Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Holidays

I received an eMail recently, linking me to this YouTube video. The video seems to imply that being asked to say "Happy Holidays" is somehow offensive to Christians and we should stand up for our "right" to say "Merry Christmas" to people instead -- even if it offends them.

It made me think about a post I wrote back in 2005 -- so I am re-posting it here -- what do you all think?


I like Thanksgiving. I also like celebrating Christmas, and the start of a New Year. I also like learning about other cultures and traditions. Channukah, Kwanzaa, etc.

So am I the only one who doesn't really mind saying "Happy Holidays" to people?

I mean, sure, I'm a Christian and so for me the signifigance of Christmas is such that this one holiday is at the center of my holiday season. But I know that's not true for everyone.

Me wishing a "Merry Christmas" to people who don't celebrate it is like me saying "Happy Birthday!" to someone when it isn't their birthday -- isn't it? And isn't it rude for me to just assume that everyone I know thinks like I do, and celebrates the same things -- and isn't it even more rude for me to somehow imply they should, by making a big deal of only saying "Merry Christmas", or griping when an employer encourages the use of "Happy Holidays" instead?

And anyway -- aren't "holidays" really just "holy days" and if "holy" means (among other things) "set apart" and "special" then why all the fuss when employers encourage people not to say "Merry Christmas" and instead only "allow" them to say "Happy Holidays" -- isn't that a nicer thing to say anyway -- more inclusive?

Maybe it's just me.

~ Keith

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Plate Spinning

I had a sort of epiphany this morning while running. I like it when that happens. I'm running along and my mind is clearing out, and suddenly an idea pops into my head, so I start to play with it. Then, before I realize what's happened, I have a whole new outlook on something, because my perspective has been turned inside-out, in a really good way. These moments seem to happen more often when I run than at other times of the day.

This morning I was thinking about being stressed at work and had an inside-out-turning of my perspective that was really great. Before I share that with you, I have to let you a little deeper into my world so it'll be more meaningful.

In my job as a Hospice RN I have to stay flexible with a host of shifting priorities and that constant shifting is a major source of stress for me. I know many people face similar challenges, so let me share my unique situation.

My perfect day at work is when I am scheduled to see Mr. A, then Mr. B, then Ms. C, then Mrs. D, then go home, and that is exactly what happens. But it is rare. Usually it is very different.

Let's say it is Tuesday and I am scheduled to have the perfect day. But if Mrs. D calls in the morning saying she is having a problem, maybe I can help her over the phone, but maybe not -- I may need to see her first and reschedule the other patients. Or what if Mr. G calls and is having a problem? Now I need to see him today instead of Thursday, and that may mean bumping one of my other patients to a different day. Maybe I come to work and find that Mr. B died last night. I may not need to go to his home today, but maybe I will. At least I'll make a phone call, and offer emotional support. Or maybe I come to work and find a message on my Blackberry that Ms. N is going to be a new patient and it is my responsibility to introduce her to our services -- which means I'll need to dedicate 4+ hours to this process, which means shuffling other patients around...

You get the picture. Now let me complicate it further by telling you that on average I care for 10-13 patients at a time. And patients are people. And people who are facing life-shortening illness sometimes have changes happen quickly, and they need me to help them in those times.

I love helping people, but I hate it when my perfectly planned day gets tossed out the window -- whether that happens at 1:15pm or 8:15am.

When my schedule changes, I often grumble and complain inside, but then I feel bad about it because after all these are PEOPLE who are DYING I am dealing with, and I should be a better sport about the whole thing (especially since, HELLO!, I intentionally CHOSE to go into this line of work). So not only am I stressed about the shifting priorities but I feel bad about being stressed. Then I cut myself some slack and remind myself I'm human too, and as such I get the grace to be imperfect and have needs and faults.

So my priorities get shifted every day, and that stresses me because it feels as if I am being pulled in 15 different directions all at once. It feels like this:

Do you notice how he looks like he is having fun?

I don't get that.

