Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Bare Soul - It Is Well With My Soul - June 1, 2008

Job 1:21b - ... The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.

Recently, a friend of mine wrote to me, describing an encounter he had with a man and his family. According to my friend, this man is angry with God because of seemingly unjust calamities that have plagued their household. Last year, they lost their four month old to SIDS, a negligent driver caused an accident that totaled their car, their house burned down and he recently broke his leg as a sub-contractor. He wants to know what else God wants from him. They're presently living in a motel. My friend and his wife listened and gave little advice. He said they felt like Job's friends with little ability to console. I wrote my friend back stating, "Yeah, what do you say to a guy who has gone through all that?". I told him that I would pray for the family, that they would ultimately understand God's love even when it seems that He has forgotten them.

Later in the day I was reflecting on this situation and I started humming and singing "It is Well With My Soul". I first thought, this is a curious thing to be singing this particular song while meditating on the woes of these unfortunate folks. Then, I remembered. It as if God allowed me to sing that song to be transported back to the time when I originally read the circumstances behind the writing of that powerful hymn. The following is from Wikipedia regarding the man behind the lyrics:

It Is Well with My Soul is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss.

This hymn was written after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of his only son in 1871, shortly followed by the great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer). Then in 1873, he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the S.S. Ville Du Havre, but sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business. While crossing the At­lan­tic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with another ship, and all four of Spafford's daugh­ters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

Many times misconceptions can form in the minds of those who do not know the Lord. Some churches have fostered the delusion that once a person accepts Christ into their lives, they will have continual prosperity and no harm will befall them. If it does, it is because they have allowed Satan to come and rob them. A simple rebuke of the evil one is all that it should take to get the blessings flowing once again, they would say. This is not the case, in most instances. True, God does give to those who give their lives to Him. However, there can be those times of misunderstanding and confusion when the Lord begins to move contrary to what we consider the "blessed life". Look at Job. The man Job was a righteous soul, yet God had allowed his family and life to be ruined for no apparent reason. Was God making sport of him? Was he creating some "grand game" in the heavenlies so that He could get His chuckles at Job's expense? God forbid! Instead, He was proving to all that Job was a man of character and integrity. In the end, he would be more prosperous and closer to God BECAUSE of the calamities.

So what do you tell someone who does not know God, or if they do, they are so wrapped up in anger that they can't see any purpose in their dire predicaments? Nothing. Unless you have lived through similar heartaches and disappointments, you don't have counsel that will comfort someone when they encounter supreme loss. The best to do is to listen thoughtfully. However, there is an exception. If one understands and feels the heart of the Father for that individual, then yes, words of consolation will be received. These are truly words of life that have been grown in the garden of the Father's heart and are full of compassion and love. Horatio Spafford understood. God gave the man and his wife more children and he went on to create a mission to the poor in Jerusalem because of the heart that the Father gifted him with after his traumatic ordeal. It is all about perception, my friends. We can take on the bitter heart of an isolated soul that is angry for God dealing us a bad hand in life. Conversely, there is an opportunity to take and embrace our losses and watch our Heavenly Father turn them into mighty gains. As the old adage suggests: We all have the opportunity to grow bitter or better. Can you say with the hymnist today ... It is well, with my soul?

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Your Barefoot Servant,


Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Bare Soul - Perseverance Through Love - May 25, 2008

Romans 5:3-5 - And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Most of us have never experienced what the apostle Paul speaks of in this scripture. God has not put many of us in situations where we are literally suffering for the sake of Christ as the Roman Christians suffered. Even today, most that are able to read this devotional are in countries that allow and actually celebrate freedom of belief and religion. However, there are many who don't have computers let alone electricity who are in violent, Christ-hating regions where their very testimony is an act of extraordinary faith. Nonetheless, God meets us where we are and gives to us the measure that we need in our present circumstances. These in distant countries exult in their tribulations, knowing they bring about proven character. Circumspectly, those of us who do not know or understand true Godly tribulation may still understand with measure what it means to persevere through our day to day trials. God has us all exactly where we are to be at this exact moment. Therefore, we must take every opportunity the Lord gives us to practice the instances of character building the Lord brings our way.

Before knowing the Lord Jesus, I ran away from and quit everything of significance that I ever started in life. I quit high school to join the Navy. I quit the Navy to be out on my own and to go to college. Quitting college after one semester, I quit innumerable jobs and relationships for many years until I came to the end of myself and I just couldn't run away from life anymore. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. Once I re-committed my life to the Lord, I began to understand the importance of finishing what I had started. Enrolling and attending college, I gained more and more confidence as the semesters began piling up with high marks. The perseverance that I learned in college in my late 30s and early 40s were things most learned as youths and teenagers. Nonetheless, those were the days when I "grew up" and started acting like a man. The disciplines that I learned in those first few years of sobriety and re-commitment to the Lord carried over when I took up running once again in 1998. Sure, I had trained and ran a marathon a few years earlier. However, this was different than when I started running 8 years earlier. This was a commitment to a lifestyle -- a "life hobby" as my brother so appropriately called it.

Self-imposed tribulation as I experienced is never the ideal way to learn one's lessons and to "grow up". However, self-imposed discipline is CHOSEN and embraced to develop various physical as well as mental and spiritual attributes. I bore up under the pain through my own failings before Christ, and now I am continually learning how to deal with pain through disciplines that lead to success after success. Rather than look at our tribulations or trials as a catalyst to develop perseverance and ultimately proven character, hope, and love, we too often look at these perceived hindrances as nuisances and bothers. "Well, I'm just a little annoyed today" one might say with disdain and a gloomy countenance. Or, one might conversely say "I have the opportunity to be shaped more like my Lord through this ordeal". Perspective is the key. When running up hills during marathons I love shouting out "Hills are our FRIENDS!" Other runners look at me like I'm nuts (usually those who are walking UP the hill), but some nod in approval. They know that hills really show what a runner is truly made of -- they are to be conquered and not acquiesced to.

Winning attitudes toward life's respective "hills" aren't automatic on our proverbial "race days". Nothing has taught me more about tenacity and perseverance than running on a daily basis -- some days trudging away when no one but myself and God are there to acknowledge it. This simple commitment is a constant reminder to me of the lost soul that I was for so many years -- how doing something consistently reconfirms to me the mercy of the Lord to bring me out of a life of dogged failure and disappointment. My former self-imposed life of tribulation created the willingness in me to do something different which ultimately began molding the "character" I am today. Metaphorically speaking, when we finally get tired of running away from God, we can begin to run toward Him and to embrace the obstacles along the way as those which will save us and not enslave us to hopelessness and despair. This is only possible as we trust in the Lord and rejoice when the hard times come. Most assuredly, they will because He loves us too much to leave us as we are and desires us to be perfected through perseverance in His love.

Your Barefoot Servant,


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Bare Soul - Radical Obedience - May 18, 2008

Mark 9:7 - Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, " This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!"

Barefoot running is the most radical thing I have ever done in my life on a consistent basis. What started as a "fun" thing to do has turned into something much more. It has become a point of obedience from the Lord. To be honest, I might not be doing what I am doing with BF running if it weren't for the Lord taking over this ministry. I have been pretty content the past couple of years to just run and not make a big deal out of it. However, He keeps wanting to throw me into situations where I have the opportunity to be obedient to Him. Recently, I ran in an event with several thousand people in attendance. As the race wove through neighborhoods, there I was busily handing out flyers and information on the Free Wheelchair Mission. People were surprised and shocked when I would run into their front yards and hand them a piece of literature. To be truthful, I felt somewhat embarrassed both during and after the race for doing so, but I knew that it was a point of obedience for me.

The word "radical" has its origins from the Middle Ages. Derived from the word rādīcālis it literally means "having roots". The implication of "radical obedience" means a type of obedience that is rooted in the very fundamentals of obedience to God's holy commands. For truly as the root IS, so IS the tree. (No where is this stated clearer than John the Baptist's admonition regarding the axe being laid to the root [Matthew 3:10]). In the same way that a tree "having roots" is descriptive of radical obedience, adversely the roots can be just as radical toward toward selfishness and disobedience resulting in the displeasure and judgment of the Father.

