Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 km) Time: 39’ 13”
Emerging from another running hiatus. Second run after a 6 month break. At the moment just getting round without stopping is the goal. Geologically slow pace!
This time I almost didn’t even make it. Immediately within the first 100m I got a massive pain in my lower back; an agonising jolt with every step.
I was really, really close to turning back.
But I’m stubborn and decided to try and ‘run through it’.
Gradually the level of pain subsided and by half-way ‘round it was only a dull ache.
Now I’ve stopped it has come back pretty full on, so ‘Pass the ibuprofen, please’.
But the experience made me think about how many times we stop too early. We assess our chances and capabilities too negatively. How many achievements do we talk ourselves out of?
In my working life I find that at 55 I am doing lots of things for the first time. A new role is pushing me out of the areas of comfort.
I am fortunate to have colleagues who encourage me. Who maybe see things in me that I don’t yet see myself. Who have a measure of my ability and gifting that exceeds my own self-evaluation.
And it is great when I surprise myself. When I do things that I didn’t know I could.
Sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you do it.
I have a sense that it is the same with the spiritual life.
How many times do we not try operating out of our comfort zones?
Have you ever prayed with someone who is ill, that God might heal them as a demonstration of His love for them? Have you dreamed of it, but never done it? How do you know that God has not gifted you with the gift of praying for healing?
Certainly we can never promise anyone anything, for it is God who acts not us. But what about offering to pray saying, ‘I don’t know what God will do, but I am convinced that He cares about you and I feel He is prompting me to pray.’ After you pray ask the person whether they were aware of anything. Listen and decide together what the next step, if any, might be. Maybe you’ll both get a surprise…
Have you ever spoken to someone about Jesus? How do you know that you are not gifted in helping people encounter Jesus for themselves?
Why not ask a friend an open question like, ‘Has there ever been any time in your life when you felt close to God?’ Listen to their response and have a conversation. Maybe they’ll ask you in return and you can share how Jesus became a real person for you and the difference He has made in your life.
Or maybe you could say, ‘You know the Bible is the most amazing book. It’s been the No. 1 best-seller since the invention of the printing press. I mean a book that, in parts, is around 3500 years old! Would you be interested in looking at some of the stories that Jesus told and exploring what they might mean, if anything, for us today?’
Maybe they’ll say yes. Maybe you’ll find yourself reading the parables of Jesus, imagining how they might be retold today in our culture. Maybe you might imagine together what difference it might make if people took them seriously in their lives.
How many times do we miss out on something good because we talk ourselves out of trying?
Sometime you don’t know what you can do until you do it.
Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: unrecorded (PB 38’ 38”)
Second run out after a 4 month lay off.
My return to running was sparked by a few things – my conscience telling me I should be doing regular exercise; the unpleasant feeling of unfitness during heavy exertion; the fact that I stood on the bathroom scales and they indicated 92 kg.
I guess the latter was the final straw. My ideal weight would probably be around 84 kg, so I’m 10 % overweight – that’s a lot.
And so I begin the slow and painful process of self-transformation. I’m trying to eat better – less food, less often. I’m trying to avoid the late evening wine, crisps and sweets that are my nemesis. I’m also back to running.
The hope is that these together will make a gradual difference. But I’m under no illusions as to the difficulty and the time this will take.
I was thinking how that analogy fits very well with the process of spiritual transformation.
The human person is a paradox. On the one hand we are ‘created in the image of God’, that is to say there are aspects of God’s nature in us, we are capable of God-like love, kindness, self-sacrifice, mercy, justice, beauty etc. On the other hand we have to recognise that this image is flawed and broken.
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
The recent debacle over the flawed pound coins is an apt illustration. The image of the queen is marred and broken. It is still recognisably her, but not what it should be.
The Christians life is the process of transformation of self into what we should always have been; our truest and best self, our God-like self; a self that is only actualised as the result of being in relationship with God. Only God can restore Godlikeness in us.
The first step in the process starts only when we recognise our estrangement from God. The Christian faith holds that God Himself, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, has made it possible for us to be reconnected with God.
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Once that divine-human relationship is re-established then God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, and it is His energy working in us that enables the transformation of self.
We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings more and more glory. And it comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
This is a long, slow, and costly process. It requires devotion and discipline – but it is possible.
We are what we are, but what we become is a choice.
 Genesis 1 :27
 Romans 3 :23
 John 14 :6
 2 Corinthians 3 :18
Run No. 54 Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 44’03” (PB 38’ 28”)
Run No. 55 Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 42’44” (PB 38’ 28”)
Run No. 56 Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 42’02” (PB 38’ 28”)
Run No. 57 Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 42’02” (PB 38’ 28”)
Can the act of running change the place we run through?
