Thursday, June 11, 2015

I Don't Know All the Answers (and I'm okay with that)

My goal last spring and this summer was to write more.

Usually, these words are inspired by a specific moment of clarity. During the last four months of injury, I figured that an amazing story of how God used me would become clear. I found myself striving to be this man who was known as by others as, "the man who went through everything," and came back a hero.

This explains my long absence from writing as I struggled to find this "amazing story."

I wanted my thoughts to be perfectly summed, like my life was altogether.

I am here to tell you, that is most certainly not the case. Today, I want to share with you a bit of unfiltered thoughts.

I find myself often showing the good part of my life to the world, not letting anyone into the depths of my true life that is filled with both joy and pain.

Instead of exposing our messy realities to the world, we showcase the "highlight reel"version of life, filled with adventure, happiness, and satisfaction. I find myself frequently in this boat of showing only the "good" stuff. But my life hasn't been an adventure the last few months, which is why I want to be real and share what's going on in my life lately in a season far from contentment.

Throughout college I have struggled. Struggled with balancing my school life, running life and social life. I've struggled with overcommitting and how to say no to things. Struggled with injuries and maintaining friendships and relationships, and still often struggle with having a consistent walk with the Lord.

During this time I couldn't help but ask, "God where have you been in these years? I thought we were in this together! Why do I keep finding myself injured, broken, and alone?"

(Photo credit Alex Miller)
Injury had been so commonplace that it was hard to see anything beyond my narrow horizons. Becoming healthy consumed me, and still often does.

People tell me all the time, "Put your identity in Christ, and everything will be okay." However, I've come to a realization. God's definition of "okay" is drastically different than ours. We hear truths of God's promises and think that an identity in Christ is a means for everything to go our way. I often fall into this mentality that God will grant me health, friends and relationships that I desire if I seek him. But what God really means is "Never will I forsake you, I myself will help you." (Duet 31:8).

The trials aren't taken away when we are in Christ, pain will always exist on this earth, but Christ promises to be with us during these storms.

Jesus says, "In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 ESV)

Hebrews 4:15-16 says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need."

We trust in a God who understands and has been in the same situations we have. A God who knows the inner workings of you, me, and every single person on this earth. A God who shaped you purposefully, who calls you by name. But so often, I forget that truth.

I strive to be excellent in all things. That's why I've tried and continue to try to be the best runner I can be throughout my running career. This desire to be excellent is great, but when I turn it into a drive for perfection, the desire is corrupted and not for God's glory. My attempts to get healthy or be a great runner sometimes go beyond where the Lord has called me; my performance and healthiness outweigh trusting in the Lord's plan for my life.

 I've tried and tried, and I keep failing in running. I've had many folks in my community who tell me to just give up… quit.

But failing to me is okay. If the Lord wants me to be in the running world, I am going to keep at it until I am directed otherwise.

 The Lord says, "Though a righteous man may fall seven times, he will get up again." (Psalms 24:16 ESV)

So bring on success or failure--I welcome it. The world might not see my career as a success, but if God is glorified, it's all worth it. Worth more than any of the running goals I pray, dream or hope for.

So here is the truth: I don't have all the answers, but I trust in a God who does. The Lord may never allow me to understand His great plan for my life, and that's okay with me. Why? Because time and time again the Lord has shown me his grace and mercy, and rescued me from disaster.

All I can do now is trust the Lord and be faithful, even if I don't know all the answers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Dream

Everyone has a certain place that brings back the fondest of memories. Perhaps it was a lake, a playground, a bench. All of these places gave you a sense of warmth, a sense that everything was right in the world, or even that magic could happen.

As runners, I think we all have a special place (or even a few) to us that we cherish dearly. For me, that place was Norbuck Park in Dallas. A park filled with memories of trails, tears, and triumph. I can still hear the sound of the gun go off during my middle school years of cross-country. I still remember the old dusty 2-mile course like it was yesterday. The first big turn, the "massive hill" that used to haunt me, the wooded portion of the course, and the extraordinary finish through the tree tunnel.

Beautiful Norbuck Park… photo credited to bigredwill


Often when I am back in Dallas, I'll go run the course just for old-times sake. It was here that my love for running arguably began. Youngsters learned how to compete, how to fight off pain, and how to finish well.

