The joy of running

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I’m learning to like running.

“How?”, you ask.

By not making any plans.

Saturday afternoon I set out to run at least two miles. Two miles marked the full extent of my planning. I had no set route. No GPS to measure my progress. No phone or clock to keep time. Nothing but a beautiful day and time. My feet hit the end of the driveway and I turned right, but within less than twenty strides I’d decided to explore. Another twenty strides and I turned left onto a street I’d never taken before.

Abercrombie sported a few people up and down the street and I zigzagged back and forth in an effort at mobile social-distancing. By this time I had already started to breathe a little harder. I’m no six minute miler. More like a ten minute miler. I pushed a little, but I settled into a pace I could keep without stopping. I ran until what amounted to a dead end before retracing my steps and heading back home. I felt great as I pushed myself all the way to the driveway and, slowing to a walk, walked right past. Over the next mile I strolled, sprinted and punched my way into a cooldown before finding my driveway again and turning in.

I felt great! And I felt appreciation for the freedom I’d had to simply be.

No real goals.

No timer.

No schedule.

Just me and the open road.

And I loved every minute of it.

So much so, in fact, that every run since has turned out the same way. I run until I don’t want to run. Strangely, I find I’m running faster, longer and harder than I did when I had goals, timers and a schedule. It leads me to wonder what other places in my life would benefit from such freedom? Something to explore another day.

So, like I said, I’m learning to love running by not making any plans.

What about you? Care to give it a try?

Beyond the realm of coincidence

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“Oh Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” -Psalm 38:9

Wednesdays of late have been an irritation. To put it in context you have to understand I work open to close on Wednesdays. It makes for a long day, but that alone isn’t the source of frustration. Opportunity is. I find myself busier than I’ve ever been and loving every minute of it. So my mid week is an interruption, and I hate interruptions.

Yesterday, however, was an exception. I arrived at work without any other thing on my mind to do for the day. I was at peace. If I understood all the reasons why, I’d try harder to plan so I could live there. Since I don’t, I chose to enjoy it.

But as the day went on my peace faded. Expectations I’d held for the day didn’t come to pass and the knot of anxiety began building in my gut. Magnificent stories began crafting themselves in my mind. Great myths and legends to fill the void created by my lack of knowledge. By the way, I’m a great story teller. Sadly, that also means I’m an exceptional liar when it comes to the unknown and I couple that with expecting the worst. It’s uncomfortable to say the least.

In this state, I wasn’t prepared for the last minute rush of customers. About ten minutes to close, a family of ten and a couple others walked in the door. I cursed myself. I cursed God. Then I put on my customer service face and started helping them. In the midst of this I received a single message that turned everything around. The customers who would keep me well past close became a blessing instead of a curse. And the very thing I’d longed for might yet come to pass even at this late hour.

I was chastened. God showed me in a single moment that everything sits in the palm of His hand. He went out of his way to stack the odds beyond the realm of coincidence so I wouldn’t miss it, and I heard him loud and clear.

I see you.

I love you.

I know your longings.

Trust me.

Praying with an open hand

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“Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it.”

Anyone in church circles has probably heard this admonition before. I came face to face with it last week as I struggled with my longings. I wanted to pray. I wanted to ask God to fulfill my desires. I wanted to entrust my hopes to Him with anticipation. And then I heard these words from the recesses of my mind. I began to worry over the rightness of my desire and felt a deep sorrow.

Thankfully, I dared to question this so called wisdom that I’ve taken at face value for so long. I won’t completely throw it out. After all, I do believe there is wisdom in these words. However, that wisdom can only be found in a right understanding of who God is. When I addressed my fears, I realized my expectation saw God’s “you might get it” answer as bordering malicious, as a punishment.

But that’s not the God I serve!

The truth is found in the reminder that God is love. At any point He chooses to give us our desire where it causes pain or hurt, His purpose behind doing so is one of Love. It is a gift to make us into better men and women, better children.

Armed with such a hope, I returned to my desires and began to pray freely. It reminded me of Christ in the Garden. His prayer in the Garden is raw and honest. He prayed freely before God and shared His desires without reserve. And when all was said, He submitted himself to the Father in complete trust – “not my will, but yours be done.”

For me, it can be summed up in these words. Pray with an open hand.

Ultimately, desire is desire. I want what I want. What I’ve come to believe is that I can bring all of me to God, and that includes all of what I want. Ultimately, he may say no. He may also say yes in order to teach me. Note here, not to punish me! And He may also say a simple and gracious yes. In all of this, I’ll never know if I don’t ask. And if I am truly in a relationship with Him, I will want to entrust it all to Him. He loves me and has my best at heart.

So, knowing all that I will pray what is raw and honest while trusting Him to answer as is best.

And I will pray with an open hand.

Sail on

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Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
blessing the boats  (at St. Mary’s)
by Lucille Clifton
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

This morning I struggled to rise. While some days bring with them a dawning of boundless hope, others weigh heavily like leaden clouds on the horizon. Today began with darkness and the scent of ozone and rain. It would have been easy to roll over and seek escape, but I did not.

