The First 101 Days Of The Year

Finishing The Race

I can’t believe that it’s already April.  Last year for the first 100 days of the year my mom and I did burppies every day.  It was a great challenge, one I decided not to repeat.  I decided to take on a different challenge this year.  Go to the gym every day for at least the first 100 days.

Well, I made it through the first 103 days of the year without missing, and technically I’ve gone 104 days in a row as I went to the gym on New Years Eve.

Going to the gym came easy, its what happened when I wasn’t at the gym that has been a different type of challenge.

The first 30 days flew by.  Other than making it to the gym on January first, when I felt too tired to do anything, it wasn’t  difficult to make it to the gym every.

Even though I thought making it a week straight would be the real challenge, as 6 days in a row was my previous top, but I set my mind to it  and January turned into February.   But as you may have read, my year came crashing to a halt on day 45.  If you do the math. you’ll know this was Valentine’s Day, the day my Pathfinder died.

But this didn’t stop me from going to the gym.  Still in shock from the accident, I made my way to the gym late on the night of the 14th.

Two days later, when I was preparing my house for my birthday party, I nearly ran out of time to go to the gym, but while the pork was marinading and the rice was cooking, I dashed off to the gym and did a quick 100 sit ups (my goal was to go to the gym every day, not have an extreme workout every day, and every little bit counts).

After those hiccups, it didn’t seem like anything could stop me.

Well, not a huge blizzard that canceled worship at The Neighborhood Church on March 3rd, day number 62 of the year.

Then the gym closed.  But did that stop me?  No, I didn’t let 24 hour fitness’s decision to remodel their Kipling location hinder my workouts.  From the 8th of March to the 13th I drove to the other 24’s in my area.  I thought about taking that time off, but since I’d made it when my car was wrecked and when I had hardly any time, I couldn’t let the inconvenience of having to drive 15 minutes stop me.

Heck when I lived in Guatemala I used to walk 45 minutes to get to the gym.  I guess that’s how I managed to make it all the way to 100 days in a row without missing a workout.

On the way to 100 Days I bought a car to replace my wrecked Pathfinder.  My car insurance really helped me recover from that wreck.  And then just as I passed 100 straight days at the gym, on day 101, my new car died on me.  It’s not fixable either.  That Thursday night, frustrated about my car problems, I found myself at the gym.  I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Well, maybe in Guatemala where I didn’t need a car.  But I couldn’t go to the gym everyday there, as my gym in Xela was always closed on Saturdays.   But something I could do in Guatemala, and I’ve continued to do every day here in Colorado is read my Bible and trust in God.  This is something I’ve tried to do every day for the last 8 years.

And that part of my day, the time in prayer and the Bible, is what really helped me make it through the first 101 days of the year.

Spending time with God every day made going to the gym easy.  If my eyes are focused on him, my true prize, running, biking, and lifting will come easy.  The hard part is trusting God when everything seems out of control.  Like when my car died.

But here is what I read out of the Jesus Calling that night after going to the gym to burn off my frustration over the loss of another car, “This is the day that I have made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.  Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life.  Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather (or cars in my circumstance), since I am the Author of your circumstances.  The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Me for them.  This act of faith frees you from resentment and frees Me to work My ways into the situation, so that good emerges from it.  

To find Joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries.  I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four hour segments.  I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time.  Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past.  There is abundant Life in My Presence today.

Going to the gym helps me feel good.  I like how I feel right now after setting aside time to be active each day, but spending time with God, reading his word, and praying to him, gives me true hope for a future filled with Joy, because he is in control.

He will redeem this day and he just might do it while I’m at the gym.

How Running and Living Spiritually Go Hand in Hand: 3 Practical Ways to Live Spiritually

Back in 2003 I decided to become a runner.  Running, for me, has always been a problem.  I’ve suffered from Abdominal Migraines most of my life, which are, as I described them in my blog Dancing Con Aguafiestas, set off by running.  So, why did I take up this difficult task, one most people who don’t suffer from migraines avoid?  Simple, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to challenge myself.  I knew if I kept sitting around I might avoid the migraines, but I’d never live the life I wanted to live.

