my search to understand the bigger picture

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Smorgasboard (Did I spell that right?_

This post could quite possibly end up having multiple subjects before it's all said and done. First and foremost, some of what's been occupying my mind lately..........

Experiences. Some people attempt to find joy in stuff. Some people search for it in unforgettable experiences. Others seek it in a host of other ways. For me, I've found that I attempt to find joy, peace, etc in experiences as much as anything else. When I'm stressed I just want to sit by a campfire, or I dream of going on an epic backpacking adventure. I think of the next great race I want to participate in. Or, I try to relive past experiences. My mind wanders back to backpacking in the Porkies with my dad and brother, my two trips to the Grand Canyon, South Africa, camping in college, visits to Colorado, Lake Michigan, retreats at friend's cabin in Michigan, family vacations to my aunt's cottage.

What struck me the other day was how unfulfilling these things really are. They are great in the moment, but once they've past they leave a gaping hole, creating an intense desire for more of the same. Material things do the same thing. My thoughts turned to Jesus, and I realized something powerful.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but typically when we read about Jesus escaping from the crowds, it wasn't simply to go to a mountaintop. It was to go to a mountain to pray. He wasn't just searching for a relaxing experience that would recharge him. He was searching for the Father.

These experiencs are not bad. But what is unfortunate is when I look to those experiences to fulfill me, to give me rest, to relieve stress in my life. Only Christ can successfully do that. Sure, experiences can sort of help get us away from the every day. But NOTHING will ever satisfy the way Jesus can.

Just think about it.

Now, on to runnig. I was able to hit Kickapoo again this morning, and got my 100th trail mile in this year. It's funny that my total mileage so far this year is probably the least at this point in many years, and yet I've had more quality runs mentally than most years. Being on the trails is so comforting and soothing to me. I absolutely love being out there in nature, no matter the weather.

To finish this post off, here's a few videos that I took today while out running. I definitely took it easy today, and just tried to enjoy the magnificent views while getting a good workout in. Afterwards I spoke to my good friend Michael Chitwood, who's getting ready to leave in a week and a half with another group of Team World Vision runners who will run this year's Comrades Marathon in South Africa. Hard to believe it's been a year since I ran that 56 mile beast! Keep this year's team in your prayers, that all would finish the race and they would help many many children through child sponsorships.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Thoughts on Running and Life

I've had the awesome opportunity to go trail running twice this past week, which is definitely a rarity in my life. The first time I went alone, and took plenty of time to think quietly, and listen for God to speak to me about some things in my life. This effort to listen for God to tell me some things was prompted by the sermon I heard earlier that day. It was great to hear God speak directly to some of the questions that I had!

I've made it quite clear that this past year especially has been one of ups and downs. What became evident to me while running was how much our attitude plays into how we handle life's situations. I'm firmly convinced that attitude is just as important in running as physical fitness, training, and preparation. A great attitude will carry you through so many lows in running that fitness won't. At some point, no matter how fit you are, especially in ultras, you will feel like crap and want to quit. Your attitude at that point is crucial! In life, the same happens. There's nothing you can do to fully prepare for every valley that will occur. BUT, if you are firmly committed to putting one foot in front of the other no matter what occurs, trusting God to walk with you through those times, YOU WILL GET THROUGH THEM!

With running, sometimes you've just got to break things down to the very basics. When struggling, one can begin to look at things like form, posture, breathing, hydration, diet, etc. In life, we can break things down and look at things like prayer. Now, I don't mean the kind of prayer where we unload our laundry list on God, and then take off before He has a chance to respond. Because, in truth, we don't want to hear Him talk. We want Him to act, don't we? We rarely take the time to simply listen to what He has to say. And let's be honest, we won't convince God to act on our part by whining and then leaving.

I find I'm most comforted, not necessarily when God "acts", but when I simply take the time to listen to Him. When I quiet myself before Him.

I know I won't always handle life's situations in the way I should. What I do hope is that I give my very best with every circumstance. And as I do that I will grow. I will learn. I will mature. When running is concerned, I know I can't control things like the weather, course conditions, how I feel on a particular day (to some extent). All I can is give my best effort on any given day, and if I do that, I can be satisfied.

The goal in both running and life, is never settle. Always strive for excellence. Always look to get better. Always put in the work. But sometimes, the end result is not really the goal worth achieving. Sometimes the journey (and oh how I've grown to hate this word) is the reachable goal, with end results simply providing feedback for things to tweak.

The second time I went trail running this week was with a good friend. Completely different experience, which I desperately needed. We need people in our lives and in running to challenge us. We need a healthy balance of people involved that spur us on, and a good deal of personal motivation to do the little things when no one's looking. I believe someone has called that character at some point in time.

All that to say, it was good to quiet myself a few days ago. That's something I don't do nearly enough. I'm slightly out of balance in that way, and my guess is many of you are too. I need to show the same dedication in life as I do in running. It's a shame that things are that way, but it's the truth. And the first step is admitting it, right?