Radical obedience does not come without both a price and a reward. The price is most people not understanding what you are up to and judging you accordingly. The reward is a transfiguration only the Lord can cause. This is sanctification, pure and simple. In the Old Testament, prophets were often told to do seemingly absurd things such as walk barefoot and naked (Isaiah 20), wear an oxen yoke around their necks (Jeremiah 27), or marry a harlot knowing that she would be unfaithful (Hosea 1) just to name a few. God is noticeably silent regarding the prophets and their obedience. There is a stark lack of commentary from the Lord regarding their following the Lord's commands. No where in the Old Testament have I found where God says to the prophets "Good job for being obedient and looking like a fool so I could get my point across". Radical obedience seldom has God's demonstrative commentary attached. However, we do find certain other notables in the Old Testament that don't lack God's testimony of favor. These are men that walked with God and gained His favor through obedience that spanned their lifetimes, not necessarily just through a time of prophetic calling. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Moses was the friend of God and the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3). David was a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 16:7). These were men who knew the Lord through faith and righteousness through years of walking with Him in radical obedience.

To the degree that we know the Lord through faith and righteousness, will be the degree that we are walking in obedience to His word. Just because we are working out our salvation through obeying His promptings and through His written word, this does not necessarily mean that we are always going to be receiving an "Atta boy or girl" from the Lord. The instances of the audible voice of God commending His Son in the New Testament scriptures are very few. Probably, the greatest commentary to radical obedience was given on the Mount of Transfiguration when God the Father said "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!" Not only do we hear the Father stating that Jesus was the perfect embodiment of Himself by his proclamation of His love for Him (for He saw no sin in His Son, but a life being lived in purity), but we hear the commandment of the Father to LISTEN TO HIM! This is the Divine Testimony that the Father concurred that Jesus His Son was LIVING a radically obedient life and that ALL should heed what He says. In the Father's summation, it could not be any better or purer!

While we may never hear the audible voice of God, we will surely experience His peace and His still, small voice as we turn toward Him in all instances of our respective lives. Those of us who have served the Lord for a while know how easy it is to grieve His Spirit away and feel absent of His presence. However, when we begin to turn back to the Lord with an attitude of extravagant or radical obedience, then we begin to sense the Lord rejoicing in us and over us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Thank you for your wonderful example of obedience. May we learn the secret of abiding in your love and life that we would truly be pleasing to the Father in all things. In Christ's name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Bare Soul - The Prodigal Son - May 11, 2008

The following is part of a sermon I delivered at the Kansas City Rescue Mission on May 8, 2008. To listen to the entire message, click the following link or the one at the end of the sermon text.

I believe many of us in this room this evening can identify with the words of Jesus' parable. Let's face it – we're not high rollers if we ended up here tonight. I will wager that not one of us said, "I think I'll leave the comfort of my luxurious home and family to come down and spend a night at the mission. I need to come down and eat and sleep with 50 other guys because I am just getting quite sick of all this comfort and love that I’ve been accustomed to." The truth of the matter is this: Those of us who have spent night after night in missions are there out of necessity and not out of choice. For some of us, this is the “last house on the block”, because all have given up on us. We can relate to the prodigal as he hires himself out to the farmer at the time of famine because he has no other place to go. He is very much like some of you in this room tonight that have exhausted all of your resources. Some of you get monthly checks where you live "high on the hog" for the first few days of the month and then are like the prodigal and are forced to humiliate yourself by relying on missions for a meal and a covering over your head. Others have alienated every friend that you have in regular society because you have used them up like you have “used” throughout your lives with alcohol and drugs. And so, for whatever reason, here you sit once again because you don't have any other option but to rely on the mercy of Christian brothers and sisters that will reach out a hand. Of course there is another option. Every one here has the option of "coming to your senses" like the prodigal did. As I have a finger pointed out at you in the audience tonight, I have three fingers pointed back at myself. I too have sat where you sit. I have heard the appeal of God through someone who has stood where I am standing tonight. The only difference between you and me is that I made a choice to do things differently. This evening, we are going to see how to “do things differently” through the example of the prodigal.

You see, the prodigal was much like many of you when you were younger. Many of you were once part of society before giving yourselves over to alcohol and drugs and then finally to the streets. Back then, you could still give yourself to others and be part of your community because you weren't a total "taker and User". However, drugs and alcohol kept taking from you every bit of selfless living that you once possessed. Addiction is a cruel taskmaster. It bleeds us of every bit of selfless living and makes us demand of ourselves and others to do what is best for "self". It made you a person where all you could think about was your next drink or drug. In so doing, you began using up those people around you where you ended up totally isolated. The "inheritance" of good morals and thinking of others, other than yourself, that your parents or others taught you had gone by the wayside. No longer did you care for anyone but yourself. The time had come where all your inheritance or all that you once had as a self-respecting person of the community had been spent up and now you had hired your self out to your own self destructive behavior. You are no longer your own master, but Satan and your own fleshly alcoholic and addictive nature now rules you. You have given yourself up to the streets just as the prodigal gave himself up to feed swine.

All of us have different “tops” before we hit our respective “bottoms. Some of us had everything at one time – families, good jobs, beautiful homes, fine cars. Others had some of this or maybe none of this. It doesn’t matter. We all had a “high point” in our respective lives before we started the plummet into selfishness, addiction, and sin. Sin is patient and waits for us and grabs hold of our lives at our most vulnerable point, dragging us down to a place of hopelessness. That’s where I was 16 years ago. Years before, I had experienced the streets and was probably closer to going back on the streets than I had been in a long time. Through years of binge drinking and living off of others, I had hit bottom. I had fallen from my own “high point” in life and had wasted the years of love and care that my family instilled in me. It was the beginning of my end.

We have all wandered away from God and man. Your case is just more evident than most, as it was in my case. Other than a brief encounter with God in 1976, my life was a continual running away to that “distant land” as it talks about in the reading. Sure, I had times when I could put together some sobriety, but there were more painful times when I had less than what I see many of you possess. There were times when everything I had was stolen because I was living on the streets and the clothes I wore were filthy. For me, the best thing to do was to keep moving from town to town and city to city, sleeping wherever I was offered a place to sleep. I stayed in several missions and Salvation Army locations throughout those years. Many times I huddled in a covered area in a vacant lot or any other place where I could be out of sight and out of the weather.

So what does it take to come to one's senses like the prodigal? As many of you know, it is not something you can automatically turn on just when you want it. It is not like saying, "Well, that was a pretty horrible experience living on the streets so now I think I will go back to what I had before and become a respectable person once again." If it was as easy as that, many of you would have gone back to respectability long ago. But what you have found is that you are trapped and do not have the will power or the understanding of how to return. I am going to challenge you tonight that very possible the prodigal did not know how to return either, but he made a crucial decision and started on that journey. The scripture states that "he came to his senses". This implies to me that he had not yet come to a place of total repentance, but yet he knew that he must start toward a different live. His senses were convincing him that he had made wrong decisions and now he must remedy his decisions. First of all, he was probably appalled that his clothes were rags. (As I look out in the audience tonight I see that most are dressed quite nice. I am always amazed about this country’s so called "poor". Our street people and poor dress nicer than most of the rest of the world.) Next, he felt the hunger in his stomach knowing that his father's servants were fed much better than what he was presently experiencing. And, lastly but probably even more important, he felt the utter loneliness of being isolated -- isolated from all his former life of family and friends. He was all alone because of the choices he had made and he began to understand this. It wasn't anything anyone did to him. He had a good upbringing as many of you did. Even those of you who did not, it doesn't matter. It was still your choice and the sooner you recognize that you are responsible for the choices you made in life the better. I don't care if your mother and father beat you with barbed wire every Sunday and rammed your heads into the refrigerator on Mondays, it was still you who made the choices that have brought you here tonight. Sure, you may be disadvantaged more than others, but that doesn't mean that God's hand was not there to pull you up if you but have asked and insisted that He do so.

