Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Mass

Just a quick note today.  Father Sam had his walker at church toda.  I worry about his health.  However, it was not the fact that he was using his walker that caught my attention the most.  What caught my attention the most was his multiple efforts to make everyone feel welcome.  He said that he was not concerned about people showing up only once in a while.  He mentioned that not everyone may be fully engaged.  But he noted that everyone is welcome.  What a wonderful message.  What a gift--on the day we celebrate the greatest gift of all from God.  

Music also went quite nicely today.

It will be interesting to see how St. Pius X as a parish and the Catholic church as a whole under the new leadership can continue to make people feel welcome.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Little Time as an "I" (Meyer-Brigggs) is Still Not a Bad Thing

My closing thought for the Lenten season is how lucky I am to have such an array of gifts from God. And they tap into a wide array of different points of focus in my life.  So, despite thinking recently about how much differently I "lean" toward the extrovert, today was an example of a good run just alone and how it was useful.  There are things I noticed--like the unusual number of birds around Druid Hill Lake who were very loud and the sun reflecting pink off the west side lake just briefly before the orange ball appeared over the horizon.  Sometimes when I am with people I am not as observant.  And that is something I should think about all the time.  Not just being observant about the world around me, but also being observant about the things that people say to me.  It might help some of my relationships.  

Hand Written Notes

As I leave my old position and start a new position I hand wrote thank you notes to several individuals.  A couple have commented specifically on them.  The clearest sign that my investment of time was worth while was the impression it made on one colleague who said that when she opened what was clearly a card her initial reaction was "a hand written note!"  In this day and age it is surprising, but somehow people perceive it as a different level of thought and effort.  I suppose in my case, particularly to make it legible.  I don't know how many more hand written notes I will send in the near future, but an old school approach apparently can sometimes make a big difference to people.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Moon and Clouds on the Horizon

So, I did get some inspiration while running this morning.  I ran before sunrise.  The moon was near the horizon and looked (although I realize it is only an optical illusion) extra large.  But it was covered by clouds.  So, something that was prominent in the sky could not be seen perfectly clearly.  What did I think of?  I thought of other things that are guiding lights for me that I don't always see clearly:

  • God
  • My career path
  • My family

With patience, the clouds went away, the moon looked even brighter, and things could be seen more clearly.  Sometimes it is just patience.  Sometimes there is a lot of work to do.  But, I expect that in most cases if I wait, I will be able to make more sense out of things.  That I find reassuring.  And even when I can't make complete sense out of things, the size of the moon on the horizon and how bright it is makes me think of how dominant God, career, and family are in my life and how I can follow a path for each of these even if they are not perfectly clear. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Readings I Need

So this week I have been looking at the readings for the Catholic masses.  The readings are right on target in the week of the church year that is the darkest--leading to the remembrance of the crucifixion on Good Friday.  It is, of course, important to be reminded of these lessons over and over again.  I do not deny that.  However, I have been struggling with looking for readings that are more hopeful.  More optimistic.  More expectant.  I suppose those would be Advent readings or readings after the resurrection while the disciples were trying to figure out what was going on.  My life right now--as I approach my job change--is all about being hopefully.  Looking forward.  Looking for the good things in life.  I suppose that with a job change just after Easter, it would be difficult for me to find the types of readings I would be looking for to help me with the transition.  That could lead me to look for other readings.  Or it could just lead me to be reflective and appreciate what I have and continue to pray and know that I will find what I am looking for if I remain open to hearing it and finding out about it.  Perhaps tomorrow on my run I will find inspiration in my run.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Church that is "Poorer"

Fr. Sam made sure to point out at mass on Sunday that the Pope will be going to a juvenile detention center on Holy Thursday to celebrate mass and wash feet.  Fr. Sam described this as make our church poorer but richer.  Fr. Same consistently likes to talk about the beatitudes and this is like something straight out of the beatitudes.  The poorness in this case is poor in spirit.  Meek.  Humble.  The richness comes from the rewards that are promised for those who follow in the ways outlined by Jesus in the beatitudes.  I know I am one of many who hopes that this is a sign of more to come from our new Pontiff.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Let it Go

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I like to look for similarities, patterns, and coincidences as inspiration for what I write.  Yesterday there was a three word phrase "Let it go" that was used in two very different situations that captured my attention.  And, it was also a very important phrase for me yesterday as well as for life in general.

