Story

Racism is a discipleship issue.

Justice is something that I am learning is essential to following Jesus. How to be a part of justice is also something I am learning.

What is happening right now is awful and part of a longer story of events that have happened for centuries.

What is happening is part of a long history of unrest, broken relationships, lack of justice, lack of change and too little humility.

I have been blogging through BLESS – a way to share faith in the midst of isolation and COVID.

The last “S” in BLESS is share your story. Today I am grieving and want to share part of how I respond today to the unrest and pain coming ablaze in MSP has everything to do to how I am learning to follow Jesus.

For many, the Good News is that Jesus died for my sins and I know that God loves me and I get to live with Him forever.

I believe that to be true. But it gets better.

Jesus doesn’t just love me. He loves everyone on the planet and as He lived on earth, He wasn’t just coming for the purpose of heading to the Cross and taking care of my individual sins.

Jesus found a scroll in the synagogue one day and found the following passage and read it.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He said “today this has been fulfilled in your hearing,” and sat down.

He also came to give us life, and life to the fullest. (John 10:10)

He also came to bring light to a dark world. (John 1)

He came to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).

Jesus came to model a new way to live. He came to form a new community. He taught, lived and gave us His Spirit so we can be empowered to follow Him and live as He did.

If I believe that, I have to respond to the events of this week in MSP, of the injustices of any week, with eyes like Jesus might have.

I do not pretend to know exactly what Jesus would say to everyone involved in all aspects of what is happening.

But I do know that He would be grieving. And mobilizing people to make changes. And hoping our hearts would become more like His.

Last Sunday, I preached about not repaying evil for evil (Romans 12). I talked about how Rosa Parks, although she was sitting in the seats set aside for blacks, was arrested for not giving up her seat to whites who boarded the bus after her.

Another part of the story: the bus driver that day was one Rosa knew. Previously she had met him. One day she boarded the bus through the front door, paid her fare and then left, to use the back door where blacks could board the bus. However the driver, like others in that time, drove off before Rosa could get on the bus.

Rosa still peacefully protested, despite all that had happened to her. Blacks rose up and boycotted the busses. They walked to work instead. Miles and miles of walking. One historian noted that this was a sacrifice for these workers who barely had adequate shoes for normal life, much less 20 mile daily walks to work.

And they respected the law enough to work to change it. Change it for justice and equality.

I have benefited from learning about her. How she responded to oppression in Montgomery Alabama and then how civil rights history was altered through her and others’ leadership.

I am responding today with prayers. Lament. Checking in with my friends affected by this. Reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader with my boys. Learning and reading everything I can. Looking to other leaders who are helping us know what to do, who to call, how to work for change.

Other ideas for you: check our denomination’s website for ideas:

Lord, Have Mercy.

_________________________

King’s notion of nonviolence had six key principles. First, one can resist evil without resorting to violence. Second, nonviolence seeks to win the “friendship and understanding” of the opponent, not to humiliate him (King, Stride, 84). Third, evil itself, not the people committing evil acts, should be opposed. Fourth, those committed to nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retaliation as suffering itself can be redemptive. Fifth, nonviolent resistance avoids “external physical violence” and “internal violence of spirit” as well: “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him” (King, Stride, 85). The resister should be motivated by love in the sense of the Greek word agape, which means “understanding,” or “redeeming good will for all men” (King, Stride, 86). The sixth principle is that the nonviolent resister must have a “deep faith in the future,” stemming from the conviction that “The universe is on the side of justice” (King, Stride, 88).

Quoted from https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/nonviolence

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BLESS: Serve

We can still be a blessing!

This is a series… Check previous blogs here: http://www.lifeasan.asker.net/2020/03/18/we-can-still-be-a-blessing/

When I am done writing, we are going out for a ride!!

We just had someone drop off a hand-me-down bike for my youngest. A friend suggested a book swap with our kids (after we wipe them down of course, and hand off at a distance…). I got a text the other day that started, “Was told to check on my extrovert friends…” Brian has been helping me a TON since my computer died Sunday (I know: worst timing ever for that first world problem).

When people serve me, I feel loved. I know my kids love it. I feel like someone has noticed I have a need and don’t just look at that empty space, but do something to try to fill it.

