Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spaces in the Shadow Box

Last winter I made a shadow box for my running medals and some race numbers. It was designed for encouragement and for a reminder that I had achieved some accomplishments that I might not have expected to achieve. I purposefully left three spaces in the shadow box for the three last long races that I intended to run in 2011--The Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon, the Afton Trail Run, and the Holiday Halfathon. These were either favorites (Afton and Holiday), or were races I had longed to run (Bjorkland) for years.

After last February's knee operation I expected the doctor to give me a tentative green light to run these races,. as long as I took it kind of easy. To my chagrin, the doctor's advice was that if I wanted to have much hope of keeping my knees for a couple of more years, I should not run any of these races. Or better yet, not run at all. Through the spring I have held out hope that I would heal enough to hobble through my running swan song. But this swan is silent.

So the spaces in my shadow box will remain unfilled. Empty sentinels of hopes once treasured. Silenced clarions of pre-dawn footfalls on Monticello's streets. Coming to grips with losing running has been more of a challenge than I ever thought it would be. I have probably been in a bit of a funk for a couple of months as the reality has settled like a heavy fog on a spring morning.

I wonder how Abraham felt as he looked at the Isaac-shaped space in his home? When he struggled to reconcile God's promise with his empty crib? The Bible tells us very little--just that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.

I wonder if the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 felt like their shadow boxes had empty spaces--unfulfilled hopes and dreams? The Bible tells us that these folks had received promises from God, but did not see their fulfillment in this life. Did they die unhappy? Wishing for more from this life? Longing to fill the spaces in their shadow boxes? Or did they see something different. Something more. Something beyond this life that melded unfulfilled promises and everlasting hope in a perfectly reconciled reality.

The spaces in my shadow box do not need to detract from the medals and race numbers that remind me of many of my fondest running days. The spaces in my shadow box do not need to cry out that my best days are behind me. Perhaps the spaces in my shadow box would be kind enough to remind me that this life is just a small portion of existence. Whether or not there is running in the life to come, I can be assured that heaven's shadow box has no empty spaces.

Pressing On!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A New Beginning ... of sorts

This blog was born out of realizing that when I ran, I had time to think. And the best way for me to process what I was thinking was to write. Over the years I have taken lots of time to run and think. I have even made some time to process thoughts that seemed important to me in this blog.

One of the great things about running is that you don't necessarily have to pay a lot of attention to what is going on. I could roll out of bed while it was still dark, step into my shoes, and hit the roads. It didn't take a lot of thought. It left plenty of mind capacity to mull over bigger questions, issues, and answers.

Now that my running days are over, I am turning to cycling as my exercise and competitive outlet. The orthopedist tells me that cycling will be easy enough on my knees that I may be able to put off knee replacements for a few years. But to ride outdoors, I have to pay attention. Granted, not pay attention like doing math, but pay attention enough not to get lost or run into anything. Nevertheless, I hope that before too long I will be able to think and ride at the same time. And who knows, perhaps there will be different lessons from riding the roads than there were from running the roads.

So I suppose I will need to change my tag line to "Reflections on the Integration of Cycling, Faith, and Life." Has a certain ring to it.

Pressing on!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Presidential Arrogance

The decision that President Obama announced last night regarding the schedule for troop withdrawals smacks of the arrogance of "I will just because I can." What I have gathered from listening and reading is that the President announced his preferred withdrawal schedule and scope in spite of different recommendations from his military advisers--professional soldiers who have devoted their lives and careers to military service. Maybe he will be right. But maybe the President's advisers have learned some things over the course of their military careers that should have had a greater influence on his decision.

Granted, the President is the Commander-in-Chief. He gets to make decisions such as the one he announced last night. But (no offense intended), what does this President know about waging war? He has never served and there is nothing from his known background that would lead me to think that he is in a position to make better decisions than his professional military advisers. Of course, as the President has said before, elections have consequences, and this is one of those.

Mr. Obama is not alone. The arrogance of "I will just because I can" is disgusting from the playground to the boardroom. Regulators, prosecutors, and the markets may have curbed some of the boardroom arrogance. Accountability is resurgent. But in far too many families, schools, churches, businesses, and neighborhoods, arrogance reigns.

Arrogance is ultimately debilitating because it serves to cut off the arrogant from others who may have wisdom to offer. We absolutely need strong leaders in all parts of life. But the strongest leaders recognize that there is wisdom in many counselors. And not just to have them around, but to take their advice to heart. When a leader embraces wisdom from his advisers, it means acknowledging that the leader needs wise advisers. Such self-awareness may actually be the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom defeats arrogance, in the long run, every time.