Some of you here tonight would love to get free. You just don't think you know how. The key is to start on the journey back to the Father. Even as the prodigal did not necessarily have all that he wanted when he came to his senses, he knew that in order to get back a portion of what he had lost that he must start the journey back. The scripture says when the prodigal left that he went to a distant country to squander his wealth. The journey back to his father was undoubtedly tough. He had no food, no shelter, and it probably took weeks or months. However, he kept on going knowing that he had no other choice. Was it tough? Of course it was but the alternative was intolerable in the mind of the prodigal. Has the alternative of the streets become intolerable in your minds tonight? It had in mine that is why I can stand before you tonight as a recovering alcoholic of 16 years. When I put the plug in the jug it was just the beginning of my journey back. There are some here tonight that will always scoff at “returning to God”. There are some here who laugh behind the backs of those who have made a decision to enter the Christian Development Program here at KCRM and start the journey back. These are those who have not come to the end of themselves. Possibly, they never will. They will succumb to hopelessness and give themselves to the “swine” of their own circumstances because they don’t have the sense to do otherwise. However, some of you here tonight are on the brink of a decision. You feel yourself on the precipice of hopelessness and you don’t want to fall in, but you desperately want to start to a repentant life with the Lord. How do I start back? Well, like the prodigal you start by starting. You come to your senses and you first tell God that you are ready to start back. Then, you tell everyone in this room that you’re ready to start the journey back. Will it be easy? I guarantee it won’t. Will there be those that will help you? Undeniably! Paul stated in the book of Romans, “Where sin abounds, grace does abound all that much more!!” He is waiting for you tonight to first come to your senses. Understand that you have done a horrible job of steering your life up to this point and that you are ready to begin to have God steer your life back to a life centered on Jesus rather than self.

Lord Jesus, help those that are wanting a changed life to come to their senses tonight and make a decision for you. Let them know that You will be with them every step of the way as they start their journey back to the Father of Mercy. In Jesus name, amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Our Hiding Place - May 4, 2008

Psalm 32:7 - You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

I am so grateful to the Almighty for my life. My days are full of His presence, which makes times with those I love even more special. I am a fortunate man to be so blessed. I am equally grateful for the gift of running that He allows me to enjoy. For me, barefoot running allows me a feeling of closeness with my God and the ability to share my experiences with others through this unusual gift. It is as if God has given me two instruments of worship -- my bare feet -- that allow me the privilege of entering into His presence through a "secret door" where only I know the way. It is like a personalized place that seems to be full of His presence and His joy! (He will never have to say to me "Remove your shoes, for the place where you tread is holy".) I know that when I kick off my daily runs that the Lord Jesus will be there to run and pray and worship and praise with me, all along the way. Although I am out on busy roads and sidewalks during my runs, I feel hidden away and quite isolated with my Lord. It is a wonderful thing to be able to run, uninhibited, and to drink in His presence.

Have you ever considered what are the "spiritual tools" that the Lord has given you that allow you quick access to His presence? Some have told me that they have a special "hiding place" where they go and seek the Lord. This may be a small room or closet within their house that feels secure and welcoming to the Holy Spirit as He descends in a time of communion. Others have told me that they feel and sense this hiding place in the midst of a great woods or a pastoral setting. Guys often tell me that they feel the closeness of God while hunting or fishing where they are surrounded by God's beauty in nature. It really does not matter where we meet God, but that we meet Him! There needs to be a sense of longing and urgency to get to that special place with the Lord as often as possible. This can literally be our very own chapel of devotion. While some meet God on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings in a church setting, others know that there is so much more if they will but take the time to find their own hiding place with God where they can worship Him with abandon. The remarkable thing about worship is that if it is true, Godly worship then it will lead us to thanksgiving and praise of the Eternal One! Worship is the very soil that praise will grow and flourish. Think about this the next time you are drawn into His presence in a place of worship. Thank Him for drawing you and praise Him unabashedly. It will truly be life changing.

No matter what we may be experiencing when coming to a place of worship can be made "right-sized" by our attitude to the Lord. Psalm 32:7 is a remarkable verse in that it does not say that the Lord gives us hiding places from trouble, but that we must be hidden with Him from all life's turmoil. Paul stated this profoundly in Colossians 3:3 "For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." This does not imply that we have to necessarily hide ourselves away in a cubby hole or a closet or to even be lost in the beauty of nature (or even a barefoot run!) It truly states that as New Testament believers that we can KNOW that we have died with Christ on Calvary's tree and that we are now alive with Christ in God. Not only are we sharers of Christ's life but we are "hidden" in Christ where the enemy or our souls can not touch us if we choose to remain within our Fortress of Love. Christ does give us stalwart protection to isolate us from the world, but also to identify us in His life behind the strong walls of His powerful life to make us true disciples.

There is a hiding place for all who would but believe in Him. Physical things such as running, or nature, or whatever location are only shadows of eternal things, and the animate tools he gives us should ultimately lead to the spiritual hiding place of the Most High. If we are only finding this place, arbitrarily and sporadically, at our respective churches then we have horribly missed the mark. God is calling us to places of worship all day long. He desires to hide us away in His presence through simple acts of worship that will lead ultimately to praise and thanksgiving. A lost and dying world is looking and longing to see true examples of those that are lost in His presence, simply hidden in Christ Jesus and living a life that is sanctified and holy for the Lord.

Your Barefoot Servant,


The Bare Soul - Remember! - April 27, 2008

Revelations 2:4-5a - But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first;

I have taken a few spills when running, but probably far less since I started my barefoot running journey. As I have said in some of my earlier writings, eye/foot coordination becomes a highly developed skill when running sans shoes. It has to be, otherwise the consequences might be dire. Occasionally, however, I will still fall from this place of "grace" when my feet don't do exactly what I expect of them. I have probably stubbed one of my toes only 2 or 3 times since running barefoot. When I do, it is a shock back to reality that I am only human when it comes to proper foot placement. I was keenly aware of this a couple of months ago when I whacked a curb with my left foot, not bringing it up high enough to clear. The black toenail was a reminder for the next several weeks of my error.

Sometimes we need reminders not to make the same mistakes whether the result is a stubbed toe or wounding our relationship with Jesus. As believers, we can lose form and spiritual technique long before the proverbial "black toenail" manifests. Subtle divergences off the spiritual path will always be the greatest enemy of the vigilant pilgrim, and compromise will often seek to be the substitute for the diligent soul. It is quite easy to get lackadaisical in our spiritual "form" as we begin to take our walk with the Lord for granted. At times, it may be general laziness or contentment with where we are with God. Then, it can also be a general disassociation with godly things and a new fascination with the things of the world. One might defend their position in this regard and state that they are as busy as ever for Jesus and are stalwart in their devotion. However, it is one thing to be busy with the things of the Lord and quite another to be ministering along side of Him.

When Jesus initially swept us off our feet and we felt such closeness and love, we would do anything for Him and would shun all suspects seeking to interfere with our intimate relationship. We did not need any reminders of His love, peace, and joy. Conversely, when we venture away from God's love and embrace our own way then we are faced with the barrenness of a fruitless life. As the bride states in Song of Solomon 2:16, "My beloved is mine, and I am his". However, before this in verse 15 the bride says to the bridegroom, "Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom." The bride is aware and mindful that enough "little foxes" can destroy an entire vineyard if they are left to eat the grape blossoms. The same thing is true of developing "spiritual fruit" within our lives. We must be vigilant to protect what the Lord has given us to tend and to bring forth His fruit in due season.

However, what is the outcome if one day we "wake up" and find that that our proverbial vineyard has been destroyed? What if the "little foxes" of sin have taken over, little by little, until one day we realize that they have destroyed much of the relationship that we have with the Lord? From this point of clarity we can DO the following:

  • Remember or realize where we have fallen.
  • Repent of our failings and ask God to forgive us.
  • Restore our affections to Jesus through His grace.
  • Rejoice in the Lord and give Him thanks!

The Divine Memory of the Almighty is always there for us to draw upon to remind us of who we were, who we are (in Christ), and who He desires us to be. His reminders are not those of condescending rebukes when we fall from a place of grace, but those of loving memorials to His loving-kindness and mercy. He will most certainly set us once again on the path of righteousness and then with loving direction will correct us with His subtle reminders to cultivate our spiritual "form" and to tend to the way that He has laid out. The most important thing is to remember from whence we have fallen and to quickly ask for His grace to be once again restored!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we give ourselves afresh to You. Keep us in Your grace, steadfast in our affection to You. For You are the One that keeps us mindful of the way in which we should go. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - What is Jesus Doing? - April 20, 2008

John 5:19 - Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.

Recently, I once again had the privilege of sharing the Word of God with the men at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel. After my message and when I was getting ready to leave, a gentleman that I have gotten to know over the months had a request of me. He held out a tiny cross with the initials WWJD on it. Most of us know the acronym and its meaning -- What would Jesus do? He then asked me if I would accept it and wear it at one of my upcoming races. I assured him I would and gladly accepted the small gift, knowing that the exchange had meant a lot to both of us.