Service is something that Jesus embodied. His famous last moments with the disciples, mere hours before He would be on the Cross, breathing His last, He spent time with those men talking and washing their feet.

Washing feet was not fun. It was the opposite of social distancing. It was unsanitary and likely, unfunny.

Yesterday I took my kids to a gravel pit/park. It was not just dusty, it was literally dirty. I sat on the hard dirt and tried to stay clean while my kids got as dirty as possible. Elam even swam a bit.

Red Jacket Park: winning on social distancing: no one was around!

But before we walked back to the car, my kids sat on the edge of the water and washed their own feet. Cleaned up that dirt. Then they were able to walk back to the van. Unfortunately, I was in Chacos and it was impossible to not kick the clods of dirt. Impossible not to get gravel into my toes. Impossible to feel clean until I got home.

People walked in sandals way less fancy than my Chacos back in Jesus’ day. And they were avoiding more than dirt clods. Animal droppings. Water. Garbage. And dirt. All over their probably stinky feet.

Jesus washed those feet, even the feet of Judas who was about to turn a kiss into a death sentence. And then He told everyone, He tells us, to wash one another’s feet.

What does it look like in COVID-19 days to wash feet? My friends have modeled some ideas.

What have you seen? Turning Homer Hankies from the MN Twins into face masks was a good story I saw. Bauer hockey helmet makers are now making face shields in their factories. Delivering meals, calling friends to check in and doing yard work for those who can’t all are easy ways we can serve one another.

BLESS is all about trying to help bless those with the blessings we have received from God. Bless is about helping those who do not understand that God loves them, that God wants to serve them.

One last thing: You may feel that you have nothing left after these days of working on line, getting kids’ schooling on line and your church services on line. You may feel exhausted by simply feeding your family and trying to keep up with your job. You may feel hopeless and empty after losing your job or your regular routines. And to think of serving someone else seems like too much.

Well let me encourage you: You were created to serve because you were created in God’s image. That same God who washed feet.

You may not feel like it. But I can almost guarantee that after you choose to serve someone else, God will meet you in it and surprise you.

And if afterwards you say, nope that was NOT worth it. Then guess what, the other person likely is saying, “Wow, I am so glad she did that!” And perhaps that can be enough to get through one more day of COVID-19.

(you can learn more about the BLESS resources on https://covchurch.org/evangelism/bless/ )

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Sandi Asker: The Unitasker

I had a session with my therapist in Duluth today – ON LINE. I am so glad for the opportunity to connect with some of my Duluth people this past week on line. The Y is streaming workouts with our favorite personal trainer (and her daughter) and my mental health experts (MAP) are all adjusting to the times, making a way for me to reconnect with people who have known me for a long time.

After a time of my sharing how I am doing in this season (which has not been super the last week), my counselor used the word “unitasking.”

“Wait, what did you just say?!” I asked

“Unitasking.”

“Is that even a word?!”

“It is my word,” she said confidently.

“Have you ever shared that with anyone?”

“I have maybe said it to my husband, or my buddies.” She said buddies. This made me giggle a little.

I literally had to stop and think about this: unitasking. Doing one thing at a time. Have I ever been challenged with such a thought?!

It sounds like a Superhero: the Unitasker!

Seriously, for the next minute, try to do one thing. Breathe. Sing a song. Wipe a toilet. Listen to your kid. Drive. Take a photo of the trees budding.

This is me stretching. I have learned to embrace the stretching/Yoga/less cardio workouts these days. Doing ONE thing at a time – a stretch.

Do. One. Thing.

I am from a long line of multi-taskers,* fully productive members of society. My dad jokes that my mom reads a book, knits a sweater, watches the basketball game and talks on the phone all at the same time.

I regularly make dinner, send emails, talk with my kids, clean up the kitchen, do the dishes and prep tomorrow’s meal at the same time.

What a gift, in this season, if I could learn to focus on one thing at a time.

I could focus on the people on Zoom I am about to pray with (which meant halting the editing on this blog and saving it for later).

I could simply attend the meeting I have with 3 other people.

