jesus was going to reign for a thousand years and after that there would be a new heaven and a new earth and this earth was going to be thrown into the inferno.   This beautiful earth:

 
Over the billions of years were formed vast deserts, towering mountains, deep seas,  the warmth of the sun, the gravitational pull of the moon which perfectly synchronizes the tides, richly painted sunrises and sunsets.  This is a measure of time which my finite mind can only attempt to grasp.  Forces of nature not only on earth, but within our vast universe that I can only try to imagine have sculpted this magnificent planet.  Speaking of this vast universe: it’s millions of galaxies – of which ours is but a small one, are revelations of just how tiny and insignificant we are.   Mankind special?  Special indeed – in our own minds.
Will I ever look at nature and life with the same amazement and wonder as I had?  Hardly.  I look at it with infinitely more.  I am in awe of the wonder of it all. 

 


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Awe and Wonder…Wonder and Awe

In the beginning Godcreated the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; anddarkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon theface of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. AndGod saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from thedarkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Andthe evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let therebe a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters fromthe waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were underthe firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. AndGod called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were thesecond day.

And God said, Let thewaters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry landappear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gatheringtogether of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And Godsaid, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruittree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth:and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed afterhis kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after hiskind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were thethird day.

And God said, Let therebe lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; andlet them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let thembe for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: andit was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day,and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God setthem in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to ruleover the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: andGod saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let thewaters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl thatmay fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created greatwhales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forthabundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God sawthat it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, andfill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And theevening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let theearth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creepingthing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made thebeast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thingthat creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let usmake man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over thefish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and overall the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. SoGod created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male andfemale created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Befruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and havedominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over everyliving thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given youevery herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and everytree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be formeat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and toevery thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have givenevery green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he hadmade, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were thesixth day.                                                                                    Genesis 1 (KJV)

In the beginning God created.  He spoke and it came to be.  From the power of His voice were formed vast deserts, towering mountains, deep seas,  the warmth of the sun, the gravitational pull of the moon which perfectly synchronizes the tides.  He painted rich sunrises and sunsets with a whisper.  Each and every plant and creature designed within the imagination of a Holy God, culminating in the  pièce de rĂ©sistance of all creation; mankind. 


This is what I believed for most of my life.  Even before I was a “true believer” I believed God created the world by speaking it into being.  And I was in awe of the wonder of it all.  This is what I was taught in VBS and in Sunday School.  In the mind of a child was sparked amazement and wonderment that demanded reverence and admiration for the one to whom this was all attributed; Almighty God. 


And I thought about how significant we were in His grand scheme of things, creating everything else first and then deciding that without mankind and a suitable help meet creation was incomplete.  It was all for us that He had done this wonderful and amazing thing.  Part of becoming a Christian was realizing just how special we were that God would sacrifice His only begotten because of His unsurpassed love for us.  


When I began to doubt, no, disbelieve is a better word, I thought I’d never look at creation the same way again.  I used to peer upon a beautifully painted sunrise or sunset and think in wonderment, “If indeed that is God’s throw rug, what do you suppose His throne room looks like?”. 


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Couch to 5K – Week 7

Week seven of the Couch to 5K plan is back to three days of the same running pattern. This is it:

Day 1,2 & 3       
                                                 
* 5 minute warmup          
* 25 minutes jogging         
* 4 minute cool down        

I did okay on days 1 and 2.  My endurance is building and my breathing was much better regulated by day 3.  I still can’t quite drink and run at the same time, but I can see it happening as my breathing is less labored and I shaved some time off my distance.  I ran 2.2 miles in 25 minutes, though I’m not terribly concerned about distance yet. Once I can jog 30 minutes nonstop I’ll work on time.  I’m hooked! 

My plan is to ramp it up to the Gateway to 8K when I’m done with week 9.  That’s another 8 week program to build up to an 8K and on from there I plan to build to a 10K. 

I’ve been doing general stretches before and after, but is there any particular stretching plan anybody recommends? 


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Bizzaro World

A few days ago in a post entitled Every Time I Fail DougB, from the lovely Groping the Elephant blog, asked this question:

“How ridiculous is the notion that someone else could “pay” for our sins for us? Exactly why should we owe God for being sinners?”

