Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Learning to Run 

I have been running recently. Its a great way to get fit. The thing that I have learned most about running in the months that I have been doing it, is that it is both the most natural thing in the world for a human to do but that it is also something that I need to learn to do. Sounds like a contradiction right? Let me explain. When we are born we have a natural ability to run. Little kids start running the moment they start walking. Just picture a little kid learning to walk. As they get up and start to stand on their own, they generally lean forward and the shuffle becomes a walk and the walk becomes a run as they struggle to stay on their feet. Once they are walking, running just happens. It’s not something that we have to be taught to do. It’s natural. But as we grow older we become less active (okay maybe that’s just me.) When we want to run to get fit, we need to learn how to do it properly, if we are going to endure the stress and strain it puts on our body. You see somewhere between the natural freedom of a little kid and the older person, we lose strength, posture, form and correct breathing. It’s these things that we need to learn or learn about. When I started running I thought that the only thing I needed was a good pair of shoes. While that is part of it, to endure at the sport, which I want to do, I need to be more efficient in how I run. This means getting things like my posture right. And recently I have found out that it even means being more aware of my breathing. I know that sounds obvious! The reality is that the more oxygen you can get into your body the better you will run. Breathing for running and walking is like changing gears on a bicycle. You can gears on a bike when you want and need help with the terrain you are encountering. For instance when you are going up a hill and you will be exerting more effort, you change into a lower gear to help you do it with less effort. Not to take advantage of this would be silly. Breathing in running and even walking is that same. The amount of breathes you take per stride or step is like changing gears. The more effort you need to exert, the more breaths you take per stride or step. While we all do this sub consciously, learning to do this efficiently takes a discipline and focus I don’t always have. What I like most about running is that I can get to a place where I am on autopilot. I put my music on and I am able to switch off. But to endure it and get better at it, means I need more discipline and focus than simply falling out of bed in the morning and slapping on my running shoes. There are things to learn and put into practice. It’s the same with faith. Hold on, let me define what I mean by faith. Faith is simply a relationship with God that I am able to have because of who Jesus is and what he did. A very simply definition, but all we need for now. The thing is faith is both the most natural thing in the world to human being and something we need to learn to do. If we are going to endure through life with our faith we need the correct discipline. “We need the correct form, posture and breathing.” It’s easy to believe but enduring takes work. Maybe that’s what Paul had in mind when he wrote these words, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly. I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” 1 Cor 9:26 There is real beauty as you watch a child running freely, arms flailing around in the air, simply running for the love it. There is a real beauty in taking those first steps of faith. I simply loving Jesus. There is however real beauty in seeing an athlete in full stride, who has through discipline and focus learned to run with effective strides and is able to simply endure. The same is true of faith. Beauty in our relationship with Jesus is both the freedom of doing what come naturally and enduring because we have had the discipline and focus to learn how to.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

What Micheal Jackson Taught Me

I am not a huge fan of the music of Michael Jackson. Shocking I know!! I must be the only person on the planet, right?! Its not that I dislike it, some of his songs are awesome and without a doubt among the best ever written but I just don’t connect with it. Take Billie Jean for instance, good song but I have never really understood it. Just doesn’t seem to be a song sung from real experience, until later on in his life that is. But I like the melody and the uniqueness of it. I have never really listened to the words though. It’s funny how when you become used to a song in the way it sounds that its meaning is sometimes lost.

I recently start heard a cover version of Billie Jean. Usually I hate covers on principle (yes I am sad and have issues.) A folk band called, The Civil Wars, did this particular version. Its amazing!! When you first hear it you think, “I know this song,” but its only a way into that you realize that it’s Billie Jean. Hearing the song in a different way made me actually listen and take in the words. I heard the story the song tells and was struck by one line that I have never heard before and to be honest it’s the focal point of the song.

“And Be Careful Of What You Do 'Cause The Lie Becomes The Truth.”

Seeing things for another perspective is uncomfortable. Its because when we have to it generally means that we are about to be challenged to change.
The lie becomes the truth. That’s actually a quote Michael Jackson cleverly took from Vladimir Lenin, a Russian Communist revolutionary and the father of the Soviet Union. A man who lived the lie he made others believe and it did become in fact become the truth and still impacts the world.
The principle is true. The lie does become the truth. The more we lie to ourselves about the wrongs that we justify as being okay, the more they take control over our lives and become the reality (truth about us) that we live in.

There is another perspective that we need to see though. Jesus said this, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The truth that God has much more love for us than we can ever imagine and his perspective is the real truth that we should be living in because it is what brings freedom. That’s uncomfortable for me. It means changing and being willing to change.

The lie becomes the truth. The same can be said of the truth. Truth often repeated becomes the truth. Its about training ourselves to allow the truth is set us free.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Hello Hurricane

The Lord of the Rings is my favourite books in the world. Yes I am one of those! I have read them and reread them. I am always astounded by how one person could write something so vast and deep. There are 2 things though that I love most about the books.

First, it is not about hobbits, elves and dwarves. Yes these are species for the characters of the story but the story is actually about relationships, honour and bravery. These are all things that as humans we can relate to.

