A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"

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Let’s Play Some Racquetball for Christmas

This is an insightful post from a friend! Many things to unpack here, no matter what country you live in.

Chopstix for Seven

In the English-speaking and European world, Christmas is fraught with meaning, tradition, and expectation and it starts early.

It was great seeing pictures of Christmas trees, wandering mischievous Elves, Christmas lights and children’s performances on social media.

Whenever I was online, it was easy to imagine that everyone everywhere in the whole entire world was celebrating Christmas in various ways.

Which is true, in some ways.

Then I realized that at least 1 billion people around me don’t celebrate at all and have no clue what all the fuss is about.

Sure, the mega-malls here have Christmas trees and English Christmas music playing, and Starbux sells holiday-themed drinks.

Of course the stores all have Christmas shopping deals and the new consumer-friendly China is capitalizing on the earning potential.

But, when I talked to any of my friends, acquaintances and strangers about what Christmas actually involves or what it means, they…

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What Can I Say?

Remember what your mom told you, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? Well, that is what I’m going to offer as an excuse for not writing more the latter half of this year.

Hiking with Da Boot!

Hiking with Da Boot!

I write this not to garner pity or to complain (as much as it sounds like it), but to just tell you where I’ve been, and it hasn’t been a place where I felt like writing. In July, right before my “dream” running vacation, I broke my foot (stress fracture, right 2nd metatarsal). What the @$%!!! was God thinking?!?!

Just as I was about to come out of the aircast boot and start running again, I broke my back: ruptured and herniated lumbar discs! I was in so much pain I didn’t even THINK about running, let alone get out of bed. When I think about how this happened, I tend to throw myself into a pit where I tear myself to pieces before any lions ever will. Not that anyone really knows what happened, which is part of the problem. Again, the whole questioning God, angry, etc… I’m so glad God can take it! So, I haven’t been able to run since July and I don’t know when I’ll be able to start. The hard part is now that I’m not longer in pain (but I still have symptoms), and I feel like running, I still can’t. I must WAIT. ugh.

You may be able to imagine just what this has done to/in/for me and I’m still dealing with it. No great wisdom or insight or lessons to share with you – at least not yet – only the mundane struggle of my mortality and not being able to do whatever I want to do! I guess I can say that I’m learning more about who I really am, but there is much more to it than that. If I ever get around to writing the book, I’m sure I’ll have something to share with you by then.

Crewing at the Chiang Mai marathon (22 Dec) where I met a running buddy!

Crewing at the Chiang Mai marathon (22 Dec) where I met a running buddy!

In the meantime, I sought solace from other ultrarunners who have been injured lately. Ellie Greenwood discusses her injury and being “outta control”, a sentiment with which I identify, and she wrote a post about pool running that just about sums it up for me. This video about Anna Frost, her healing and comeback is beautiful and inspiring. I like the part where she says she is also discovering herself – her real self.

I still have to wait. And wait. And get back into the pool day after day…

On the upside, Relentless is going very well and I’ve been very busy! If you have been following (and I sincerely hope that you are, as that is where the action has been) that blog and Facebook page you’ll already know that. I suppose that is another excuse for not posting here more – it is difficult to maintain two blogs and several Facebook pages without some help on that!

Books of 2013 Just because I’ve not been running as much, doesn’t necessarily mean I have more time to read, write, or other stuff. Even so, I’ve managed to eek out a few books this year – this is pretty much all I’ve read this year, so I try to make it quality.

NovelThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is the only novel I read this year, and I didn’t even “read” it – I listened to the audio CD whilst driving around during my Stateside trip.

Non-fictionThe Rest of God by Mark Buchanan and Addiction and Grace by Gerald May. Both are transformative.

BiographyAmazing Grace (William Wilberforce) by Eric Metaxas

Poetry – although not a specific book, I spent a lot of time with Gerard Manley Hopkins this year.

I’m currently in the middle of Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault and the book gets better the further I delve into it so I can give a not-too-premature recommendation for it.

Let me leave you with this quotation I recently saw on a friend’s wall. I have no idea to whom to give credit, but it is brilliant, and something to ponder well after Christmas has past.

If as Herod we fill our lives with things and again with things.

If we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action when will we have time to make the long slow journey across the desert as did the Magi?

Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary?

For each one of us there is a desert to travel, a star to discover, and a being within ourselves to bring to life.



Like When I Was Ten

I composed this poem when I lived in China  during my bike rides home from my friend’s house. This is for them, and for everyone who still gets to ride their bike over to their friend’s house to play.

Riding my bike home

like when I was ten.

Summer’s eve seeps,

saturates my skin.

Summer’s breeze slips,

whips through my hair.

The air stirs

a playful longing.

I grin.

I’m riding my bike home

like when I was ten.

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This will make your day!

??????????????????????????????? Many of you remember JB – one of the precious abandoned children I had the privilege of caring for in China. I’m so happy to tell you that a couple weeks ago he was finally adopted and went to America with his Forever Family!

