Monday, January 26, 2009

A Nice Break

I was in Kansas City on business at the end of last week and it was nice to get a break in the temperatures. It was around 38 when I ran in the mornings and it felt good to run in just shorts and a long-sleeved shirt. I also like the fact that the area where I run in KC is rather hilly--something I do not have too much of here in Monticello. It was also fun to revisit some familiar running routes that I only do once a month or so.

Part of the challenge of the training for this race is keeping it fresh. Feeling fresh will encourage me to get out and run on days when it might be just as easy to stay in. Feeling stale will have the opposite effect--make it easier to give in to negative inertia. So part of the battle is to be able to assess when staleness is coming on and to take steps to freshen up the routine. Usually I can do that by running a new route or by choosing a different time of day (amazing how different things look at 5:30 p.m. instead of 5:30 a.m.). The hardest part for me is identifying the onset of staleness before it settles in.

That has also been the case in my faith journey. I will find myself in a funk and only then realize that I am feeling like things have gotten a bit stale and predictable. A solution that is working is to change up the routine. If I have been reading early in the morning, take some time and read my Bible before supper or in the early evening. If I have been reading in the New Testament, then switch over to the Old. If I have been stuck in a praying rut, try a different location, different position, or different focus.

Not that routine is bad. Routine is what allows us to plan and allocate time and energy resources to the greatest advantage. But just a quick break with the routine can inject badly needed vitality and allow for continued progress.

Pressing On!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Each One Unique

For a town of just about 10,000 people, Monticello has a pretty nice Community Center. Pool, walking/running track, basketball courts, weight equipment, climbing wall, treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, meeting rooms. Whether it is because of the nice facilities, or because it is -15 outside, there are quite a few people using the Community Center these days. People walk and run at different paces and choose their own intensity in the pool and on the weight machines. There is no minimum or maximum speed and no one officially judging the quality of the workout. Each proceeds at their own pace. And every pace is OK. If someone is going faster than me, it doesn't make them better and me worse. If someone is lifting more energetically than me it doesn't make them Superman and me Underdog. No one is counting to see how many laps I run, or how much time I spend on the treadmill. Because the goal is better fitness and people come at this whole adventure from different starting points.

Certainly there are right and wrong ways to use the machines--and the wrong uses can damage the machine or hurt the user. But ultimately, if each one walks out of the Community Center just a little bit more fit, the time there has been a success.

I think that one of the strengths of Quarry Community Church is that the church seems to understand this concept--that people come from a lot of different starting points. Some churches make you feel like you have to get your life cleaned up a certain amount, or in some kind of order, before you can attend. But not the Quarry. Come as you are would not be just a tag line. Yet come as you are doesn't mean stay as you are. The Quarry also is developing a roadmap of how to experience spiritual growth (how about whole life growth?) that will encompass starting where a person is, and moving forward on a journey of becoming more and more like Jesus in priorities, words, thoughts, and deeds. I'm excited about being part of a church community that is looking at life this way.

I don't need to measure myself against anyone else. I just have to ask the question, "Am I closer to the goal today than I was yesterday?"

Pressing On!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Here We Go !!!

Today began my "official" training for this May's Fargo marathon. At the end of the 18th week from now I expect to cross the finish line in Fargo and I expect to feel pretty satisfied with the experience. From my last bout of marathon training I know that the intervening 18 weeks will neither be easy, nor pleasant. Certainly there will be a few runs that will be memorable for their beauty or for their difficulty, but most of the runs will be mile after mile of left-right-left-right.

Please don't get me wrong. I am looking forward to conquering the goals of the next 18 weeks. I am looking forward to the experience of being disciplined enough to get out when it is cold and windy to put in the miles needed for success in May. I look forward to feeling the exhilaration of being the first one out some mornings making tracks in the snow. I look forward to that first morning in the spring when it will be warm enough to run in shorts and no jacket. I look forward to sleeping better and generally feeling better as I shed the inevitable pounds over the next few months.

But even with all that I am looking forward to, I do not expect it to be easy. It may have been my Dad who said, "Nothing worth having comes easy." (And even if it wasn't him, it is the kind of pithy, sage advice he offers.) If I wanted easy I could just sit on the couch and watch TV all the time. I could eat whatever and however much I want. I could go outside or exert myself only when it was convenient.

But I believe that easy is way overrated. Why choose easy if you can choose meaningful? Why choose easy if you can choose important? Why choose easy if you can choose challenging? Why choose to merely float downstream (with the dead fish) when adventure is usually upstream? Not for me. I choose to reject easy.

Nevertheless, sometimes I find myself wishing that God was a giant "Easy" button. Just push the button--say a prayer, read some verses--and all will be well. Reality is that God is not an easy button, and has never said that He would be. In fact, He promised the opposite. We are in a war that has its basis in the spiritual realm, but that overflows into our temporal existence. We are in the midst of a war between immensely powerful forces (our God the more powerful no doubt!) and I am thrilled to be aligned with the kingdom of the God of heaven--King of kings and Lord of lords. Even so, I do not expect easy.

Just as May 10th will be a day of rest and celebration, so there will be an epoch of rest and celebration in the contest that really matters. Just not today.

Pressing On!