Run no. 31 – The way of the wall

hitting the wall

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 41’40”

Another early morning run after a fasting day.

At 35 minutes I suddenly ‘hit the wall’, just zero energy left, legs feeling like lead, could feel myself getting slower and slower, just nothing I could do.

I suppose it was just down to the fact that my body had run out of ‘fuel’. I pushed through and continued to the end; but a tough run.

Knowing when you have run out of fuel is a vital element of self-knowledge in the spiritual life too.

I remember reading about Smith Wrigglesworth, a Pentecostal preacher in the early 20th century, who had a powerful healing ministry.

After he had preached people would come forward and he would pray for them. So great were the crowds that this took a long time.

At one service he had preached and then prayed for people for hours and he was exhausted. Then a woman came and asked him to pray for her.

He refused her, saying that all the anointing of God’s Spirit upon him was gone and that if he were to pray for her now “It would only be in the natural”.

He knew himself well enough to know when he was spiritually empty and he would not continue beyond that point.

Smith Wrigglesworth recounts a further story which demonstrates the same point;

I know a man who was full of the Holy Ghost and would preach only when he knew that he was mightily unctionized by the power of God. He was asked to preach at a Methodist church. He was staying at the minister’s house and he said, “You go on to church and I will follow.” The place was packed with people and this man did not turn up and the Methodist minister, becoming anxious, sent his little girl to inquire why he did not come.

As she came to the bedroom door she heard him crying out three times, “I will not go.”

She went back and reported that she heard the man say three times that he would not go.

The minister was troubled about it, but almost immediately after this the man came in, and, as he preached that night, the power of God was tremendously manifested.

The preacher asked him, “Why did you tell my daughter that you were not coming?” He answered, “I know when I am filled. I am an ordinary man and I told the Lord that I dared not go and would not go until He gave me a fresh filling of the Spirit. The moment the glory filled me and overflowed I came to the meeting.”[1]

There is deep wisdom here.

  •  The self-knowledge that understands and accepts our human limitations.
  • The refusal to minister out of any other power than that of the power of God.
  • The spiritual sensitivity to know when God’s power fills us and when it doesn’t.

I am an ordinary man

and I told the Lord

that I dared not go

and would not go

until He gave me a fresh filling of the Spirit.

This is the place that I need to get to.

[1] Smith Wrigglesworth, ‘Ever Increasing Faith’, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1924, Chp 13

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Run no. 30 – Leaving a positive trail

petaltrail

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 40’58”

Hard miles today. The same time as my last run – to the second – but felt much harder work.

My legs felt ‘heavy’ from the off.

Probably a few factors caused this. Perhaps the most significant was that yesterday was a fasting day – so my body was probably low on fuel. But hopefully that will help with my Shakespearean intention, “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt!” I read somewhere that exercise when your body is low on fuel puts it into ‘starvation’ mode and so it burns fat more – here’s hoping!

Anyway, I suppose that my struggles made me more aware of my surroundings – anxious to be making progress, to reach the way markers, to count off the miles.

One thing I did notice was how pretty the tarmac path looked due to the fallen leaves.

Tarmac is tarmac right? Dark grey, uniform, rather boring. But a tree had started to shed its turning leaves and they were spread out over the path making the most beautiful linear patterns. Gold and browns with some of the grey showing through. Really pretty effect.

The tree had dropped its leaves and they made a difference, they made the surroundings nicer, prettier, joy-giving. Even the tarmac looked good.

I think that this sums up what God wants from us as human beings – to leave a positive trail behind us, acts of random kindness, unsolicited prayers of blessing, efforts to make our environment better – small stuff, but it can make a big difference.

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

I remember a time a long time ago when my wife and I were first married. We were low on cash and our big nights out were a trip to the local takeaway to get a curry.

As we were about to pay for our meal and take it home, someone we knew vaguely who was behind us in the queue, leaned forward and said, “Let me get that for you” and paid for our takeaway.