I could avoid my phone and texts that jump across the screen during those meetings.

I could avoid the news during that phone call.

I could avoid the emails that pop up while I lead a small group.

I could avoid temptations to go 1,000 directions as I try to lead and care for people who have taken the time to show up to whatever it is I am leading.

Instead, unitasking, I could tackle the day one thing at a time, with a spoonful of sugar…

Ok, it was might sound a little unrealistic in this world of on line meetings, news changing every 2 hours, kids needing school help, another meal needing a prep and another meal needing to be cleaned up.

And maybe some of you have new babies, new puppies, have great financial strain and have zero minutes of peace… but stick with me.

I want to try it. I need to try something new. What I was doing was not working. Maybe you could start doing 2-3 things at once and start cutting back?

(Seriously this just happened as I edited: Elam (middle son) came to me and asked “Mom, are you working right now on something important?” “I am writing a blog so not super important.” “Then can you cut me an apple?”

Miracles happen EVERY DAY. He asked me so nicely I did not mind taking a minute and cutting that apple.)

Help your kid with their school work.

Focus on your Zoom meeting.

Make dinner.

Read a book.

Check the news.

Get off the phone and play a game with someone.

Toss the baseball one more time even though your previously broken arm hates it but the sunshine makes it so worth it. And you need to move your body (motion is lotion, Cindi).

Do one thing at a time today. See what happens. Then tell me about it.

—————-

*True Confessions: this was first typed as “multi-askers.” We do also ask a LOT of questions around here. In fact, if we ever launch a podcast, I have considered calling it “Asker and Ask Him.”

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We can still be a blessing…

This is part of a series on how to be a blessing in the midst of social distancing. Read the first blog here: http://www.lifeasan.asker.net/2020/03/18/we-can-still-be-a-blessing/

E: Eating!

Well, this is absolutely one of my favorite things to think, write and talk about: FOOD! Eating! Hospitality even.

This morning I sat through my regular Monday meetings, all on Zoom of course. I ran this morning at a good clip my 6 miles and then raced to a dentist appointment. COVID-19 wouldn’t be complete without a kid having an issue, so infected tooth led us to an 8:00am extraction today! Needless to say, Tobiah is not enjoying food today so much.

We Askers love to eat. When I pick up my usual 5 giant bags of apples at the store, I feel like announcing I did this before the stay at home order.

I on the other hand, was ravenous all morning. I chopped up a ton of vegetables and munched (mute on) for a good hour. I find myself with limited trips to the grocery store, loading up on the produce. I think I am afraid eventually I won’t have enough access to fresh stuff so I am stockpiling it.

Love me some raw peppers

We have been going through an incredible amount of food around here with 3 kids around, active and eating like healthy, normal kids. But wow. It is a job to keep up!

How are you all managing your own cravings? Sitting through Zoom or on line meetings? And how are you helping those around you eat well?

The next letter in BLESS has to do with food, eating, hospitality and doing that in community as a way to bless one another.

The Bible has food at the center of many important events. God gives Adam and Eve “every seed-bearing plant/tree” for their food in the first book of the Bible. God provides a mystery bread called manna for His people in the middle of a desert. Esther requests mercy for her people during a meal with the king. Jesus provides enough food for thousands with a boy’s small lunch. And we are commanded to eat bread, drink from a cup to remember that Jesus gave Himself up for us and provides a way to be in relationship with God.

We have chosen to keep inviting people to take communion during our on line services, so that in Spirit, we can continue to remember Jesus as we eat “together” during worship services.

We are created for community and created to eat together as well. The closest I got was last week, when I cooked up a Chinese feast, I had to “share” it on social media at least.

A family we know has also been stretched with this season, so we delivered pizzas to them. A win for local businesses and for our family to be a blessing.

A family in our church needed some groceries one night, so a fellow church member dropped off what they needed.

We had the Easter Bunny drop by yesterday with a bag of goodies.

Food is one way we can share the fact that God does indeed love everyone. Everyone needs to eat! Food is one way we can bless others.

So the next time you venture out, consider picking up something for someone else. Donate to the food shelf. Make a donation on line! You can also order on line for others and never have to leave your home. Most places are delivering for free in these days so it makes is safe and easy.