So where was it used.  Instance #1--high school contemporary posts a picture of his 16 year old daughter's just completed tattoo on her abdominal area.  It says "Let it go".  Dad says of daughter's choice (not quoting quite word for word)--if this is the worst thing you can complain about your 16 year old daughter doing, you've done pretty well.

Instance #2--Fr. Sam at church often likes to emphasize that the Our Father calls on God to forgive us only as much as we forgive others.  So, he called on us to "let it go" if we were feeling any hate or other negative feelings toward others heading into the Holy Week.

With those two occurrences, it was obvious what to write about today.

So, why was that important yesterday.  The worship band I play with concluded with a version of Amazing Grace that is considered the "traditional" version.  Many times before I'd been asked to sing a bass part for the song--particularly for the a cappella verse at the end.  Not asked yesterday.  Follows several other weeks recently when I was not asked to sing when the male vocals could have used a hand.  I used to complain about not being asked to sing and play.  However, I have come to focus on just playing bass.  And I play better when I just play.  So, I have decided to let it go.  Leave it alone.  And just take the worship band for what it is.  A wonderful opportunity to share faith with others in the band and with the rest of the congregation to which I make a contribution each week.  And not look at what it is not.

Life in general?  My oldest son noted several times yesterday when my wife commented on things where she commented on how it could have been better.  He told her (not in so many words, but essentially) that she should just look at the good in what she was given or has and deal with it.  That is one thing I have tried to do more and more over time.  It makes me a lot more satisfied with life in general and makes me a lot less stressed about life.

So, the importance of a phrase that captured my attention in a friend's daughter's tattoo and a priest's introduction to the Our Father is clear for me--yesterday and every day. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Thought Provoking Comment from the Pope

The Pope made the comments I am about to quote (found at http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301200.htm) several days ago as the link is dated March 15.  The quote of interest to me this morning is:
One "curiosity," the pope noted, is that the Holy Spirit is a sort of "apostle of Babel" that creates the differences in the church.
But on the other hand, he said, it's the same Holy Spirit that "unites these differences, not in equality but in harmony," by focusing everyone's different gifts on the adoration of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Why do I find this interesting?  I know that many people seem to feel that all masses should be the same.  Or that all children should act the same during mass.  And yet, even the Pope refers to differences that are okay as long as everyone is focusing on adoring the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  So, by this account it is okay that people show up in different clothes, sing different songs, and even have different levels of solemness as long as we all have a respect for God, a belief in God, and try to live in a way that shows our adoration for God.  This could be a great goal for all congregations as set by the Pope using reference to a story that is usually perceived as negative when reading the Old Testament and turning it into a positive.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Beauty and Challenge of Running at Loch Raven Reservoir

Today I ran at the Loch Raven reservoir for the first time since mid-October.  Met a long-time running buddy of mine who has a much different training style at 6:30 AM before it was light.  The sun had begun to light the sky after just two miles and it was beautiful to see the early morning sky over the trees, over the reservoir, and over the dam.  Fully experiencing the life that God has provided.  We stopped twice before 12.5 miles and when my running buddy was poised to rest at 12.5, I told him I was going to go on.  I needed to open up a bit more and I needed to be done sooner.  So, I moved from our 8-minute plus pace on average to no one mile being 8+ after 12.5.  I ran another 9 rather than another 7.5  Doesn't make me any better than my buddy.  Just speaks to different needs and different goals and both are okay.  The harder run using more energy was really part of feeling that I was experiencing all that God makes available for the life of a runner.  And then when we got the mail I got my main information from the Boston Marathon.  Good day!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Two Haiku About Movement on Meyer-Briggs Traits


I Becomes E
Silently thinking 
Lacks the meaning of turning
Words into artwork

J Turns Out to Be P
Always adapting
While telling linking stories
Is a long term plan

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Follow-Up on Free Will

When running, I have the free will to run my own race or workout as I will.  I also have the free will to follow someone else.  That someone else may be running their own race and I try to follow them.  Or that person may be willing and attempting to pace me.  I run the best races when I plan my own race and stick to it (using my free will, my patience, and my own drive) but I sometimes have greatly benefitted from having someone else who knows better than me guide me along the way.

This is where I find a major crossover between my running life and my spiritual life.  God gave us free will.  I have the free will to choose whom to follow.  The key is to make the right choice about whom to follow as a guidepost for my life.  If I follow the right person/philosophy/worldview/God then life will be made more fulfilling, more enriching, and more hopeful.  If I choose wrong, well...  Things won't work out so well.

