This past weekend, my family traveled to Louisville, Kentucky for the wedding of a dear friend of ours. Early on Sunday, I took advantage of the opportunity and had an experience so foreign to my current Sunday morning rhythms: going for a run in Louisville’s Cherokee Park. When Josh and I trained for our first 10K race back in 2011, a particular loop that curled through Cherokee Park became the site of my daily discipline. Revisiting it years later with lots of life having passed in between was truly special.

But unlike those years of training, I approached the park on Sunday morning with a smidge of fear. I hadn’t been running in ages! I wondered — could these legs of mine make it up the steep hill near Hogan’s Fountain? Could I endure the 2.4 miles that once seemed straightforward, but now in the absence of regular practice seemed uncomfortably long?

I began in the quiet dark, joined only by the sound of cicadas and a morning sky taking its time to awaken. Slowly, my feet began to pound the pavement — one foot in front of the other, (“heel-toe, heel-toe!”) as my breath fell into a predictable rhythm. “This is going to be glorious!,” I thought. Perhaps my hubris had grown over the years. For moments in, I was convinced that I’d run this loop with no problem. Minutes passed, the hills arrived, and my legs began to ache. I was sure my feet weren’t made of heels and toes, but rather two-ton lead! “Why in the world did I ever think this was a good idea?!,” my mind screamed at me. I could have been sleeping, for crying out loud!

But somehow – miraculously? – the thoughts in my mind so fully attuned to the moment’s hardship were crowded out with a reminder of “the One who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” With every subsequent step, I began to meditate on these words from Ephesians, words now living regularly in my mind as they anchor our upcoming capital campaign in this promise of God. My breath became my prayer: in, out, in, out. Trust. Courage. Perseverance. Hope. I considered my failed attempts to ‘power through’ on my own strength, the times I overlook the regular conditioning of my spiritual muscles and let my attention wander elsewhere. I thought of you, and this great task before our church that stretches before us like an open road. I felt the deep gladness of God coursing through me: we are not alone!

I wish I could tell you that magically I then ran the whole thing without a hitch; alas, a cramp in my leg caused me to stop briefly and walk. But instead of feeling defeated, the One whose power was at work within me gave me sacred strength and mercy new with the morning to pause and notice.

For as I lifted my eyes, I saw only a sunrise.

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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