Maybe that's because if he drops a plate all that happens is people laugh and he says "oops". But in my job the plates are people so if I drop a plate it is a much bigger deal. I don't like that possibility, so I'd rather deal with fewer plates at a time. See, if I could just have 4 plates today, then 4 plates tomorrow, I think I'd be OK (I'm probably wrong about that as well, but I digress...).

But I don't just have 4 plates today and 4 plates tomorrow. I have 13 plates all at one time. I can do my best to figure out which plates to help on any given day, but my reality is one of constantly being called upon to run from plate to plate keeping them all spinning.

Because of the nature of my work I know each patient will die, and on average this happens just about every 5 days. So every 5 days or so a plate is removed from my responsibilities, but that is hard on me because it usually happens just when I've grown fond of that particular plate and also just figured out how best to keep it spinning. And it also means that when I least expect it I will be told "Here you go -- another new plate to go figure out."

I have to pause here and say I really hope I don't sound callous. Each and every patient I care for has tremendous worth as a human being and I treasure the moments they allow me in to share their lives with them as they finish their journey here. Each patient is very special to me and referring to them as "plates" may seem discompassionate or even cavalier and I'm sorry for that. But I'm trying to help you understand my human heart and frailty as a person and how stressful my job can be. Because the more you understand how stressful my job can be, within the context of the spinning plates analogy, the more sense it will make to you when I go on now and tell you my epiphany.

There I was running along in the pre-dawn wondering what to do with the stress I feel from spinning plates, and in my mind's eye the imagery shifted, and turned all inside-out and bass-ackwards.

It went from this:
to this:
And suddenly I felt peaceful about it all. See, instead of me being the guy who is running from plate to plate trying to keep them all spinning...what if in reality I am. Just. One. Plate?

What if all I need to worry about it is keeping myself spinning by staying centered on that stick?

And that would imply each of my patients has a measure of responsibility for their own spinning. Yes, I have an important role to play, but really it is their journey, not mine.

It turns out I'm stressed because I take on a responsibility that is not mine to take!


And then as I was reeling from that "A-ha!" moment, the image shifted a bit this:
And it was another "A-Ha!" moment. See, the idea of keeping myself centered is good but horribly incomplete because,
the reality is
plates don't actually
have the ability
to spin themselves.
I don't have the capacity to keep myself centered. If I am the plate, then any "responsibility" I take -- any wiggling motion I do make to try and "keep myself centered" usually just makes things worse and the best thing to do is relax and choose to trust The One whose hand is down there keeping me spinning.

That removes a ton stress, and I can just be me and help people and not sweat the other stuff. And that is good for me, but it is also good for my patients, and my coworkers and my wife, and everybody! =O)

A guy from the 1st century called Paul understood this pretty well and wrote some stuff about it, if you want to read it here. I've read his comments before and thought I understood them, but today I got a personalized example and word-picture. Pretty cool huh?

~ Keith

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Running Into Myself

John "The Penguin" Bingham describes allowing running to change him into the person he wants to be, one step at a time. He calls this "running into myself".

I have seen this in my own life over the last 16 months since I started running in June 2008. My running shoes are now somewhat sacred to me, and I wear them only for running -- nothing else. When I lace them on, and head out the door, each kick-off is a step behind me and each new foot-plant is a new me, becoming. I've lost over 50 lbs, and my resting heart rate has gone from the high 70s to the mid- to high-40s. I just feel better. But more than that I feel more...


I have to acknowledge that a part of it is the weight loss. When I look at my picture from 7th grade, I see a normal-weight kid who is happy and healthy and looking forward to life ahead. My 8th grade school picture is a photo of a pudgy kid*. I've spent most of my life looking into the mirror at the man who grew up from that pudgy, patently nonathletic, insecure kid from 8th grade. Now when I look into the mirror I see the man who grew up from the 7th grade kid.

Another nod to The Penguin: I'm an "adult onset athlete" and it feels good to be healthy. A friend (who will remain un-named -- but I've known him since 7th grade and looked up to him as an athletic person) recently said something like "I hope when I'm your age I'm that healthy. Wait...I am your age!"

