Monday, July 9, 2012

The Quiet Kelly

Recently I read two books about hiking. The first book was about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.The most recent, completed yesterday, was Bill Bryson's, A Walk in the Woods about hiking the Appalachian Trail. These were bookends of a sort, books about wilderness on opposite sides of our country. And in between those two books I read Wilderness Time by Emilie Griffin. Wilderness Time is not a book about hiking, it is about a different kind of Wilderness experience. This from the back cover of the book: "Time in 'the wilderness'-solitary meditation on simplicity, prayer, and other key disciplines of faith- is directly in keeping with Jesus' example of going apart to pray."

Each of the hiking books included that element of going away in order find something, and while each hiker found something to me they missed the big picture. They explored in minute detail every inch of the rugged, sometimes almost impassable trails they hiked without ever meeting the Creator of those trails.

In our every day lives we too often fail to meet the Creator. Wilderness Time is about making a space in your life that allows you to hear God without the competing noise of technology, busyness and day to day responsibilities.

Griffin points us to Jesus as our example for drawing away to be with God. In Mark 1:35-37: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed." In Mark 6:45-46: Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up onto the mountain to pray."  This occurred after He had fed the 5000.

Again in Luke 5:15-16: "But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray".

Some may wonder why a specific time away is needed or if there must be a specific reason for the retreat. Griffin responds: "In fact, no more reason is needed that that your heart longs for greater closeness with God- because you are worn out by many annoyances and worries, and you are seeking the refreshment of God's presence; because you need rest from the anxieties of ordinary living, even from the legitimate responsibilities imposed by family, work, and church; because you want to follow the example of Jesus in going apart to pray."

I could so easily relate to Griffin's revelation that "certain ingrained attitudes affect us inwardly. Such negative patterns of thought and feeling may defeat us again and again". While the world, or maybe it's better to say THE WORLD often gets me down what most discourages me are the perpetual habits and personality disasters that plague my life despite my best efforts to change them. Griffin says: "We need to invite the power of God to transform us and release us from unhealthy, limiting habits...Going on retreat is really a kind of self-gift, showing the willingness to be healed and transformed. This attitude of desire for the life of God for greater depth of understanding and abundance of heart, is pivotal to the healing of personality."

Griffin discusses several disciplines that help us connect with God on retreat: prayer, fasting, meditation, and study. One thing to note is that fasting does not have be about food. "Fasting from people, from excessive talk and jabber, from an overload of local and world news, from addictive telephone calls: all these are forms of fasting that can heal and restore our souls", writes Griffin.

Though there is discipline involved in retreat there is also serendipity and surrender. "While we ourselves may enter the retreat preoccupied with a given subject, The Lord may use the retreat to  lead us in another direction. We should be open to these promptings, remembering that we are not in charge of the retreat. Everything is in god's hands." Also, there should be no pressure to perform or achieve on the retreat: "Expectations should be neither low nor high, but instead, the work of the retreat should be left in God's hands." As in all of life, God is in control.

One favorite observation by Griffin concerns the definition of solitude: "Solitude is, after all, not a condition of being by youreself but a discipline of attentiveness to God."

I deliberately chose this book to read between the two hiking adventure books. Shortly Dean and I will embark on our own spiritual retreat. Coincidentally, if there is such a thing, I learned on Sunday that my pastor is taking a four week sabbatical that will include a Mount Fuji adventure. I think the extended time away and the experience and challenge of exploring Mt. Fuji will provide the perfect conditions for attentiveness to God. Our modest retreat will include 4 days at a quiet house and daily running on a new-to-us trail. I will take Griffin's book and her advice to keep my expectations neutral and to allow God to speak to us as He will, to say what He will and to lead where He will. Griffin says: "Fed by the sunlight of God's love, the soul works unselfconsciously toward wholeness. Spirit and soul, we flower in the light of God."  I want to flower.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

2nd Running Streak Complete

A plant in the backyard, it's about 7 or 8 feet tall.

Happy Fourth of July! Today I completed the Runner's World Challenge to run every day for at least one mile from Memorial Day to July 4th. I actually started a few days early due to the way my training had been going. I ran every day from May 26th to today! It was 40 days of running consecutively (10 more days than my last Running Streak!). 

I had expected this to be a much different experience from my first running streak. My expectations were correct in some ways and off the mark in others.

What was the same: I had expected to run much more mileage but I ended up running about the same. In the last running streak my lowest mileage week was 16.03, this time around the lowest mileage was 20.51. Last streak the highest mileage week was 25.40, this time, 23.30. I thought the better weather (not in the middle of winter) would translate into more miles. It didn't - I'll explain why later. As with the last streak it was hard to get out the door every day, it's always about time. I get so much done in the morning but if I run, shower, then have breakfast much of the morning is gone, those are my most productive hours. With this streak I felt the same sense of accomplishment. I love to run, I do not love to run every day. It took determination, perseverance and the sacrifice of sleep to keep my commitment.  It always feels good to finish what you started, especially if it is challenging. 

What was different:   When it was cold weather I could run any time of day and preferred to run late morning when it had warmed up some. Once the above 100 degree days started during this streak I was forced to be running by 7:00am or to wait until about 7:00pm at night.  I did more of these runs away from our house. I ran at the greenbelt at 380 on the trail, on the trail at Erwin Park, and at the Warren soccer complex. I definitely enjoyed this running streak much more because I could be on the trail and off the asphalt some. 

And here is why I do not think there was much difference in my mileage from last time. I struggled again with my IT band. I had intended to run 2-3 miles on the easy recovery days rather than 1-2 as I had done before and I planned to get my long run up above 8 miles. I had enough pain with the IT band that I felt I should not increase mileage on my easy day. And once I got up to 8 miles on the long run, I backed off because of the pain. Just a note about the injury - I never had pain while running, all the pain and stiffness occurred after running. I was able to keep a significant injury at bay by using the foam roller to roll out the IT band and by stretching.  I have read that "older" runners need more recovery time and while the running streak was fun and challenging I don't think it is the best plan for  my body.

In the midst of this running streak there was a report (my info came from Runner's World) about mileage and runners that stated:

"The runners with the lowest death rate were those who ran less than 20 miles a week in 2 to 5 days of running at a pace of about 8:35/mile".  So perhaps my 20 miles a week was just right, if only I could hit the 8.35 pace they mentioned!

In the next week I will be doing some cross training to allow the IT band to relax. At that point I may go back to a training plan I have used in the past from Runners World - it's an IPhone app that tells you what to run every day. You plug in your info: weekly mileage, long run day, longest run to date, time of your last race, etc. They devise a plan to help you reach your goal (5k, half or full marathon).

There is a motivational running quote that says:

"Every day is a good day when you run."
-Kevin Nelson

I would have to agree with this quote and that is why I am glad to have completed another streaking challenge. There were many "bad" or "not so good" days during the last 40 days. One of the most wonderful Christian men, a friend and mentor to me in ministry and life passed away during these last few weeks. The day I got the news was "not a good day". I have two friends going through cancer treatment, and I have my own personal ups and downs. On each of those bad days or during the "bad times" if I am running I can count on at least 30-90 minutes of a good day. Running is a time away, it's like a mini vacation. I absolutely leave my world behind. I go to another place and often I meet God there. It is a time to think and a time to pray. Sometimes it is just a time to put one foot in front of the other, to feel the sunshine, to enjoy the continuity and peace of moving rhythmically through the world. Whether it is a time to meet with God or just a time to zone out it gives me a break from whatever is on my mind. So I am thankful for the last 40 days of endorphins! Happy running!