My favourite part of the 2-mile dirt course was the last 300 meters. You would go up a massive hill, come flying down, then wind through a tree tunnel that would lead you to a 300 meter finish. This last section was always special to me. I remember dying in a race, coming down the tree tunnel, and then planting my foot on a root, which signified the final stretch. When I launched from the root, it was time to set ablaze and hammer towards the finish line.

During this moment, the final kick, life seemed to stop. The people around me cheering seemed to disappear, all I could hear was my beating heart ticking and runners next to me breathing deeply as we poured our souls into the finish line with nothing left. I'm thankful for these times that taught me truly how to compete and dig deep!

Lately, running has been quite rough. Injuries keep plaguing me in 2015, so I have spent a lot of time cross-training and Alter-G'ing. Being away from the team is the hardest part. You just want to get back…and soon. I would give anything to be crushing workouts with the guys!
Not everyday is a bad day… having a little fun on the Alter G!

Anyone with an injury understands that there is a sense of longing, sometimes, even sadness. I've gone through major bouts of depression being injured constantly throughout my career.

Deep water running alone often feels like I am stuck in a prison with nowhere to go. 60 minutes can feel like eternity. I can relate to how Paul felt while he was in prison, yet Paul calls us to run the race well (1st Cor 9:24). While I'm in the pool, I like to imagine the story of Paul and Silas singing in prison, how crazy would that of looked like!

But it hasn't been all doom and gloom while I've been injured. The Lord continues to teach me incredible things, and I am thankful for that every single day. God is good, even when I am injured and don't understand. Frankly, I may never understand. But I can glorify God with an injury, that's why I sing, just like Paul and Silas did!

Recently, I've been having a reoccurring dream, back at Norbuck Park. I am racing the old dusty 2-mile course, only this time, in a Baylor jersey by myself. Everything is just like before, each turn I take brings back nostalgia and it is magical. A mile and a half in, however, I begin to feel the pain of racing take its toll. As I feel the pain and my body screams for mercy, I then make the narrow turn approaching the tree tunnel. I launch off the root towards the finish line and begin crafting my final move.

As I shift into my final gear, something incredible happens. The sun comes shining in through the tree tunnel and Jesus is right next to me, encouraging me and saying, "You can do it, trust me, I am with you!"

When I cross the finish line, Jesus embraces me and tells me that He has been with me, every step of the race.

My life verse, Isaiah 41:10, is a testimony to that promise which says,

"So do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." 

Even though I am injured, I trust in the Lord and know that He is with me, every single step of the way, just like my dream at Norbuck Park!

...Maybe we will get to race in heaven with healthy and new bodies!






Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why Do Runners Race? (and my New Year's Resolution..)

I love watching races because there more that meets the eye than one would expect. Imagine twenty men competing, pouring their soul into 4, 8, or 25 laps of grueling running. I truly believe that these races mean more than men competing. It takes a lot even just to get the privilege to wear a jersey, to be racing in collegiate track and field. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into running just to simply be on the starting line. Lonely hours are spent on the roads, on the track, in the maintenance room, enduring cold, sweat, pain, or even tears. Perhaps runners who race were injured before, maybe they are struggling to pay their rent, maybe, they are battling addiction. We simply don't know what they have gone through to get to the exact moment in time where their feet, heart, and soul are on the line for the next 15 minutes of their lives.

Feeling the heat of racing during 2014 Texas Relays
Because of all this time, energy, and efforts spent in preparation, runners don't just show up to a race to simply run. There is so much more. A race is in essence an avenue built for men who want to experience something greater than the normalities of life. These runners are soul-searchers, putting everything on the line in the heat of racing.

Spending time spectating this weekend, I could see so many emotions in the competitor's faces. Sometimes it reveals the excitement of a PR, the pangs of a bad race, or simple disappointment or relief after the race ends. What is funny is that even if a guy is in 17th place, he still could have run the race of his life. This is what makes running so happy, seeing people overcome the battle within themselves.

