The Last Resort

As I’ve transformed into a runner, I’ve listened to less and less music. For me, running has become a time of meditation, of letting my mind run free, of sometimes trying to keep all thoughts at bay, and a time to contemplate my sermon or to work through a problem. I now only listen to music on my long runs and usually when these are more than about 12-13 miles.

The music that I listen to is not chosen for the beat but mostly for the fact that I like songs and look forward to them as either company or as a background to the other thoughts that stream through my head.

Last week, as we mourned the loss of David Bowie, I thought of his songs that have found their way into my playlist: Heroes; Space Oddity; Rebel Rebel; Let’s Dance; and Under Pressure. I’m forever thankful the he shared his gifts with the world.

This week we’ve lost Glenn Frey of The Eagles… so sad! I again think of my running playlist: Desperado; Hotel California; In the City; Peaceful Easy Feeling; Take It Easy; Best of My Love; and Already Gone. Some might not recognize these as the “best” running songs, but they’ve seen me through many many miles.

My all time favorite though is The Last Resort.  The song is a critique of manifest destiny and Christianity. I’ve been tempted for the past couple of years to use the song to illustrate a sermon…maybe on the occasion of Independance Day.

You can listen to the song here:

“The Last Resort”

She came from Providence,
the one in Rhode Island
Where the old world shadows hang
heavy in the air
She packed her hopes and dreams
like a refugee
Just as her father came across the sea

She heard about a place people were smilin’
They spoke about the red man’s way,
and how they loved the land
And they came from everywhere
to the Great Divide
Seeking a place to stand
or a place to hide

Down in the crowded bars,
out for a good time,
Can’t wait to tell you all,
what it’s like up there
And they called it paradise
I don’t know why
Somebody laid the mountains low
while the town got high

Then the chilly winds blew down
Across the desert
through the canyons of the coast, to
the Malibu
Where the pretty people play,
hungry for power
to light their neon way
and give them things to do

Some rich men came and raped the land,
Nobody caught ’em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus,
people bought ’em
And they called it paradise
The place to be
They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

You can leave it all behind
and sail to Lahaina
just like the missionaries did, so many years ago
They even brought a neon sign: “Jesus is coming”
Brought the white man’s burden down
Brought the white man’s reign

Who will provide the grand design?
What is yours and what is mine?
‘Cause there is no more new frontier
We have got to make it here

We satisfy our endless needs and
justify our bloody deeds,
in the name of destiny and the name
of God

And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it’s like up there
They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye

It seems as though many have the idea that care for the land (and the people in the land) isn’t important because God will take them away to heaven some day. But we are to be stewards of this wonderful world that God created. That means taking care of the land (and the people in the land)… and appreciating it for all it’s magnificence and beauty.

Paradise… it’s where we want to go…it’s a place we destroy with our carelessness. Let’s be the Jesus people who root ourselves in our places, appreciate where we are and what we have. Let’s recognize that God has created a beautiful world filled with beautiful creatures (including us). And when we can do this, then maybe, we can live together…with the land and all that is in it.

I am thankful for the poets and prophets among us. May David and Glen join the others who’ve gone ahead and may we continue to be inspired through their gifts of music.

A Callus or Calloused?

Technically a callus is a build up of dead, compacted skin that is usually located on the hands, feet, or even elbows. These, not too sightly, skin patches are actually part of the body’s attempt to protect itself. We need calluses because we need the protection. Just remember the painful blisters that you’ve received on your hands when starting a new activity, or on your feet with new or ill fitting shoes.

This hard little callus on my hand is the result of my marathon session of Christmas cookie baking!

I’m no expert, but I’ve been thinking about the word for a few months now, ever since my coach said something like, “you’ll build a callus and finish better.” He was referring, not to my feet, but rather to my ability to strongly finish a race.

You see, I have (hopefully had) a history of running out of gas and slowing down towards the end of the race. It didn’t matter the length (5k to marathon). So, I’ve been working hard to fast finish the very end of my long runs and fast finish my races. At an October half marathon I tried hard, felt myself fade and was disappointed. But when I looked at my pace for the last mile I was stronger than I thought. Then a couple weeks ago I had my hardest race ever and was exhausted at the end but I managed to muster up a kick for the last quarter mile. So the callus is forming…as I am gradually building the strength to finishing strong.

This concept can go way beyond running though. Think about almost any challenge that we have in life and realize that the harder we work at it, the easier it becomes. This is especially true in doing the things that we don’t really like to do.

