For those who know her, you know. More on that momentarily.
Today I wrapped up a quest to run four half marathons in eight days. These were staged in four New England states: Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. And I must say, the folks at Star Racing know what they’re doing. Smooth. Celebratory. Friendly. Leave no one behind. Couldn’t have selected a better series of races to check off these four states. Thank you, JC!
Getting to the race this morning, I wasn’t sure what to expect. One thing was certain: conditions were ideal. 45F, sunny. As for the course, JC had hinted yesterday that it might be challenging. My aches being manageable, I figured I’d use the first few miles to get familiar with the course and see how my legs were responding.
Around mile four, I was happy to realize two things. 1) JC was most likely just trying to not get my hopes up. The course was looking like the easiest of the four. 2) My legs were holding up enough for me to push.
That’s when I decided three mindsets for the last nine miles. 1) Take advantage of the cooler weather…and get done as soon as possible. 2) Take advantage of the easier course…attack within reason. 3) Don’t walk. Unless you’re about to pass out, keep running.
Mile 10. Lord, have mercy! At the aid station, my first thought was, “Three more miles…No thank you! Seriously, 49 miles in 8 days ain’t shabby. I DON’T WANT TO GO BACK OUT!”
Fortunately, another runner who had also ran the last two days was there. We just looked at each other with a “C’mon man…we can do this!”
He walked/ran those last miles. I looped self-talk, “You are not walking! Just because he is, don’t!”
When I crossed the finish mat, I said, “That’s all I had.” True words.
More true words: I don’t get all the credit. I could give credit to many things and people. But on this Mother’s Day, I must acknowledge that without the model of Lola Gregory as my mother it’s hard to believe I’d have the stuff to go after and accomplish something like this. If you know her, you know.
If you know her from the Illinois farm life, you know.
If you know her from the Chattanooga starting-a-family-of-four-with-seminary-student-husband life, you know.
If you know her from the Gadsden let’s-start-a-school-while-growing-a-church life, you know.
If you know her from the Thomasville I’m-going-to-finish-raising-these-kids-alone-in-a-new-town-working-a-new-job life, you know.
If you know her from the Murfreesboro one-daughter-still-home-in-another-new-town-working-another-new-job life, you know.
If you know her from the Tallahassee let’s-finish-this-work-thing life, you know.
Before I knew anything about determining mindsets mid-race, she’d become an expert in it. Although she thinks this week’s feat was a tad crazy, she gets the most credit for instilling in me the determination to cross a finish line saying, “That’s All I Had.”
To the best model I’ve had on finishing the race set before her, Happy Mother’s Day!
I’m not sure what’s going on. Maybe God is just saying, “I see you.”
I altered my plans for tomorrow morning by leaving for Vermont this afternoon. Tomorrow will be much better survived because of it.
I booked an Airbnb in Tunbridge, so I only drive 40 minutes to the start line in the morning. Bearable. What I didn’t know when I booked it and started on my drive was the following:
I’d pass signs for the birthplaces of two notable religious figures.
When I stopped for gas and food it was 5PM. The Congregational Church bells across the street started playing the hymn Softly and Tenderly. The lines of the chorus start, “Come Home, Come Home.” Again, it was 5PM.
My Airbnb host is a college track coach. He lives in the mountains. I can hear water running down the mountainside from my room window.
God is probably saying something more like, “Good thing I gave you common sense, and you decided to use it.”
A couple of weeks ago the devotional read during our staff meeting asked an interesting question: How do you view a pen that has ran out of ink?
The obvious answer is it’s no longer useful. File 13. A pen without ink is useless, right?
True. But another view gives us a more life-giving response. In an inanimate way, what if we viewed that pen as having given all it had? Yes, it ran out. But what if instead of only discarding it since it no longer can give what it once did we acknowledged all that it did faithfully give.
An alternate perspective from a simple life routine. Appreciate the pen for what it did instead of what it no longer can.
Pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before, but it brings to mind our need to maintain balance between being filled and pouring out. Unlike the pen, we don’t want to completely deplete ourselves. To serve community well requires all of us to pour out, which requires us to steward how we are being filled. It is a constant process. With great attention, it is a thing of beauty.
So let’s check ourselves. Right now as you read this, how much “ink” do you have left? Where/how/when do you best get refilled? Which parts of that does your calendar contain between now and Monday?
One more thing. Most likely you’ve been doing quite a bit of pouring out this month-a lot of ink has been flowing. Take a moment to remember where it flowed, what that did for you/others/God, and the story that ink wrote because you allowed it to flow.
TAKEAWAY: You’ve got ink to steward. Be Filled & Pour.
I’ve been granted the pleasure of appreciating Cape Cod since Sunday. If you know the area, then you’ll recognize the names Mashpee, Falmouth, Hyannis, and Dennis. These have been my viewpoints. I could be here another month and still have unexplored areas, I’m convinced. What a treasure!
In my exploring today, I grabbed a few images. They include a quick stop at Howes Beach in Dennis, a fascinating walk through Cape Cod Museum of Art, and peculiar trees yards from my timeshare unit deck. Here they are with simple observations.
Tomorrow I leave for another New England state. If I never make it back, thank you Cape Cod for all your images of beauty.
Last March I posted a blog referencing Makoto Fujimura. He’s become a staple for me to follow-podcast episodes, videos, books, etc. A few months ago I started reading his book Silence and Beauty, where he goes in depth to analyze the book I mentioned in the previous blog post and its place in Japanese art and history. I finished reading it on a plane ride Saturday.
I’m glad I took my time reading this book. The slower read allowed for his words and thoughts to breathe and to sink. What I enjoyed most about this form of Fujimura’s art was how he chose to build toward the ending. His final chapter, Mission Beyond the Waves, overflowed with images and challenges that perfectly summarized his message of silence and beauty.
The image that most caught my attention was his imagery and symbolism of falling cherry blossoms. “In Japan of old, cherry blossoms are considered most beautiful when they are falling.” He penned that following this quote by former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams:
Our voyages are all about loss and death. At the moment of our death, which could be any moment, how is my mortality to be made fruitful in the life of another? How may my loss and my suffering become a Word to others? The ultimate question that any of us, or any art, can ask is this: “How may I die generously?”
Meditation on Death
If indeed cherry blossoms are most beautiful when they fall, they are most beautiful when they are broken and completely sacrificed. Fujimura’s challenge is for us all to be generous. Generosity in our faith and in our acts “can be a sacramental act to bridge the divide and brokenness created in society.”
What generous act are you prompted to complete? How can your faith assist you? What beauty is coming when you offer your creations?
You know that moment when you read something for the umpteenth time and it feels like the first? That happened to me reading the first three verses of Mark 16. Here they are:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
Even though I’d read this multiple times, something jumped out at me clear as day. That something was the order of events.
It wasn’t the first thing on these three ladies’ minds to ask themselves about the stone in the way. No, they bought the spices, set their alarms (although I have a sense they didn’t really need to), and were already headed to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ body before they really pondered exactly how they were going to get in.
I found that very telling. Many times we let the impossible keep us from preparing for it. These ladies didn’t worry about that. Why?
I believe it was because they were so focused on serving Jesus. Literally. The stone in the way didn’t deter them from buying the spices. They could have said, “Uh, what’s the point of spending money on something that I might not be able to use. I’ll just pray about it and hope that stone gets out of the way somehow.”
Instead they bought them, got up early, and headed for the tomb. It seems they had so much faith they were going to get to tend to Jesus that their attitude was, “Somehow, we don’t know how, but somehow that stone will not keep us from getting to him.”
I have a sneaky feeling their question wasn’t one of doubt but one of wonderment. Just how was God going to help them.
