Archive for category Faith

NEW! – The Race Before Us on YouTube

MY CAMINO – the Video (The Camino de Santiago)

[Editor’s Note: I have still not posted fully the entire trip from southern France to Santiago, Spain, but there is now a video slideshow of the trip.  The slideshow features just 15% of my 2,000 photographs taken over 30 days on the Camino de Santiago.  Accompanied by the music of Steven Curtis Chapman, James Taylor, Alison Krauss and Gordon Lightfoot, the photographs move chronologically until the trip along the Camino ends at the Cathedral de Santiago and at the “end of the earth” at Muxia and Finisterre.]



MY CAMINO - THY CAMINO:  The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

MY CAMINO – THY CAMINO: The Camino de Santiago and The Walk Before Us

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Giving from the Heart

[Editor’s Note – Below is post from “Coach Dan,” who is instrumental in The Race Before Us, Inc.’s efforts to encourage others to develop physically and spiritually through running and Christian apologetics.  Bruce will be back soon to finish his series on the Camino de Santiago.]


In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’  Acts 20:35 (NIV)

When I was a child, my grandmother would often say to me: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I’m not sure if that is what drives me to give back today, but I know it had a profound influence on my motivation. Several years ago I started a group in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, that helped homeless people prepare for a 10k race. When I first started this group, I did not know what to expect since I had no experience working with the homeless. I just knew I had to do something to help after reading a story about a young lady in Pennsylvania that did something similar. I was so touched by her story that I began taking note of the homeless people I saw on my weekend runs through the streets of downtown Richmond. I knew I had to help.

After doing some research and speaking to several great organizations that help support the homeless in Richmond, I found a void that needed to be filled. I approached the YMCA and asked if I could use its facility to create a running group for the homeless. The “Y” had a lot of questions and I had few answers, but together we decided to jointly move forward to create a program called “Keep it Movin.” That first year we recruited 23 people to train for their first 10k race. I was touched by this group in more ways than I can recall.   Seeing people who were struggling just to get by, who were willing to show up week after week to train was more than I expected. More importantly, seeing the spirit they displayed each week and their eyes of determination gave me strength to recognize a stronger faith. It also touched others in the community, too. Countless friends and other runners in the community donated shoes, clothing and many other things to help support this new cause. Even businesses contributed to this worthy cause with donated registration entry fees, new shoes, and even race shirts. I was touched by the generosity of so many in Richmond that helped start this program in 2010. I am proud to say that this program is still going strong in the Richmond area. Through some great volunteer coaches, I have seen firsthand how we helped the homeless in our area.

Jackee being fit for new running shoes

Jackee being fit for new running shoes

So, when we think of generosity, I’ve learned it is not the size of the gift or the nobility of the cause. It is doing something first hand where you can see the result. Helping someone who needs it can be so rewarding. We might call someone “generous,” who contributes a modest sum to a charitable cause to promote the good of society.  But I believe Jesus measures generosity by the condition of the giver’s heart.  The apostle Paul said that even the most lavish donations are empty acts in God’s sight if the giver’s heart is hardened toward him (1 Corinthians 13:3).

Last month, we created a half marathon (13.1 miles) training program (through the YMCA) for our community in the far west end of Richmond. We reached out to the homeless community and I’m proud to say that we have 5 homeless people training in our program to complete their first half marathon race. Our half marathon training program is about 100 strong and when I look out into the crowd each week, it gives me joy to see these special people on the team. No one is called out for who they are or aren’t, we are just a group of runners working together to achieve the goal of finishing the race!

Darius gets new running shoes

Darius gets new running shoes

The Race Before Us organization has been instrumental in helping us provide shoes and clothing for the homeless. Two of the five runners in this group are high school kids and it is touching to see them put on a pair of new running shoes for the first time. Enjoy the pictures below. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces after receiving a new pair of shoes is priceless.

Coach Dan

Coach Dan Blankenship

Coach Dan Blankenship



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“Marriage Isn’t for Me” (Covenant Love II)

No one has shown me better how to be in the world while not being of the world more than my wife Cheryl. My tribute to her is throughout the book itself. For her remarkable patience, quiet example, and unwavering love, I am eternally grateful.  (excerpt from the “Acknowledgements” in The Race Before Us)

[I will get back to the Camino, but today is my wedding anniversary.]

Recently, I offered a post – “Faith, Sex and Covenant Love” – that challenged readers to consider the biblical model for marriage by pointing them to a message by Tim Keller about “Covenant Love.”  That post also mentioned a number of “coincidences” that had suggested the topic to me.  (And, I know some will not believe this, but the evening after I made that post I received an email with a blog post from someone who had not read my post.  In her post was this quotation from C.S. Lewis:

“if you believe in God, there is no such thing as a coincidence.”

As I said in that earlier post:  “I am increasingly skeptical about coincidences.”  So, what’s the point?

A couple of days after the “Faith, Sex and Covenant Love” post – another coincidence – I ran across a news story about a blog post that told a story about a father’s advice and an exhibition of covenant love.  There’s little else I can say other than to urge you to read – “Marriage Isn’t for You” below.  (I think this is what Tim Keller meant when he spoke about covenant love.)

Marriage Isn’t For You

Having been married only a year and a half, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that marriage isn’t for me.

Now before you start making assumptions, keep reading.

