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.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Hard Crusty Ice and Broken Trail
On Monday, 4 January at 7:50am I went out with my 30-year-old daughter for a quick run in nearby Purgatory Park. We did 2 laps. It was -12F (-24C), and dangerously cold. We covered 2.44 miles in 31:38 minutes. By then, we had had enough and just wanted breakfast and hot coffee. Sometimes there is nothing better than a hot cup of coffee. But we had gone out into the frigid cold. We did it! A few days later on Thursday, 7 January, she and I were in northern Minnesota, near Ulen, and figured that a short run was in order. It was just before noon. So among the corn fields and farming silos, along the country roads and wide spaces of the prairie, we covered a 3.06 mile route around the small town in 36:45 minutes. It was -8F (-22C), so it was still a bit nippy. But we kept moving. Again, we did it! Later that day at sunset, we saw “sundogs” (rainbows each side of the setting sun). One could almost imagine that there were three suns setting that night. We were so blessed. What can we say of such wonders in this world? Surrounded as we are by glory continually, it is easy to overlook the constant grandeur and breathtaking strength of our Lord as He holds all things together by the word of His power. Yes, we are just men, and this universe is so vast, so infinite. It seems we can never grasp it. Sometimes it is good just to have a trail to follow, to keep things in perspective.
A few days back on Wednesday, 13 January at 7:51am I went out alone from my home headed for trails and hills. It was 23F (-6C), near ideal for running. I made for Birch Island Park and dropped into the woods 11 minutes later. This was like heaven. Crisp, snowy trails, the hush of early morning in a winter woodland, stillness yet vastly alive, teeming with life, subdued glory but crystal-like and brilliant. My footfalls tracing along a single trail, and later along little used tracks, high-stepping through 8-12 inches of snow cover, irregular steps and uneven tracks to follow – a thousand glories and challenges wrapped into my 2:22 hours of running. I covered 7.59 miles, ascending 1377 and descending 1325. I was working my hills and loving every minute of it. In fact, I was so taken with my surroundings that I snapped over 30 pictures; breathless with the wonder. It was a magnificent run.
Along the way I was thinking of how our trails are filled with a mingling of joys and sorrows. I was considering how we grow trail weary and discouraged even as we track through such wonderlands of beauty. But as trail runners we have learned to handle some of this. It is one of the great things about our running life – adapting, having the discipline, having the passion, reaching for hard goals, seeing things through, and – all the while - grasping the wonder and joy in the midst of our struggles. And I was considering that this mix of joy and sorrow is common to anyone who has been on life’s trails for any length time. It is the challenge we all face. As I ran, I listened to the worshipful singing of Josh Garrells (http://www.joshgarrels.com/).
“When we were young
We walked where we wanted to
Life was ours,
And now we’re old
We go where we’re told
The Lord’s Spirit calls,
Follow my road to sorrow and joy
All things are under my wings
Given time…” [from Desert Father by Josh Garrells]
My feet traced the snow-packed, single-track wooded trail through the growing light. It had been awhile since my training had been consistent. I could feel the impact of my earlier high-stepping through snow cover, of the irregular surfaces of hard crusty ice and broken trail, of the hill repeats and distance. I was growing tired. So I fixed my thoughts on my run’s end and kept to my course. You know how the story ends, because you are a runner. In the end, I finished - coming up into the driveway of my home. Some few minutes later I was lingering over a hot cup of coffee and savoring the memory of my delicious morning adventure. We thread our way along forest paths, across fields, and anywhere our hearts are drawn. And in the end we have learned much about ourselves. We have seen with each step a flicker of glory and a shadow of sorrow. With each trail and run, we have savored the wonders and touched the hard things, too. We have had great happiness and borne sadness on our way. This is our life and our days; and the trails have been our teachers. Come with me, friend, and run hard and true. Let us run the race that is set before us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... [Hebrews 12:1]
I hope to see you down the trail. We share so many things. I run for the sheer joy that is set before me. I run with everything I have in me. The trail is often hard, but I do not run alone. I’ll be looking for you. Keeping running.