On the Run

After making what was a rather hasty visit to Canada I realize that I have not had the time to write for a long time.  Much has happened, but little of it is of significance.  I recall reading the words of Roald Dahl in “Going Solo” that “A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones.”  As well, what may be “enthralling” to me, is not necessarily memorable for all.

I’ve decided to change the template on the blog, and have considered going to a paid rate to get better services, as well as many other features.  Now that the GDPR rules are enforce I wonder if I should write anything at all, and if so, shall I still link them to Facebook, or Twitter.  All this is not the real reason I write.  The real reason I write is that I have an assignment in a Spiritual Direction course to complete, and well, the procrastination is ever present.  I have made several stabs at writing my paper on “How does one grow in intimacy with God?” and I am now in the editing phase.

Intimacy with God is a fickle thing.  There are times when some of the basics become just that – too basic – and I search for some other possibilities.  I am loth to write an easy answer that sounds like a self-help easy 10 steps to Spiritual Enlightenment.  At the moment, along with the classical examples of prayer and Bible reading, I have found running to be a quiet centre where I commune with God.

I have been active in running or jogging since living in Vancouver.  As a child I recall loving to run, until a diagnosis of Asthma happened and it felt as though I had a pillow stuffed over my face, or like I was trying to breathe through a thin plastic straw.  Eventually, having a lot of time alone and going to university, I was determined to run as some kind of exercise – an activity that was not expensive.  Over time, running along with walking became easier and easier.  The asthma no longer seemed present and I felt that I could extend my runs for longer periods of time.  I participated in the Vancouver Sun Run a number of times, the Grouse Grind Race, various seasonal ‘fun runs’, and several other Vancouver area runs.

The journey back to Canada to visit family was focused and short, but I wanted to include a race to help keep my mind set on some kind of goal.  I found that the Shaughnessy 8k was on so I submitted my entry form and fee and waited for the big day. The run had appeal as it was around the area in which I began running in ernest, and it was also a race for the good cause of cancer research.  Lapping up the nostalgia as I lapped the neighbourhood was what I was expecting.  What I did not remember was how hilly the route was!  From a steep initial incline, to the gradual rolling streets, it was a far cry of running for many kilometres down the German side of the Rhein!

My daughters stood on the side of the street screaming at me to run faster as the finish approached, and my father was able to be present for the race as well.  After having intended to go for a short run a couple of days prior to the race I became lost (poor signage) and circumnavigated most of a nature park only to return to the parking lot 5 minutes after other family members had finished their 4 km hike to see that I had completed 17 km of running through what was mostly elbow-high grass rather than trail.  Having now over-trained prior to the 8k race I felt unprepared and more than just a little winded as I climbed the first hill.  Running, with feet pounding the street, breathing paced, and sweat dripping down the forehead, are all paths to growing in intimacy with God.  “God, when will this end!”, may have been the prayer at one point in the race, but overall it is a style of meditation that draws me closer to God.

At the end of the race I was shocked to learn that I had won a door prize, and later, that I was called up for winning 3rd place for my age category.  And if you are thinking as my brother did; I can tell you there were more than three people in the 40-44 age group.

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And the bronze medal goes to…

Now having returned for some weeks to Germany I continue to run on a regular basis looking for scenic routes, for longer and longer distances, or even a quick jog that I can fit into my schedule.

Reading in a German running magazine the responses from various runners when asked if they thought it correct to greet other runners while out on your own run (I think only in Germany would this be an issue) I liked one gentleman’s response, in that he waves to everything but the trees because as he runs through the forests he doesn’t often see other people, so takes every opportunity to wave.  So far, of the places I have ventured to run in Europe, I have enjoyed Switzerland the most.  The scenery of both the Rhein, the Münsterplatz of old city of Basel, the parks, and the people (all of whom waved), have made it an enjoyable place to grow closer in intimacy with God.

Now that I have probably outdone myself in word-count and run-on-sentences for this blog post it is probably wise to head back to the paper on spiritual direction…or maybe there is still time for another run.

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Light

People often tell me that they enjoy the light of Freiburg.  That there is a unique quality to the light that is distinctive to the place.  Usually I just see light without the uniqueness that others enjoy.  Perhaps I am simple.