Let’s not lose our sense of hospitality in these days!

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We can still be a blessing

L: Listen

Ironically, trying to blog about this topic today: listening. I am writing while listening to Jimmy Fallon in the background doing his monologue.

Ok now turning that off.

I find the input these days is constant: texts stream in while I am on a Zoom call with 16 people and emails keep coming. If that isn’t enough, Facebook messengers is trying to keep up and my kids make it all better by never being quiet from dawn to dusk.

There is a lot we can listen to in these days. But as I read in John 10 today, we listen only to the Good Shepherd because we know His voice. The Shepherd knows us by name.

And because of that truth, I believe Jesus is calling us to listen to those around us who may not know that Voice yet.

How can we listen to our friends in these days?

Some ideas:

Ask them how they are. What are they doing? One of my neighbors is doing home improvement projects. Two had birthdays this last weekend.

Ask them what they are grieving? What are they grateful for? What have some highlights been or lowlights?

After some people answer that they are fine, homeschooling is fine and wiping Clorox wipe bottles off with other Clorox wipes is fine, maybe ask them how they are really doing.

My sister started a text stream with many of strewn from DC, Philly, VA, MN and CA. It is “what we did today” and how we are managing in different spheres of life. Pictures of her immaculate garden and her list of activities made us all tired, an envious.

We have many options for input these days. So much content, youTube videos, Good News Stories with John Krasinski, Jimmy Fallon at home, CDC updates, NPR podcasts, books on my bedside table, BBC worldwide updates and oh yeah, those three lovely offspring that are home with us.

Let’s make sure we are also listening to those around us. Again, loving our neighbors in these days is just as important as ever. Give them a chance to share how they are doing.

And do you know what I find makes me a better listener?

Turn off the phone or tuck it where you literally cannot see it

Look at their faces and try to not say anything until they are done speaking (this may seem obvious to some of you. I am an extrovert and I need to do this intentionally).

Have spaces where you are being listened to. Brian and I just took a walk and he said, “let’s talk about you. What have you been doing today?” When I feel heard, I do not have that huge burning need to be speaking.

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Pacing

When I know I am going for a run I know:

Where I am going and for how long

I know what I should be eating the night before

I know when to go to bed and wake up so I have time for the run

I know what I should do post-run even up to 2-3 days following, depending on distance

I know how many hills to do (or avoid) depending on distance

I wear water if I know I will be gone more than an hour

And not lastly in terms of importance, but I know if/how much “lube” to use depending on distance

This last race we are all joining has no finish line, no expectations, no map, no “what to expect” list on the website and lastly, no swag at the finish line.

We do not know where the finish line is. We do not know how long we will be homeschooling, searching for milk and TP nor do we know how long we will be keeping our distance from one another.

Because I don’t know when it ends, it is getting harder and harder to pace myself. Harder to know what to do/not to do. Harder to grasp a rest/work/sleep/slough off/work hard/sunshine/hunker down/scream out loud balance.

When I know the distance, the route, the expectations of a run, I pace myself. I swing my hips side to side and embrace the steep downhills. I sip water every so often on long runs. I shake out my arms, roll my neck and if needed, take a walk break.

When I know the distance, I have prepared myself for days previous. Like I avoid popcorn, spinach salads, curry and broccoli the day before.

In this season, I feel like every day is a race when someone has suddenly said “GO!” and I am wearing PJ’s and flips. Suddenly streams of people are all around me, 6 feet away, trying to gasp enough air to get on board with this Crazytown race. I feel like the “aid” stations are all run by super smart, virologists and government officials but they too are in their jammies and baseball caps to cover their grey roots that have started to show.

I feel like there is an end, there has to be an end, and I have faith that end will come. I know one day there will be a “back to normal” in the sense that we will one day have some freedoms back.

But I also wonder how we will all be different. How we will have learned to run an ultra-marathon without training, without the Gu and without the right running socks. What habits are we picking up that will see us through until the end?

I heard a story of a neighbor who is losing weight in this time because they used to eat out all the time. Now that she is cooking homemade food, she is feeling healthier.

I hear stories of couples spending more time together and their marriages strengthening.