It seems that God often does his best work when we let him deal with the impossible while we deal with the possible. They did everything they could to be ready to serve. What did God do? He made sure the obstacle in their way was removed.
The Lesson: Act despite the stone. Avoid letting the impossible paralyze you from living an active life of faith. These ladies would have seriously kicked themselves had they let the question come first.
What they would have missed. I’m thankful for their example of not letting the question of the impossible stifle their actions of faith.
Just finished listening to the final episode of season 6 of the Being Known Podcast. Never disappoints.
Curt said something about the story of Adam and Eve that probably only a psychiatrist would come up with. It had to do with wounds. Here’s the quote:
The intention of God wounding Adam in Genesis 2 is for creating beauty and goodness. The intention of the serpent’s wound to Eve in Genesis 3 was to destroy her.
Dr. Curt Thompson
We wound others. Others wound us. Sometimes we intend beauty and goodness; sometimes we intend destruction. So many things could be said about these truths. But I want to take a different direction. However, here’s an interesting question now in my head about emotional wounds: What were the intentions?
It’s Easter weekend. Yesterday I kept a ritual of watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion. So much realistic wounding in that film.
True to form, Jesus’ enemies, both human and spirit, were after destruction.
True to form, Jesus was after beauty and goodness.
Be encouraged. It’s normal for wounds to take time to heal. It’s normal to hate the wait, to wish the pain away, or to rush happiness. But without the waiting and the pain, the healing isn’t complete.
Jesus, thank you for turning intended destruction into eternal goodness…for the beauty of your wounds…for completing your intentions.
In Psalm 115, the writer describes the gods of other nations besides Israel’s. He makes an interesting comment in verse eight. He says those who make their own gods will become like the gods they trust.
It certainly is convenient to make your own god. Making a god allows for the worshipping of that god to also be up to the maker. So the philosophy can go something like “make your own god, make your own rules, make your own values, make life what you want it to be and you should be happy and fulfilled.”
The challenge of making your god is that your god is confined to the stuff you used to make it. Since that stuff was determined by a human, then that god can only serve humans within their own limits. For me, I need something more. And I’d rather become like something more.
When the Maker and Ruler of the universe expresses a desire to be my god, I’m drawn to consider that option over any other option. He has the best chance to work outside of what I can do, make, or value. I choose to let Him continue to make me, in essence continue to create me into His likeness. I’ll take my chances on fulfillment and happiness in becoming like the god who made me rather than any god I could make.
It’s that time of year. Early morning running means mostly running in the dark. And in Florida that also means avoiding sprinkler systems. These days my runs begin anywhere between 4:30 and 6:30AM. No matter what time I leave, if my route includes around the neighborhood somebody’s sprinkler system is doing its thing.
It was around 5:50 this morning as I ran down a block where it’s hit and miss. Some houses have systems; some don’t. For some reason this morning my eyes caught a clear contrast between two neighbors, one with one without. As if the sun was at high noon, there couldn’t have been a clearer sign. It almost looked intentional, as if a hairstylist stopped halfway through the dye job right at the top of the head.
Got me to thinking. It’s not news here that 2023 has started with a rain shortfall. So if you want your lawn green, it’s on you. And that means at least three things:
You need a plan. That may sound like a no brainer, yet somehow the neighbor with the dead grass missed it. How many sprinkler heads, which direction are they covering, when does it come on, how long does it run-the plan can’t miss any details if the yard is going to be HOA prizeworthy.
If you’ve done your job right, you can sleep well. You won’t need to get up every morning at 4 to check it out. It’s like that current TV commercial for tax preparations-“Bring it to us, and don’t water your lawn.”
You cannot assume once it’s working your job is done. Two blocks west from my front door someone has made this assumption. Guess what? Half their water is going into the street. None of the sprinkling shoots out more than three feet. I wonder when’s the last time the system was checked.
These thoughts apply to many areas of life. Marriage. Parenting. Management. Eating. Exercising. Finances. Career. Education. Faith.