I hadn't really thought much about his small token until a few days later while I was mowing the yard. I just happened to look up under the overhang of my roof and I noticed a robin had built a nest in the crook of the down spout. Not many years ago, my first inclination would have been to remove the nest as quickly as possible, because after all, it's my house and I don't want any bird roosting on or near it. However, this particular day I thought "It's not doing any harm ... I'm going to paint this year but I can wait until the young hatch and fly off". To most, this kind of thinking would be second nature. Many of you are kind individuals that wouldn't think about molesting this mother off of her young. To know me, however, before Christ lived in and through me is to know a person that would have been out there immediately with a broom handle knocking the nest away from the house. My rights would have superseded all thoughts of mercy toward this mother and her eggs.

Albert Schweitzer, famed physician and theologian in his 1936 article "The Ethics of Reverence for Life" writes: God does not rest content with commanding ethics. He gives it to us in our very hearts. I once remember a talk by a preacher who mentioned an incident where an old organ or piano was being moved in one of the doctor's locations in Africa, and a large habitation of cockroaches had taken up residence where the musical instrument had been situated. His helper immediately started destroying the seeming pests but Dr. Schweitzer was horrified and yelled, "STOP!" as he hurriedly corralled the remaining colony and took them outside. He had such a reverence for life that he was appalled at the thought of killing them regardless of their perception by most. This may be a little extreme for some of our own western sensibilities. However, the doctor had been changed radically through his faith and conviction for life of all forms, no matter their seeming insignificance.

The bird incident made me stop and think about the difference between What Would Jesus Do? and What is Jesus Doing (WIJD) ? The former is an ideal that folks can try to live up to -- a higher plane of living that one can try to emulate as one would a sensei or a great teacher. The latter is looking in one's heart and life and seeing the Risen Lord DOING things that can not be explained as an action or reaction that was familiar to the "old self". WWJD implies emulation, while WIJD requires identification. To identify with the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection means that we have come into a new life and that our "old self" has been totally removed from the equation. Paul correctly stated in Galatians 5:22 that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ living in him. The robin's nest is only one of a myriad of other instances that any number of us who know the Lord can testify to regarding how he has changed us radically from within. The changed or "exchanged life" manifests through simple things that are opposed to the character of who we were as when we practiced sin. Consequently, there are many things that I no longer wish to do that I once did, because a new Life has taken up residence. It is a miracle that this recovering alcoholic does not desire a drink because the most natural thing for an alcoholic to do is drink or at the very least desire to do so. It is a miracle that today I desire to be a giver and not taker -- to be faithful and not faithless to both God and those I love -- to live the holy life that my Lord desires, for truly He is there to lead with loving direction.

As believers in the Lord Jesus, our desire should not merely be to emulate our Father in heaven but to do the things He does, even as the Son said He did the things He saw His Father doing in heaven. We really don't have to ask the question What Would Jesus Do? if we are rightly related to Him. We merely have to look at our day in retrospect and how we behave toward each other (or God's creation) to know if we are doing the works of our Lord. As Dr. Schweitzer stated, God is not in the business of commanding us to be ethical, but He is in the business of living holy lives through those He resides in. As days turn into weeks, months, year and we know that He has been moving and doing and being within us, then it is truly the miracle of the exchanged life within. If we still need to ask What Would Jesus Do? then possibly we have not entered into that Living Relationship with the One who desires to live through us. Only when we are KNOWING what Jesus is doing through us are we truly living!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, may I not merely emulate your holy life, but may I share in it daily by Christ living through me. May I know Him and the power of His resurrection. For truly in Him we live and move and have our being. In Jesus name. Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Beyond Ourselves - April 13, 2008

Jeremiah 15:11- The LORD said, "Surely I will set you free for purposes of good; Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you in a time of disaster and a time of distress."

As many of you know, barefoot running literally set me free back in 2003 from achy joints and the possibility of knee surgery. As time passed, I have realized that not everyone has "ears to hear" what I purport about my running recovery. That's okay. I realize barefoot running is not for everyone. However, I have realized that God has given me an extraordinary gift that garners some attention. It is my responsibility as a believer to "decrease so He can increase". It is with joy that I try to give back through my witness and charity work to those around me, both in person and through cyberspace.

Everyone that knows the Lord Jesus Christ and has trusted in His grace has been set free from their respective lives of sin. God does not merely set us free to lounge in His pleasure, drinking in the fellowship of His love and goodness. Each and everyone of us who know the Lord have been set free to help to set others free. It is our responsibility to be faithful to Jesus' admonition to go forth and make disciples of all nations. That literally means to make others like myself! Around 400 years ago, John Donne the Jacobean Poet/Preacher stated "...No man is an island, entire of itself ..." Certainly Jeremiah felt this affinity toward the nation of Israel. He identified with it -- he wept for it as God moved through him with His own aching heart. Jeremiah 15 is atypical of the "weeping prophet's" dilemma of standing in the gap between God and the nation of Israel. The prophet has been shut up in prison by evil King Manasseh and the Lord is pronouncing the king's and his rebellious nation's doom. In verse 10, Jeremiah cries out to God and says, "Woe to the mother who bore me" and began his complaint to God for even being borne to such a grievous task. God quickly stops Jeremiah and states that He has a higher, nobler call for the prophet rather than languishing in a prison. The Lord stated that He would set Jeremiah "... free for purposes of good." Beyond that, God stated that Jeremiah's enemies (the ruling class of Israel) would humble themselves to the prophet when Jerusalem was besieged from without by the Assyrians.

While most of us have not spent time languishing behind bars, many of us have spent years enslaved to sin and its dire consequences. While my selfishness was fortified by alcohol addiction, others suffer just as debilitating "prisons" in their own lives. Jesus said, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed". Following this freedom comes the very ambassadorship that Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:20 where we have the privilege of representing our Lord and helping others be free from a similar "prison". I take my "ambassadorship" very circumspectly to the men at the local mission where I volunteer. I continue to build friendships with these men because they know that I too have come from a similar background of homelessness aggravated by addiction. When I share the Word with these men once a month in chapel, they understand and relate. Truly, if I were a Japanese ambassador for our country, I would not be as comfortable with an interpreter as I would be knowing the language and communicating directly. Truly, I know these men's "language" when it comes to the heartaches of what sin produces in its many manifestations. Even as in Jeremiah's time when the rulers came to him and released him from prison and sought his advice regarding Israel's onslaught, so even today those who are truly set free from sin will experience those who once were hostile to the Gospel actually coming, asking, "What shall we do to be saved?"

Then, there are those who are so duped by the enemy that they haven't a clue that they are still in their own prisons of sin. There are countless folks who have attempted to turn this scripture around and try to do "good" through lives of giving and helping others to balm their conscience and to gain their salvation. While there are numerous noble works of charity being accomplished by millions throughout the world, it all means nothing in the light of eternity if they do not know the Lord. Jesus said in John 8:24 "Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [the Messiah], you will die in your sins." Jesus Christ offers a way out of our prison pits of hopelessness. THEN, He will equip us to do good.

For those of us who know the Lord, let us ask this question of ourselves: "What is our personal message to a dying world around us? Is our ambassadorship being received in a noticeable way? Are others understanding that our lives were once sin-stained and without hope until we came and laid them at the feet of Jesus? Friends, he has commissioned all of us to GO and to be His ambassadors to a dying world. We were not saved to be safe and content, but to pour out our lives even as Christ poured out His. If we are not giving, we are truly dying inside. What are the "purposes of good" that God wants you to accomplish today? If we have not experienced and known that He has truly set us free from the dungeon of sin and despair it is unlikely we will feel much compelled to be a thankful people ready to do His will. May we all understand that He brought us all out of treacherous rebellion to Him and into a place where we can lead others to His pastures of delight!

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The following is a link to a 24 minute talk entitled "Beyond Ourselves" that I recently gaveto my homeless friends at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel.
Beyond Ourselves - Kansas City Rescue Mission - April 10, 2008

The following is a link to a 45 minute talk with the same title given at New Haven Church, Overland Park Kansas.
Part I - Beyond Ourselves - New Haven Church - April 13, 2008 (21 min. 56 sec.)

The Bare Soul - The Word Brings Life - April 6, 2008

1 Peter 1:23 - For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

It's always refreshing to see someone "get it". This is definitely true with barefoot running as one begins to reap the benefits of learning ball/heel, or if you like mid-foot strike technique. The minimal impact incurred running barefoot versus running with shoes is remarkable in most new convert's minds as they begin their barefoot running journey. Or, for those of you who are not runners, when you understand why someone like myself or others would run barefoot in the first place. Of course, most readers know that in my case, necessity (bad knees) became the mother of invention. For the uninformed, it is quite easy for someone to shout from a car window "Hey, get some shoes on ..." not understanding the method behind the seeming madness.

