I was in pretty good shape last October as I focused on running the Wenatchee half marathon with my second daughter, Allison. However, after traveling for almost the entire month of November and five weeks of illness that lasted into January, I had lost all the conditioning I had so diligently earned. When I started working out again a month ago, I was at a low physical point. That is when my oldest daughter, Laura, introduced me to Nike Training Club, a free workout app. I am not used to this kind of high efficiency training. In the past, I have stuck to traditional weight lifting and running. This app instructs me to move quickly through a wide range of exercises that build strength and balance while pushing up my heart rate. I started at the lowest level and have been slowing working myself into the intermediate routines. Spending thirty minutes doing these workouts combined with a daily run has enabled me to begin rebuilding muscle tone and endurance.
However, my gain has not come without costs. First, my pride is daily hammered by the fact that I am unable to perform some of the exercises. I particularly struggle with the ones that require balance. Second, this Nike Training Club is geared to women. The instructor’s voice is female and the exercise trainers on the videos are women. When I started I teasingly called the workouts, “girly exercises.” Daily I am getting beaten up by girls. So much for the physical superiority of men over women!
Seriously, I enjoy being in good physical condition. I know that at my age, I have to work harder than ever to stay in shape. Spending thirty to sixty minutes a day working out is worth it to me. The pain is short lived compared to the long-term benefits.
I need to remain just as diligent with my spiritual conditioning. Paul instructs in 1 Timothy 4:7, “… train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
How are you doing with your physical and spiritual exercises? (A good dose of daily humbling is actually an appropriate spiritual exercise.)
In his sermon at Whitworth Community Presbyterian Church yesterday, Dr. Keith Tanis expertly communicated the value of healthy routines. At the end of his sermon he foreshadowed that next week he is going to talk about risk. I have already been learning about routine and risk as I gear up to run a half marathon with my daughter Allison.
Last spring Allison began urging me to enter the Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon with her. I was reluctant. The cost seemed high to me. Preparing would take a lot of time and I did not want to risk an injury. Nevertheless, she prevailed and I allowed her to register me for the race. I know that the risk will be worth it. I look forward to a wonderful weekend with my daughter immersed in the spectacular beauty of Leavenworth, WA and I enjoy challenging my body to a higher level of fitness.
Now I am preparing. To be a good runner, you must run. To run 13.1 miles in a race, you should prepare for 10 to 12 weeks. The training schedule I am using begins with three mile runs the first week, stretches to four miles the second week, and increases the distance each week until two weeks before the race. This week, four weeks before the race, I will run 4 or 5 miles Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday and 11 miles on Sunday. Yesterday I ran ten miles.
Along with the value and benefits of routine and risk, I have been learning that rest is also significant in preparing for a race. The training schedule includes two days of rest each week. Two days to allow your body to recover from the pounding it endures the other five days. It is particularly important to rest the day after a long run. So, I am taking today off to allow my muscles and joints to recover from yesterday’s ten mile run.
It is not surprising that Paul compared spiritual development to running a race. (1 Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, 1 Tim 4:7) He recognized the parallels between running a race and growing to spiritual maturity. To become mature in Christ we must walk by faith, which appears risky. We must establish routines of Bible study, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines, and we must get sufficient rest to be renewed for the next step of faith.
Last Friday evening, Nancy and I went to an open house reception for a former Caleb Project colleague who is now married and heading to Eastern Europe to minister. We had a wonderful time catching up with Joel and Keturah and Joel’s sister, also a former colleague, and husband, Tanya and Dallas. As we were leaving, we laughed because we realized that we had been so engaged in conversation during the couple hours that we were there that we never passed beyond the house’s entry area. Old friends are a special blessing!
As we were preparing to leave, Joel asked me one final question. He has been thinking about fasting and remembered that fasting was a regular spiritual discipline for me when we worked together. God has blessed me through fasting. Following the examples of Bill Bright and other godly leaders, I have often engaged in fasts that have lasted several days and once completed a 40 day fast. However, my primary experience with fasting was a three decade-long one-day-a-week fast. I started that discipline when in my early 20’s and continued until my early 50’s. I did not start with the idea that I would continue forever. My intent was to continue the discipline until God told me to stop.
A couple years after moving to Spokane, I quietly sensed in my spirit that it was time to discontinue the weekly fast. At the time, I did not know why. I just sensed that I did not need to continue that discipline any longer. However, Joel’s question caused me to reflect. Looking back, I realize that my life was full of people and organizational pressure during the 30 years that I fasted weekly. However, my life in Spokane has been more relaxed. I have had less organizational responsibility and fewer people in my life. Therefore, my need for disciplined time in fasting and solitude has decreased. I suppose that is why God released me from that discipline.
After further reflection, I realized that physical exercise has replaced fasting in my weekly rhythm. Soon after I stopped fasting, I felt the Lord urging me to begin working out more. During the past couple years, I have engaged in more rigorous exercise than I have since I played high school sports.
I believe in spiritual disciplines and that we should continually listen to the Holy Spirit as our personal trainer.
As a teenager and through my 20’s I was a runner. Being a runner was not a significant accomplishment for me. I had natural ability and I loved to run. For fun, I would run through miles of rural Pennsylvania forests and back roads. I loved the feeling that I got after running a mile or so and I enjoyed that “runners’ high” for as many miles as possible. Although I did not enjoy it as much, I continued to run on the streets in Pasadena, CA while living there in the 1980’s. However, in the mid-80’s while running down the hill to the Rose Bowl, I injured my knees and quit running. I thought my running days were over. Before the injury, I regularly ran at a 6 minute/mile pace.
About two years ago I started running again with Adjua, the Whitworth University student who lives with Nancy and me. We started slowly, barely able to finish a mile. That fall with beginning of a new academic year, Adjua stopped running, but I continued. I have been slowly gaining speed and adding distance. Many weeks I improve from the previous week. This week I ran a five mile loop in under 36 minutes. I have my sights on completing that loop in 35 minutes, a 7 minute/mile pace.
As I was running this week, I experienced a small “runners’ high.” I remembered what it was like to be able to run solely for its enjoyment. That caused me to wonder if I could recover the physical ability that I had several decades ago. Then I realized, I had already come a long way. Slowly, step by step, week by week, I have rebuilt much of the conditioning that I need to again call myself a runner.
Great accomplishments are often like my return to “runner” conditioning. They aren’t completed in a short period of time. Rather, consistent effort in the same direction over a long period of time is usually required for the most significant and rewarding results.
I have been experiencing discomfort in my right eye all week. Thinking it was pink eye, I went to urgent care Sunday. The doctor agreed that it might be an early stage of an infection, so he prescribed antibiotic drops and told me to come back if the irritation did not go away. The drops seemed to work and I thought I was getting better until yesterday afternoon when the symptoms I had been experiencing came back with greater intensity. By this morning, my eye was very sensitive to light, leaving me unable to see clearly. Even daily activities that I normally do instinctively suddenly became difficult. Fortunately, there was a slot open with an eye doctor this morning, Thursday. After his careful examination, he determined I have something like arthritis in my eye. At least, that is how he described it to me. He gave me steroid drops and told me to come back tomorrow. These drops seem to be working and I can now see well enough to function normally.
My brief time of inhibited sight has caused me to become more aware of my eyes and grateful for the ability to see. I don’t see as well as I used to, but I still have 20/20 vision and generally take sight for granted. Today I am aware that my eyes and other gifts that I too often take for granted can be taken away at any moment.
Thank God for the ability to see and for many other wonderful gifts that I daily rely on. Help me use them to glorify God and bless people.