I know my neighborhood is more active and enjoying the warmer weather: the sidewalks are much fuller than before.

I also know I hear way more positive feedback on the teachers and school admin since this whole COVID-19 started.

What are you doing to pace yourself? Your families?

One of my favorite verses:

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12, part of verse 1 and part of verse 2

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We can still be a blessing

This is part of a series on how to be a blessing in the midst of social distancing. Read the first blog here: http://www.lifeasan.asker.net/2020/03/18/we-can-still-be-a-blessing/

“B”

These are crazy times, aren’t they? No traffic. No kids off to school. No hugs. No meetings. No toilet paper… (Plenty of baby carrots and peapods at Sam’s though!)

What can we do? How often do we ask this question when we read about the latest tragedy, our relative who is diagnosed with cancer or a home burns down? And we just want to DO something.

Now, I am an “8” on the enneagram and at times like this, my personality is to DO SOMETHING! Wake up early make a list prep dinner write up a homeschooling plan and then get breakfast…Call someone, set up a video chat, write a blog post, write another homeschooling plan and check the number of positive cases on line.

But as the story of COVID-19 has unfolded, I think of one of the things God is clear about: prayer.

In BLESS, the “B” is “Begin with prayer.” Let’s think about 3 specific things regarding prayer that we could do.

1. Think through your circles of involvement: work, where you live, where you work out, where your kids are involved, where you shop… or in light of what is happening, where you used to do those things.

My lists from my Small Group and my Church.
I keep the lists in my Bullet Journal and pray for them daily.

Think of the people in those circles who do not know God loves them. Think of those who maybe do not have sure footing in Christ in all of this uncertainty.

And write those names down. On a bookmark (See below). On a post-it. Somewhere.

I have had a “BLESS” small group meeting for a few weeks before the virus and each week we prayed and talked about how to care for our friends on our lists. We were amazed at how our friends were starting spiritual conversations with us. Asking us questions. Asking us to eat a meal together. God was definitely answering our prayers.

2. Now, pray.

Pray the Psalms for your friends. Pray that they won’t be afraid. That God will supply all of their needs according to His riches in glory found in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 4:19)

If you need help with how to pray, the BLESS bookmark has ideas. You can find them here:

https://covchurch.org/evangelism/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2019/01/BLESS-Bookmarks-DWNLD_web.pdf

3. Simply ask your friends: how can I pray for you today? Many might be open to that in these days.

I did just that after writing this. I have a neighbor who struggles with health issues and I have no idea where she is at with Jesus right now and I haven’t been in touch since Thanksgiving – but I texted her and asked her how I could pray. And she told me.

I have another friend who works at our local university and I asked her too, how can I pray? She works at our local large university and has many hard decisions to make these days. I do not know where she is at with God, but is hoping to join a live stream of our church soon!

Now true confessions: If you know me, I am not a contemplative, quiet, reflective type (everyone laugh, it’s ok and remember, I am an 8). But praying for those who need to know Jesus, who need Jesus to move in their lives is something I love. And I pray while I run. As I walk the neighborhood. Pass by my kids’ school. And sometimes in the wee hours before those neighborhood runs. Lately, also on Zoom.

A yay God story:

A friend of mine in Duluth needed prayers a while back as she started a business (I have her permission to share this). She would give Brian and me updates as we worked out at the Y and we would rejoice and pray. As time went on, I texted her and asked how things were going. And I texted, “I am praying God gives you a map as you navigate these days.” I got a text back “Do you know the name of our business?” “nope” “We are naming it after the 3 of us starting it: MAP.”

It is a mental health clinic and Angel, I am so glad God helped you start that place to help so many that will need extra help these days. (wouldn’t you know, while I was editing this blog, Angel texted me! CRAZY.)

Ask God to BLESS your friends. Ask your friends how to pray. If there were ever a time to take a risk, pray harder and reach out to those in need, these days might just be it.

(you can learn more about the BLESS resources on https://covchurch.org/evangelism/bless/ )

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We can still be a blessing

This is the first in a series on how can be a blessing in a season of social distancing.

Waiting is hard. While we wait for information and the CDC website to update at noon, we wait.