So there is a lot to be said for free well in choosing how to run and in choosing how to live.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Running and Free Will

Yesterday I was catching up on some reading and paged through a recent Runner's World.  There was a great article about the Steve Prefontaine Memorial Race.  One quote from Prefontaine (a US distance runner in the early 1970's who died an early death in a car accident) in the article was the following: 
The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.
This quote fascinates me after two recent runs for the following reason.  First, when I ran the 1:30:39 recently and had negative splits, I commented to my running partner that I felt completely in control and how different that felt from when I ran a half-marathon race the last time in November when particularly my first five miles felt like I was pushing too much.  Today, in our 5x1600m workout, the first 1600 was at an easy 6:20something pace.  Then the other four were all sub 6:05.  All, except for the last one felt completely under control. Even the last one felt mostly under control.  It helped to have a buddy who is faster than me pacing it out.  I just followed along and for a couple ran along side him for the last lap.  Our very last lap of the morning resulted in my buddy and I running a 5:53 total with the last lap being at about 85 seconds was just on the border of control.  But it was still under control.  It was just fast enough to make a difference and bring us home with our fastest mile of the day being our last.

The choice to go out a little slow and come back is a strategic choice.  It is a matter of free will.  It is a choice I make about how to run.  

I like to feel under control when I run.  When I don't, it worries me.  It worries me that I might injure myself.  It worries me that I might not last.

Obviously Prefontaine was different.  If he took his own statement seriously, he would have just gone with "the sky's the limit" attitude for every race and pushed as hard as he could.  That is also part of free will.  Just how much effort to exert every single time.

Maybe his attitude and an amazing endurance was why he was a great runner and I am just a good amateur.  

What I like to ponder is how a quote like his could apply not only to my running (especially with Boston coming up) with to the rest of my life and what is the difference between going out with a lot of effort but still feeling like I am in control and just turning over my fate to my faith and pushing with every last ounce of energy that God has bestowed upon me.

Perhaps I will find out in Boston.

Then, I can carry that forward in my life. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Quote from the New Pope

A quote form the new pope: "We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery."  I found it at http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/03/14/pope-francis-in-his-own-words/ after it was brought to my attention by the leader of the children's and youth ministry at my church and the pastoral life director at my church (in two different settings).  

In any case, it is a cool reminder that we can't just continue to serve the people already in the pews and act within our comfort zones.  The evangelical mission is about outreach to those whom we don't normally see, those from whom we don't normally hear, and those whose lives we don't normally touch.  It is a turning outward rather than turning inward. Not to say, of course, that the Catholic church couldn't stand to do some cleaning up by turning inward but to note that it will not survive if it does not turn outward and bring more people in.  

After a very long email to a friend about the music ministry group that I am a part of, I think of how this would apply (or not) to the music ministry.  Do we operate too much within a comfort zone too much of the time?  What would moving out of our comfort zone mean for a music ministry?  And how would a must ministry reach the periphery?  Not easy questions but ones that might, just might, take the music ministry to a higher level some day if people were willing to struggle with the issues raised and come away with a better sense of what our ministry does mean and could mean than we have now.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Today's First Reading and Looking Ahead

At this time of transition in my life, today's first reading for the Catholic mass speaks to me very clearly.  The reading recalls the exodus from Egypt and describes the deliverance from Babylon.  The middle of today's reading includes all of Isaiah 43:18 and the beginning of 43:19:
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
See, I am doing something new!
I think that the key in my case is not to completely forget the past but, instead, not to focus on the past.  I can learn from the past without dwelling in it.  And, while I have no desire to call all the attention to my own activities in my new job as I am part of a team, I want to focus on the present and on moving ahead.  I want to focus on the transformation in my own life.  The transformation to one who can lead but with humility.  The transformation to one who brings to the table a series of ideas and actions.  

So, no comparison with the acts of God in terms of deliverance from Egypt and Babylon.  But a definite focus on change, transformation, and looking ahead to what is new in my own life and in the world around me as I move forward in my family life, my professional life, and my running.  