The short answer to the first question is: very.  The short answer to the second one is: we shouldn’t.  The long answer, however, is a little more nuanced.  It’s ridiculous on a number of different levels.  First of all let’s look at the reasons why we’re told we need a savior.

  1. We are born sinners.
  2. We cannot be good enough on our own.
  3. God cannot look at sin, he cannot be in it’s presence.
  4. Forgiveness from God requires a perfect blood sacrifice.

Every since Adam and Eve, who incidentally were fictional characters, ate the forbidden fruit, we are told, that each and every person after that were born sinners.  Is the fall of man supposed to be a metaphor to explain that no man has ever been perfect?  That starting with the very first of our ancestors we were corrupt? Maybe that was the writer’s intent – to put simplistically a very complicated matter.  So evolution wasn’t kind and we’re not perfect?  Bummer.  I listened, nearly daily for years, to James Dobson expound on the fact that we are born sinners.  No one has to teach a child to lie.  No one has to teach a child to do the thing they lied about. They begin to do so at a very young age.  I bought all of that psychobabble.  Children do things that they eventually lie about because it looks fun.  Children lie because they’re afraid.  It’s an evolutionary trait called “fight of flight”.  Lying is a way to flee.

Having made some mistakes in life, or maybe not mistakes but downright transgressions, we have it pounded into us that we are sinners.  Not only are we sinners, but even our best isn’t good enough according to Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”  Then there’s Roman’s 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  I could keep going but I won’t, you get the idea.  Now that we know just how wretched and wormy we are, what can be done about it?  Remember that we’re born this way and there’s nothing we can do about it?

We’re sinners, born that way through no fault of our own, and there’s nothing we can do about it, and God can’t look at us until we’ve received forgiveness.  Habakkuk 1:13 says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness…”.  In Matthew 27:46 we see God turning away from Jesus presumably because he became sin for us all, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”.  Supposedly God can’t look on us in the sense that he can’t see evil and have it go unpunished.  And well, we’ve established that we’re all evil.

That leaves us with the perfect sacrifice.  Jesus.  The only man who had never sinned:  “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.  Throughout the Old Testament the Israelites made their guilt offering and their sin offering to YAHWEH as per the instructions in Leviticus 5.  God has required death as a sentence for sin and shed blood for atonement since Adam and Eve dropped the ball in the garden.  After he banished them from the garden, he himself killed an animal and gave them clothes from it to wear.  He had to provide a sacrifice before Adam and Eve could stand before him restored.

Writing all of this now makes me cringe.  I realize putting it in writing just how bizarre and twisted it all sounds.  That we would be created, whether by God himself or evolutionary processes, as imperfect beings, and have that held against us to the degree that we would need to kill and burn animals up to a final and permanent human sacrifice to a bloodthirsty God is beyond evil.  Why do we owe God for being exactly the way he made us?  It makes no sense.

Yet in my knowledge that I wasn’t and am not perfect I felt I needed forgiveness from a higher being than just the person I wronged.  In my desire to feel free and forgiven I gave myself over to the knight in shining armor, the prince on a white horse, the savior, the perfect sacrifice.  It all sounded so heroic, so romantic; the notion that had I been the only one who had ever transgressed, Jesus would still have gone to the cross for my sin, for my guilt, for my shame.  I loved him for that.  So without thinking through whether it made any sense, whether it was rational, whether it was plausible even, I took the plunge beneath the warm baptismal waters pledging my life to Jesus the Christ.

I studied some apologetics.  If I was going to share the gospel I needed to be able to defend my faith.  I read The Case for Christ, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More than a Carpenter.  I studied the How Now Shall We Live? discipleship training material.  I took every discipleship training class offered at my church, eventually becoming Discipleship Training Director.  But in retrospect I didn’t look at the evidence objectively.  The only reason I studied any apologetics was to shoot down the objections of unbelievers, never once considering whether those objections had any merit.  Only when I did look at the evidence objectively did I see gaping holes in apologetics and Christianity; wounds left there by the weapon of reason.

*Edited because I intended this to be strange world, not market world. 🙂