What I have learned is that the physical results however, are insignificant compared to the lessons every runner learns or takes from a race. We go through pain, struggle, joy, and determination with each step we take. It is in these moments we feel the most alive, because every thought is magnified. We enter a world with ourselves, our competitor's, and God himself. A world unknown to most people.

And it is a beautiful thing to watch…

I like to sit in on races and think, what has that guy/girl gone through to get to this exact moment? Or why does he run? What's his purpose for running? What's he going through with every step?

I believe every runner races because he/she is searching for something. Maybe it's a time, an opportunity to better themselves physically. Perhaps a chance to compete, or feel the spirit of competition. Or possibly an opening to search for meaning beyond themselves, to feel something, maybe even God. All of these things seem so readily available when the body has nothing left, when we are broken to the point of exhaustion. We can see it in competitor's faces, the look when they are relying on pure guts or heart to finish a race. That's my favourite moment in the race, because it's a chance to see what someone really has in them, to see every fiber of their being and soul pushing towards the finish line.

In my opinion, the best runners have utilized this search by desiring both victory and meaning behind their races. They push their bodies to physical victory, but look for the meaning in every step, even if the race turns out poorly.

I thought a lot about a resolution for the year 2015. As I prayed and sat in my room, I came across a verse that embodies these thoughts on racing, as well as what I personally strive to accomplish in running.

(Note: I do not solely read the Message translation; however, I really like the way this passage is interpreted)

You've all been to the stadium and seen athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. Your after the one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition! I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone about it and missing out myself." 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG)

I want to run fast, but more importantly experience God through running, become closer to Him through it, and make His name more known through my running career.

So thats it. This verse is my resolution. To train, race, and live a life that goes for the gold in everything, to maximize the gifts God has given me. However, I pray that I would recognize that the medal I strive for won't be here on Earth, but when God says, "You have fought the fight, you have finished the race. You have kept the faith… Well done my good and faithful servant!"

And you know what?

I bet Jesus and I go for a run after!

Matt

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sabbath's and Off Weeks

Sabbath- Old English, from Latin sabbatum, via Greek from from Hebrew Sabbat, from Sabat, 'to rest'


One of my favourite weeks has finally come! This semester has been one of the busiest I have had in a while. But now that cross-country season has ended, one of the most beautiful weeks has approached… The off week- a week where I can take a mental break from the stresses of training and focus on other interests.

What I have found about this week with all my spare time is how much I enjoy the simple. Rarely do I get the chance to just sit and be. We are always seeing the world hurrying to and from things, but for me, the world seems motionless for a week. 

My life has been a constant race… so often do I run, but forget to feel each step, so often do I breathe, but fail to truly fill myself. I stop, but don't look around; I pause, but rarely reflect. 

So this week I intend to do all of that. But even past the resting, I pray my life would never be in a place that reflection, pause, or rest would cease.

What does the Sabbath mean to you? Perhaps it's a old Bible tale, maybe its a Sunday on the couch watching the Cowboys game.  To me it can sometimes mean different things. Being a natural introvert I enjoy getting some alone time to reflect, sometimes in my room listening to ambient music with a Bible and journal in hand, other times I am out on a run, spending time in nature thinking about life, or praying. All this is a way of surrounding myself and tasting the beauty of creation, hearing beautiful sounds that reflect Christ. I mentioned earlier how ambient piano has this particular effect on me. It tugs on my soul heartstrings because of its simplicity, yet allows me to think, to dream, and imagine. I'd like to think that God gave the Israelites the Sabbath to do these things as well. 

But whats great about the Sabbath is that no matter what restful activities we partake in, we get to experience the beauty of God through all of it. In Genesis, even the Lord who created the earth rested. (Genesis 2:3)

Wherever you are, I urge you to keep the Sabbath, or give yourself a chance to rest, reflect, dream, imagine, or experience God in a beautiful way. 

In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell is asked to run his 100 meter Olympic Trials heat on his Sabbath day, Sunday. It was his dream to run in the Olympic Games, but he had to turn it down because he knew that being faithful to the Lord and keeping the Sabbath was more important than winning a race. Here is what'd cool about the story: The Lord honored him and Eric was given a chance to run in other race, which he ended up winning! 