Homily from the Heart and Mind

When I read about the new Pope's first homily it made a big impression on me.  I don't even recall the topic, and years from now I am sure I will not.  What I recall is the fact that it was described as a homily without notes.  This is in contrast with the last Pope who had a three page homily written in Latin.  While sometimes, speeches "off the cuff" or "direct from heart and mind" are not the best way to go (as my middle son on Friday night found out when he was working from notes at a 4-H speech competition and was told his prepared speech sounded a bit too informal), the fact that the new Pope would have the confidence and comfort to do that is something I respect quite a bit!  As for my son's presentation, I was actually quite impressed with how well he did with just notes since I love to lecture that way, but not all judges think the same way.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Few More Thoughts on the New Pope

The new Pope seems theologically conservative.  I don't expect to see a change in the church's stands on contraception, ordination of women, marriage for priests, same ses marriage, etc.  But he is described as a person who does not put himself above others.  He asked for the congregation to pray for him before he blessed them.  He took Francis as a name--in honor of someone who gave up riches to lead a simple life.  He took public transit back in Argentina.  He cooked for himself.  He followed soccer.  He is reported to get up at 4:30 AM.  It seems that his focus may be more on social justice issues--which is a lot of what Jesus focused on in his teachings.

So, while I may still have some views that diverge with the church and the pontiff, I believe that there is a strong possibility that I will feel a greater connection.  That I could imagine myself getting to know this Pope.  If we go back to the description of some presidential candidates past--I could imagine sitting and having a drink with him in ways that would have been hard to imagine with other recent Popes.

Yes, he is 76.  As a result, his tenure as Pope is not likely to be the longest.  But perhaps given what I have mentioned above and all the "firsts" about this Pope, it is a sign of a different focus to come.  We shall see.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The New Pope

The new Pope chose the name Francis.  Francis of Assisi was a man of humility.  

According to news reports, the new Pope has spent quite a bit of his ministry working with the poor.  When I read this, it made me think of a song that has been sung for years in the Catholic church, "The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor".  It is a much more mournful song that most of what the worship band with which I play sings.  And of all the things about our worship band I have to say that the fact that most of what we sing is about worship and praise and so little is mournful has always been something that has not sat quite right.  There is a lot to be sorrowful about--in readings, in the world, etc.  And sometimes even the music ministry needs to reflect that.  Yes, we reflect it during Lent and Holy Thursday.  But that is not the only time of the year to mourn.

In any case,  the title of the song is related to Psalm 34 verse 7 and there are signs of other verses (like 2 and 3) in the verses.  It is a reminder (to borrow from the footnote at the end of the Psalm on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website) that the "defenseless" can rely on God.  It is also a reminder as we read the rest that the defenseless (i.e., poor) may find it easier to rely on God.  

Finally, it is a useful reminder of how much the mission of the church and its members is supposed to be to ease the suffering of the poor and defenseless and what types of ministries the new Pope will focus on and encourage.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bib # 7827

Yesterday I received my Boston Marathon Bib Number (7827), Wave Number (1), and Corral Number (8).  Given that this is such a momentous race for me, I looked for some more inspiration.  Here is what I came up with: Psalm 78 Verses 2-7:
I will open my mouth in a parable,
unfold the puzzling events of the past.
What we have heard and know;
things our ancestors have recounted to us.
We do not keep them from our children;
we recount them to the next generation,
The praiseworthy deeds of the LORD and his strength,
the wonders that he performed.
God made a decree in Jacob,
established a law in Israel:
Which he commanded our ancestors,
they were to teach their children;
That the next generation might come to know,
children yet to be born.
In turn they were to recount them to their children,
that they too might put their confidence in God,
And not forget God’s deeds,
but keep his commandments.
I found this inspirational because it speaks of parables (which I think are a great way of teaching), explaining puzzling events of the past (which my faith has many of), and the timeless passage of the message from God from one generation to the next (and I always look for timeless messages).  All of this is aimed at remembering God's deeds and keeping his commandments.  One of God's most important deeds is the gift of grace for humanity (which I commented on yesterday) and keeping commandments is something I focus on in general as well as having prepared my eight year old for his first reconciliation this Saturday.  

Never ceases to amaze me how life all intertwines.   

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Running and the Grace of God

Today, I just wanted to write a brief note on my thoughts about running and the grace of God.  I have mentioned how I experience or feel grace when I am running.  Looking back at the definitions of grace that the Catholic church uses, I thought it might be useful to push that a little to see what conclusions I could come to.

I found an entire section on grace in the Catechism of the Catholic church online (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm). 