It’s a somewhat bizarre idea. Yet for people of faith it is a core belief that somehow our presence, or more correctly, God’s presence in us, brings transformation.
The Bible is full of calls for those who are open to God to live differently, Jesus will speak to his followers of being salt and light in the world;
“You are the salt of the earth…
“You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Salt speaks of preserving, purifying and light obviously is opposed to darkness and all that symbolises.
So the presence of people who are open to God, living according to his values and priorities, showing his love to the world, should by their presence, change the nature of the place where they are.
There is a poetic picture of this in the psalms, it is a pilgrim psalm, a song sung by the people of Israel as they made their annual pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.
‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.’
The word ‘Bakah’ means to weep, and this word play seems to be intended. The idea is that as the worshipping band of pilgrims pass through this place of weeping they transform it.
The Hebrew word for ‘pools’ is ‘berakah’ which also means ‘blessing’.
So ‘bakah’ becomes ‘berakah’, ‘weeping’ turns to ‘blessing’; as God’s people pass through.
Some of this is the natural effect of their different way of living and relating, their kinder, gentler, more loving approach to others.
However there is also a sense that something is happening at a spiritual, supernatural level too.
Jesus spoke a lot about the establishment of the ‘Kingdom of God’. This was not going to be a socio-political entity, but rather a mystical/spiritual one.
The Kingdom of God comes when people choose to live under the authority of the King. When individuals and families choose to turn away from selfishness and evil and to live in a way that pleases God, that is when the Kingdom comes. As such it comes invisibly, it comes slowly, and yet its presence is powerfully felt and radically transformative of society.
In the second century an unknown author remarked on this fact;
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe… But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honour; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word — what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.
Epistle to Diognetes c. 130A.D.
Although the author was not a follower of Jesus himself, he could not help but notice that the presence of Jesus people in a society transformed it for the better.
So the Kingdom of God is established by the simple presence of those who live under the authority of the King.
In the Old Testament the Kingdom of God is foreshadowed by the Promised Land, this territory that God will give to His people.
There are a couple of verses that speak about how they are to take possession of this land;
I will give you every place where you place your feet.
Every place where you set your foot will be yours
I will give you every place where you set your foot
It is simply by being present that they earn the right to the land, God will give them wherever they are willing to go.
As we run, do we run with this in view?
Are we people of salt and light whose lives, values, behaviour, conversation, and priorities are so radical and strikingly different to those of society around us, that our simple presence brings transformation?
Are we asking God to establish His Kingdom in every place where our foot falls?
Run with a mission.
Distance: 4.53 miles Time: 43’07” (PB 38’ 28”)
When out running you see people in club kit. The name of the club proudly emblazoned on the chest. You notice that this shared uniform enables club members to recognise each other, you hear the ‘hellos’ and see the salutes and waves.
Of course the primary reason for a club uniform is in competition, it enables the runners of each club to be identified, particularly important in inter-club meets.
All this is the positive benefit of uniform, but some things are lost too.
The individual becomes harder to identify, their uniqueness somewhat diminished by a common kit.
As usual, I was prompted to reflect on this in spiritual terms.
The Christian faith, which I espouse, has only one goal for those who follow Jesus – transformation. A goal sometimes explained by the double metaphor of putting off the old man’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) and ‘putting on Christ’ (Romans 31:14).
The picture is of someone taking off old set of clothing and getting dressed in something new. Those who would follow Jesus are expected, commanded even, to take off the old clothes that are no longer appropriate and dress themselves with Jesus. That is to say that their thoughts, words and actions should no longer represent their old values and priorities but those of Jesus.
In order to be able to do this, followers of Jesus need to know what Jesus said about Himself, about them, and what He commands His disciples to do. There is only one source for this information and that is the Bible – our record of the life of Jesus, the message of Jesus and the response made to that message by those who knew Him best.
It is only as people get to grips with this that they can start to discard ‘clothing’ that doesn’t fit with their new identity, and ‘dress’ their lives and actions with ‘clothing’ that looks like Jesus.
Whilst this process certainly involves the loss of some elements from our lives, and the embracing of a common uniform, this does not undermine individuality.
It is like a football team. At the presentation most players are fairly indistinguishable, their size and stature fairly similar. However when they start to play their individual styles, abilities, tricks and techniques, will be expressed.
In ‘putting on Christ’ we do not lose our individuality, rather we are freed up to express that individuality in a new and fuller way.