I met my wife in high school when we were 15 years old. We were friends for ten years until…until we decided no longer wanted to be justfriends. 🙂 I strongly recommend that best friends fall in love. Good times will be had by all.

Nevertheless, falling in love with my best friend did not prevent me from having certain fears and anxieties about getting married. The nearer Kim and I approached the decision to marry, the more I was filled with a paralyzing fear. Was I ready? Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?

Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment as one we will never forget.

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself,you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you.Marriage is about the person you married.”

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s “Walmart philosophy”, which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

Some time ago, my wife showed me what it means to love selflessly. For many months, my heart had been hardening with a mixture of fear and resentment. Then, after the pressure had built up to where neither of us could stand it, emotions erupted. I was callous. I was selfish.

But instead of matching my selfishness, Kim did something beyond wonderful—she showed an outpouring of love. Laying aside all of the pain and anguish I had caused her, she lovingly took me in her arms and soothed my soul.

Marriage is about family.

I realized that I had forgotten my dad’s advice. While Kim’s side of the marriage had been to love me, my side of the marriage had become all about me. This awful realization brought me to tears, and I promised my wife that I would try to be better.

To all who are reading this article—married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette—I want you to know that marriage isn’t for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love.

And, paradoxically, the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered.

Truly, love and marriage isn’t for you. It’s for others.


Special thanks to Seth Adam Smith for these words of wisdom.  Even when we don’t necessarily realize it, God has written His rules on our hearts.  Our job is to recognize these truths and not suppress their full expression.

And, Cheryl – our marriage is for us, I pray that I show you it’s not about me.  Happy Anniversary.

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THY CAMINO: Pilgrims, Pilgrimages, and Indulgences

If you walk the Camino de Santiago, you will be referred to as a “pilgrim” or, in Spanish, a “peregrino.” You need to pick up a “Pilgrim Passport” in St. Jean (or from one of the many confraternity associations around the world), which document provides access to the various “albergues” (“pilgrim hostels”) set up along the way to Santiago. In most towns and villages along the Camino various bars, cafes, and restaurants offer a “pilgrim meal” at dinnertime, which consists of a starter, entrée, dessert, bread, water & wine for a modest price (usually 9 or 10 euros). And, when you finish the Camino in the city of Santiago, the evidence that you have completed the trip and are entitled to receive a “Compostela” is your pilgrim passport, which has been stamped at 30 to 50 (or more sites) you stayed at or visited on the Way. The point here is that the idea of being a pilgrim or being on a pilgrimage is at the very core of attempting to walk the Camino de Santiago.


Historically and generally speaking, a “pilgrim” is thought to be someone on a religious or spiritual journey – typically an actual, physical journey. Most undertake some spiritual journey in their lifetime (examining the “big questions” of life, like – why am I here?), which can be thought of as a pilgrimage, but it is more common traditionally to think of pilgrimage as a physical movement involving a spiritual motivation. Think of the “American Pilgrims” – a religious group seeking to preserve their interpretation of proper worship, who travelled to Holland and then to “Plymouth Rock.” Thomas Merton said: “The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of the inner journey. The inner journey is the interpretation of the meaning and signs of the outer pilgrimage. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.”

In a very real sense, God sent Abraham on a pilgrimage. Christians and Jews have undertaken pilgrimages to the “Holy Land” (Jerusalem) for thousands of years. Other religious orders emphasize pilgrimage – one of the five major tenets of Islam is that Muslims are to journey to Mecca (the “Hajj”) at least once in their lifetime.

Originally (in medieval times), the individuals on “the Way” were out for much more than a physical challenge or a walk of spiritual discovery. One resource says, “A major motivation [for medieval pilgrims] was orandi causa – in order to pray, to seek forgiveness, to fulfill a vow, or to petition St. James for a certain blessing, such as healing.” Another source says, “in any case, the gaining of the plenary indulgence became a dominant motivation for the pilgrimage.”


To understand the historical Camino then we probably need to understand what is meant by “gaining a plenary indulgence.” What is an “indulgence” (or a “plenary indulgence”) and why would someone want (or need) an indulgence? I grew up in a Congregational Church in Connecticut. For the last 28 years I’ve attended a Lutheran Church. Neither of those denominations to my knowledge discussed or provided indulgences. The historian in me recalls that one of Martin Luther’s major criticisms of the “church” included the idea and the practices relating to indulgences. In my next “Thy Camino” post, therefore, I will explore this idea of indulgences and how it fits into a life of faith and what it means for the modern-day “peregrino” on the Camino de Santiago.


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TRBU Cover


Until the end of May my publisher is offering the audio version of The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running & Faith for free.  If you’d like a copy, just follow the link below at ChristianAudio.  Please share this with anyone else who you think might be interested.



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Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!

But the pains which He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation hath procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s king, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing, Alleluia!

Sing we to our God above, Alleluia!
Praise eternal as His love, Alleluia!
Praise Him, all you heavenly host, Alleluia!
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!









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One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”


Note: I saw this sculpture on the side of the Church of Santa Maria in Viana, Spain – a town I stayed in and walked through on the Camino de Santiago. I was notable because it is rare that I have seen such artwork of the crucifixion where Jesus is presented with the robbers to either side. It thus reminded me of one of the most encouraging and one of my favorite lines of scripture — “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”>

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