There are many thing we can do while we wait, stay home and serve those around us as we can. (We can also be grateful if we do have a home to stay in if we do… many don’t at times like these.)

One thing I am doing is rethinking BLESS, which is a way to share our faith with those around us who do not yet truly believe God loves them. It is an acronym and gives us practical ways to serve those around us.

The basic idea behind “BLESS” comes from Genesis 12 where God chooses to use Abram and his family to literally bless the whole world.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
3I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

God promises Abram that Abram is going to be a-ok. He promises people and good things ahead. And God promises that Abram will be a channel through which “all” peoples will be blessed. That means e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e.

God wants to bless us. Be near us. Comfort us. Challenge us (btw God called Abram out of his comfy lifestyle right before this list of promises – leave it all! That part came first.)

God does that with a purpose however. It isn’t for us to ahem, hoard it. He did it so that we could bless others.

I told a story that had happened one morning at breakfast. Calista, my eldest, was eating toast. Peanut butter and honey toast. And it was hot. Melty. Drippy. She has two pieces and guess what happened? The toast she was eating started to drip on the second piece that was still on her plate. She was eating it in such a way that the toast, still bare and plain, was getting the drips of the first piece. We joked she might not even have to use any more peanut butter or honey on that piece.

God has lathered us with peanut butter and honey. To be a sweet aroma, as 2 Corinthians 2:15 says. To drip on those around us. To share what we have. To be a blessing.

Does any of this sound applicable these days? Even as I type it I feel a weight on my chest about my own feelings as the news just keeps coming.

Would I rather just hunker down at home with my three wonderful kids, play Legos, watch movies, eat all the food, separate for my own self and ignore what is happening around me? Sometimes.

But I also have a deep sense of ache for those who might truly be suffering at home, homes that are NOT safe. Homes that have no food. No friends checking in. People who are older and have no way to connect with their families who want to keep them safe by staying away. Or people that do not have homes and the libraries and all of their safe places have had to shut their doors.

We have a chance to be the Church in a new way. To be a blessing in a new way. To call. Remember phone calls? We used to spend hours on the phone with our friends growing up.

We can also write letters.

Yesterday I went a walk and called to check in with my running friend, who is a doctor up North and found she was just on a walk thinking of calling me! Good for my soul.

To talk with the neighbors across the street or across the driveway. To text co-workers who are isolated and live alone. To check in with teachers who are sad to not see their students. Teachers who know their kids even hate 3-day weekends because home is not a happy place for them. Teachers who are sitting in meetings trying to learn how to teach on line when they are brand-new to the classroom setting!

And to check in with those making decisions that are affecting the rest of us.

Oh and to try and make the best decisions we can while not judging others for how they are responding to the news.

How can you be a blessing today? How can we reach out in safe, social distancing ways? How can the Lord give us such great creativity that our world goes – wow, I feel loved.

Let’s be a blessing at this time, willing to be uncomfortable for the sake of others while following God’s call at such a unique season.

(you can learn more about the BLESS resources on https://covchurch.org/evangelism/bless/ )

For the next blog in the series: http://www.lifeasan.asker.net/2020/03/24/we-can-still-be-a-blessing-b/

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So I wore my bathing suit to church…

Last week was momentous for so many reasons. Not primarily, but in some ways the best part, was that I got to wear my bathing suit to church. To my job. My job was to get wet in front of the congregation for the sole purpose of baptizing 4 young men.

It was my first time being a licensed pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church doing a baptism. I had been asked many times in the past to baptize students as we humbly got to see many students say yes to Jesus for the first time in college. But one of the ways we honored the institution of the Church was to not baptize, unless we had the credentialing. I never was so instead, we could partner with local churches, gather as many students as wanted to, and have a local pastor host a service for us.

Last week, we got to hear from 4 young men about how they believe in Jesus and wanted to take a public step to say they want to follow Him. I knew most of the boys. One was my son’s good friend.

And one I knew quite well.

This kid.

Elam had been talking about being baptized last year in Duluth but something didn’t sit quite right with him, so he waited. This year he said he “wanted to be dedicated to God.”