We may never win a race because of our Sabbath convictions, but how great is it when we can experience God's beauty through our time of rest. During this week I have off, I am going to continue to rest in that beauty that the Lord continues to show me. I am excited to see where the Lord is going to take me as I continue following Him. Join me in this journey! What are your thoughts on the Sabbath?

Here is the video of Eric's conviction to honour the Sabbath!


Friday, October 3, 2014

My Feet May Fail

"You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand"

If you follow running news, a Kenyan named Daniel Kimetto made history by by setting the Marathon world record (2:02:57), which is blistering. To put Daniel's race into perspective, he ran my 5k PR more than 8 times consecutively. That’s crazy! 

But what really struck me about Daniel Kimetto ‘s feat was that just a few months before that, he walked the last few kilometers of the Boston Marathon. Here is a picture of Kimetto walking off the road of that race. 
Photo Credit to @BoyFromiten
I think of the steps Daniel took to get to the world record. He must have been really down after Boston, felt like the world was a heavy weight; perhaps he struggled to find meaning in his life. There must have been a turn-around point in these few months where he made the decision to become a champion, to work even harder than before.

People love these comeback stories; they are fun to watch unfold. As a young kid, I used to imagine myself as a pitcher for the Texas Rangers in the 9th inning of the World Series with the bases loaded and two outs, making the final strike… hearing the crowd roar! These dreams still continue for me, however now they are around the track. I hear the bell going off in the 10,000-metre final of the Olympic Games, the crowd cheering as I round the final stretch of a race. Comebacks are beautiful. Now Kimetto may have not exactly been the underdog, but there was an incredible change and turnaround in the last 3 months of his training and life. 

Success stories in sports are great. But even better than sport rebirths are when people have comebacks in their lives. God wants to give you a comeback story, you just have to trust Him.  I could write for hours about incredible stories of life change. Recently, a close friend of mine, went through several rough patches in his life, and ended up living with our family for a year. God took what seemed like a story that was lost, a game that was over, and changed the score. He is now back at school, sharing his story and encouraging those around him. I look at my sister Molly's battle with depression, and I'm so encouraged by the way she bounced back through Christ and is now sharing Christ with others in her community. There are countless of other stories of life change, God is doing incredible works, and He wants to work in your life if you allow Him to. 

Last week I was sitting in the back of a service at Harris Creek, the church I call home in Waco, and they started singing the song "Oceans" by Hillsong. This is a song I know well, so the words came easy to me except during one particular line. I kept stumbling over the phrase, "My feet may fail." 

After the service all I could think about was that line, "My feet may fail." So many times in my life my feet have failed me, especially in running. The last month of training has been rough for me, there were days that I would wake up without any motivation to run, no desire to excel in life, my legs felt dead and I was down. I kept failing, in school, in running, in relationships, but God stayed the course with me. I questioned where God was in all of this failure and doubt in my life. Its' funny how answers come, but mine happened to be a verse that Molly texted me a couple of weeks ago that hit me hard:

"I remember it all- oh, how well I remember- The feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one thing I remember and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning. How great your faithfulness. I'm sticking with God, He's all I've got left. God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. Its a good thing when your young, to stick it out through the hard time. When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence, bow in prayer. Don't ask questions. Wait for hope to appear. Don't run from trouble, take it full- face. The "worst" is never the worse. Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly." -Lamentations 3:20-33 MSG


 What a great promise… that God never walks out on us or leaves us. I'm thankful that even though "my feet may fail" so often, I trust in a God that doesn't fail! I trust in a God who desires to take me to much greater places than I could ever dream of, like the last lyrics of Oceans! I am praying that while we may fail, we would continue to trust in God who doesn't!
"Spirit Lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior." 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On Records, Dreams, and Running

Northern Idaho Sunsets are BEAUTIFUL!
From the air it all began, my exploration as a sky sailor. I am entering into the last 3 weeks of a fun journey away from home, The Shire, or Hobbiton if you will. This adventure has taken me to London, Paris, and Boise Idaho, a summer, filled with mountains to explore, rivers to jump in, and a few sales sprinkled in on the way to the end of summer.