What does it tell me?  Well, what strikes me most is that grace is participation in the life of God.  There is also a sentence about grace being the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to the call to become children of God.

How does either of these relate to running.  First, I am using a talent that God has given me.  Later in the section it talks about how individuals called to specific vocation should do it well.  I'm nor sure that running is a vocation, but I hope that my running well is a sign that I also take my vocation seriously.  Second, I am experiencing nature--another gift from God and this would seem to be participation in the life of God.  Third, there are many teachings in the Catholic church about the need to take care of oneself.  Running is a great way to do that--to feel the vitality of life that God has given.  Fourth, there are times when quiet is needed.  Running is a great time for quiet.  Sometimes there is conversation but in other cases it is just the footsteps and breathing of individuals running side by side.  Fifth, running can be done in service--to help others, as a fundraiser, etc.  Sixth, running can strengthen friendship or be a time to listen to another.  

I am sure if I thought harder, I could find other examples.  But running and participation in the life of God and all the things that God has intended for me seem to go hand in hand. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Inspiration from 1:30:39

It has been a while since I have used a race time or a bib number to look for inspiration.  Of course, it has been a while since I've raced.  (Last two were in November and I did not race a lot last fall.)  However, the most recent half marathon distance (Saturday) that I spent quite a bit of time describing in detail yesterday being my best ever led me to think again about finding something inspirational and writing about something about it.  I have found something that fits so well, particularly since yesterday my blog was not just about the running of the half marathon but the fact that it was only after multiple attempts of people to tell me something about my running that I finally listened and had a joyful result.

Since it has been so long since I've done this, I will point out that my habit since the 2010 Baltimore Marathon has been to find a Bible or other inspirational verse that is related to the time that I ran or the number I was wearing.  In this case, since I wasn't racing and wasn't wearing a number, I can go from my time.  What my time led me to was Luke 1:30-39.  (It would have been slightly easier if I ran a 1:30:38 but even verse 39 is useful.)  Here is the reading from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website:
 
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”*
And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
Why is this so meaningful to me after a discussion about a lesson learned?  Well, it does not get the very start of when the angel first appeared to Mary, this is the story of someone presented with something amazing that led to joy (at least at first) and accepting it the first timeMary did not need more than one time to accept the news.  Mary accepted fully what was told to her and said simply "May it be done to me according to your word."  Then, in verse 39, she went out and began the "implementation" by going to visit her cousin Elizabeth.
 
There are more times in life than just aiming for negative splits in which listening the first time (or doing something after being asked the first time) would serve me well.  Now that I have seen how useful it can be to do what is suggested/asked, perhaps I should take that forward with me for my religion and my way of living in general, take inspiration from the example of Mary, and not wait so long to take advice that is well intentioned from people who know better than me and who are probably right.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lesson Learned

This is a long entry.  Sort of like a race report, but I didn't race yesterday.  At least not against anyone.  I did, however, race against all the ghosts of runs past that turned out not quite as strong as I'd expected.  

So, at least since I first trained with John Shafer at Charm City Run for the Maryland Half Marathon in 2011, people have been telling me in different forums to try to run constant or negative splits for long races.  And for all that time, I have gotten out to starts that were too quick then faded at the end.  Yesterday changed that.  Now I can say the lesson has been learned.  Experiential learning is great. Experiential learning is one reason my wife and I send our kids to the school that we do.  Now, I, too, have experienced it in a big way.

So, here is a link to the run.  This was done five weeks and two days before Boston.  My friend (and, more importantly to this conversation,  running mentor) and I had been discussing how I could get in a really strong race before Boston.  The DC Rock n Roll Marathon and Half Marathon are next weekend, but I did not have a strong desire to try to get into a race in DC.  The B&A is also next weekend, but by the tie we actually looked into it the half had already filled up.  It always fills up early.  So, a few weeks back we picked a Saturday and planned to meet on the NCR trail just to see what I could do.

Yesterday was great as my 8 year old's hockey season was over so I didn't have to be done too early.  It was the last day before daylight savings time so the sun was up.  

As the day approached, we changed our plans a little bit.  My friend's last two track workouts at which we crossed paths were not bad, but she was not 100%.  So, we had talked about instead of trying to get me to break the 7:00/mile average barrier or even shoot for a 1:30, just going out and running my marathon race pace (7:20/mile) as a good, long tempo run.  That was what we planned to start and after we finally met, and jogged a little to warm up and had one final bathroom stop, we set off.

