March 21 – Thanks

What started as a sharing of a photo and thought each day of Lent has devolved into the occasional post. Today’s word is “Thanks”.

IMG_2915This year I had the honor to participate in my third graveside service for a Veteran. This was for a long time and beloved member of our congregation. The ceremony in which representatives of our nation’s armed services express the thankfulness of a nation is very moving.

Pay Attention to Warning Signs?

View from the top

This morning we went of what was to be a 7.18 mile hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. We’ve done this trail many times, but not in the last four years. I was looking forward to experiencing it in a new way as I am much more fit than I was the last time I recorded time and distance, December 8, 2012 (2:25:50 or 21:42 per mile).

The original plan for today was to run or hike in whatever areas seemed appropriate for each activity. My coach, who is helping me train to qualify for Boston, said “no running, just enjoy the hike.” He also assigned a long run of 11 miles yesterday. So hike it was, but still with a goal to do better than last time.

The first sign that all was not well with our plan.

When we arrived at the trail head, Megan and I started out and soon stopped as Matt started looking at a sign. It told us that a portion of the trail was closed. The sign had been there awhile so se decided that surely the trail was open again and we continued with our plans.

The hike was beautiful and we were averaging an 18:23 pace so I was happy. Then we came upon a larger sign… actually a fence with a sign that said basically “don’t go any further”. The problem was that we had already traveled 6 miles and weren’t too interested in going back again. So we decided to keep going on what was always the most difficult part of the trail (scary rocks).

A half mile later we came to the end of the trail. I wish I had taken a photo but no. Anyway a couple men were trying to come up where we wanted to go down. They couldn’t find a path as the rock had all slid away. Megan and I turned back for the long trek but then we heard shouting. The men had found a way and they were now on our side. By the time we returned, Matt had crossed over. Megan started and I followed.

For the first time that I can remember I froze. I couldn’t make it across as all I could envision was falling and bouncing off the rock wall that we were trying to cross. So I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t. You all go, take Megan home so she can get to her show, then come back for me.” Nobody argued with me as I think they all saw the terror in my face. So they went down and I started on the 6.5± journey back the way we came. I don’t regret this decision because I’ve learned to listen to my instincts. I had no fear they Scott, Matt, and Megan couldn’t make it… just me.

That is quite the out and back!

The trip back was actually kind of nice. I decided that although I wasn’t supposed to run, I couldn’t bear to walk that far so I went for an easy jog for all but the steepest portions. And I made it back in 1 hour 45 minutes with an average pace of 15:35 and only one mishap. The entire hike ended up being a 17:40 mile pace.

The mishap was my first lesson in trail running. PICK UP YOUR FEET. I was running along this very easy section through a meadow and next thing I knew I was on the ground. I have a few scrapes and a couple bruises but otherwise was unhurt. I picked myself up and continued.

My second lesson in trail running was, I LIKE IT. So, I think I need to invest in some trail running shoes and get out on some truly open trails once or twice a month. It will certainly help me learn to pick up my feet and running up and down hill can’t hurt either.

Happy running… umm hiking!

A few graphs. The drop off in the pace in the middle was encountering the washed out trail, turning around, trying to cross, giving in to fear, and starting again.

March 19 – Restore

IMG_3055Almost three years ago one of our favorite hiking spots was devastated by fire. Today we went on a hike there and, thanks to recent rains, were treated to some beautiful scenery. I didn’t take any photos of all the wild flowers in bloom. But I found a perfect illustration of the theme of “restore”. There are some trees common there (unfortunately I don’t know what they are) and they burned in the fire. Black scarred trunks and branches adorn the landscape. But if you look a bit closer you can see the outer burned layer peeling away and new life beginning to show. This tree is farther along in its restoration than most of the others. Death and resurrection…in a tree…as we approach Holy Week.

March 17 – Remembrance

As my word of the day for Lent has become a word every few days I have the ability to choose the words… Today’s word then is “remembrance”.

IMG_2764In the church calendar, November 1st is All Saints Day. At Our Redeemer we observe this day on the first Sunday of November. I know that many congregations light candles in remembrance of those members who died in the previous year. We do this too and it is always very moving for me as I say the name while lighting a candle. We also invite members of the congregation to share photos and light candles in remembrance of their loved ones. I’ve placed sand-filled trays in the shape of the cross as a reminder that we have the promise of new life through Jesus. It is always beautiful to see when all the candles are lit.

March 14 – Path

 This trail has some of the most beautiful ocean views that can be found anywhere.

My son and I have decided that we will run/hike part of the Backbone Trail and La Jolla Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains this Saturday. The first time we did this hike was almost 5 years ago and we had just done the Backbone Trail portion (this is actually just the beginning portion of that long trail). Anyway, I vividly remember my first incursion here. As Matt and I hiked, I was huffing and puffing so much that I could barely talk. Then, much to my amazement, two women passed us while running and chatting.

For me, barely breathing at a slow walk, this was a major wake-up call. I decided right then that I had to get back into shape, to take a new path. I started running that very same week.If you can call huffing and puffing for 30 seconds, followed by walking for two minutes, running. I kept at it because it was actually easier than hiking up a hill. Slowly I made the transition from barely moving, to running marathons. That its taken me 5 years to get here is ok because I’ve realized the spiritual benefits of the physical exertion and that is far more beneficial than anything else. I’m looking forward to taking this path again on Saturday, noting that as I climb I’ll be huffing and puffing, but I’ll be going much faster!

March 9 – Faithful

IMG_2893When I think of the word, faithful, my first thought is influenced by the fact that I’m a pastor. For today though, I’m thinking of my pets. We were having a discussion at the church this morning about how our dogs (and cats and other animals) are part of our families. I then came home to the generous welcome of my three little dogs. It’s amazing that I can be gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours and they are always so happy to see me. Maybe we can learn from them about faithfulness.

March 8 – Power

imageThis winter we are reminded of the awesome power of the ocean. The big waves are both beautiful and dangerous…like much of the power we encounter in nature. Some palm trees were no match for the waves earlier this winter. Lots of work has been done since to save the rest of the trees, and the shore.