We all have moments of clarity when the lights literally come on regarding life's situations. We think we understand, but when the epiphany comes we will never again look at the situation quite the same way. We may have possessed an intellectual understanding of something, but once we experience the truth and the reality it all becomes brilliantly clear. I can vividly remember the birth of my children, especially my first child and son, Benaiah. Even though it was nearly 23 years ago, the image and joy of that moment is still transfixed into my memory. When Benaiah's head popped out and he came into this world, I was overcome with joy and love for my newborn son. I wept uncontrollably, hearing his cry as he breathed air for the first time. One could never have related to me how I would feel at that precise moment in time. I witnessed the miracle of birth and it captivated my spirit, soul, and body to the point where I was overcome with emotion. (Note: Today is my second son, Samson's 21st birthday. Happy birthday son!)

The joyousness of the moment of birth in the heart of a father is shown over and over again in the scripture as the Father of Lights draws us to a place of accepting His Son as our Personal Savior -- to be literally changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite examples of this is when Jesus is talking to the crowds regarding the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) and He declares that there is joy in heaven when someone repents and experiences the new birth. I believe that there is a joyous outburst of the Trinity along with all the saints and the angels in heaven when someone truly turns to God. However, I believe becoming a true son or daughter of God goes much deeper than merely uttering a few words as "every head is bowed and all eyes are closed". Even Paul understood this as he addressed King Agrippa in Acts 26:27-28. Agrippa told Paul that ... In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian. Agrippa's thought patterns had changed and he may well have been on his way to conversion, but conversion is not salvation. Converted thinking may lead to salvation, but is not salvation in and of itself. The knowledge and converted mind must take up residence 18 inches below the head in the heart. When the Word lives in the heart then someone like Agrippa can say as Isaiah said ... "Woe as me, I am a man of unclean lips" and later that "... our own righteousness is as filthy rags". To be born again is not merely hearing the Word of God and making a decision to follow Jesus Christ. It is much more than that. It is a deep understanding that the Risen Son died for us, and that He has invited us to be identified with His death that we might walk in His Life! (Romans 6:4). This does not come by just reading a scripture and making a decision. It comes by seeing that we are wretched sinners that have violated our existence on this earth by being creatures of sin that have transgressed against a Holy God!

True understanding is only limited by our experience. If we have never "walked in someone else's shoes" (or bare feet!) we can never say equivocally that we understand their experience. Others may look on with admiration at a Christian's life and think they live admirably and respectively in this world of ours. Yet, they may never understand that as Paul stated, "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me" unless they too become born again by the power of the Living Word. Those who have truly experienced the life changing power of God and know the reality of the Risen Lord wag their heads when folks commend them on their respectable lives. They know that the reality of their understanding only came through the Living Word which demonstrably changed their life from the inside-out. Only His Word can bring this type of life altering change. May heaven rejoice, this day, over many who would not only hear the word, but allow it to live through them.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Eternal Growth - March 30, 2008

Psalm 89:2 - For I have said, "Loving-kindness will be built up forever; In the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness."

The longer I run barefoot, the more I learn about my form and ability. It would be foolish to believe that I will not continue to improve if I keep at it (as I do) on a daily basis. However, it only makes sense that if I don't practice, that I will eventually lose what has been given to me regarding this knowledge. As I relate this to other parts of my life, I know that the Lord Jesus wants me to continue to grow and mature in all areas of my Christian walk with Him. Furthermore, I believe that He wants me to continue to grow even after this temporal life.

The implications of the scripture selection for this week are astounding and incomprehensible to the human mind. To understand God in the finite way that we know Him is to understand (at least conceptually) that He is eternal and without limitations. Even as we grow in skills, abilities and more importantly love and affection upon this earth, why would it be such a stretch to believe that we will continue to grow in eternity? Even as God is eternal and unfathomable, the aforementioned verse implies that there will be a continual building of God's nature and character in all of us. God is Love, as I John 4:8 tells us. How wonderful to know that God's love and mercy is eternal and without limit! How exciting to know that we will be continually growing in His wonderful presence in the Lord's fruits as stated in Galatians 5:22-23 -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. The wonderful thing about the second part of the scripture implies that God will be faithful to establish this eternal happening in Glory.

I find it interesting in the Old Testament that God told Moses to identify the cherubim that covered the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Respectively, they were named Mercy (or Loving-kindness) and Justice. The scripture reference in Psalm 89 states that there will not be a need for a continual building of justice in eternity. Once humankind is judged either at the Judgment Seat of Christ (for believers) or the Great White Throne judgment (for unbelievers) then justice will be complete. However, for God's elect there awaits a continual growth of His nature toward us who believe.

Mind you, it won't mean that we will not be perfect and without blemish when we enter His presence on that glorious day. However, it does mean that our affections toward Him and others will continue to grow, even in eternity. Let me use an onion as example. When one peels away the first layer, we understand that this is a part of the onion. The character or the nature of the onion will never change. It will always be an onion. It will never be anything less or more. However, consider that we are God's "eternal onions" with layer upon layer of perfection and beauty just waiting for proverbial "peeling back". Glory Hallelujah! The very thought of it should excite any believer, knowing that eternity will be a continual growing experience into more of the presence and character of the Lord.

Just as on this earth, we will continue to improve and grow in our respective natures -- whether they be good or evil. My friends, there will not be a "graduation" of sorts that we have finally arrived in heaven someday and that nothing will change for eternity. No, it won't be a time when we will be blissfully sitting on clouds strumming harps in a state of eternal perfection. It will be glorious opportunity to continue to grow in the Lord and to serve Him and others even as we do on earth. Remember the line in the Lord's Prayer? Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. The implication is the Lord wants dynamic change on earth to mirror what is happening in heaven. Life on earth, my friends, is merely a dress-rehearsal for the continued, eternal growth that our heavenly home will afford to those who believe.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Orderly Living - March 23, 2008

Romans 1:20 - For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

In the locale that I work, we have many small residential and corporate lakes and ponds. In the Midwest, wherever you find groomed lawns around bodies of waters one will usually find Canadian Geese. Generally, without fail, I will encounter these birds on my daily lunchtime runs. I am one to observe their social aspects with one another and I have noticed that they have distinct seasonal behaviors. For instance, in the winter they are gaggled together and usually don't make much of a fuss if an outsider comes along. However, there is a time in late winter when those two years old and older start to pair up and retreat from the gaggle, some with new mates and for those who are older, with the same mate as they are monogamous. They start to get a little "tense" this time of the year and if you approach the pair too quickly the male will begin to honk as they slowly retreat.

Fast forward a couple of months and the females have begun to lay their eggs. At this time, the male becomes slightly more than tense, but actually aggressive if he thinks that someone is going to molest his mate or their eggs. Several times in the springtime, I have ran by a roosting female only to have the male fly up and down toward my head as it does its best impression of a P51 dive bomber. I have only been hit once by an aggressive male, but they get your attention quickly. Usually a little bit of arm waving will ward them off. Other times, the male will come waddling after me, hissing in a spiteful way for me to vacate the area. In either instance, they are serious about the business of incubating a family and have little patience with intruders or suspected enemies.

Then comes summer. The goslings are close by and they learn to run after mother and father away from apparent danger. They are teaching their young that it is much preferable to retreat rather than fight a larger "enemy". Finally, fall and winter come when they become a social gaggle again relying on the group and using the group's guidance for the best foraging spots, etc. When I see this protective, survivalist behavior of animals such as geese, it fills me with wonder. I don't struggle with the idea that God created and ordered existence and purpose within all of his creatures and creation. I don't ponder whether our world was created out of a random collision of matter. I see God's hand in everything around me and I wonder at the absurdity to think any other way. "Who else but God would have hard-wired their instincts in such a manner?", I would reflect. How else would they even know that survival is the preferred outcome if God had not written that in their instinct? For truly, if this is a random happen-stance then survival means nothing. Regarding humans, everything becomes relative and non-sensical to attempt to relate survival to our species, not to mention mores' and laws that govern our societies. It would all be meaningless if there was no God and His son the Lord Jesus Christ.