That felt good, but wasn't as meaningful as it would have been 2 years ago. The 8th-grade pudgy kid in me would have given his left arm to hear someone say that. The 7th-grader in me today, though -- not so insecure -- laughed and acknowledged it, but moved on...and THAT felt good. Does that make sense?

So running has given me the benefit of becoming more the person I want to be. But insecurities and faults and flaws still live deep in me. Running is only one way to change me. There are others. Some of these can be pretty scary, but becoming a runner has given me the confidence to face new challenges more hopefully.

One other way to become more myself is to spend time alone in a small space -- where every time I turn around I (quite literally) keep "running into" my "self".

It was for this express purpose I recently went to a place in the Silver Falls area called CRC. I stayed in a tiny A-frame building called the "Prayer Hut".I took my bible and my journal and a couple books that have been helpful recently in digging into the depths of my self -- maybe that sounds narcissistic, but here's a story:

When I was a kid sometimes my dad would drive me places. I'd turn on the radio and he would turn it off. I'd turn it back on and he'd turn it back off. This would repeat a few times and finally he'd tell me to leave it off and then say something like:
"What's the matter?
Are you afraid of your own thoughts?"
And, well...I guess yeah I was, and still am sometimes. I look in the mirror and while the body is that of the grown-up 7th-grader still sometimes in the corner of my eye I see the lost-ness of the 8th-grader peering through and I wonder what it is like to be whole. Mark twain once said
"The worst kind of loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself"
So once in awhile I think it is important for me to turn off my cell phone, leave my laptop at home, and just get away from it all to be alone And. Just.
With my self.

So recently I spent 3-4 days reading and writing in my journal and praying and really connecting with God on a deep deep level.
I sensed
The Maker of the Universe
look at me and smile
in simple unbridled
and fraternal
and friendly
and a sense of
and positive destiny
And you know what I re-learned? Far more than any person's complimentary remark, that love of God burning deep in my heart -- this is what makes my day.

On a bad day this is what lets me know everything will be OK. And this is what, on a good day, makes everything seem brighter and clearer and more alive.

Now I'm home again and re-plugged in. Life and work and community all go on and challenges and stresses have a way of rebuilding themselves. I can't live as a hermit, and so I run. When I run, I sometimes catch a glimpse of that love in my heart.

Some days running is just habit. Other days it is an exercise in self-denial. But on other days, it's like Eric Liddell says in Chariots of Fire: "When I run I sense God's pleasure".

To celebrate one year of running, in June 2008 I ran a half-marathon. It was preceded by 14 weeks of training, which was brutal but fulfilling -- and made the race itself less brutal and more fulfilling -- exhilarating, even. My goal is to run the Portland Marathon in October 2010. After that maybe someday I'll run a longer distance. It is symbolic of my race through life. Life is not a sprint. Things, like becoming myself, take time -- likely, the whole rest of my life.

So I run. As a Nike ad puts it, I run not because I am in a hurry, or because someone is chasing me.

I run just because.

I'm running a half-marathon in mid-January and my 14 weeks of training begins this Monday. I can't wait to get out on the roads at 5:30am, before the sunrise. Just God, and me, and my shoes hitting the pavement;

pickin' 'em up & puttin' 'em down.

Running into myself.~ Keith

* Sometimes I wonder "What happened to me between 7th and 8th grade?" I have some answers on that one, but that's another story, and really just for me and my journal. But here is a song that struck me today, and the overall message is right in line with how I feel inside when I wonder that wonder, and also right in line with why I run:

The Love That you Give
by Jeff Searles

These days I find myself
Wanting something that I lost
A long long time ago
Ghost of a memory that haunts me
The way that it was
A long long time ago

The Love that You give
Is the Love that I need
The Love that You give
Is the Love that I need

Lately I feel so empty
Trying so hard to fill up
Something inside of me
But I always miss the mark
And end up breaking apart
Something inside of me

And the Love that You give
Is the Love that I need
The Love that You give
Is the Love that I need
The Love that You give
Is the Love that I need

Friday, June 12, 2009


That's me. I'm the blurry guy in the orange shirt and bright-yellow hat in the left-edge of the picture. I'm finishing my final kick in my first ever 5k race.

