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Running the Race to Win (Even If You Finish Somewhere In the Middle)

I’m going to sidetrack a little from Keith’s story, but I want to share something with everyone.

Today, I ran my first 5K. My time was 27:51. I started at the back of the pack and finished somewhere in the middle.

I have always been overweight, and it had seemed like running would never be a part of my life, not even when I played football in junior high and high school. I was in a little bit better shape then, I mean, I was still obese, but I could move a lot quicker. After high school, I just continued to get bigger and bigger. Then in 1997, I had to go to the doctor for the flu, but I had never been to this doctor before, so they had to weigh me for their records.

I weighed 334 lbs.

Oh my God.

That scared me, so in 1998, I lost over 60 pounds. I didn’t have an exercise regimen, I just changed the way I ate. I kept that off for several years, and then I slowly began to put it back on, about 25 lbs. of it. During those years, I felt horrible and the depression, that I had always struggled with, was defeating me. This wasn’t really about weight, though. Deep down, I knew that, really, I was just running from God, and, in the process, negating my life.

There are always deeper issues with any kind of vice. Everybody knows this. Food is an addiction like any other. The problem with addictions is that they derail you. It’s not just about what you are doing to yourself, it’s about what you’re not doing. It is the life that you are not living that is the tragedy.

I had been trying, in my way, to be closer with God. I started reading the Bible everyday. I read through it twice. This started in 2005. God wanted more for me and from me, though. He kept trying to show me during these years, that I was so wrapped up in self-loathing and self-destruction that I had no time for anything else. The fog had to be lifted. I had to take control of this life that I was flushing down the toilet. Again, this is not about food. This is about the things that we allow to become giants in our lives. Soon enough they are bigger than God, and they will diminish His light much like a mountain in front of the setting sun.

So, in January of 2009, I started eating better. Then, over the next several months, I began walking, playing tennis, going to the gym, etc. Just being more active, in general. In 2010, I quit smoking and began running. I had never run a mile before.

Never.

The first day that I did, I thought my heart would explode, but I felt alive. Later that year, a sciatic nerve in my hip rolled over some muscle tissue, putting me out of commission for about a month and a half. I had been running fairly consistently up until then and I didn’t think that I would recover from the layoff. But, I finally did. Of course, there was a lot of grunting and obscenity involved.

So, after two years of losing weight (85 lbs.), a year of sporadic running and a year of not smoking, I did it.

My first 5K.

The race was in Dallas and was sponsored by an organization that helps the disabled lead normal lives. The event was called Cupid’s Chase, and it took place, simultaneously, in 24 other cities. It was incredible and the weather was perfect. My mom and step dad were there, cheering me on and Ginger was yelling loudly for me from Santa Fe. It was pretty sweet.

Today was the result of a lot of answered prayers. Thanks everybody.

Thank You God for kicking me in the ass when I needed it.

Thank You for whispering you can do this in my ear when I needed that, too.

Thank You for giving me the opportunity to live this life.

Thank You for loving me.

Thank You.

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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Running the Race

 

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K (Katherine)

The people I’ve met over the past three months, or so, have stayed in my memory. This is the first time that I ‘m writing about them, so some details have faded, but many remain. I am trying to write about them in the order that I met them, and I know that’s not really going to be possible, but I think I’ll be pretty close. Some gaps refuse to be filled, however, and that’s the case with K.

I think her name was Katherine.

I’ll stick with the Kafkaesque K, however, simply because I’m not sure about the name and I don’t want to pretend to have a firm grasp on something that I don’t. I’m also not sure about where she is in the order. Second, I think. But, it could have been Kenny (more about him later). Not sure.

K was standing beside the entrance to the Wal-Mart on Cerrillos Road. I saw her from the opposite lane and I pulled into the parking lot and turned off the engine. Meeting Travis  had given me a little confidence, and I didn’t have quite the nerves that I did before. At least that was true as I fumbled through my wallet for a five dollar bill. When I got out of the car, however, there was a moment of real fear. Mostly I was afraid of what this woman was going to think of some random guy crossing the pavement to talk to her. Like with Travis, I displayed the bill prominently and walked toward her.

K looked to be about the same age as Travis. Mid 30’s probably. She wore a leather jacket that still had a little life left in it. There were patches on it. Words were scratched into the surface. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe the words weren’t there, but something tells me that K’s life was written on that jacket. I realize that’s abstract, but that’s what I see.

She had on faded black combat boots, and her hair was a dark, unnatural red. It had been dyed recently. She wore a long, faded red pleated skirt that was embroidered along the bottom. There was a Mexican restaurant, close to where I grew up back in Texas, that made the waitresses wear something similar.

As I approached, she looked at me a little suspiciously, and I awkwardly handed her the money. I stuck out my hand and told her my name. She shook my hand and told me hers, then there was an awkward silence. I plodded on, however, and asked if she minded if I prayed for her.

“Sure,” she responded.

She was hesitant, though, so I quickly added, “If that’s okay, I mean… as long as that’s okay with you.”

“It’s alright…” She reiterated, and so I prayed.

I reached out and touched her right arm. I can still feel the worn leather beneath my palm. I remember stroking her arm, trying to make her feel at ease, but she never did. I think she even bristled slightly when I reached out, but I didn’t remove my hand. Then I prayed my generic prayer, being careful, however,  to include the part about God letting K know she wasn’t alone. God, let K know you love her. Please.