Aldous Huxley, one of the originators of today's humanist movement, saw things much differently. To be able to capsulate one's thoughts and beliefs to fit his desired lifestyle, he wrote the following:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves... For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.
-- Aldous Huxley in Ends and Means, 1937
Mr. Huxley's notions are symptomatic of many in our world today that desire to see and understand this world as they want to. It is too upsetting and life-style threatening to think that there are laws written into the universe -- not only laws of survival such as the earlier example of geese, but laws of love, mercy, retribution, and judgment that are non-negotiable. As the laws of this universe are upheld by a loving and righteous God, there will always be those who would seek to dismiss the divine order as a fluke and random experience. Ordered living has no appeal to most who would attempt to dismiss a God of laws and statutes. (However, let the humanist or the atheist's house be robbed and we'll see if they don't cry for justice against their malefactor.) Either one must accept that the material universe is created by a divine power, or one must believe the fairy tale of "Once upon a time -- poof! Things just kind of came together!" If one comes to grips with the former, then they must understand that this God is not merely a "higher power" but more importantly is a God that sent His Son to redeem a lost race. The decision is always ours to make, either from our own self-deception or His Divine Logic.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - God's Encouraging Love - March 16, 2008

I am constantly reminded through God's creation how much He loves us. Whether it be a a gorgeous red and orange morning sky, a clear starlit night, or through a rainbow after a misty rain (or in any number of ways), God is always there speaking if we would but listen and observe. Personally, I have something that has been happening to me the past few months that has me in awe. It seems that hawks and falcons have been my companion more than I can remember. It started a few months ago when I was walking from one outside alcove to another at my corporate campus. I was taken totally by surprise when a falcon swooped through the covered walkway inches over my head and headed back up into blue sky. From that time on, I have been conscious of the dozen or so other experiences where hawks or falcons will either be swooping in front of me during one of my runs or simply soaring over my head as I am out on one of my many running routes. They are random encounters that appear to be different birds on each occasion. They strike me of the suddenness of how God infuses our lives with His loving encouragement. How wonderful to know that God uses an animal with some of the keenest eye sight on the planet to remind us that He is watching over us!

It is not uncommon for us all to go through trying times and to feel like we are all just going through the motions. I wrote recently how running (not to mention daily life!) can become mundane and generally joyless. I find it remarkable and inspiring when the Lord Jesus comes "suddenly into His temple" (Malachi 3:1) and He speaks His loving words, such as through creation's metaphors. The wonderful thing about Christ doing this is that it doesn't matter what He speaks, because He is the Life-giver! Everything that He will speak to us will bring forth life if we allow it. Even those words of correction or discipline are joyous reminders of how much He loves us (Proverbs 13:24).

Birds of prey are truly remarkable creatures of God. They soar above all the earth and seem to be untouched by the turmoil below. Yet, they have uncanny eyesight and are able to size up the situation below them to the smallest detail. God gently reminds us that He loves us and cares for every detail of our lives as we are enveloped in His beautiful wing metaphors throughout the scripture. Not only will we mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31), but we will also be protected and covered by the wings and pinions of His love (Psalm 36:7). The reminder of His spiritual majesty by the physical manifestations of the birds of prey in my life lift my heart and my soul to fly with God in those moments. What has the Lord shown you of His wonderful love through creation? It may be something as simple as a sunrise or the redemption story of the Lord Jesus Christ in the seasons of the year corresponding to His death, burial, and resurrection. Creation cries out declaring the glory of His Majesty (Psalm 19:1). May God share His whispers of love with all of us through His marvelous creation!

Lord, may we all experience your majesty and love through the wonders of the world we live in. Creation speaks joyously of your love. Thank you for your precious love whispers. In Jesus Name. Amen

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - God's Renewable Energy - March 9, 2008

Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV) - It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

People often ask me, "How do you run every day?" They are curious, I guess, how one keeps motivated to run in good and bad weather, through aches and pains, and just general laziness on my part. Believe me, I have plenty of other areas of my life that I struggle with consistency, but running doesn't seem to be one of them. Every day can throw up a variety of obstacles why I shouldn't run, but so far I have been able to effectively surmount them. To the most part, I attribute my tenaciousness to a love for running. I don't look at it like exercise or a healthy hobby, but I look at it first and foremost as my connectedness to spirit, soul, and body. It is truly the most "centering" thing that I do everyday that keeps me connected with the good things in my heart, especially God. The added benefits of health and general wellness are secondary, to me. I guess that is why it is somewhat easier for me to run than for others who are merely motivated for health reasons. Bodily health was never my main motivator to do anything in my life, so it only makes sense that I couldn't stay motivated long to run thousands upon thousands miles as I have without another motive.

Finding passions or "life hobbies" can take a while for some of us. I didn't find running until I was 36 years old, nearly 16 years ago. Others find their niche' much earlier in life and pursue it with passion. Others never find anything that really keeps them motivated and looking forward to a daily, passionate pursuit. Our earthly pursuits can be fun and a healthy diversion from the stress of every day living. There is of course our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ which is the most important "daily" pursuit that any of us will ever partake in. If we truly know the Lord, He will provide us, daily, with unlimited grace and mercy to meet all our daily needs. Jesus taught us to pray so eloquently in the Lord's Prayer "... Give us this day our daily bread". This implies all of our daily sustenance for body, soul, and spirit. This is reinforced so beautifully in the scripture selection for this week when Jeremiah states by the Holy Spirit that God's love and compassion are boundless and without fail. Even if we feel that we have exhausted God's supply of love and faithfulness in a single day, the promise remains that they will be renewed every morning. God allows us the wisdom of rest and sleep only to recharge our spiritual batteries for another day of passionate pursuit. It is His promise that He cannot deny us, nor would He want to. He is full of mercy and loving-kindness that must have an outlet and be graciously poured out on His people.

In our modern world, there is much talk about "renewable energies". Thank God that He was the originator of energy that is renewed every day. All we have to do is accept it. Passions and pursuits will ebb and change over time, but His faithfulness will never falter nor fade. There is an unlimited supply of His mercy and grace that will continue to fuel our lives if we will only rely and trust in Him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you that your nature is love. Thank you that your nature is mercy and grace. As a limitless God, you have more than enough for each and every one of us to daily partake of our passionate pursuit of your Personage. You are an awesome, unfathomable Savior that longs and desires to share your abundance of riches with us. Lord, let us look to you daily, knowing that you are the originator of power and energy that can never be exhausted. We thank you for the richness of your love, mercy, and grace. In Jesus name. Amen.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Passionate Pursuit - March 2, 2008

Song of Solomon 1:4a - Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers.

Running, just like anything else can become a chore. I feel like I have some advantage over many of my shod counterparts in that my barefoot running allows me to feel more like a kid and be literally "foot loose and fancy free". However, just like anything we do on a daily basis, even something I enjoy so much can become tedious if I allow it. Truly, I am and always will be the one that controls how I feel -- whether a run is mundane or whether it makes me feel enlivened by my attitude and willingness. When I feel that it is just me out there running, going through the motions then the run is usually just "okay". However, when I invite Jesus along the dynamics change exponentially. For one thing, I can't help but grin when He is consciously with me. There is an inner peace and a conversation that is usually going on. A good part of the time it is just me talking to Him in the spirit of my mind. But then there are those special moments when He interjects His loving words into my heart. Oftentimes, He teaches me in metaphor. Every week in The Bare Soul I try to share some of this "fresh manna" that He drops into my heart. They are splendid truths for me and I try to make them relevant life lessons as I share them with you.

Probably the greatest metaphor of Christ and His church in scripture is the Song of Solomon. While on the surface one might look at it only as a wedding song of Solomon to his bride, it is clearly much more. In the case of the bride speaking to the bridegroom in this wonderful passage, she seeks Him out and adjures Him to draw her after Him as they run in love and passion. The scripture is definite in that it mentions where they are running - to the king's chambers! This place of intimacy is where Jesus will always be seeking to bring us, as He pulls us along in love-clasped hands.

Many of us know and remember the passion of our heart-throb and how it did not matter what we were doing as long as we were together. Mine continues even to this day. My wife and I have "date night" every Saturday night that we are both in town. This entails, 99% of the time, dinner and a movie. Most of the time we enjoy both the dinner and the movie. Sometimes, one or the other is not quite what we expected, but it was still a great date night because we got to spend the evening together. I think about a story I heard about an older couple that spent the entire evening reading their respective books in the same small living room. At the end of the evening when it was time to turn in the wife turned to her husband and said, "Hasn't this been a wonderful evening together?" They had not said but few words to one another the entire time, but merely being with one another provided a feeling of love and wholeness for them both. This type of living and loving does not happen overnight. It started with the passion of pursuing one another until they knew that their respective passions were captured in their lover's heart, mind, and soul. They were secure in their love and the pursuit had turned into joyous, loving captivity!

