Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slow Down!

At the beginning of a race, emotions and adrenaline levels run high. There is both excitement and anxiety. The heart is pumping like crazy and the nerves are on edge.

At the starting line, I usually position myself behind the group of the race leaders- those who are in it to win. While I am not, by any means, in it to win, I usually have a time goal I am shooting for and so I want to position myself strategically. To be in between the race leaders and the leisure runners enables me to be pulled forward by the former group and not be slowed down by the latter.

In one of the races I did last year, however, I found myself in the lead pack at the starting line. Before I could move back a couple of rows, the race director started the count down... "3, 2, 1, Go!" I had no choice but to run with the lead pack for a while. And for a while, I was able to keep up. I let myself be swept-up in the energy and excitement of that first wave of runners.

It was definitely a much faster pace than my normal. But at that moment, it felt good. I was running with some big names for a couple of miles around the main streets of Anchorage with crowds cheering us on!

As we headed out to the trails, though, I had to take a quick reality-check. I knew we were going fast but I didn't know how fast until I checked my GPS watch. I realized I was going way to fast than I had trained for! I was keeping up but how long could I manage that pace? I had to remind myself it was a long distance run. That I had to pace myself if I want to finish under my time goal or at least with a decent time.

"Slow down!", I started to tell myself.

I dialed it down to a more realistic pace for the remainder of the race. And I finished within my time goal!

Don't you feel like life, work and ministry are going at such breakneck speeds sometimes, if not most of the time? I do. And it so easy to get caught up in this wave of deadlines, to-do lists, calendars and desired outputs that we find ourselves "running at a pace we are not comfortable with." While one might argue that these are important and essential matters that we need to attend to (and I am not questioning that), the rate at which we approach these tasks has become, at times, unrealistic and detrimental to our health and well-being. Consequently, it becomes detrimental to the health and well-being of our families, organizations and faith communities.

Perhaps we need to slow down. To dial it down a bit. Now I am not in any way advocating laziness and being slackers. I also believe in being stretched by a challenge in order to grow. But there is a fine line between being challenged and being overwhelmed. I'm saying, we need to check and make sure we haven't crossed that line. I'm saying, perhaps we need to right-size our schedules and workloads to healthier levels where there is a balance between work, ministry and the other, more important aspects of our lives like family, God and self.

I am now reading a book by Walter Brueggemann entitled, "Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now" where he argues that the institution of the Sabbath was a way of resisting and breaking the work-driven culture that defined the Israelites as a people for many, many years. I highly recommend it.

I invite you to look at the pace of your life right now. Are you going too fast? Perhaps it is time to listen to that inner voice that is saying, "slow down!" Perhaps it is time to dial it down to a more realistic pace. After all, life is not a sprint but a marathon. We need to have enough in the tank to finish strong. And we need to enjoy the run as well!

Your fellow disciple,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Controlled Falling

"Running is controlled falling." said Scott Jurek, world renowned vegan ultra runner, in his best-selling book, Eat and Run. What he meant by this is that the most efficient technique in running is to lean forward and let gravity work to your advantage. It's letting yourself fall forward without falling to the ground and controlling the force created by your weight and gravity to propel you on. And while it is controlled, there is a level of abandon, a level of trust in the downward force that makes for a more energy efficient run. There's an illustration and demo videos that explain this technique on the altrarunning website.

In Star Wars lingo, it's allowing "the force to be with you" and move you forward.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord. As we remembered our own baptism, we were reminded of water, which is the primary symbol used in the sacrament. The baptismal ritual reminds us that water symbolizes "the cleansing of our sins, the quenching of our dry, thirsty souls and the ever-flowing gift of grace." Water also connects us with one another.

Water, especially bodies of water, is also a mighty force that is able to move things and objects. From a trickle, a rushing river or the constantly pounding waves of the sea, water is a force to reckon with. But it is also a force that we can harness and use to our advantage.

Fr. Richard Rohr in his Daily Meditation from October 31, 2014 writes: "I believe that faith might be precisely that ability to trust the river, to trust the flow and the Lover. It is a process that we don’t have to create, coerce, or improve. We simply need to allow it to flow. That takes immense confidence in God, especially when we’re hurting. Usually, I can feel myself get panicky. I want to make things right, and right now! I lose my ability to be present, and I go up into my head and start obsessing. I try to push or even create the river—the river that is already flowing through me."

"Faith is the ability to trust the river", to trust "the force", to trust gravity to move us forward.

As we begin this New Year, it is helpful for us to remember our baptism, particularly the gift of water and how it is a mighty force in our lives that we can trust. Perhaps a good New Year's resolution for us this 2015 is to allow ourselves to "fall forward" in a manner that allows "gravity" to move us on.

"May the force be with you!" and may you allow it to move you forward.

Your fellow disciple,