Second, reading the books is hard work! It isn’t something that should be undertaken lightly. It took me almost 2 years to read it the first time (I read like a snail). It was hard work and sometimes I thought that I would never get through it. Having finally finished it, it felt like a real achievement (this might not be the case for you speedy readers). But here’s the thing about that, in some ways the hard work of wading through all the pages about Tom Bombadil helped me really identify with the characters and felt like I was part of this mammoth quest.

I think one of the central lessons from the book is the idea that going on a quest or adventure is a big deal. Once you commit, it will change you forever. Perhaps that’s why Tolkien made the Fellowship of the Ring feel like it was building up to the actual story before really getting into it. There is this real sense of anticipation and building towards something bigger and better. Most people I know who have tried and failed to read the book, fail because the Fellowship of the Ring is too long, too in depth and possibly a little boring at times. But that’s the reality of starting a journey. You have to prepare. You have to get ready. You have to make sure that this is for you and worth you doing. You have calculate the distance, make sure you have enough supplies, fuel and that those traveling with you are ready. Some of the tasks are tedious but necessary if you want to complete the journey.

Jesus put it like this, “Count the cost.” Know what the journey or decision that you are about to make is worth it. Make sure that you have the commitment, resources and passion to finish what you started. It’s always good to do that before the journey and not during. You see every journey has its hard bits. It’s “are we there yet?” bits. And its in those times that we need to know that we have prepared properly for the journey.

Possibly my favourite song says it like this:

I've been watching the skies
They've been turning blood red
Not a doubt in my mind anymore
There's a storm up ahead

Hello hurricane, you're not enough
Hello hurricane, you can't silence my love
I've got doors and windows boarded up
All your dead end fury is not enough
You can't silence my love, my love

Every thing I have I count as loss
Everything I have is stripped away
Before I started building I counted up these costs
There's nothing left for you to take away

Lyrics by Jon Foreman of Switchfoot

Thursday, 12 January 2012

In Search of True Love

Fairytales. Our world is full of them. You can’t really get away from them. Whether they are

the old school tales about princesses and princes finding true love and defeating the forces of evil or modern movies about aliens etc. I know this has been written about and spoken about more times than can be counted but it is something that I am becoming more and more interested in.

Some of my favourites:

The 3 pigs. What an awesome story. The big bad wolf. The silly pigs. The wise pig. And of course the “underpig” wins against all odds.
Then there’s the one about Jake and Beanstalk. Wow talk about and imperfect hero. Jack is both a fool and thief but somehow manages to save not just himself but his family too.

Little Red Riding Hood has to be one of the most bizarre stories ever written. I have a little girl, so I find myself asking this question these days, why is “Red” in the forest alone in the first place?! But the fact that she talks to a wolf and later mistakes this same wolf for her grandmother . . . how?! And then there’s the version where the grandmother and Red are swallowed whole by the wolf and the woodsman cuts it open to release them?! And we read this to our little kids??? Amazing!

Then there’s the story of a boy who is orphaned and left on a distant planet with his uncle. In this story we find the boy growing into his destiny and becoming the one who saves the entire universe of the Empire.*

Also there’s that “not-so-well-known” one about a little hobbit who manage to endure against all odds and save the people of Middle Earth.

Want something newer? In my opinion the best movie of last year was a film called, “Super 8.” It’s the story of a boy who loses his mother in a tragic accident. While trying to get on with his life, he and a group of friends accidentally film a train wreck discover an alien was being transported on the train As the story unfolds we see find that things are not always as they seem.

What is it about these stories that appeal to us so much? Why is it that they endure long after the authors have gone?

While these are just stories they do however point to another story. A story of adventure and rescue. The story of salvation found in the Bible. Yes the Bible is literally filled with stories that are mirrored by so many of these fairytales that we love but ultimately I believe that the Bible is a story in the best sense of word. The underlying story of the Bible is one of true love, of rescue and of the search for a real happy ending.

Maybe we love fairytales because they express something that sometimes we find hard to express. Maybe we love them because they express our of need for true love, and our desperate longing to believe that there is hope in the midst of all the chaos in the world.
Maybe that’s what the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has planted eternity in the human heart . . .” There is something inside of us all that longs for more than this life has to offer.

Stories are our way of expressing this idea that we know there is more. That we know true love is to be found. That there is hope. That good does defeat evil. You see fairytales reflect the hope that someone will search for us and save us even when we have been foolish. In fact this is the reason our Prince Charming has come.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

I more I listen, the more I like!!

A great CD is defined by one simple fact in my opinion. If the more I listen to it, the more I like it, then for me it is defined as a great album. Its a very personal thing I know. But for me what defines a great album or perhaps even a great band isn’t any of the following, though sometimes they do help;

“It’s an artistic masterpiece.”
“It’s risky and goes where no one else has before. It’s unique.”
“Only music in this genre is worth listening to.”
“It’s cool and hip. All the right people are loving it.” Right People is also an opinion thing if you think about it and depends on where you are coming from.