Learning to be a runner was a challenge, it took me a little more than three years to lose any weight, but I did it.  Leaning to be a runner taught me how to set my mind on a goal.  Training for a half-marathon taught me how to achieve my goals.

Running and losing weight take perseverance and eating healthy.   At this point you might be wondering when I am going to get spiritual on you guys.  Well, follow me on this one.  Living Spiritually is just like running.  When I started running seriously, I took all of the advice I ran across.  So, here are three practical ways to help us all live spiritually.

1. Be Attentive:  Being attentive as a runner means paying attention to your body, which is important when trying to stay healthy.  Likewise, spiritual health requires attentiveness.  We can’t see God at work if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  Being physically healthy means paying attention to what you consume.

Being spiritually healthy is exactly the same.  So, take care of yourself by reading your Bible and spending time in prayer.  I spend at least twenty minutes every night reading my Bible and praying.  Another thing I try to do so I can see God at work in my life during the day is get a good night sleep.  We must treat every day like a big race day, which means getting a good night’s sleep.  It is impossible to stay attentive to God’s doings, let alone run, if you can’t even keep your eyes open.  So go to bed early.

2. Be in Position: During a race I try to find my mental sweet spot, which always seems to be Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida.  I pace myself to its tracks as I run, but if I were to stop running for two months before the race and then position myself at the starting line on race day, I can’t expect myself to succeed.  Therefore, I position myself for success by going to the gym at least six times a week.

Positioning is important with spiritual success too.  I find my spiritual sweet spot when I am hiking with a friend.  Hiking in the mountains with a friend gets me going, but if I position myself inside of the wrong group of people, negative people, I tend to lose focus on God.  Likewise, if I seclude myself, not go on any hikes, I typically feel like God isn’t with me.  And so I know I must go out and engage with people, ones who support me, to be able to see God work.  I do know that there are people who feel God’s presence when they are alone, for those people I encourage them to turn off their tv, or whatever is distracting them, and spend some quiet time with God.  Find your sweet spot and position yourself in a place where you are most likely to see God.

3. Be Submissive: When I train for a half-marathon, I know if I want to run the race to the best of my abilities, I must train and training means giving up certain desires, like sleeping in on the weekends.  I must submit myself to a training schedule, which typically requires long hours and lots of sweat.  But I know if I place that schedule above me, as my master, I will have a great opportunity to succeed during my race.

Again, and you’ve probably already got my point, heck you’ve probably already become Jedi’s at all of this, but I’ll say it anyway, Living Spiritually is the same.  We must live with our palms up, submitted to God.  As said in Proverbs, “In all of your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Turn your hands up to God in an act of submission.  He may ask you to do something out of the ordinary, but He will not lead you astray.

For we are submitting to one who has run this race before us.  We are letting Jesus be our master.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says and Tim Tebow tweeted before his first playoff game, “Therefore, as we are  surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, and all its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Five People You’ll Meet At The Finish Line!

Who would you want to see at the finish line after a long race?  I’m a runner and I’ve learned that just like in life sometimes the unexpected can happen while running.  A running friend of mine told me that she loves running because she constantly sees connections between running and life.  She believes it’s much more fun to run with a partner than alone and like life, it can leave you feeling empty but invigorated at the same time.  Let me take this a step further, if running a race is like living, then the finish line is like heaven.  Somehow I don’t think I’m the first one to think up this analogy, but run with me on this anyway.