I've been running for about a year now, and tomorrow I'm running my first ever half-marathon. 13.1 miles. They say the 13 miles are easy -- it's the 0.1 that's the killer. I started running partly to get in shape, partly as an exercise in self-denial, but mainly I did it for me. I've done so many things for other people -- and I'm not talking altruism, I'm talking people-pleasing for wrong reasons: trying to earn the approval of others. But running? I started that for *me* -- as a way to love and take care of myself.

Following tradition, at tomorrow's race I'm dedicating my miles:

Mile 0 --> 1: Me for getting there in the first place
Mile 1 --> 2: My wife Cathy for supporting me
Mile 2 --> 3: My friend Tom Bartel for inspiring me
Mile 3 --> 4: My Dad
Mile 4 --> 5: My Mom
Mile 5 --> 6: My sister Bobbi
Mile 6 --> 7: My sister JoAnn
Mile 7 --> 8: My sister Marilyn
Mile 8 --> 9: My sister Leslie
Mile 9 --> 10: Me for getting there!
Mile 10 --> 11: My friend Tom for inspiring me!!
Mile 11 --> 12: Cathy for supporting me!!!
Mile 12 --> 13: Me for getting there!!!!
and that last little bit from 13 --> 13.1: My final kick is for God who has created me and is giving me the ability to continue "running into myself"!

~ Keith

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Am I Acceptable to God?

I found this excellent post over on Inward/Outward. It re-centered me again to what is important. I think part of what I like most about it is that there are no "do it this way instead" prescriptions -- it is more stream of consciousness.

~ Keith

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Sister Hazel is one of my favorite bands. Their album Chasing Daylight is classic. And this song is just about my favorite of all right now. It is where I'm at in life and loving it.

I won't be so hard on me today
I start to take myself so seriously
Shouldn't be so hard just to be effortlessly
It shouldn't be so hard to keep it together
It shouldn't be so hard to say the right things to you
It shouldn't be so hard just to be effortlessly

Weightless worries fall away
Wasted pools of energy
I want to know I want to breathe

Effortlessly - just be
I want to be effortlessly
I want to be

It shouldn't be so hard to be inspired
It shouldn't be so hard just to write this song
It shouldn't be so hard to be wrong or to agree
It shouldn't be so hard to change the world
It shouldn't be so hard just to change your mind
It shouldn't be so hard just to be effortlessly

Weightless worries fall away
Wasted pools of energy
I want to know I want to breathe

Effortlessly - just be
I want to be effortlessly
I want to be

I won't be so hard on me today
I start to take myself so seriously
Shouldn't be so hard just to be effortlessly

I want to know
I want to breathe
I want to simplify my needs
I want to live inside this moment
And just be effortlessly
Just be
I wanna be effortlessly
I want to be
~ Keith

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Story Within the Story

I am reposting this from Inward/Outward:


By David Wade

I no longer open my quarterly 401K reports. So much of my account’s value has been lost that if I were closer to retirement age the prospect of my working at McDonald’s into my 70’s would be unavoidable.

Despite all of the news coverage on the financial crisis, I feel a vital interpretive element has been missed. It has to do with the story within the story. It is often the story within a story that reveals a deeper truth about the whole. The overweening hubris of our nation’s top financial corporations, exemplified by the millions of dollars of bonuses issued with bail-out money, along with the other accustomed accouterments of the privileged, should really come as no surprise. History is papered with the overblown egos and Marie Antoinette-styled sensitivities of the rich.

Yet we are America. Our founding was driven, in part, by a reaction against European “blue-bloodedness.” George Washington was “first among equals.” This land is your land, this land is my land. Yet during the recent Presidential campaign, “socialist” was an epithet used to eviscerate any populist economic sentiment––mostly by people, aside from the unbelievably cynical news hounds who threw the term meatily to the masses, who have no idea what the term really implies. And while the lifestyles of the sharks of Wall Street are protected, labor unions are vilified and disempowered in the name of financial stability.

Who’s to blame? Who can be held to account for sleeping at the switch while our nation was plundered by robber barons?