I don’t know why he did that, but it was such a blessing to us, and even now, I remember it. A small act of kindness, but it gave joy and I still have the positive feelings it engendered.

As we go through today – let’s try and leave a positive trail behind us.


Run no. 29 – Running and the ‘Phantoms of Dread’

phantom

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 40’58”

During the whole of the four and a half miles that I run, there is one particular step that I find the most challenging; and that is the first one, the one that takes me out through the door.

I lie in bed thinking “I should go for a run this morning”; but then the negative thoughts come rushing in, think how hard it might be, think how cold it might be…etc.

And the stark contrast between how warm and comfortable I am in bed and the imagined awfulness of struggling round in freezing conditions; and the choice between that and another 40 minutes in bed…

That first step is really hard to take.

But I managed to take it this morning, and you know what? It was ok. It actually wasn’t cold, it was pleasant. And I found that my run wasn’t painful, it felt comfortable; yet when I looked at my time it was ok, not too slow (well not for me, anyway!).

And when I finished and the endorphin kick came in and I actually felt good about it.

All of which made me start reflecting on the uselessness of dread in our lives.

I was dreading running, yet none of the elements I was dreading – the pain, the cold – even existed. They were figments of my dread yet they weighed heavy in my thinking and decision making and came close to altering my behaviour.

They were mere insubstantial phantoms – yet they might have easily changed my mind and actions.

I started wondering what other ‘phantoms of dread’ are active in my thinking and decision-making? What insubstantial fears prevent me from being and doing all that I might?

As usual my reflections turn to the spiritual life; what prevents me from going deeper with God; getting closer to Him; allowing Him to set the direction and content of my life?

What are the phantoms of dread that hold me back? Fear of what the cost might be? Yet what do I take with me to the next life anyway? As they say, “There are no pockets in a shroud”.

Fear of failure? Yet God calls us to obedience and faithfulness, not necessarily success.

Fear of unpleasantness? Yet God loves us, we are to call Him “Father”, does a loving father impose unnecessary suffering on His children. Any such struggles and difficulties He allows in our lives must have some possible benefit or redeeming possibility – otherwise He would not be true to His nature of love.

Good luck exorcising your phantoms of dread.


Run no. 28 – Drops of glory

sweat

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 41’04”

When you run, you sweat. In fact most physical exertion causes this. It can even happen with mental exertion – who has not sweated in a job interview or giving an important presentation?

We sweat because we are trying to do something that we hope will bring positive benefit. In sport that benefit is to our health and well-being. In work that benefit is to our job and employer. In DIY and gardening it is to benefit our immediate environment – or perhaps that of our neighbours and community.

Ultimately we sweat because we are trying to do something positive in the world. As that is a voluntary or involuntary response to God’s direct command to us;

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it[1]

Doing something positive in the world is a fulfilment of that divine injunction to humankind. Which, when accompanied by our intent, gives glory to God. Each drop of sweat that falls is therefore, in some way, a drop of glory.

As I ran around Watermeads Country Park at 0730 this morning – dropping glory all over the place! – I was challenged by the parallel with prayers of blessing that we can pray over people. They are drops of glory that we can give away as part of our everyday lives.

I sought to respond to this immediately, and so, every time I passed someone, I did not just give my usual cheery ‘Hello!’; instead I raised my hand in the gesture of blessing and said “God bless”.

I must have crossed paths with around 20 people in my run. So that is 20 lives who may experience something of God’s blessing in their lives today.

Blessing and cursing are God’s mechanism for His dealing with us. It is important to note that both are an expression of His love – although it is blessing that is His primary attitude towards us and cursing his ‘strange work’[2], a remedial act to draw us back from rebellion.

God loves us too much to leave us in a place where we are estranged to Him, far off from His love and blessing, uninvolved in His eternal purposes that will bring significance and meaning and growth in our lives. To that end He responds to our rebellion against Him and His commands in cursing, to bring us to our sense, to our right minds, to repentance and reconciliation – back to the place of blessing.