We started right at mile marker 1 so that we wouldn't have to rely on the Garmin too much for distance. We ran and chatted quite a bit and when we passed the 2 mile marker looked at our watches and realized we were running just over 7:00, in fact 7:05.  That surprised as it didn't feel that fast.  For the second mile, we ran 7:12 which was closer to the pace we had discussed for the day, but still a bit quick.  We were feeling good and brought the third mile back down to 7:04.  It was then that it was clear that we woud not likely be slowing down to 7:20 for the rest of the run.

Miles 4 and 5 we ran at 7:00 and 7:03.  Still feeling good.  My friend, clearly feeling better than she had recently and me simply enjoying the great temps, nice sun, and lack of need for nutrition or water as I was going along.  Mile 6 led us up to mile marker 7 just shy of the building at Monkton (running 6:59 for mile 6), and I said that we should go just a little further (to 6.05 miles from where we had started according to my Garmin) so that we could get the full 13.1.  I was feeling good and thinking that while we were still running above 7:00 average 6 miles in we could do something that would be a PR for me.

Turn arounds on straight trails are always slow.  So, we made the turn around and headed south.   Mile 7 was run at 6:55.  At that point an entire mix of emotions and ideas was running through my head as I realized once again the grace of God and the joy of running.  The song "Time for Me to Fly" (old REO Speedwagon but a totally different context from long distance running) popped into my head.  My other running friend who is now dealing with a femur stress fracture who had asked me to run strong on her behalf popped into my head.  Having a good friend by my side was much appreciated.  

Mile 8 was the game changer.  That was run in 6:47 and we finally had our average down to 7:00.  Five miles to go.  Feeling really strong.  Checked to make sure that my running partner was feeling okay and planned to hold pace.  Ran mile 9 in 6:52 and mile 10 in 6:54.  At that point, I had achieved a sub-70 minute 10 miler.   One of these days I want to achieve that in a race.  Last three miles were run at 6:45, 6:41, and 6:39 holding the final 0.1 of a mile.  So, I had managed a better first 10 miles than the B-10 last year and a better last 5K than the GBMC Father's Day race the next day. 

It was an amazing day.  It was a day of learning self-control--not to go out too fast--and believing in myself--that whatever I set out to do I can and sometimes I just have to believe that I can go.  It was a day to learn that starting with self control leaves me strong to finish.  It was too bad not to do this in a race, but I may actually perform worse in a race.  There was no pressure and no strings attached yesterday.  Just out for an incredible run with a friend and mentor.  The day was full of meaning.  I look for meaning in each run and usually I find it.  Many lessons about not taking things too fast in life in general as well.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hosea 6:1-6

Today's reading for the Catholic mass is Hosea 6:1-6.  As I skimmed it this morning the last verse caught my attention most clearly, 
For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings
Following God is not about outward signs and all the "actions" and following rules in a church setting.  Following God is above love, knowledge of what he asks us to do, and acting on it.  An even more interesting tidbit it that the reading on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' website for today says "love" as listed above.  Whereas, the Bible verse on a separate web page also sponsored by USCCB actually says "loyalty".  I think that loyalty may capture better what I think is being asked for.  Not that love is unimportant--recently I wrote about loving God above all things.  But loyalty is something else and something that is clearly important and suggests not turning away from what is known.     

Friday, March 8, 2013

Catholic Reading of the Day

Today's mass's Gospel reading (Mark 12:28-34) is interesting for a couple reasons.  A scribe asks Jesus about the greatest commandment.  Jesus mentions loving God above all else (which includes following God that I mentioned yesterday) and then loving your neighbor as yourself.  I try to use the latter as a guide for my life.  A couple years ago I was reading the Old Testament and found a similar quote, but read a footnote talking about how it was different in the Old and New as the Old was aimed just at the community of Israelites whereas the New was about everyone.  What is even more interesting about the reading as I look at it this morning is not the first and second commandments of love as Jesus stated, but what comes next in Mark's interpretation.  In Mark's interpretation the scribe interprets what Jesus said back to Jesus.  Jesus comments on his understanding and says he is not far from the Kingdom of God.  Could mean destined for heaven--although that is not what Jesus said.  Could just mean that if the scribe follows what he said, he will be closer to bringing the Kingdom of God to its manifestation here on earth, which is what we are all meant to do.  What is even more interesting is that after that no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.  On the one hand, perhaps his statement was taken as ultimately authoritative.  On the other hand, I find it interesting that a divine teacher would be described as so "overwhelming" that his followers didn't want to ask him anything.  That is certainly not how I or most teachers I know want the world to work.  I ponder why that is there, what it meant, and how to avoid that in my own teaching--both professionally and spiritually to 3rd graders in Sunday School.  This year's class has actually been particularly good at asking questions.  I hope my future classes will be as well.  There are very few times when I would want things to be "not like Jesus" (crucifixion being an obvious exception).  But this, interestingly, is one.      