He was about 5 months old and only 8 lbs when I managed to place him in emergency foster care back in July 2009 (here is my original post and here is another post about him). He has been cared for by the same family these four years. Of course JB’s adoption is bittersweet for them as they have considered him one of their own for so long.

It has been so encouraging to witness his growth and development over the years I lived in China and to continue to follow his amazing progress after I left has been a blessing.  The photo at left is at his going away celebration.

Please do continue to lift up JB as he makes the transition to a new family and a new place as well as for his ongoing health care needs. As you think of JB, however, please remember to lift up all the other abandoned children, many with profound physical and mental disabilities who continue to languish in institutions in China and around the world.

JB with his foster mom of four years

JB with his foster mom of four years


A Home Away From Home: the Relentless Chiang Mai 24-hour Endurance Run

Dear friends,

Here is the write up about the 24-Hour run I put on for FUN, as well as a fund-raiser for Relentless. However, no photos are found on THIS page because I’d have to go back through and re-load all the photos again here, which I won’t do in the interest of time and saving consternation. I encourage you to click on over  to the page on Relentless where I’ve posted the full deal. The event was truly special for everyone and we all did have fun! It was a lot of work but so worth it in the end! I’m so grateful for all your thoughts and prayers and for all the help by volunteers here! I’m also very grateful for all the donations that came in for Relentless!

Again, I’d like to encourage all of you who follow this blog to also follow the blog on Relentless, as well as the Facebook page to keep  up with what I’m doing.

Blessed to be a blessing!

On 25 May at 2pm, the first wave of runners started off the line for the Second Annual Relentless Chiang Mai 24 Hour Endurance Run. It was quite an international group, with twelve different nationalities represented among the 42 participants. Even so, ultramarathon culture transcends all others as the main aid station along the looped course became a home away from home – even as the many expatriates already call Thailand a home away from home.

Located near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, Huay Tung Tao Lake is encircled by a 3.7 km, nicely paved asphalt loop. The gently rolling road provides just enough diversity to keep the muscles interested, and there is enough shade to keep runners cool for much of the way.

After the swimmers, picnickers and fishermen packed up for the night, the full moon came out so that nobody needed to wear a headlamp. Crickets and frogs joined the chorus. Magical.

Runners had the option of running 6 or 12 hours, and four teens participated in the 3-hour kids’ division! A relay option for teams of up to eight people was offered for the 24-hour time, but nobody took advantage of that – everyone wanted to go hard-core solo!

Another unique feature was that the 3-, 6-, and 12-hour runners had the option of starting at either 2pm, 6pm, or 10pm. Some of the participants wanted to start earlier and get their run in, while others cherished running through the night. This timing also helped to spread out the runners and give the 24-hour people more company through the night.

This event pulled the absolute best from everyone. It was never about “winning” to beat another person – as there were no prizes for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. It was all about challenging oneself – an opportunity to push further than previously attempted. The top 12-hour finisher had never run further than 55 km before his remarkable 85 km distance! Nearly all of the runners set a personal record, either in the most distance ever covered or the fastest time it took to cover a certain distance. Most set personal records of over 20-30 km.

A timed event, unlike a distance-oriented event, gives participants the opportunity, when they are tired, to take a break. They eat something, drink some coffee, stretch, and re-evaluate. Then they are ready to head back out for more. It was a safe environment in which to push themselves further than they thought possible. It was exciting to be a part of an event in which so many people came away having bettered themselves and achieved something great.

The aid station crew was no less exceptional. Many friends and relatives of runners volunteered their services and helped crew everyone – not just “their guy.” The kids who ran the 3 hours also stayed up most of the night and were the most cheerful and helpful crew ever! Several volunteers (including the kids) took laps with runners they had met only a few hours prior to keep them company and encourage them along the way. This was most helpful during the hot, middle part of the second day when we were all flagging a bit.

Finally, another remarkable note about this event is that it was a fundraiser for Relentless, a project that fights human trafficking through health care. Although this was a small event, approximately $8000 was raised, over $3000 of that by a single participant!

I look forward to hosting this event again next year and I hope that those of you who may be traveling through Southeast Asia looking for an ultramarathon will consider joining us next year!

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A Sabbath Work

In my last post I wrote about getting well – and asking you to think about how you may be challenged to get well. I was challenged to answer that for myself.

Have you ever heard the saying, “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life”? I think it is true. I love what I do, but sometimes I love it too much. Jesus said that his food is to do God’s will (John 4:34). However, I was not feasting on the proper things. My diet had become unwholesome and unsatisfying and I so was prone to overeating – workaholism. I was seeking satisfaction from my work and not from the Father.

Classic addiction. Classic slavery.