We are. The church. We’ve failed our nation.

For the last 40 years, the American church has been dancing to the drum of political power. Paranoid and pliable, it has promoted the issues its masters have required. And in doing so, lost its prophetic vision—sold for a few seats at the table of kings. And to echo the words of Psalm 2, the powerful now just laugh at us for being so gullible. What a bunch of rubes! Get them to focus solely on abortion and homosexuality. Make these their major issues, get their leaders all lathered up, marching and praying, hateful and fearful. And we’ll plunder the coffers of the American Dream. We will run this nation any way we please––secular, misogynistic, violent, imperial. And the impotent Church will beg for scraps from our tables, grateful to receive a White House Christmas card.

We’re all to blame. Left and Right. We’ve all been caught up in the game. We’ve made clowns out of servants like Jeremiah Wright. Where was the Left to come to his defense? Silent. Where was the progressive church when Prop 8 was on the ballot in California? Defending Rick Warren’s right to deliver an over-eager Inaugural prayer. Politeness replacing prophecy. Political correctness replacing holy zeal. The Left has as much to answer for as the Right.

This is the story within the story––the news that’s not being reported. And thank goodness! How much more discredited does the church need to become? As a pastor, I say let it go all the way down. Megachurch marketing, Focus on the Family, prayer cabals at the White House and the Pentagon, the Rapture industry, let it all go.

And let’s start anew. Let’s find our voice again. With no strings attached. Let’s minister to the newly disenfranchised, the despondent, the truly left-behind. Let’s be the church in the street, on the assembly line, in the food stamp line. Let’s call new generations, young and old, to a transformational journey. Let’s abandon a false dream, and find the one nestled in God’s heart.

David Wade writes from his home in Virginia Beach, where he facilitates The Welcome Table on Saturday evenings at 6 in the chapel on the campus of Virginia Wesleyan College. He says, “We’re just a tiny piece, but, together, maybe we can find this new dream.” If you’re ever in the area, join them in the search.


What do you think?

~ Keith

Saturday, March 14, 2009

True Discipline

I just finished week 1 of a 14 week training program preparing me to run the Helvetia Half-Marathon on June 13. It was cold & windy -- drizzly. Today I felt faster, but also felt I was running harder -- maybe it was more difficult to slow down due to the wind and drizzle? Plus, this current week has been 30 min workouts (2 running, 2 cycling). Today was my "endurance" run of only 2 miles. Yet when I think back to a year ago, the idea of running 2 miles at all was out of my imagination, let alone running it @ a <9:30 pace! Was I running too hard? Maybe.

A book I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed is The Zen of Running by Fred Rohe. It is (c) 1972 and very hippie trippie -- but I liked it. A lot! Fred says:
your creation of you
as a runner
will be more pleasurable
as you progress
by running less

the key to the "progress by less" method
is always to do
less than you think you can.

if you think you can gallop right away
just take a walk.

thinking you can run around the block,
just run down to the corner.

you have the rest of your life
to progress into long distance running.
why strain, make pain?
why not lope along,
free and easy,
doing it like a dance?
when you start doing it
you'll see that running
is naturally hard enough
all by itself
without you creating
additional hardship for yourself.
This got me thinking about following my training program. I know I can run farther than 2 miles. But today I disciplined myself to only run 2 miles.

I used to think discipline was hard; doing something difficult because it is the right thing to do. But now I see true discipline is even harder; doing less because it is the right thing to do.Week 1 of 14 down. 13 to go -- one more week for every mile I'll run on June 13th.

~ Keith

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Introversion & Extroversion: Recent Social Constructs?

I read something yesterday which made me stop and think about our society's current views on the ideas of Introversion vs Extroversion. The book is The Great Emergence* by Phyllis Tickle. She writes this on p132:
"The twentieth century in the United States was characterized by many things, none of them more obvious than our originally slow, and eventually rapid, shift from being a rural to being an urban people. As the decades rolled along, more and more of us left the open spaces of pastures and plains for the defined ones of streets and neighborhoods. We laid aside as well the isolation and occasional socializing of country living for the constant companionship and unavoidable socializing of town and city life. Before the century's end, millions of us would not even be living in suburban neighborhoods any longer, but rather in the much tighter confines of apartment buildings or condo complexes or multifamily buildings. Likewise, instead of earning our livelihood in solitary or near-solitary labor, more and more of us were earning it in offices or factories or commercial enterprises where we were in constant and fairly intimate contact with one another for the bulk of every working day."
This made me think of some implications of her assertions.