For the last two months, I’ve been training for the Xela half-marathon.  13.1 miles of pure fun (I can’t say hell, this is a family blog.)  I have now trained for 3.5, half marathons and ran two.  I love training because it helps me set a goal and I run each day knowing it will push me closer the finish line.  Yet, training is hard and this year was no exception.  Fortunately the knee problems I’d been having lessened and most of my long runs went well.  The only major set back during training occurred when my training partner,  Yasi, came down with tonsillitis the week before the race and had to back out, which disappointed her and forced me to run alone.

Running alone can be fun.  I raced alone last year and finished with a rather respectable time.  But, like life, running is more fun to with other people.  For example, try to play a game of monopoly by yourself, it’s no fun; trust me.  And who really wants to spend life playing solitaire?

Back to running.  Two weeks before the race, Yasi and I went out on the Day of the Dead, November 1st for those of you not up on all of the many Spanish holidays, and ran 11 miles.  We started out around 8 in the morning, a great feat in itself for a day off, when I would’ve liked to sleep in.  Unfortunately, both life and running require early wake up calls.  It was worth it.  We jogged out of sleepy Xela, to around 8,000 plus feet in elevation,  making it back for 11 miles in around two hours.  We passed small painted churches and cemeteries alive with guests paying their respects to the dead.  Many of whom were littering the air with kites as if they were sending messages skyward to their dead relatives. As I pressed on, I wondered if the dead were up in heaven partying like they’d just finished a long and tiring race.  (side note, if you haven’t got to a cemetery on the Day of the Dead you really should.) The next week I ran 12 miles in one hour and fourty-five minutes.  I knew I was ready for my race.

So, early on the unseasonably warm morning of the 14th of November, I jogged down the colorful streets of Xela to the European style arches on Independence Street, which were serving as the starting line.  Runners were jogging up and down the streets.  Bouncing up and down to loosen their limbs.  It was like a river of Salmon all swimming up stream in their bright bright yellow half-marathon shirts.  As I waded down stream through the crowd of runners, which seamed to be much larger than last year, I still managed to find my friend Maria Marta.  Maria and I had run a 10 k together a month earlier and, with an unspoken agreement, we set off together at the starting gun.  She matched my pace for the first 10 kilometers, passing people when I passed them.  Weaving in and out through the packed streets.  Every time I wanted to slow down, she would either be right there pushing me on.  It’s hard to slack off when you have someone running right by your side.

I ran all the way until the 14th kilometer.  Maria had finally fallen behind.  Around 12 kilometers in, we’d reached the Cuesta Blanca, the big hill on the race (it’s so big cars struggle up it’s slope), and she was gone, somewhere behind me.  My heart was pounding out of my ears and my mind wouldn’t push my body any harder.  I had no one to keep me going, except my iPod.  AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long blasted me onwards toward the next water station.  And then my iPod died.  I no longer had any desire to go on.  But I knew I had to press forward or it would be hours until I finished.  I had trained so hard.  I couldn’t let it go to waste.  I walked in the heat.  Ran in the shade.  Pushing my self toward the finish line.  Encouraged by my students who had come to watch.  Each heavy footfall on the pavement brought me nearer to the end.  From the Minerva Temple I could see Heaven, the finish line, and I knew I’d made it.  Euphoria set in when I realized I’d completed the race.  My time wasn’t what I had hoped for, but that’s life right?  We don’t always get what we want, but we wind up at the end anyway.

Just like life, the best part of the race was when I had someone to run with.  Finishing the race all by myself was hard.  I’d like to say I didn’t finish as well last year because my iPod died, but I really think it was because I didn’t have anyone to push me at the end.  I walked into the finishing tent alone and received my medal and Powerade.  Yet, as I looked up from the finishing line, I saw people I knew.  There was a girl I had gone on a date with, but hadn’t called back because she was crazy.  Awkward!  There were my housemates Mike and Denise, a few people from work, and several of my students.  I felt very encouraged to see them cheering me on at the finish.  It made the hard run worth it.  And I think life and heaven will be like that.  We will finish the race and see people we thought we’d never see again and it will make all of the hardships we went through worth it.