Recently, I heard another man share his own struggles. Days when, despite all his success and gifts, he must make a conscious decision to get up and do it all again. Today was my day. And I rose to face the day, to carry out today’s tasks no matter how small, to embrace the present, and to entrust my back to the wind. I will face my unknown waters, waters “waving forever”, and sail on.

Life lessons bound in leather

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This journal is one of my favorite Christmas gifts, and as of today I am 40% of the way through it. I felt a little sadness as the imminence of its passing crossed my mind. Soon I’ll trade it’s cloth-like paper for the smoother, modern sheets of my usual journal of choice, a Moleskine Cahier. The quote etched leather binding will give way to plain card stock, and the legal style horizontal binding transition to a more tradition vertical binding. And while that day is still a ways off, its passing is inevitable.

Today it marked a reminder that all good things must end. Yet even as I see that day approaching, I will continue to use my journal to the fullest. I will not shorten my time with it in hopes of making it last a little longer. I will not avoid it, and in using other journals keep it closer for just a bit longer. I will not put it on a shelf to admire from afar. I will not run from the inevitability of our parting.

Instead, I will continue to meet inspiration, joy, worry and sorrow within its pages. I will continue to take pleasure in the feel of the paper, the way it takes the lead of the pencil, and its unique aroma. I will enjoy it until they day comes that our time together has come to an end, and then I will, with fond memories, move on. Made better by my time with it and ready to embrace the new and the different.

Such is today’s life lesson. One found in blank pages and pencil lead. One bound in leather.

the greatest treasure

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my shadowed places
your radiance illumines,
by your life I shine.

-kirk stevens

I feel very blessed to be surrounded by amazing people. Tonight, a friend’s heartfelt concern for another challenged me. It was nothing more than the comment of a moment, an expression of desire for someone we both care about to know Christ.

Some who read this may not agree with that desire and that’s okay. If it helps, think of something else that you deeply value for a dear one’s life. The point is, her presence reconnected me with something important. Rather than bring guilt or shame, it challenged me, and, in a way, invited me to join her in her care for another.

If you have people in your life that make you a better person simply by their presence. People who, in the simple act of living, encourage, challenge and inspire you. People whose light makes your light brighter. Hold them close. I’m not sure there is any greater treasure in this life.

Moving on

Three years ago I bought a house. I believed it to be the best decision for me, and at that time it was probably true. Today, however, I am moving out of that house and preparing to sell. Time have changed, and I with them.

Preparations for today have stirred up memories like sediment in a stream, and my mucking about has only brought up more. In some ways, it was an act of desperation. I’d enjoyed exceptionally low rent for several years, but the house I’d lived in would soon sell. I had to move, and nothing on the market could match my budget. Oddly enough, here in Memphis a mortgage payment could be far less than rent, and it didn’t hurt to know I would ultimately be investing money in my own pocket rather than a landlord’s.

As for other reasons, I was seeking a more “normal” life. My life has never exactly conformed to the status quo. Sometimes I see that as an amazing gift. Others, I wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. At that point in time, I knew the life I had been living needed to change. For the me of three years ago, change meant more stability and more money. So I began pursuing a management career at Starbucks and bought a house. I know I hoped it would bring some legitimacy in the eyes of others, and maybe a wife.

You may wonder, how did that work out for me? Well… not bad. And not in any way like I planned.

For one, I never saw the money I hoped for. Turns out management is not something I’m well suited for. And the house, while quickly paid off due to an inheritance, became a time and money sink. I never had enough to make it the house I’d hoped it would become, and I realized 1,600 square feet with a front and back yard is a lot of real estate to manage for one person.

That said, these past few years it has been a gift. Paid off, it gave me the freedom to leave Starbucks, and after the chaos of my experience there I needed to leave if only for my mental health. In the interim between my sister selling her house and purchasing a new one, it provided a home for her, my niece and my nephew. And when a friend needed a new place to stay, I had an extra room for him. But most of all, this house has been part of a process of learning about the world and myself. I better understand the value of my time and mental well being. I had to learn that lesson through imbalance of a job, a life and a home.

All in all, it served its purpose and I am grateful I made the decision. But as I mentioned before, times have changed and so have I. I’ve rediscovered my long lost dream. I’ve found peace in who I am, and I am not trying so hard to match up to what others think is normal. (Note, if you happen to be looking for a life partner, it might do well to find someone as crazy as yourself.) And I am free. Free from most of the obligations of my peers. It is startling to realize I have the same freedom I did the day I first braved the world and left for college.

Thankfully, I also have a little more experience and, I hope, wisdom. And soon, once the house is sold, I will also have a fair starting point for this next stage of life.

All in all, I guess life is still life. I made the best call I could at the moment. I ran it for all it was worth, and now it’s time to move on. I don’t regret the struggle. I certainly don’t regret the blessings that shined linings of silver on sullen, grey clouds. They made me who I am, and have laid and are laying the foundation for what comes next.

& what’s next?

Well, I’ll save that for another day.