I now run around 5 kilometres three to four times a week as part of my wellbeing.  It was the other day, perhaps from a ‘runners high’ that I noticed the light.  My running routes purposely take me away from the busy roads and I find myself running through fields and vineyards.  The weather is getting cooler and I usually am the only person walking, or running outside.  In the evenings the gym near the train station is aglow with neon lights and the bobbing silhouette of men and women jogging on treadmills.  Even when it is raining the grey clouds don’t always seal up the sun.  Particularly in the evenings towards sun-set the light is wonderful and majestic for a few moments.  There are times on my runs when I want to stop and dig out my phone so that I can snap a quick photo, but the light is so perfect for just a short time that the moment has passed before I can untangle my headphones and retrieve my phone.  The photos never do any justice to the overall view.

Now the sun provides such a contrast to the grey clouds, the flocks of birds that scavenge the spilt corn, and the multi coloured vines that make the hills into a patchwork quilt of colour.

Is it from the time spent being in one place that I can now see the light in the way that others have tried to express? Or is it the pumping heart, the working legs and the distance that is more than just kilometres that has worked to open my eyes to the etherial light of Freiburg?

 

Promises

Julie Andrews acting as Mary Poppins talks of ‘a pie crust promise’ in the Disney movie of the same name, and describes the pie crust promise as: “Easily made. Easily broken.”

At its simplest, a promise is for an individual.  One person can promise to do things for ones self.  In the more complex, a promise is an oath, or pact between one person and many.  In another, a promise is between a person and God; and God and his people.

I make those famous ‘pie crust promises’ to myself a lot of the time.  I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, but I do promise to myself that I will do something and that usually works…for a while.  My newest promise to myself is to take more time for physical fitness.  I’ve found that living in the land of beer and pretzels has changed my features so exercise is something I need to do.  Self-care is a phrase that is thrown around among church leaders, yet our track record is pretty dismal.  Self-care phrases are surrounded by the words of expectation and guilt, namely, “would’a, could’a and should’a.”  “I really should exercise more!”,  prompts me into doing so under duress.  The excuses for not finding the time to exercise are rampant, as there always seems to be some more pressing issue, or meeting in the calendar to look after other than ourselves.

In the church congregation I have managed to pull a ‘Jephthah’.  What is that? Well Jephthah is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Judges and in his pride he publicly proclaims that as God as his witness he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house to give God glory.  Tragically it is his loving (and only) daughter that runs out of the house first to meet her father.  Promising to do something and then not doing it comes with the speaking before thinking type of personality.  I’ve promised to do some things in the church and have not acted upon them with the speediness I had promised.  For this I am sorry and these things hang about on a long To Do list like some spectre of Christmas Past.

While the above promise mentions God, it is more a statement of oath that is a public one.  The promises, or oaths, that I made as a priest, are also in the context of community, but have a deeply personal relationship with God, and with God’s people.  Like at a wedding when one party makes oaths to the other (to love and cherish in sickness and in health) so too does the person being ordained priest make those similar statements to God and God’s Church.  “Will you be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh? Answer: I will endeavour myself so to do, the Lord being my helper.” (Book of Common Prayer pg 576-577)  Judging from my bookshelf I read a lot of books about the world in which I might find God present.  Of course I study my Bible and attempt to pray the daily offices of Morning and Evening prayer, but the big word is attempt.  Does this count as endeavouring? I think that a lot of people do endeavour as these questions of promise and fulfilment are perennial discussion topics in a congregation.  It is in the struggle that we meet God, not in the giving up and walking away.

Perhaps I have now come full circle in my list of promises as I have, in the past, trained to run races and proudly remember making a very good time in one gruelling mountain race. I have not always run, neither have I always prayed the daily offices.  Perhaps it is the enduring of the promise that is the place of grace.  Rather than looking at a promise as a quick way to find a solution, or the fast track to complete a goal, a promise is an enduring relationship between me and God, just as it is a relationship between me and a community.  The promise is not the thing that will change us, it is the continual wrestling with ourselves, with the words we speak, and the work we have left undone.  The promise will rear its head again and again because we are cannot complete all that we have promised.  That is God’s work of promise that is completed for us, and so we continue to wrestle with our own promises and shortcomings and we end up being changed –  a people who run with a limp.

 

via Daily Prompt: Promises