I don’t know what happened to K in her past. I don’t know if she may have been molested or assaulted or abused. I didn’t ask. How could anybody ask that? I don’t want to speak for K, but I get the sense that she believes that God has left her out in the cold. Forgotten her and left her to die a slow death, all alone. A lot of people feel that way. I go in and out of thinking that myself.

There was no emotional catharsis with K, unlike with Travis, who was immediately grateful and made me feel like I had made at least a little difference in his day. It was almost instant gratification and very humbling. The encounter with K was humbling in a completely different way. She didn’t start beaming simply because I had graced her with my presence, an awkward prayer and a measly five bucks. In fact, I feel like she would have preferred it if I had just given her the money through the rolled down window of my car and driven away. But I was supposed to pray for K. I know that. Not everyone wants to be prayed for. Not everyone wants to hear it. I understand that. God knows I’m the same way. I fight him tooth and nail on so many occasions. More than I care to think about.

Pray for K. God only knows what has happened to her. Like Travis, I haven’t seen her since. Pray for this leather jacketed, combat boot wearing, broken-hearted soul that I met in front of Wal-Mart one day.

I think her name was Katherine.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2011 in K (Katherine)

 

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Travis (part 3)

I haven’t seen Travis since. I don’t know where he ended up, but I hope that he’s out of the cold. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t said too many prayers for Travis since that day, but I’ve often thought  of him. I know that’s not really good enough, and again, like that day, I feel that I’ve let him down somehow. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know.

Writing about Travis has made me relive that moment and reminded me of what a gift God gave me. He gave me the opportunity to serve. I realize that five bucks doesn’t go far and a little prayer hardly seems like  a drop in the bucket, but it was something. I too often talk myself out of doing things because they just seem too small and insignificant. Surely this can’t mean anything, it’s not enough, I think. So then I end up offering nothing. And that’s worse.

Do the small things. They add up. We all know this, but we think we need a grand gesture to serve God. Sometimes that happens, but most days, we just have our lives. That alone is an infinite level of complexity. Joel Osteen once said “there are no ordinary days”. He’s right. We’re alive and that’s in no way ordinary. I mean, Moses didn’t part the Red Sea everyday.

So pray for Travis. He has a dog, a goatee, a silver thermos, a camouflage jacket and he might be in his late thirties. I don’t know where he is, but God does. When you pray, He’ll know who you’re talking about.

I’ll pray for him, too.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Travis

 

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Travis (part 1)

In the latter part of 2010, God began to quietly speak to me about an idea for ministering to the homeless. Off and on for quite a few years, I had been giving spare change to people on the streets, like so many of us do. On a few occasions, I had even been moved to buy some kind of fast food and bring it back to the place where someone was holding a sign. This was not often. In fact, the whole thing was very sporadic. But I knew that something was urging me to do these very small things. Then I started to get a word from God about doing a little more. Of course, I didn’t think God was talking to me. Why would He? Especially since so many of my days are spent being angry about one thing or another and, given the fact that I had barely been talking to God at all. (More about that later.)

Anyway, this urging didn’t stop. Weeks went by and I seemed to get a little more of an idea of what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to give a little more than I had been giving, and He wanted me to pray for these people. Okay, I’ll dig a little deeper in my wallet as I stop and roll down my window; I’ll say a little prayer in my head as I drive away, I thought, that’s not so bad. Well, that’s not exactly what God had in mind. He wanted me to pray for them where they were. Okay, I thought, I’ll ask their names and pray quickly. That wasn’t it either. Logistically, I couldn’t figure out what to do, and then, God, being the ultimate pragmatist said, you have to get out of your car. Oh…crap.

I barely even speak to You, I kept thinking over and over, a prayer isn’t going to mean anything, You probably won’t even hear it. This argument with myself went on for days, weeks. Was God really telling me to do this? Why me? This doesn’t make any sense. It scared me to put my faith out there. What if some of them were hostile? None of these questions got answered, by the way, before I agreed to just try it. What could possibly happen? So I resolved in my mind that I would step out in faith: a faith that most days I felt I barely had. It seemed like a joke to even think things like step out in faith. Then, on a Saturday morning, I got my opportunity.

I was leaving the Albertson’s on the south end of town, and he was standing in front of the stop sign that leads out onto Zafarano. He looked to be about my age and he had a dog. I don’t remember the breed of dog. I don’t remember what his sign said. I barely remember getting out of the car. But I do remember one thing:

His name was Travis.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2011 in Travis

 

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Well…hello! God has quite a sense of humor!

My name is Chuck Russell and this is my first blog post. Like most blogs, this one will be a work in progress. The main point of this endeavor is to share my personal experiences of giving five bucks (or whatever I can afford) to the homeless and then praying for them on the spot. I would like this site to be a place where others can share their stories of giving and ministering. Ultimately, I would like it to become a prayer network for the people on the street corners who have so much less than most of us do. Sharing photos, videos and talking about those we meet will be invaluable to them as well as to ourselves.  I would also like this blog to be an open forum for the raw discussion of what Christ means in our daily lives. This site is not sponsored by any church and donations will never be asked for. Save your money for those less fortunate or some other worthy cause; we’re just talking here. That’s all. Hopefully, we’ll be able to minister to each other. I believe we will. One final note to this post: I am not a social butterfly. Getting out of my car and praying for someone in public couldn’t be further from who I am. Only God has made this possible. He uses who He wants, and for some reason He has chosen to use a foul-mouthed, ill-tempered, deeply flawed man to start a prayer network for the homeless. God has quite a sense of humor. Go figure.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Travis

 

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