Here is a personal example. I am very much the introvert and overall am pretty quiet, especially around people I don’t know well. I would actually rather preach than try and make small talk. Preaching is easier because I’m prepared, I have a text, and I’m relying on the Holy Spirit. But when it comes to conversation I’ve often felt as if my mind is a big blank nothing. Believe me, this is not comfortable!

This reminder sits on my desk at home. I have a little selfie as I’m reflected in the glass.

The seemingly easiest thing to do here would be to avoid placing myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable… maybe just stay home and watch TV, or run all alone all the time, or immerse myself in books to the exclusion of all else. I could do these things, but then would I really be living? Not really.

So a long time ago I decided that I would actually go to places, to parties, to events even if I was uncomfortable. Has it been easy? No way! But I think I’ve built up some let’s go out and mingle calluses. And have made some good friends along the way!

I think the lesson in this for us all is that we gain far more from trying the difficult task than we do in giving up in the face of difficulty. I think of Jesus’ disciples fishing and catching nothing. They were tired, probably frustrated, and ready to give up. Then along comes Jesus and instructs them to throw their nets over the other side. They listened to him and had a miraculous catch.

That would certainly be nice! The point is to try again, and again, and again, and again if necessary. You might not have the same immediate results as the disciples, but I bet when you look back over time you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Oh and one last comment on calluses. Sometimes they grow out of control and that is not a good thing. Same with life, the feelings that we experience are precious…even if sometimes difficult. They alert us to pain and pleasure, to joy and sorrow. Let’s not live or work in such a way that the feelings become deadened… that my friends is another sort of callus… or spelled differently “callous”, or insensitive, or hardened. There is no life here.



A 2015 Review…On the Running Side!

Last race of 2015. I love determination that I have. The photo has also shown me some work that I need to do on my form in 2016.

Like many people do at this time of year, I’ve done a bit of a look back at the last year. All in all its been a very good year. My work as a pastor has been going well, and connected to this my life as a runner has been amazing. I say these two are connected because I discovered a couple years ago that running has been a wonderfully spiritual activity. It is when I pray, meditate, relieve stress, and thankfully get a lot of sermon prep done.

I cannot count the times that I’ve discovered solutions to various problems while running. I cannot count the times that I’ve been able to just let my mind go and relish the moment, enjoy the scenery, and feel that life is wonderful. And those weeks in the past year that we’ve had very bad news in our country, running has helped me to process my own anger and grief. I hope that this has made me a better leader.

From a physical standpoint, running along with a vastly improved diet has helped me move from obese to merely overweight. I am working hard to lose more weight as part of becoming a better and faster runner.

As for improvement in the last year I’d say that the biggest impact was my participation in a training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon. I wasn’t able to run with everyone due to my schedule, but I still felt part of the group… And the people in this group are awesomely nice, accepting, and encouraging. Now I’m a member of Vendurance Running Tribe and it has been great. I highly recommend joining a running club. I’m still kind of new in the group and hope to become more acquainted with people in the coming year.

Here are some statistics for the last year:

  • # 5k races: 8, all part of the Boogie Nights summer run series in Ventura.
  • # 10k races: 1, 4th of July in Oxnard (this was part of a training run so in all I ran 16 miles that day).
  • # half marathons: 2, in October (PR in the this race) and November (and another PR, beating my October time by 4 minutes). I also ran a half marathon relay with my daughter… making it 2-1/2 half marathons.

    Scott was nice enough to accompany me (via bicycle) on a 20 mile run. This photo was after 10 miles.
  • And 1 marathon, The Ventura Marathon in September. This was my second marathon and I improved my time from the first (Sept 2014) by an astounding 47 minutes!
  • Total miles run: 1,220 (compared to 846 in 2014, an almost 50% increase in distance).
  • Total hours run: 231
  • Weight at beginning of year: 220
  • Weight at the end of the year: 182 (goal is 155, which puts me at the top of the suggested weight range for my height).
Scott, Ethan (new son-in-law this year), Megan, Me, and Matt

A bonus is that my husband and my adult children are also running. It’s been a good family activity. When looking at all this I can say it has been a good year and I am looking forward to continued improvement in 2016!

It’s not really a resolution and will actually (hopefully) be accomplished in 2017… but my big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This will require me to improve my marathon by an hour… more on this later.

Happy New Year!