Running is one of my life's passions. However, my foremost passion is Jesus and how I might please Him. It is wonderful, as I already stated, when I seek out Jesus to run with me. The question to myself and to all who read this is: Do I passionately pursue him to be involved in all areas of my life? Speaking of running, is He "running my life" or am I selfishly content to allow other passions and loves to be nestled around my own ambition devoid of any invitation to Him who saved my soul? Every time I invite Jesus to be intimately involved in my life, he accepts my invitation and draws me after Him into that place of deeper intimacy through my obedience. Often, it is He who first makes the offer and my acceptance is contingent on my place of obedience, or rather how ready I am to turn to Him with complete adoration and follow.

It doesn't take long to see those who have truly given themselves to Christ in this way. Our love-sickness will be evident as we show this world that there is a God of love that desires and yearns for them. As we allow ourselves to be drawn into passionate pursuit and ultimate capture by our Lord, this relationship will hopefully compel those around us to want to run in newness of life with the Risen Lord. There truly is an intimate life to be lived with the Living Lord. (It should be our passion to live it and give it to others.) We must merely put out our hand and invite Him to draw us into that intimate place of eternal love and happiness. It is as easy as reaching out and taking His blessed hand!

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - When Endurance is Not Enough! - February 24, 2008

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Long distance running is not something to be taken lightly. There should be a lot of preparation. Physically, there should (of course) be the training miles, but then there must be the mental preparation that gives a runner confidence to complete the distance. I have seen so many "bonk" before they get to the finish line mainly because they had not adequately prepared for the distance. For a runner, mental ability can be as important as physical training and ability. If you first lose the will to run in the mind, then you will lose the will to run where the shoe (or in my case the sole) hits the road.

So often I hear Hebrews 12:1-2 quoted in regard to running and endurance sports. It is a wonderful couple of verses that give us a mental image of a runner persevering with all intention of crossing the finish line. Of course, this is a metaphor for the race that Christians must run to compete for the heavenly prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus. As with runners that have prepared themselves only physically for the challenge of the long distance run, I see so many Christians who have not taken the time to complete the more important part of the verse that precedes "running with endurance".

Many "believers" line up at the proverbial start line of their Christian faith not understanding the course laid out before them. They don't understand that merely confessing Christ as their Savior and giving up this or that for Him is sufficient to "run" through life and be happy, joyous, and free. They may experience these feelings for a while, but when the race begins to be arduous they will falter in their faith. Jesus Christ does not expect us to run the race in our own strength or power, and He knows that we will never have the endurance to finish as we should without addressing EVERYTHING that is opposed to his Spirit and Life. "Encumbrances" as defined by Webster are things that are burdensome or a hindrance. Daily, we have opportunity to please the Lord with lives of obedience or by living selfishly ambitious for our own goals. The truly sanctified believer knows the momentary pain of "laying aside" something that they might love, yet is a hindrance to their walk with the Lord. I say momentary, because once a point of obedience is acknowledged and then "walked in", then the Christian is truly happier and more fulfilled by making that decision. Obedience, or the lack of, will be the one huge determiner whether or not we have the strength and power to run with endurance the race before us. Some may put on a show that they are running life's race in His power, but in time it will show differently when they lose the love and commitment for their Lord and others.

In marathoning, I like to carry a few gel packs with me for needed energy bursts. These are small collapsible aluminum packs of carbohydrate concoctions made with fruit or syrups. They give a runner that needed kick to keep going when the going gets tough. Christ provides us "spiritual gel packs" during our life race that are filled with the ingredients to keep on keeping on. Things such as hope, faith, and love that are jam-packed in His containers of wisdom that we know when to draw on at the most critical moments of our own race. However, I used the operative word "provide". He will only give us these needed stores through our obedience to His word and how he wants each and every one of us to walk our individual Christian lives. It is remarkable what may or may not work for a runner. Just because God has told me to do a certain thing in my walk with Him, does not mean that He will tell another the same thing. We are uniquely individual to our Lord, so therefore He deals with us as individuals for the more concentrated areas of obedience. This is the secret of individual sanctification. One will never reach their own by modeling after another's life.

The race is before all of us who believe. For those of you who are doubters and unbelievers, I encourage you to line up with us and start your own endurance race with the Lord. For those who would seek a shallow relationship with their God and then try to complete the race set before them, they will not be able to finish strong in the Lord because the Word says they will be encumbered and hindered along the course. Life will be full of compromises that would seek to distract us from the race set before us. No manner or amount of human endurance will allow us to finish the course as Jesus would desire. Endurance, in and of itself will always leave us coming up short of the finish line. We will by all means need to understand that Jesus is our Coach and He is the One that will provide the energy and fortitude along the way. May we all find His hope, His faith, His love along the way that will propel us to complete the wonderful course before us. Without Him as our Provider, we will truly fail, but with Him we can only win the race set before us.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Backed Into A Corner? - February 17, 2008

Psalm 31:7-8 - I will rejoice and be glad in Your loving-kindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul, And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place.

It is good to have options, especially as a runner and knowing where to place your foot with each stride. Even more so is this fundamental with barefoot running. Tight running along narrow trails can be difficult and somewhat limiting to the next foot strike. However, it feels liberating when the path is wide, or even better yet when there is not even necessarily a path but just a broad expanse to run. On occasion, I will run through pasture land barefoot when the grass is just coming up in the springtime. The visibility is great and there is no need to feel constricted on where to run.

As I stated, it is good to have options. No one likes to feel that they are backed into a corner with no where to turn. When David wrote the aforementioned psalm, he was obviously thinking from a battle strategy point of view. How much better to be able to see all his options as the enemy closed in on him while standing his ground in the "large place"? Many an army commander can testify to the terror of being pinned down in a forested scenario where the enemy is dug in and picking off his soldiers one by one. There is really only two options in a situation such as this: Either wait and hope help comes or try to flank your enemy and draw them into open combat. David's writings imply that he had been in similar situations. He stated that God did not allow him to be hemmed in, but He set his feet in a large place. With more options to move about freely, David could and did rout his enemy as the Lord strengthened him.

Is this not true for our own lives? How often do we feel hemmed in by the struggles and strives of daily living? It it's not the bills then one of the kids is sick or there are lay-off fears at work or any number of things that would seek to back us into that proverbial corner. The Lord Jesus Christ stated "Take no thought for what you will eat or drink or for what you will wear, but seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you". What a glorious promise! Without a doubt, there are going to be times when all of us feel out-flanked by the enemy of our souls and we will feel like there is no way out. As David believed, we must know that God will never abandon us if we keep trusting. Even when our faith is frail and non-existent He stated through Paul in the first book of Timothy that "If we are faithless, He remains faithful". The Lord Jesus knows we are but dust and that we will return to dust. Therefore, He is patient with our failings and our unbelief. The most important thing is to keep growing in faith and listening to His continual testimonies to our souls, how He continues to deliver us.

David wrote a vast majority in retrospect. Retrospect, or "our history" as I like to call it is the most valuable thing we have to build faith. In Psalm 103:1 David writes "Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name, And forget none of His benefits toward you". The word "remember" is used 167 times in the bible (New International Version). Sounds to me like the Lord wants us to be mindful of many things that are relevant to how we live and believe. These things, if taken to heart will not allow us to be hemmed in by the enemy, our unbelieving thoughts, or by the nay-sayers around us.

My prayer for all of us is a simple one: Remember the Lord. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will make our paths straight. Better yet, He will set us in a large place where we will have room for mobility away from the negative, debilitating thinking of the World and Satan that would seek to paralyze us with fear. Move forth in faith! He has large, spacious places for us all to dwell in!