I consider myself pretty well disciplined, but that discipline can get derailed and unbalanced. It takes energy to work on your inner life, but I was too tired to listen, or obey. “Drivenness erodes purposefulness.” (Buchanan)

Last month I had an unexpected opportunity to jump start the process of getting well over a long weekend on the beach. To hell with the budget – I needed to do this. God was giving me more space to get well and I recognized it. I played and read and wrote in my journal… and spent a lot of time just staring at the sea – just what the Great Physician ordered.

I have been “religiously” taking a Sabbath since residency. It felt good to be given permission to take time off – I loved and I rested in this command. But over the years I’ve been living it rather one-sided. Regarding my Sabbath, I try to ask, “what will nourish me today?” What do I need to be whole?

What I’ve recently discovered is that there are two parts to Sabbath: one part spent for re-creation/leisure, and the other part for growing deeper. I barely had energy for the former, and was largely neglecting the latter.

There is nothing wrong with brain candy movies or softball, or whatever other kinds of play you fancy on the Sabbath. Play is definitely part of “delighting in the Lord”. But that was all I had energy for. I wasn’t fed well enough through the week, and by the time my day off came around, I had no energy for deeper reading or reflection or for growing. My inner life had grown stagnant – stunted growth on poor nutrition of an unwholesome diet.

I’m learning a new rhythm of Sabbath now. Buchanan says that “Sabbath helps reorient us to our work.” And so I’m learning to re-orient my week towards letting God establish the work of my hands and getting more out of the “Lord’s Day” rather than orienting my week around my work and the Sabbath around “my day”.

How have you been been challenged to get well? How have you responded? Has it been difficult?

Mark Buchanan. The Rest of God – Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath.  Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2006. ISBN: 978-0-8499-1870-4


Do you want to be whole?

I’m often asked, “Why don’t people just leave… [prostitution/ street life/etc]?” I’ve asked that myself, sometimes still do.

I meet young men and women who are prostituted – some of whom are paying off debt, some are paying for school, some are drowning in self-worthlessness and living a lie that they’ve been told their entire lives. As I encounter them offering health, it’s also an opportunity for freedom.

It is well known that some who have been rescued, run away back to their abuser, their pimp, their trafficker. Why do some who have tasted freedom return to bondage?

The Israelites, an entire nation of people, after having been rescued from slavery, wanted to go back to Egypt!

It’s as if some people don’t even realize they are in bondage.

Well, what about you? To what things or ideas are you in bondage and don’t even realize it?

Mark Buchanan in his book The Rest of God discusses the guy who has been sitting by the pool of Bethesda (John 5) for 38 years if he wants to get well? I’ve always thought that was a strange question to ask a guy like that. But I understand it better now after walking with people (including myself) that clearly sometimes do not want to be well.

Do you want to be well? Do you want to be made whole?

I do, but then sometimes I don’t. Haven’t you ever wondered sometimes if your life would actually be easier if you weren’t trying to follow Jesus? I have! I mean, c’mon! I should have taken the RED pill! It’s hard! God never lets up! Of course life with Jesus does have its sweet parts, but then it’s still a lot of work, and I’m good at giving myself guilt-trips, which just sink me deeper.

Buchanan writes, “Setting free isn’t work.” We all know that Jesus wasn’t really breaking the Sabbath when he healed people on the holy day. “But being set free can be.”

It’s a vicious cycle, even hard-wired to some extent as an addiction, as Gerald May in his book Addiction and Grace would say. It is confounding, that some people would not want to be well and whole, but I have to look no further than myself. I have an addiction to feed – an addiction to work. I’ve got do it, make it, know it, write it… It’s up to me. I don’t know another way… rather, I don’t trust another way. I don’t trust another. I don’t trust God. I lean too much on my own understanding and what is known to me seems to be safer, even if it really is not. I play with the dark side. I’m enslaved in my own mind, in my heart. Damn Pride!

Breaking free of slavery, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual is a long process. You’ve experienced it. You’ve walked people through it. We may not be caught up in debt bondage or pimped out by my trafficker or trapped in a foreign country as a domestic service worker, but I’m still prone to enslavement.

Please, PLEASE do not take this as a belittlement of people’s absolutely unimaginable horrific situations. I’m not comparing situations here. However, as I meet people who do seem to have some sort of choice to make steps towards freedom and wholeness, yet still turn away, I’m confronted by these questions of human nature. I want to continue to break down the barriers between US and THEM. We are all broken images of our creator – it is not a matter of grading of circumstance.

There is much much more to discuss regarding Sabbath rest, addiction, grace, and slavery. Books and books, in fact. Here, I just want to present some questions and ideas to you and I hope you find them as challenging has I have.

I’m not yet finished with Buchanan’s book but I highly recommend it! Although I’ve practiced taking a weekly Sabbath for at least 15 years, I’m discovering more about the attitude of Sabbath rest is something that I’ve not fully understood. Perhaps more about Sabbath in another post…

Addiction and Grace is another excellent book. Book club material.