Sunday, October 25, 2009

Measured Against Whom?

Last week an editorial in the New York Times bemoaned the fact that there are too many slow people "running" marathons these days. The writer was lamenting the new reality that marathons are not just for elite runners anymore. Even more or less regular people participate these days. Part of the author's contention was that if people are not going to run fast for 26.2 miles, then they should not be in the race at all.

What does my "slow" running take away from the speedy front-of-the-pack crowd? Does the fact that I finished my one marathon in just under 5 hours diminish the accomplishment of the winner who finished his 26.2 in less than half that amount of time? Is the editorialist offended that I get the same finisher's medal and shirt that the fast runners get?

This whole issue gave me plenty to think about on this morning's misty, cold (but not snowy :-)) 6.3. When I run, who am I running for, or against? For the most part, I am not running against anyone, because I am in no danger of seeing the top of the winner's podium. I am running with lots of people--some of whom I know and most I do not. Mostly, I suppose that I am running for me. I like running. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get a better time than the last race. I like the thought that at almost 50 and after three knee operations, I can still run a long way. Not fast, but with no less effort than the fast people (I think, never having been a remotely fast person since college). So for the fast New York Times editorialist, stay on the race course plugging away for five hours then come an tell me that my effort is insignificant because I am slow. And by the way, I am not running against you :-)

Comparison can be a motivator, but more often pushes us to do or try something that is not us. If I try to keep up with the fast runners, I will fail because that is not who I am. If I focus on running my pace and finishing my race, then I am successful.

I think that the same is true in our faith. If I am constantly comparing myself to others and what they can do, then I will end up frustrated. But if I focus on the best and highest utilization of the gifts that I have been entrusted with, then I will have success. There is a reason that Paul the apostle told Christ-followers to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith," rather than telling us to be a better church person than the guy next door. In essence what Paul is saying is keep your eyes on the finish line and you will run well.

Pressing on,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Embrace the 'Flakes

It is getting to be that time of year again here in Minnesota--and much earlier than I remember from past years. Yesterday's 4.5 miles were blanketed with a steady snowfall. Not just flurries, but the big flakes that get stuck on your eyelashes (thanks Julie Andrews) and melt down your face, making you look like you have been crying over a very hard run. But it was not a hard run. In fact, since the roads were warm enough not to be icy by the time I was out, I had a steady running surface and the cool splats were refreshing.

There are two types of people who live in Minnesota, those who will sit inside until April or May and lament that they live in the nation's icebox; and those who find some way to get out and enjoy the wintry aspects of nature. We have had years that felt like the former, but the latter is the way to go. It is amazing what it does for your attitude to get out regularly, breathe some fresh clear air, and do something.

My friend Jeff knew an older woman who used to make it a point to be thankful for the things that she could not change. So on a mid-October day when it snows a couple of inches, I imagine that she would say, "Today, I thank God for the weather."

Not to sound trite, but I wonder how my approach to life would be different if I did what I could to change what I can, and was thankful for all that I cannot change? Perhaps I should give it a shot.

Pressing on,

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Best Small Group in the World

No offense intended to anyone who has ever been in a small group with me before, but our current small group is the best. We have moved to a point of experiencing more "true community" than any other group I can remember. We are six (maybe soon to be seven) couples who have some things in common, but most things not. We are part of the same church, but have very different levels of involvement. We all have kids of similar ages--but three different school systems. Most of us have been married a similar amount of time (three of the couples celebrated 25th anniversaries this summer), but have had different experiences of being married. Some are talkers and others are more quiet. Some say the first thing that comes to mind and others are more measured in what they say. But the most important commonality is that we care for each other and want to grow closer to God together.

Increasingly I am coming to believe that people need each other. Two weekends ago I ran the TC 10-miler and throughout the race came across groups of people who were running together. Although we all covered the same distance, it felt as though maybe their ten miles were shorter than mine. On a more serious side, my cousin is in the final stages of his battle with a brain tumor and it appears that his family has benefited from the support of a large group of friends who have been nearby. Proximity matters! The other night I had dinner with an old friend and it felt very good to reconnect with a guy with whom I go back decades.

We really do need each other! Press on.