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coincidence of TIming

So, yesterday, I wrote about Father Sam's comments from ten days earlier, one noting that prophets were always sent when people needed reminding.  Interesting that one day later, it turns out that the Catholic mass reading (Jeremiah 7:23-28), turns out to be a reminder to the people of the simple rule they were given--"Listen to my [i.e., God's] voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people."  Not that listening and following was always supposed to be easy but a very simple expression of faith.  Then the rest of the reading goes on to comment on how people always turned away, turned their back to God rather than facing God, and became stiff necked (I have wondered often where that expression came from).  As I think about my own spiritual journey, I think about how to continue to turn my face to God and to avoid losing sight and becoming just as stiff necked as the people of ancient Israel.  I think that half the battle may be just to keep things like this on my mind and in my heart.  But that is only half the battle, of course.  The rest is to live them out.     

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Few More Thoughts from Fr. Sam

Last week, I had commented extensively on Fr. Sam's homily.  This week we had a substitute priest as Father Sam was away.  I still had two notes from my interpretation of what Father Sam said a week ago that deserve some mention.  First, he told a story that I am sure he had told at least once before.  It was about the washing of the feet.  He indicated that there had been a woman who had prayed complaining to God that there were "so many dirty feet".  The answer to her prayers was that there were only two dirty feet and they are Jesus's.  This, being in Fr. Sam's theme of service, and this being a direct take off on the things that Jesus told us about when we clothe, feed, or give water to the least one here on earth we are serving him directly.

The other note from last week was a comment about how prophets in the Old Testament were always sent to bring people who had strayed from God "back" toward God.  I suppose there would not have been a need for prophets if people continued to believe in God and follow all that was set before them.  It is interesting to think about what that means today and what it means about human nature.  Even in my own observation of what the church is telling me, I think about how the messages are much more important to me when I am struggling with what God is asking for than when things are great.  Although in my ongoing efforts to make my spiritual life a part of my everyday life and not just something for when I am troubled or when I have a "favor" to ask from God, I have sought to make inquisitiveness about my faith something that is there all the time and not just when I am in need.

Fr. Sam always gives the congregation a lot to think about.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Appreciation of Being Present

After yesterday writing about what being a runner means to me, I wanted to take time this morning to write about an appreciation for my fellow runners who may not be training for races on the same schedule that I am.  Who may not love track workouts as much as I do.  Who may not be feeling 100%.  Who have to drive to the track when I can jog over.  But who come anyway.  Who come for the camaraderie.  Who come to support a fellow runner training for the "big race".

It is like being supportive in general--even with family.  No one is always 100%.  Sometimes we have bad days.  Sometimes we have bad mornings.  Sometimes something else happened.  But we are always there.  Whether it is for a "big race" in life or everyday things.

I know I have talked about being present for others.  It matters in family.  It matters in education.  It matters as runners.  All are important. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

I am a Runner


I Am A Runner,
Relentless,
A seeker,
A believer,
A sharer,
A climber,
A cruiser,
A sweater,
A pusher,
Touched by grace,
Inspired by God,
Inspired by others,
Inspired by stick-to-it-ness,
Who loves exploring new routes,
Who loves the early morning,
Who loves the silence and the serenity of the sunrise,
Who loves conversation at seven miles per hour,
Who eats hills for breakfast,
Who struggles,
Who gets fatigued,
Who sometimes looses faith in himself,
Who enjoys company,
Who sometimes seeks out places to run alone,
Just to compare myself with the last time,
Who loves speed,
Who knows when overtraining has set in,
Who is a finisher.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Give Me Jesus

At mass tonight the worship band led Give Me Jesus (link is to a video--not of us!).  I find the song somewhat haunting.  It focuses on all the times in life to seek Jesus.  Times of praise.  Times of thanks.  Times of need.  And for those who believe that going to heaven is going home, when a person dies.  It can be played very mellow or somewhat upbeat--as for those who believe getting to Jesus is a great thing.  But the variation in tone that can be achieved by our combination of acoustic guitar and keyboard and bass with everything lightening up to support an alto singer for  "When I come to die//Give me Jesus" is amazing.  I can say without hesitation that if anything takes me from this earth while the worship band is still around (and it is not that I'm expecting that to happen), I'd want them to sing this as the opening song at the funeral mass.  