Contrasted with the fast-paced image cuts of MTV and action-packed movies of today, old movies seem boring to some people. In fact, many people today have become so used to such fast-paced media bombardment many of us suffer from micro-boredom. You know, using your cell phone to check your eMail and update your status on Twitter and FaceBook, and check your MySpace...multiple the unbearably long 5 minutes you spend standing in the checkout line at the grocery store! I do that. It is sort of addicting. It's why we call Blackberries "crackberries" and iPhones "crackphones" and FaceBook "crackbook".But all this activity sometimes wears me out. I like older movies because they move more slowly. I enjoy current movies as well -- but older movies don't bug me the way they seem to bug so many people. I'm neither an "old movies only" person nor a "new movies only" person. I like both-and instead of either-or.

Like many people I know, I dislike being labeled. Sometimes labels can be helpful, other times they can be too compartmentalizing. A good example is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

It is very either-or, but has a continuum between poles which helps the both-ands among us feel less pigeon-holed.

And all this made me think of a good friend of mine who is an extrovert. He is a year or two older than me and for his 40th birthday, his wife threw him a surprise party with 50-60 of his closest friends. He had a GREAT time and went on and on about how it was the best thing she'd ever done for him ever! I was at the party for a number of hours, and enjoyed myself, but stayed on the periphery. At one point I turned to my wife and said "For my 40th, please don't do this to me." She smiled, nodded, and said "Of course not!". She knows me. I like that.

On the right-hand side of this blog, if you scroll down, you will see that I score as an iNFj on Myers-Briggs. The letter "i" is lower case because my tendency to introversion is not strong. In fact, some people are surprised when they hear me say I am an introvert, because I am fairly gregarious. The key for me is long times spent with crowds of people drains my batteries, but when I am tired emotionally and spiritually, it is alone time which recharges my batteries.

Thinking backward in Ms. Tickle's time line, I wonder what my friend and I would have been like 100-150 years ago? Would he have been such an extrovert? Would I be so inclined to pull away and be alone? Perhaps the either-or-ness of the Myers-Briggs doesn't reflect true human nature and is instead more subtly influenced by the sociological changes in the recent 150 years than I originally thought.

So I wonder if the concepts of Introversion and Extroversion, as we know them today, are likewise fairly recent social constructs.

What do you think?

~ Keith

* I won't go into the details of why this is a wonderful book, but if you are a thoughtful follower of Jesus who would like a concise yet thorough historical perspective on how our current situation in Western / North American / U.S. Christianity fits into the bigger sociological context within world history you really do owe it to yourself to run out and buy it right now.

(this post is a documenting of a stream-of-thought which took around a minute to think through and over an hour to type up. It is a small example of what my friend Lisa calls "The Mind of Keith")

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Personal Best

In this post I blogged about my first-ever 10 mile run. It was awesome -- a 43rd birthday present to myself. It took me almost exactly 2 hours. That's a 12-minute mile. Since that time I've finished the 3rd 10-week Podrunner Intervals program and have progressed to running 10k (6.2 miles) in approx 60 minutes. I finished the book Running for Mortals.

I've now begun reading Marathoning for Mortals. I've set a goal for myself to run the Portland Marathon in October 2010 just before my 45th birthday.

Along the way, I want to run for fun and test my limits -- set new PBs "Personal Best"s. Today I did that. I ran 9.9 miles in 1:41:32 -- shaving almost 2 minutes off my per-mile pace!

Here's my route:

View Larger Map

~ Keith

PS -- for those, like Brett, who are curious: there is no particular significance to the fact that my routes start and stop near a cemetery. It's just where I happen to live! =O)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I Am A Runner

I am a runner.