And so on November 10, 2019, in front of many new friends and many of our family members who made the trek, it was so.

Thanks for coming you guys!

As I dunked each kid, I was choked up by the honor I had in doing the act of baptism for these families. I was also struck by how the kids literally changed. The water changed their faces: they had to close their eyes and scrunch up their noses. The water altered their hair and slicked it back. Their clothing became heavy and changed colors. As they entered the water, they giggled about how cold it was. One kid practically jumped into the pool he was so eager. Others quickly wrapped up the big, fluffy white towels we provided for them.

Elam and I waddled out to the lobby and to my office afterwards. We left wet, large and small footprints on the carpet. We got inside my office and toweled off, laughing about how funny it was to get soaked at church and how I needed 3 outfits for the day. (I had baptisms in 2 services).

I don’t know exactly happens as a pastor asks 9 year old boys to commit to Jesus and then another pastor dunks them in the water. I don’t know what happens to those watched (well, I do actually: many cried with deep emotion). I don’t know what will happen as these boys grow up.

But I do know it was a magical, mystical, wet, transforming experience for all of us in varying ways. And that John the Baptist, Jesus, the early disciples baptized those who wanted to change directions.

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4

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I’ll never do THIS again…

Do you have those times in your life when you say, “I’ll never…”

“We are NOT moving to Mankato.”

“I am done having kids – tie my tubes Doc!”

“I will never lose my temper like that again.”

“This is my last marathon.”

Well I may never say never again… because after the last race which was a black flag day in Duluth, the worst conditions and many friends who didn’t even finish, I said that. I would never put my body through this pain and agony again. I didn’t eat for 3 days. I would complain about that race… well I still complain about that race!

Soon after that race I ran a trail marathon and said I was converted! Trail races from here on out!

Then we moved to Mankato (note the above “I will never move to Mankato”) and have very limited access to trails and races on trail…(Friends you have great paved biking and walking trails, but where I have been for 20 years we call it a trail if it has big rocks, big roots and dirt. Lots of dirt. No concrete.)

Well as I was celebrating our move, the completion of a hard church history paper and surviving some kind of Influenza B from the bad place where only people who throw garbage out their window on a highway go to… I said to Brian, “What if I ran the Mankato Marathon?”

I texted a new friend who was also going to run it. I considered my health and time availability this summer. And then I clicked on “register” and considered it a way to embrace my new community.

Training went awesome. Other than that one day they were telling people to stay in their AC all day in July and the heat index was deadly and I ran 12 miles… All my miles seemed to go smoothly and I wasn’t injured.

This last week I was anxious about getting enough rest. As I get older my body feels better and better, but man I can sleep like a rock after those long runs.

Thursday night: the most important night according to some, let’s just say I did not sleep enough.

So Friday night I did better and woke up at a restful 6am since the race started at 7:30am about 1.5 miles from my house. I took my Vaseline bath, laced up my trusty purple New Balance shoes and drove my happy self to the starting line while singing Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue” – my fav tune of late.

Team World Vision runners were gathering for prayer and encouragement (people who run races but also raise money for clean water through World Vision). I was listening to them pray and just was overwhelmed.

Over the past 24 hours I had gotten so many texts and Facebook messages of encouragement from my new Mankato community I started to cry. I turned to my new friend Kristin and told her why I was crying and she hugged me. I said, “Kristin, I need to get my crap together. I am about to run a marathon!”

We lined up in drizzle and took off. Immediately shin splints took my breath away and I had to pull over and stretch. I managed to make it to where Brian and our new Network Church launch team was serving water and told everyone to pray for me.

It struck me that sometimes hard things happen right away and you just can’t overcome them.

Like we are trying to find a location for our new church and we haven’t found one yet.

Or sometimes your first year of marriage is NOTHING like a honeymoon

. Or you have a new baby and the kid cries, won’t poop and hates to nap.

Well, thankfully, Brian performed a healing (and all those who prayed!) and I was quickly feeling better.

Pain gone, I started to settle into my 4.5 hour run. I saw friends from church. I told a police officer thank you at an intersection and he responded with a “you betcha!” I met others who had run that ridiculously hot Grandma’s race. I met someone who recognized me from church. I ran with friends for a bit and then was alone for a few miles when my friend Clarice, who had trained with me for a bit, found me on the race course. She was such an encouragement to me while I trained, then there she was on race day!