I am praying for vigilance, excellence, and overall stamina in both running and work. I like to consider myself a well oiled machine, graceful like a deer, going through life on foot, fit and fast. Sometimes what I dream so often misrepresents what my body tells me. In reality sometimes I have been sluggish like an Ox, tired like a sloth. It is a give and take, an ebb and flow of listening to my body and responding likewise. I can't be Mo Farah and crush 100 mile weeks every week. But I will be patient, like Noah building my "ark" of base mileage, aligning my bodies desires and the desires Cap and even God himself has for me. 

The light is dim, the path crooked, but I am touching a path not many men seek. It is lonely, but there is peace and stillness in the silent. A time to reflect, to dream, to pray, to work. I seek something few men in history dare, to push my body and soul to the upper echelon of the spirit, until there is nothing left. Whether this is done on a cross-country course or 25 calculated, hard, and eventful laps… all this done in a manner of glorifying god, my target, along with the tangible ticking goal of twenty nine minutes and twenty six seconds for these grueling laps. But what does that even mean? Sure... I would be a moonwalker in Baylor distance history, but beyond that? It would mean tasting victory in God's plan, rejoicing in the accomplishments in light of something much greater. But victory isn't necessarily what I have in mind. My hero, Ryan Hall put it this way 

"I'd rather lose with God, then win without him" -Ryan Hall

Ryan is right. God has be be a part of the picture for victory to happen for me. Physical victory might not even be a part of the plan, but I can win with God if I run for Him. This record is a minute figure in Gods grand plan. So yes, I am literally chasing it with every ounce of fiber in my being and soul, but it does not lie in deep importance to me compared to that of making Jesus' name more known. If I can do that, FORGET the blasted record and I will celebrate in the fact that I can run, that perhaps The Lord will allow me to use running to bring someone to Christ, or use running for good conversations, for ministry, for doing life with the 15 brothers I call teammates. That's where I find the motivation to push when I have nothing left in the tank. That's why when I lose physically, I still win because I win with Christ, who isn't concerned with the outcome. So instead of praying for God to bless me with winged feet, I pray to do something much bigger than that: to make Christ's name more known. If running becomes anything more than that, than take it away. Strip me of this idol and lay it to waste. Cleanse me if running does not honor The Lord. But if this journey does glorify Christ, then help me take each step for You, graceful like the deer you created, let me run with beauty, never forgetting my mission and task. I want to do this for the glory of Christ so that one day I may look back and say, "that was BEAUTIFUL, thanks God. You were glorified every step of the way!"

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rollercoasters

Rollercoasters.

What are they? The fastest two minutes of fear, screaming, and laughing that you can bargain for. Rollercoasters carry you through the ups and downs, the parts that you want to ride again and again, and sometimes, the parts you would rather never experience again.

Isn't life life like a roller-coaster?

This semester, people have asked me how running and life has been, and I have simply replied, a roller coaster. I have experienced lots of joy racing for the first time in 8 months, meeting some great new friends, being with family. But there also have been plenty of unforeseen stomach dropping moments on this ride, friends passing away, bad races, and tough times.

I never quite know what else life has in store for the next bend, but I'm often left left holding tightly onto what I have and hoping it will soon pass.

But this is what I've learned- forget the ride, follow Jesus.

Following Jesus to me is not being invested in the turnout of these mountains and valley experiences, but rather putting my identity and dependence in Christ.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." -Hebrews 13:8

I think it's pretty cool that I trust in an unchanging God, while my world or circumstances around me change constantly at every moment in time. That is powerful. The very idea that we are subject to time while God isn't, forces us into continual change, second by second. We cannot hope in something that is temporal or dependent on ourselves.

My emotions and feelings are constantly riding a roller-coaster, but I'm learning how to not let the roller-coaster of life define me. When I have a bad race or even a good race, I'm not defined by that. I am defined by something much greater, a relationship with Christ! If Christ is what defines me, then I don't have to worry about my performance or the highs and lows of life.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come." -2nd Corinthians 5:17

As I go on the rest of the semester, my prayer is that we can put our hope, trust, and faith into a relationship with Christ that doesn't change or waver. I pray that this roller coaster of life would not define us, and that we would recognize how we are loved and made new in Christ!