Interestingly there is a key difference in how blessing and cursing function.

As humans beings we too can bless and curse each other. We bless as we release, by our prayers, words, acts and presence, God’s love in each other’s lives. We curse as we speak negative words, perform hurtful acts, distance ourselves from each other.

For those who walk with God there is a promise of his protection from undeserved curses.

Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.[3]

However our words of blessing will always hit their mark.

I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;

and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.[4]

Go in peace and drip glory wherever you go.

God bless.

[1] Genesis 1 :28 ESV

[2] Isaiah 28 :21

[3] Proverbs 26:2 NIV

[4] Genesis 12 :3 NIV


Run no. 27 – Run ‘n’ Rain

Running-in-the-Rain

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 40’34”

Holiday period now officially over, time to get back into some kind of routine and try to wind back the dial on the bathroom scales!

At the diocesan conference last week, as we were being moved into the main hall for the final Eucharist the ushers said “Please fill up from the front”.

Looking around at myself and the assembled clergy, it was clear that we were all doing pretty well in that department!

So getting back to regular running and a bit more attention to what I eat and drink, is on the cards to undo some of the damage.

It was a drizzly rainy day today. Not cold, just wet.

I absolutely love running in the rain. I don’t know why. Perhaps because my early running was as a boy in Scotland (where it often rains!) and maybe it reminds me of that.

Maybe it’s pragmatic and I just enjoy being cooled down by the rain as I run; but for whatever reason it is, for me, a pleasant experience.

And yet some people hate it; they can’t stand running in the rain;

There were certainly no other runners in evidence this morning.

Which is a helpful reminder of the value of diversity within the church; it is good that some people enjoy some things that others dislike, it means that we can serve God in different ways.

I was at a training day for Messy Church on Saturday. Messy Church is an approach to Church designed to appeal to all ages. There are crafts that everyone can do together which help us think about the day’s theme. There are creative approaches to sharing the message of Jesus that everyone can engage with, and opportunities to respond in prayer and worship that everyone can join in with.

I think it is fantastic – but it is SO not me!

I am not a crafty kind of person. I don’t find that the way I engage most deeply with God is through artistic exploration or creation. I engage with God most naturally through text and my preferred worship style is liturgical and reflective rather than creative and explorative.

However, I am involved in helping at Messy Church and also in leading a Fresh Expression of church because I know that these other approaches are vitally necessary for many people; and they have been largely missing from the traditional expressions of Christianity.

And, as I am involved in these less natural (for me) activities, from time to time, one of these ways of exploring faith will really speak to me; and perhaps all the more powerfully for it being in a different register.

Difference is good. Embrace it.


Run no. 25 and 26 – Just Trogging On

trogg on

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: untimed and 41’19”

The past few weeks have been chaotic running-wise due to holidays and guests. I managed to squeeze one run in mid-point, but I was feeling so unfit after holiday excesses, that I didn’t even time myself.

Today I managed to get out in the early morning sunshine. Wasn’t looking forward to it, but actually it was fine and I feel far better for having done it, energy levels higher and concentration better.

It strikes me that much of life is about just ‘trogging on’ on days when you don’t feel like it, when you aren’t going to beat any records, when no-one else cares or is even watching. It is on these days that the ability to ‘trog on’ is vital, and, I would venture, massively important.

Everyone can motivate themselves when the world and his wife are watching, when great opportunities hang on the outcome, when glory beckons.

But only a few men and women of character and determination can motivate themselves when none of that is true. When the only thing standing between you and failure is your own iron will and no-one gives a hoot what you do.

In those hidden yet decisive moments we decide who we really are, and express our inner character and quality.

Interestingly the Bible expresses the same principle with regard to spiritually successful life.

But he who perseveres to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

Salvation – a successful life in which we come to know God and be joined into His family – only happens to those who can dig in, on the long run, to the end.

Trogging on – it’s important.