The Oddest People

Lucien Guitry: Sa Carriere Et Sa Vie [SIGNED} by Guitry, Sacha

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 46’ 30” (PB 38’ 38”)

Almost 4 month gap since my last run – not good. Disturbing life circumstances have left me feeling drained with little energy and motivation for running. But I made it out today and it was ok, so that’s a start.

As I was running it struck me again how you often find the most unlikely of people are runners.

A couple of time I have met rather tubby blokes, who I subsequently found out were capable of marathons and half-marathons! Something I would never have predicted by looking at them.

As I think about the Christmas story I find I am equally surprised. I am surprised by who is invited to greet the new-born Saviour of the World.

The first on the scene are shepherds. This is a shocking as shepherds were considered social outcasts. They were wild, tough men, who needed to be capable of driving away both sheep thieves and wild animals. They lived out of doors most of the time and were not quite considered civilised by polite society. Given their outdoor life they couldn’t even follow the Jewish religion properly, never mind attending synagogue.

And yet when choirs of angels are sent to announce that Jesus is born it is shepherds to whom they are sent! I can imagine the angels asking to have the order checked,

“Shepherds! Really?!”

If the shepherds are surprising the next on the scene are totally shocking – wise men. These aren’t even Jewish! They are pagans from Babylon, probably followers of the Zoroastrian religion.

It is interesting story how they came to interpret the presence of a new star as sign of the birth of someone so important they were willing to travel around 500 miles to greet him.

A pagan prophet called Balaam was once hired by a King to come and put a curse on the people of Israel as they travelled through his kingdom. It must have been a well-paid assignment for Balaam to be willing to travel all the way from Babylon to do it.

But he duly arrives and starts his sacrifices and incantations. Then, to his total surprise and shock the Spirit of God comes upon him and instead of cursing Israel he blesses her. This happens several times until in the final blessing that he is forced to pronounce he states;

“‘I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a sceptre will rise out of Israel.”
Numbers 12:17

It seems likely that this prophecy was taken back to Babylon and became part of the holy writings of the Zorastrian religion. Preserved for around 600 years it is this prophecy that they link to the appearance of a new star in the sky and follow to Israel (probably a comet).

So when the Saviour of the World is born it is the rough, tough, irreligious social outcasts and the foreigners who don’t even worship the true God who are invited.

If ever you wonder whether or not there is a welcome for you at the manger, please remember this, we are ALL invited, no-one is excluded – just come.

Run no. 41 – The Horizon Your Enemy Your Friend

Distance: 4.53 miles Time: 42’38” (PB 38’ 28”)

When you are running the horizon is both your enemy and your friend.

  • It is your friend by;
  • keeping you focussed,
  • keeping you headed in the right direction,
  • keeping you motivated and ‘locked on’ to the target
  • you can psychologically help ‘pull’ yourself forwards by fixing your attention on a particular spot and keeping it in view, you break the task into ‘bite-sized’ pieces.

It is your enemy by;

  •  dangerously taking your attention away from where you are putting your feet, step by step; you can easily miss your footing and stumble,
  • overwhelming you with the enormity of the distance still to run,
  • preventing you from being fully present where you are now, from appreciating the place you are actually running through, as opposed to the destination.

It strikes me that this dual aspect of the long view to the horizon is true spiritually too.

I think this is why the liturgical year includes two 40 day periods – Lent and Advent – when we are encouraged to take the long view on our spiritual life and journey.

Stopping, lifting our heads to the horizon, helps us to make sure that we are still on track. It gives us space to ask ourselves questions about our spiritual journey.

Have our goals shifted? If so this a positive and chosen change of direction or have circumstances, or poor choices, knocked us off track?

Can we look back, take a rear-wards view and see how much progress we have made? Can we celebrate that, give thanks for it?

Can we use this time to re-calibrate our spiritual compass, to re-lock on the target, to correct our course, to affirm our true goal?

However, we cannot live with just the horizon view. In the nity, gritty day to day we need to be watching where we are putting our feet.

We need to be fully present to where we are now, and not get so fixated on the destination that we stop enjoying the journey.

We need the encouragement of seeing that day by day we are making small steps forward and not get intimated or hopeless by a constant sense of how far we still have to go.

The Horizon. It is both our Enemy and our Friend.