You see for me at the end of the day what makes an album great is that I enjoy it more today than when I first heard it. I like loads of stuff and to be honest there are albums that I have bought that I loved when I first heard them and I listened to them for awhile but what about now? I have fond memories but seldom actually go back to the whole album and enjoy it.
There are however a handful of albums that I always seem to go back to and can’t get enough of. Over the years the little collection has grown but it also seems harder to get into the group.
I find it interesting that I work that way and I have only recently realized it. In the last month I have discovered a band that would never generally be the sort of thing that I would listen to. I just happened on them. I heard their name and though, “mmmmmm . . . that sounds interesting.” So I fired up Spotify and gave them a listen. At first I though it was okay but not really my thing. Soon though I was listening to it all the time, to the point that I splashed out and downloaded an album and over the last month I have grown to love the CD so much that it has become the default in my car. It’s a great album.

The more I listen the more I like!

That concept fascinates me. I wonder if that is a lesson on how I should live? What I mean is do I impact people more significantly the longer they know me or am I a one hit wonder. Don’t get me wrong I am not interested making everyone happy and being a people pleaser. What I am concerned about is how is my impact defined? Does it have longevity and real lasting effect or is it just a nice warm and fuzzy memory?

Perhaps that is a little bit of what the Bible is getting at in 2 Cor 2:15 - 17,

“In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death. No one really has what it takes to do this work. A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God's message. But we are God's sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness.”

* I have purposefully not mentioned names of bands etc.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I like to think that I am like Rocky . . .

I like to think that I am like Rocky. Obviously no one can be as unbelievably handsome and eloquent! The bar is set impossibly high in said categories.
But I like to think I am like Rocky or at least I want to be like Rocky.
In pretty much every Rocky movie, Rocky has to improve to win. He has to get fitter, get harder and gain the eye of the tiger. I guess that’s what makes them such good movies is that that the hero is humble enough to know he has to get better.
I like to think I am like Rocky. Hopefully I am getting better at being me everyday but not in an arrogant I’m-better-than-you-now way. Everyday I hope that I will get closer to becoming the person God intended me to be. That’s my hope anyway.
Trouble is I don’t alway feel like I am doing that. I don’t always feel like I am making headway. While my heart is in the right place, I can’t always say that I live with more integrity than the day before.
A few days ago I ran across a bit in the Bible that encourages me and in a sense is becoming my “eye of the tiger” moment.
I have looked into these words a little and here is my best attempt at what I think the dude who wrote it meant, Proverbs 4:18 (PUPV*)

“As those living for God travel on life’s road, the light on the road becomes brighter and brighter until it is like the midday sun on a clear and cloudless day.”

Mmmm . . . I guess that the promise of this simple proverb, which is a wise saying, is that if you are honestly living for God then the light on your path becomes brighter. The progression from dawn’s first light until the sun is at it highest, hottest and brightest point.
I find that encouraging for 2 reasons:

1. If I sincerely and am simply trying to live my life the way God intended, the road will get brighter and clearer. In other words I will make headway. I will get better. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

2. If my path is becoming brighter then hopefully it is helping someone else along the way. Following God’s way is never set in a private chat room. It will always overflow and like the sun brings light and life to everything it’s rays touch.

I think I may just have the eye of the tiger . . .

*PUPV - Phil's Unofficial Paraphrase Version

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Clear eyes. Clean hearts. Can't lose!!!

“Clear eyes. Clean hearts. Can’t lose.” A quote from one of my favourite TV shows, called Friday Night Lights. Its about a high school American Football team and before every game they chant, “Clear eyes. Clean hearts. Can’t lose!” I’m a sucker for stuff like that so I always find it very inspiring.

I know its just a show and that words like this are meant to tug at the old heart strings so that you will come back for more but the reality is that there is truth in that simple quote.

Proverbs 3:1 -12 says this, “Good friend, don't forget all I've taught you; take to heart my commands. They'll help you live a long, long time, a long life lived full and well. Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.
But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction. It's the child he loves that God corrects; a father's delight is behind all this.” The Message

Not to oversimplify things but is says:

Clear eyes: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all.” - Clear eyes. See things God's way. Get the right perspective on things, don’t just assume that you know it all. Clear eyes.

Clean Hearts: “Earn a reputation for living well in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.” “Run to God! Run from evil!” “But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline; don't sulk under his loving correction. It's the child he loves that God corrects; a father's delight is behind all this.” - Clean hearts! Make sure you are right with God and people. Accept God’s discipline. Not words we like to hear. How often are our hearts not clean. How often do we resist what God wants in our lives. Keep your heart clean.

Can’t lose: “he's the one who will keep you on track.” “Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor God with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over.” - Can’t lose!!
I don’t think the point is that we will be healthy and rich, the point is that we will be blessed. If we see things God’s way and run to him then surely the result is we can’t lose in the most important arena of life. We will live in harmony with God and not to be over spiritual but when we do that we really can’t lose!!!

I guess I am left asking myself and you the follow questions:
Do I have clear eyes? Is my heart clean?