And the day God breathed upon your still life, stirring into being the green leaf and the flower, bud upon the branch and light
upon your soul. Here you felt the earth’s air on your petals and your leaves, and squinted into sunlight, gazing high for heaven
until you felt the gardener’s hand gently turning soil and soul, and nurturing you, bud in radiant sun.
Cascading rain absorbed in warm earth turning, heaven of fragrance. What is that sound in the wind and dazzling light?
Oh, the sweet sound of your delight in God. Sometimes it is like the sound of running laughter.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trembling on the Rim of Eternity

Sometimes our trails are made of dirt and rocks and brush and roots, and cause our hearts to leap skyward in praise and worship. And sometimes our trails are woven through a string of days and through the hearts and lives of others, and leave our spirits trembling on the rim of eternity as we watch Him touch those lives through our frail words. The trails that God lays are trails laden with the fragrance of His glory, and they lead indelibly into His purposes – far above the ways of men and the pursuits of this earth. Along the trails that God prepares we walk and run into the divine unknown; a place where the Lord rules in sovereign wonder. We plan our days, yet in the end it is the Lord over it all. In this place of wonders I find continued solace in His faithfulness above the passing struggles of each day.

So when I was sidelined in early June with an injury, and it was necessary to stop running for at least two weeks, I began to wonder what God was planning along this trail of mine. A week at home followed by three weeks of aggressive business travel. My injury and work meant that my participation in Grandma’s Marathon was impossible; and this was a big disappointment. But God was just watching out for me. If I would have been in town, it is likely I would have run anyway – regardless of the injury. So He sent me far away from my scheduled marathon. God is so good to me. However, my daughter and a close friend were running, and I decided to plug into their fervor. On Saturday the 20th I was hovering over my laptop in Kolkata, India “watching” my two runners’ progress along the marathon route on Grandma’s website. The hours and minutes and miles clicked past. And then they both completed their races and have each their own unique story of God’s faithfulness. So, although I was injured and half a planet away, I had the extreme pleasure of seeing two people I care deeply about finish the marathon. I am told that they began their triumphant celebration near the finish line standing in the cold waters of Lake Superior drinking cold beers. Nice. Congratulations to Abbey and Kari – you both rock! I was positively giddy with joy as each completed their runs. In fact, I was so happy that I wept. A lot.

But then there was India and the trail it has provided me. Traveling in India for three weeks in three cities, it is enough to maintain a steady workout schedule along the way, running or not. Holding to my self-imposed running restriction, I had maintained a steady diet of light workouts. So, finally after a couple of weeks, two days ago I tried an easy-paced 5K on a treadmill along with a few slices of cross-training. The 5K took 41:56 minutes. OK, very easy-paced. Most important, I had no swelling or discomfort. Yesterday I gave my body a rest, and today I ran another treadmill 5K, completing it in 30:40 minutes. Along with some other cross-training, everything seems to be holding together nicely.

But this trail is more than working and hotel gyms. In fact, this trip has been a stream of interactions for Jesus Christ. It has been mosaic of prayers and conversations and the glorious beauty of His life lived out in the small steps of each day. Oh, I’ve had to ease into my running, but this has not diminished the wonder of the trail. I’ve found that even if I can’t hit the streets or rock down some woodland trail, there is still the wonder of the human soul, the breadth and depth of God’s love as He spans cultures and reaches down deep into individual hearts with a quickening touch. He makes all things new. The weariness of the days evaporate in the beauty of someone’s eyes or the hopeless feelings that gradually cloud the night hours dissolve in the laughter and excitement of colleagues. He is behind every stroke of time and every step we take. Today as each of us trembles on the rim of eternity, we run a trail that He has made and He has purposed. Oh, run with me, run hard and run true. I’ll see you down the trail a ways. This is a place of trembling.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Time to Heal

A few days after returning from China I found pure, unrestrained delight running through the forest at Birch Island Park. My favorite hills and trails bathed in the early morning light, and I - just chasing a thought and whispering a prayer on the wind. It was Monday, June 1 at half past 6 in the morning with clear skies, a light northerly breeze a 9 mph and 51F. Perfect. I laid down 6.97 easy miles in 1:39 hours with 1490 ascending and 1520 descending. It was good to be on trails that felt like old friends to me. The next day I found myself in Boulder, Colorado, and at 4:27 in the afternoon I decided that my day would not be complete without a 5 miler on the Boulder Flat Irons, a taste of the foothills right in and among Boulder itself. I was taking my time and just savoring the extreme beauty of the trails. It took me 1:29 hours with 1127 ascending and 1119 descending. I was a little surprised with the modest ups and downs, but then I considered that the ascending largely comes as one continuous climb and the descending as one continuous dash toward earth. In a word, a RUSH.

Here is where things get more interesting. The next day my left knee was swollen along the sides and was tender to the touch. My own analysis was that two weeks running on hard, flat pavement in China and my radical steps run on the Great Wall – pushing through regardless of knee discomforts - followed in quick succession by my Birch Island hill workout and next day by a wild run on the Flat Irons had just been too much, too fast for my 58-year-old frame. Regardless of my love of running, I figured I better back off for a week or two. It was time to heal. For whatever reasons, God was pulling me over and having me slow down just a bit. So, it would be a season of reflection and waiting on Him. When God changes our plans, there is never a downside; His ways are always perfect.

“This God - his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” [2 Samuel 22:31, Psalm 18:30]

His way is blameless; there is no error or wrong or misstep. Perfect. Now, I just needed to remain content to wait on God. What adventures of the heart did He have planned for me? What avenues for His glory and my joy? I guess I would just have to wait and see. Then I began to think of India.