I never thought I'd say that. At least, I never thought I'd be able to say that with a shred of integrity. I can remember being around 5 or 6 years old, in the loft of our barn, running around. Not running laps, not exercising; just running around. I don't remember what imagination-laden scenario I was playing out. All I remember is running and playing. Things changed after that though.

Growing up I never saw myself as athletic because so many other kids were so much better. I can remember at school in P.E. class and assemblies and sporting events -- especially football and track -- noticing how other kids' bodies were changing. Muscles were growing and kids who'd been puny were now solid, with visible veins standing out on their arms. I wasn't puny any more either. You can see the difference between 7th grade skinny kid and 8th grade pudgy kid.

In 8th grade I wanted to have new friends and have a body like other kids did. I knew I wasn't fast enough for the track team, so I decided to try out for cross-country. We did lots of training runs and stuff. I remember the thrill of being at the end of the line and having to sprint to the front and yell "GO!" so the next back-of-the-line kid would have to sprint forward, and so on. I was breathless and tired, but I was doing something and it felt good. Until we did real races. Against ourselves or other teams, it didn't matter. I was always either last place or 2nd to last. As I watched the other kids' smooth-running bodies I felt "less than" again. Rather than a part of a team, I felt like a liability to the team. Shameful confessions time: At one race, I was tired and didn't want to continue, so I pretended to turn my ankle so I could quit. Another time, I pretended to have lime kicked into my eyes and in my faked blindness/pain I was once again excused from finishing.

That was the last time I ran competitively, unless you count the Navy where every year I had to run 1.5 miles in 15 minutes or less to pass a physical fitness test. I always did it, but also always came very close to puking.

I've never been a super active person, and my all-time high weight is 250# in Feb of 2002. I did WeightWatchers and got as low as 183# in mid 2003. But I put almost all the weight back on. Just like I always have as I've yo-yo'd over the years.

But then a couple years ago when I turned 40, something inside my heart clicked. I finally began to care about myself in a healthy way. Cathy'd been telling me for years I should take better care of myself -- I finally started listening. But it was a rocky start. I tried to run and lift weights and diet and all sorts of things but never really got anywhere but worn out and depressed.

Then we moved to Oregon in August '07 and it is like God brought my heart to life again. In Feb '08 I began learning from God how to listen to my hunger/satiety. By June I'd gone from 220# to 206#, and was feeling good. The way I eat now had nothing to do with what the scale said. The latter was simply a measure of the former -- but not a driving force like it used to be. But I also wanted to DO something active, just for fun and to help my cardiovascular system get healthy. So I started walking and running. I blogged here about finishing a 10-week training program and running a 5K. And then again here about finishing the 2nd 10-week training program and running 8K and then celebrating my 43rd birthday by running 10 miles!

Yesterday I completed the 3rd 10-week training series and can now run 10K in around 60 minutes. But there are no more 10-week training series. So what is next? I bought a book called Running for Mortals and have set my sights on running the Portland Marathon in Oct 2010. Between now and then I would like to run a half-marathon and also run a few local 5K or 10K races. This morning I read the first two chapters and cried 3 times.

The first tears hit me as I read this in the forward:
...we really learned everything we need to know about running before we even got to kindergarten. As soon as we learned how to walk we wanted to run. We knew as toddlers that the best way to get from where we were to where we wanted to be was to run there. It still is!
We knew as small children that running for no apparent reason at all was one of life's greatest pleasures. It still is.
The door would open, and we would run out. We ran around. We chased. We ran to and from. We ran until we couldn't run anymore, and then we stopped. That's still a pretty good plan.
It doesn't matter that I've lost 40# in 12 months. It doesn't matter that I am 43 years old and in the best shape of my life. It doesn't matter if I win any races, or even if I ever compete! What matters is that I have fallen in love again with the simple joy I first learned as that 5 year old boy in the loft of a barn -- just running because I could.

I am a runner.

~ Keith

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jesus Coaches Football

I don't usually follow sports at all. I watch the SuperBowl for the commercials, and the chips & dip.

But Brant posted this article and I read it. And I want you to read it.

~ Keith