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Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Visit with Jim

It never fails to surprise me that when I'm ready to quit, our visit shoots a bolt of inspirational lightning through me.  

Like most Wednesday afternoons these past several months, I swing by Oak Hollow for a visit with Jim.  I was asked to spend a little time with him through Stephen Ministry (SM) and to be honest the visits have been quite puzzling at times.  Jim’s situation seems impossible.  He lives in a dementia and memory care facility, yet does not have any true memory problems.  He is there because his wife lives there.  A wife of over 60 years who sadly has little idea who he is 99% of the time.  They don’t share a room so I seldom see her, but Jim knows that’s why I there.  There to help him deal with a wife who sees him as a complete stranger.

Jim’s faith is as strong as anyone I’ve ever met.  This was intimidating at first.  I just wasn’t sure what help I could be to this man who loves and trusts God.  Often times when people are going through one of life’s cruel twists, they get angry with God.  Before knowing Jim all that well, I assumed he must have some of that going on inside.  It would only be natural.  Yet, when I asked him, he said “NO” with conviction.

That was it. I knew he was being honest and I also realized I had no idea what I would do next.  During the training to be a SM, I don’t recall them telling me how helpless we might feel.  It was clear that I was completely unprepared for this type of assignment.  Someone who trusted God more than me?

The situation became frustrating.  Jim didn’t want to talk about his wife or how his situation was making him feel.  He wanted to talk about me.  How did I become a SM?  When did I find the Lord?  Jim was the one doing the counseling.  The only one using properly formatted open ended questions was Jim.

Just before Christmas, I was there for a visit and as we reached the end of my time I asked him if we could pray before I left.  He said “sure”, took my hand, and before I could get started Jim began praying for me, my family, and our friendship.  I had never had anyone pray so intensely for me…directly to me in the presence of God.  It was as if Jim knew I needed encouragement and wanted me to know that he was benefiting from our visits even when I thought I was blowing it.

With this new enthusiasm, I returned the following week ready to dig deeper.  We just had a breakthrough and now we were going to do some healing!  Let’s just say we had our most generic “how was your week?” visits ever.  It was as if the previous visit never happened.  Maybe Jim had dementia after all and thought I was someone else.

So, the weeks crawled along with little more than nice discussions about our faith or something we learned while studying the God’s word.  I began dropping hints that maybe it was time for me to move along to someone in greater need of my time.  This was  selfish.  I was quitting.  Throwing in the towel.  I was not going to see Jim have a breakthrough and he didn’t need me.

Then, somehow, this past week we nailed it again.  This time it wasn’t just the closing prayer, but the visit itself.  I asked some of the harder questions.  He answered them in that same way he always does.  We talked about stuff.  Then, at some point i became inspired.  I prayed before our visit that God would take over and He did.  Jim enjoys hearing about how I live out my faith.  How friends or co-workers approach me about what they should believe.  At one point he said “you are on fire young man.”  And maybe I was.

When I finished praying at the end of the visit, Jim held tight and said “thank you.”  He continued, “I am so thankful for you coming into my life.  You are a good man Brian, a good man.”

Now Jim doesn’t know my endless list of flaws.  But he knows enough of them to know that I struggle.  I think what he knows best is when someone needs encouragement.  At 84, he can still sense the needs of others.  I needed that on so many levels I can’t begin to explain it.

And so, I am not sure I’m helping Jim or how long we’ll be doing these formal visits.  I do know that when our formal visits are over, I’ll head over to Oak Hollow every so often for some encouragement.  Encouragement from a man who I was sent to encourage.  God works wonderful ways.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace

Monday, January 26, 2015


It has been more than month since I ran The Dallas Half Marathon, but I wanted to do a brief entry to document a mini-milestone.

I have now completed 10 Marathons & 20 Half Marathons in my 23+ years of running.  That sounds a little misleading as I ran all 20 Half Marathons in the past 7 years.  The full Marathons span a longer period with the first White Rock all the way back in 1997 when I was 29 years old.  Man…I’m old.

There is no real reason to celebrate any of this since I plan to add to the totals far into the future.  I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on the longevity and totals.  The percentage of people doing more than one of either other these is miniscule.  I’m just crazy enough to not know when to quit I guess.  If I weren’t so cheap I would have run well over 40 half marathons.  I just hate to spend the money and do not need ANY more t-shirts or medals.

The one thing I will admit is that this is my singular hobby.  Others, playing the guitar, model trains, wine or beer making, and countless others seem to come and go and come back again.  Running just can’t seem to shake me.  Sure, I’ve spent many years in worse shape than I am now, but the running gear never gathers dust.  I often tell people I run because that is the only place where I know I can find God.  And even when I’m in my darkest of places, God knows he can find me there too.

So, raise a glass to 10-20.  It has been a blessing to me.

The Dallas Half Marathon

Rather than do a full race report, I’ll give some details about this mini-milestone event.  I ran my second fastest time with a 1:55.51.  The temperature was little warm and with all the turns it measured almost a quarter mile long.  Given these detractors, the effort was one of my best.  I ran a completely different race than normal.  When I arrived at my starting corral, I discovered that the “A” group loaded from the starting line banner rather than from the rear.  I could have started right next to the Kenyans if I wanted.  That would have been a bad idea and so I walked through the elite runners to reach the back of the corral.

 Even from the back of the A corral, I started out faster than planned.  Being in the first wave made for a thinner group of runners than later groups so I was not slowed by traffic.  I was quite nervous about the pace.  By mile 4, I thought I would no doubt crumble near the end.  I was wet with sweat due to humidity and for being the early stage of the race this was a bad sign.  My plan is always conservative.  Too conservative in hindsight.  I like to run a negative split and I was in serious jeopardy of failing at that big time.  Yet, I reached mile 11 feeling tired, but excited.  I was able to pick up the pace and grind it out with some quick final miles.

I learned something about myself.  I may be getting older, but I don’t have to hold back all the time.  Rarely do I take chances.  I have taken the race out of racing.  Maybe I can push it once in awhile and try to remember the good old days.  Forget about overdoing it.  There may just be more to me than I know.  Next race in 5 weeks.  I can’t wait to see how I do.

Run in Peace, Rest in Grace