A Note From Your Elder Chair

     Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.

                                                                                                        --Isaiah 40:28-31

     Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

                                                                                                        --Hebrews 12:1

     Some of you will remember that in 1999 I ran the Chicago marathon. This was one of the ‘to do’ items on my life’s bucket list. I loved long distance running since my teenage years and completing a marathon was a lifelong dream.

     Suzette was not thrilled at all about my timing as Austin was born the previous year and was still a toddler. He was a handful enough for both of us. But I was feeling that I did not have many years of my youth left and I worried that if I didn’t pursue my goal soon, I would miss out on an opportunity. Besides – I was working yet another stressful job and the training for the marathon would turn out to be a great way to burn off stress – something that Suzette would come to appreciate.              The marathon was the third week of October and I started training in April of that year. The six months of training was the hardest thing I had ever done to that point in my life.

     I trained alone and when a runner does such, one fights two enemies – the tiredness of one’s body and the loneliness. The loneliness was the worst. In the midst of the loneliness in my mind, the enemy would try to convince me to quit.

     But I never did. I began to use the time of running to pray – to talk to God. And – for long periods of time – to listen for God to speak back to me. Although I don’t think I ever heard God speak to me, I did come away from my training runs feeling closer to God.

     The marathon overall was a wonderful experience. I felt ready. The weather that year was perfect. I ran with what was at that time 30,000 other comrades and we were cheered on by hundreds of thousands of persons. I likened it being part of a very fast, but festive parade. I was for most of the race incredibly happy. Until the end of mile 26… The length of the race is 26.2 miles. At the end of mile 26 I “hit the wall”. I could see the finish line on the horizon. But - my body shut down. I couldn’t seem to put one leg in front of the other. I became sick to my stomach. And… I was alone with my thoughts. The enemy tried to convince me to give up. And - I almost did.

     But, as I was on the ground, something akin to Isaiah 40:28-31 came into my mind. I got up and started walking slowly at first. Then began a very slow jog to complete those last 0.2 miles. But - I finished. 4 hours, 20 minutes, and 50 seconds after I started, I had fulfilled my dream.

     Pastor Allie has recently acknowledged in her September 12 letter to the congregation an important fact – that we as a congregation are exhausted. After a year and some months of enduring a pandemic, having suffered the loss of our worship space due to a fire, having experienced isolation from our fellow congregants, having lost beloved members of our congregation through moves or death, having witnessed political strife in our country to new levels that are frightening, we need to be replenished. As Allie noted, we need to do things that will allow us to connect or reconnect to whatever it is that strengthens our souls. We need to be in a time of prayerfully listening to God.

     Let us, though, not get trapped by the enemy into thinking about giving up. Our congregation is watched over by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before us. They founded and built up a congregation that has done powerful things for God’s kingdom on earth. Let us draw strength from the memories of their service to this congregation. Let us remember God’s call to duty – to “love our Lord” and to “love our neighbors as ourselves”. This is a call that our congregation has embraced throughout its various iterations.

     Let us rest… and then, when we feel refreshed, let us carry on God’s call to CCAH. There is much to be done to continue to build God’s kingdom on earth. I am excited to be a part of it! I hope you are as well!

                                                                                                                 — Dana Auman