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Vertical Direction - February 10, 2008

Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

It was about the time I started writing The Bare Soul early last year that my barefoot logo took on a different appearance. Instead of the flat, capital T in BAREFOOTRUNNER.ORG, the T grew in vertical direction to be a t. (Actually, it had to become a lowercase t first which is really appropriate since it had to be a humble font before it could be exalted vertically!) This was an outward manifestation of what was going on with my barefoot running. Previously, I believe that there was still so much of me in my barefoot running, that just like the horizontally-centric T in my logo, I was just reaching out to others yelling out at the top of my proverbial lungs, "Look at me! Aren't I cool?". This was a waste of both my time and theirs. I had failed in the most important aspect of connecting with people and that is not taking our encounters and making them spiritual relationships that have some eternal value. I had overlooked moving in a vertical direction to the Lord Jesus.

Before there can be an upward call, there has to be an awareness of a call and a sense of upward direction. Otherwise, we will be satisfied with our earthly relationships and not try to find a deeper significance in our dealings with humankind. Some folks find great satisfaction in just "loving on people". This is fantastic and true for as the lyricist wrote "What the world needs now, is love sweet love". However, if love toward my neighbor is devoid of love for God and thereby not channeled through Him, then it is meaningless in the grand scheme of life. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment He said "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul". Jesus went on to state that the second greatest commandment was equally important -- "... And you must love your neighbor as yourself". Of the four billion plus persons in our world, millions upon millions are desiring to fulfill what I call the "Good Commission". The Great Commission, as many of us know is Jesus Christ's admonition to go into the whole world preaching the Gospel and making disciples. The "Good Commission" overlooks God totally. It is a humanistic endeavor that is atheistic in intent and just desires that we would all come together, love one another and just get along. Kind of like a gathering of humankind sitting around a global campfire singing "Kum-Bay-Ya" but totally dismissive of the words "My Lord" in the song. It is so easy to accept the "good" rather than the "great". Souls are pouring into hell every day because Satan has duped them into believing that just their "good" works will save them, rather than humbling themselves to the "great and perfect" blood of Jesus. Only He will transform us to reach out with HIS love to those around us.

Love is a wonderful thing. However, love that has not been fashioned first in a vertical fashion with our Lord Jesus Christ will ultimately fail as we reach out horizontally to our neighbor. As with the analogy of my "T", it is so easy to think that if we are reaching out to others that we are being a good person. Hell would love for us to continue to believe this. Even with my self-adulation in barefoot running, it wouldn't have mattered how much money or good I did for the homeless and those crippled if it was not the love of Jesus reaching down and through me to others. What matters first and foremost is to know that this life is so much more than just about ourselves. As long as we are pressing on toward that upward call, we will not shun the Father's love and how He wishes to reach back down through us to change the world around us. This is not grandiosity or "pie in the sky" thinking, but it is a knowing and believing that the very thing that Jesus Christ started in his church, He will fulfill it. Let's all be available and press on toward love that matters, so we can live for others.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick

The Bare Soul - Personal Revival - Psalm 119 - February 3, 2008

I love reading the Psalms. They are truly eloquent, heartfelt demonstrations of souls crying out to God. Part of my daily bible reading is the Psalms. I have always thought that Psalm 119 was one of the most beautiful and poignant examples of a heart crying out to the Lord. I have read this Psalm probably hundreds of times, but verses 33-40 jumped off the page to me on this occasion. I occurred to me that I was reading a wonderful blueprint for personal revival. And of course, personal revival once achieved can become collective revival as more and more souls cry out for the same things for their own churches and communities. Here are some of my thoughts about this passage and how a proper understanding can lead a soul to a revived relationship with the Lord Jesus:

Psalm 119:33-40

Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.

This passage doesn't say "teach me Your statutes" but teach me the "way of Your statutes". It is a much different thing to be tutored to understand every dot and tittle of God's law, but it is quite another to be instructed in the way of His statutes. Once a person understands the "way" of God's thinking, then the law does not need to come down one by one, but there is a deep understanding of His nature and how He would respond to every situation through the law written on a person's heart. Jesus proclaimed in John 5:19 that He could only do those things which He saw His Father in heaven doing. Once we are led in the "way" of His statutes then we will better understand the nature of the One leading us.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your lawAnd keep it with all my heart.

Understanding comes in levels. As a child, I understood that I must stop and look both ways when I crossed the street because my mother told me to and I respected her enough to obey her command. As I got older, it became clear that in order to preserve life and limb, that this was a good practice. I may not totally understand God's laws and why I must obey, but it will become clearer and clearer the more I grow in Him and learn to trust that His laws are good.

Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,For I delight in it.

Psalm 36:9 states "... In Your light, we see light". Any trail runner can tell you that a good headlamp or handheld flashlight is essential when night running. As those of us who are believers head down life's dark paths, it is good and comforting to know that our Father lights our path so that we turn not to the right or to the left. I don't need the entire area illuminated, for when there is too much around me to "see" (the lust of the eyes) then it is easy to get my sight off the path in front of me. Thank you Lord Jesus for illumining just where I need to go in the next few steps and that I don't need to know where I am going days and weeks down the proverbial path. You make me walk (or run!) in the path of your commandments by illumining my way!

Incline my heart to Your testimonies, And not to dishonest gain.

Webster defines "incline" as "meaning to influence one to have or take an attitude toward something". It is quite easy in our world to give way to relativity and compromise allowing our "gains" to be something other than honest. I believe this verse is talking much more about character than money, although money and how we deal with it is a fruit of our character. What I believe the Lord is saying here through the psalmist is that first I must have a strong inclination toward the testimonies of God. The testimonies of God are all around us. Psalm 19:1 states that "The heavens are telling of the glory of God". This is a testimony of God that he controls nature, the seasons, the stars, the planets, and so on. Testimonies of God regarding marital faithfulness say that it is wrong to commit adultery. Even primitive cultures understand this truth because it has been written on their hearts. So, my desire should be that God would strongly influence my heart toward His testimonies so that I would not gain dishonestly. Dishonest gain is the catalyst for the deeds of the flesh -- anything that comes from selfish ambition (James 3:16) rather than Godly direction. This is will only strengthen the "portfolio of the flesh" and not the Heavenly Kingdom.

Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,And revive me in Your ways.

David stated in Psalm 101:3 that he "... will set no unworthy thing before his eyes". That is a tall order, no doubt. Especially, in this sin-soaked world we live in today. Turning my eyes from vanity is a constant endeavor and something I will never conquer to the point of "graduation". There are things at every turn that would seek us to behold, and through the beholding, to become defiled to the point where we have sacrificed our fellowship with the Lord. The more often that I turn my eyes from the things of this world that would seek to pollute my inner man, the more opportunity the Lord Jesus has to come and to revive His wonderful presence within me. Paul stated in Philippians 4:8 "... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." The most amazing thing happens when we overcome evil with good. Jesus rejoices with us and revives us!

Establish Your word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You.

It is easy to speed read the bible which allows about as much retention as the effort to understand what's been read. When I look at this scripture, I think about concrete workers and how they make sidewalks and driveways. All the prep work has to be done first -- digging the footings, laying the rebar, and setting the forms. Once the concrete is poured, can the forms be readily taken up and discarded? Not until the concrete has set and cured! That is the way I look at the Word of God and how He wishes to establish it in our hearts. Too often we want God to pour in the blessings of His word without US doing the needed prep work, laboriously preparing for his "spiritual concrete". Once we have laid the ground work, then the Lord God can pour His Word into us. This is the type of revelation that will set firm and sure and cause Godly reverence for our Lord.

Turn away my reproach which I dread, For Your ordinances are good.

Through all the above prayers and actions, our reproach and the sin our old nature is evident and glaring. We have come to understand the law of the Lord, have walked in His commandments, inclined our hearts toward Godly ambition and through all this revelation have become uncomfortably aware of our bodies of sin that God so zealously wants to bury once and for all. At this point, we can truly cry out as Paul did in Romans 7:24: "Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death?" And in the next verse he gives the glorious answer to his rhetoric question: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" The turning away of reproach that the psalmist prays for is so much more doable once we have realized that we need a Savior who can truly turn our reproach over with a proverbial shovel and bury it totally, completely!

Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me through Your righteousness.

If we have been thorough regarding the previous prayers and actions, and God has broken through and accomplished a true change of mind and heart then we will be in LOVE with his precepts or commandments. We will know at this point that He only wants good for us and to establish us as sons and daughters of the Most High. Then, the miraculous happens! God takes us and sanctifies us for HIS pleasure and HIS work. For truly when one is revived in God's righteousness, one has been identified with the Righteous Servant who came to lay down His life for the entire world. We will truly be revived to do similar works of love as we lay down our lives for those around us.

Your barefoot servant,

Barefoot Rick