There was some confusion with the mile markers that literally just about took my mental state to the same bad place where the garbage tossers go… I trucked up a hill and found the 23 mile marker and relaxed. I mean, as much as one who has run 23 miles can relax with 3.2 left…

I knew I had a friend waiting around 25. She has gone through the bad place and back, watched friends and family go through the same and I had been praying for her, her family and her situation for miles. I couldn’t wait to see her.

And then I saw her. Her whole family. New friends. We may become friends more quickly because of this new grief of hers. Isn’t it funny how God works!? I get excited just thinking of how excited I was to see her even now as I type.

Then there were my kids. My husband yelling “You are doing it! You are going to do it!” “Go Mommy!” and my daughter holding our friends’ baby Aurora. Even Aurora was waving at me.

The last few miles I wanted to quit. I thought about quitting in the sense of, “What if I walked it in right now?” But once you run that long, unless you are injured or simply worn out, you get into this place where you realize your heart won’t stop. You will keep breathing. And your legs – the legs just keep going.

I didn’t walk except 2-3 water stops and those shin splint stretched at mile 2. I kept shuffling. I pumped my arms so hard on hills that my biceps hurt today. I started counting my steps (10 steps, 10 times, .1 mile). I told myself I would finish. I would not die. I would finish.

I had a goal of 4:15 but didn’t make it. 4:20. 2+ min faster than my fastest in 2015. I enjoyed the fall colors. My new friends. Students I met 8 days ago who made me a sign to say “yay Sandi!” and posted it on Facebook. I drank my energy drink at just the right time. I was blessed with orange slices at just the right time. The sun came out and warmed me up at just the right time (like when I realized I couldn’t feel my fingers and hadn’t for a while).

I licked my lips a lot and Clarice, you were right, I needed to drink more! I licked my hands. I licked my arms. I licked the rain off my face. I needed every last drop to get me through.

These feet took me over 27 miles with walking Saturday. One dirty toe. Rest of my feet clean as ever. Thank you Bomas socks, New Balance
and 10 scoops of Vaseline.

Oh the parallels to real life. But 2 things stick out from this weekend.

I miss my life in Duluth. The trails. The races. Grandma’s. My friends who ran those trails and races. My backyard which must be gorgeous right now with fall colors.

But I am now here in Mankato. And God has given me so many friends in so many unexpected places. And many of them love to run or love that I do!

And secondly, we are all running our own marathons. Of grief. Parenting. Sickness. Parenting a sick child. Tough patch in your marriage. A break up. Loneliness. Lack of faith in humanity. Loss of faith in God. Hopelessness.

We need one another. Race day brings out the best in us and apparently, the best of Mankato. There were teams holding out grapes, Gummy Bears, water and Gaterade in the rain so we who are insane (someone told me that 10 times today at church) could run our race. Community matters. Friends matter when the race is going well or when shin splints sideline us. Or when we feel like we can’t take one more stop. Or when we expect to see mile marker 22 and it says 19.

So let’s be kind to one another. Cheer for one another. Send a letter. Make a meal. There is a good saying right now, “Be kind. We never know what the other person is going through.” And may other people’s hard races bring out our best.

And I am so grateful for all of the people who are helping the Askers who are going through a transition that isn’t life-threatening, but difficult nonetheless.

So apparently I would have heard and seen more friends except no one recognized me since my ears were covered (it was cold and wet) and I had a hat to cover my lovely locks.

Brian ran the water stop, got donuts and coffee for his volunteers, coached XS at soccer then got all our kids plus 1 to watch me finish. Then took care of us all weekend so I could rest. He did that so I could run my race. Thank you dear one. I need you to run races and this race of life.

And to all of you who cheered for me thank you!

And to all of you who need cheering as you run, may God meet you and bring you a cowbell or a T-Rex at just the right time.

A family joining our Launch Team owns this. Their teenager was inside. Too great.

Oh and don’t worry, I won’t ever say this again: “That was my last marathon.”

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