Extroverted and Introverted Running

So, despite my best efforts to actually write every day (and not just average every day) during Lent, it looks like today will mark the point at which I achieve averaging every day rather than writing every day.  I had a very long run yesterday (2 hours 56 minutes and a few seconds) and multiple family activities (and lots of driving) during the day.

In any case, I am thinking about extroverted and introverted running and how much I have changed since mid-summer 2010.  Before that time I almost always ran alone--except for counting, perhaps, my time at the gym in the room with the fitness machines.  It was about me, my health, my speed, my exercise.  

Since mid-summer 2010, things changed.  That is when I first started with a training group.  And from early August 2010 through October 2011, I trained with the Charm City Run marathon and half marathon training groups appropriate to specific races and fund-racing efforts for cancer-related charities.  Since then I have run with Back on My Feet as an organization, with individual members of Back on My Feet I've come to know well, with alumni of the Charm City Run training groups, and with people with whom I work.  Generally, I'm still running with others twice a week and alone 3-4 times a week, but the mix is obviously different and very importantly different.

I refer to them as extroverted and introverted running going back to the Meyer-Briggs.  Where do I draw my strength.  I find that I increasingly draw from my strength from running with others rather than from running alone.  One difficulty for me in running with others if finding people people who meet two criteria: run at speeds that are compatible with my getting a high quality workout and their getting a high quality workout and wanting to run at the same time of day.  I want to, like to, and almost have to run so that I am done and ready to start my day very early every day.  I have found a group willing to come to the track or to do tempo runs at 5:30 AM.  That is not a problem during the week.  The challenge is to find a group that or an individual who wants to begin before 6 on Saturdays.  

My concern is that one of my long-time training partners for Saturday may have to reassess her long-term plans for running.  A second person with whom I just had a first very enjoyable Saturday run is about to leave the Baltimore area.  There are others, and I am perfectly capable of doing runs like the 22 I did yesterday alone, but it is just not the same.  I truly draw energy from the runs with others.  They make a huge difference to me.  And running has warn off on the rest of my life as I find myself increasingly thinking of myself as at least a weak extrovert rather than a strong introvert and I think it has affected my ability to perform my job, my career advancement, and the way I look at life.  It is so amazing to think that it may have all begun with my running.

I owe something to everyone with whom I have ever run--not just for being good company but for helping to bring something out that had not been so prominent before in my life.  And, I owe something to Gerry whose passing brought about this change in my running.  I doubt anyone ever knows how their life or their death will completely affect others.  May I be so lucky to inspire as the years go on.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Two Interesting Readings

After the Gospel last Sunday was read, a friend in church reminded me that she and I had discussed how her favorite reading was the story of the walk on the road to Emmaus and then shared that her second favorite story was the Transfiguration (the Gospel that had just been read).  I got to thinking about those two stories.

I wrote a lot about the road to Emmaus after a friend's wedding last September.  I was thinking about how the story of the Transfiguration and Emmaus fit together.  One conclusion that I reached is that both are about transformations before the eyes of followers of Jesus.  In the Transfiguration there are three apostles with Jesus who suddenly see Jesus dressed differentl and speaking with Moses and Elijah.  Then a voice told them that this was "my Son" and after that Jesus returned to his normal self.  In the road to Emmaus, Jesus was walking with two who know of him who did not realize that it was Jesus until he broke bread.  After that, Jesus immediately disappeared.  Both stories involve new ways of looking at Jesus.  Both involve changes in the followers' beliefs.  Both involve sudden changes after the realizations.  Both leave me thinking--if I had such a strong but short revelation--what would I do?  Would it change me forever, or would the brevity leave me wondering and more confused?  I don't know.

However, I find each story so interesting as they show how humans are sometimes left to struggle with messages from the divine.  The reactions were so different. The apostles with Jesus didn't tell anyone, whereas the two on the road to Emmaus immediately ran back to Jerusalem to share the news with others.  Which would I do if given the choice?