A Just Walk (run, hike, etc…)

"…to the Rock that is higher…"


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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.

 


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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


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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.


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Catching up on 2012

I hope that this finds your new year a happy one so far! Although I want to jump ahead and start discussing this year, I still have some unfinished business to write about 2012.

RELENTLESS After returning from the States in November, I dove into deep water preparing a series of workshops on child abuse and neglect for residents at Chiang Mai University School of Medicine. Please see this post on the Relentless weblog for more about that. Another few days in Bangkok in December saw some partnerships down there solidly come together.

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

The heavy cotton skirt got pretty hot, and I had constant wardrobe malfunctions, but it was a lot of fun. All the smiles were worth it!

RUNNING The Chiang Mai Marathon was held on 23 December. Due to some injuries and health issues, my training had not been what I had hoped it would be so I thought of a way to take the pressure off myself and not take myself too seriously: run in costume! A friend of mine had the perfect idea to run as a Thai school girl! I called a colleague who works in a children’s home and asked if I could borrow one of the girl’s uniforms. Perfect! It was immediately culturally recognizable, and very perplexing (and funny!) that a farang woman would be running in such an outfit! I still did OK – good enough for 3rd place in my age group which gave me an extra $100 towards my vacation fund.

URBANA The workshop series took me right up to 24 December and on Christmas evening I boarded a plane to speak at Urbana. The conference, for the first time, had an emphasis on health care ministries and I was honored to be invited to speak on human trafficking, orphans and vulnerable children, as well as sit on a panel of cross-cultural health care workers. The talks went well and I was talking with students for an hour after each session! Otherwise, I stayed pretty busy with my own work, networking, and meetings – Urbana is a great place for that!

HOLIDAY After Urbana, I made an 8-day lay-over in LA where I stayed with friends in Santa Monica, CA. It was my first true holiday since attending Breathe in 2010! I ran on the beach and in the mountains every day (a total of 101 miles)! I saw movies, went to art galleries, and basically didn’t use my brain for the entire break!

BOOKS I can’t let 2012 go without mentioning some of the best books I read last year and making these recommendations to you!

  • Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is a most excellent book! In fact, I was preparing an entire blog post to discussing this, but I got really busy so I dropped it. Perhaps if I have time to write in the future…
  • Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden is another gripping true story of the only person born in a North Korean labor camp known to have successfully escaped.
  • The novel of the year for me (perhaps the only novel I read) was Byzantium by Steven Lawhead. Not a new book, but if you haven’t read it you are missing out.
  • Other notables include The Other Side of Normal by Jordan Smoller (psychology) and Waterlogged by Timothy Noakes, MD (endurance hydration).

There is, of course, much more to say and reflect upon between these sterile lines of text. There is more I’d like to share with you. Unfortunately, by the end of the year my margin got totally eaten away by a number of things outside my control (and a few things within it). Now I’m trying to re-establish a better rhythm of life for this year. However, just catching up from a week of vacation can be enough to cause burn out! I’ll not let this happen.

Do take care, and please send me a note…


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Stateside Trip 2012 Recap

I returned to Thailand last week. Although I was in the States for just over two months, it seemed like I had been gone a year. Sooo many people, places, and experiences were crammed into such a brief time.

It seemed as if time really did slow down. I have been praying (and working on) being more fully present to whomever is in front of me. Not that I’ve perfected the art of humility, but perhaps even a full-on INTJ’r can have her edges rounded out a bit more and tasks can be suppressed for a little while longer. Yes, this schedule was difficult, and it required disciplined pacing (not unlike trying to run for 24 hours!) as I had to manage ongoing projects in Asia while preparing for the next workshop, talk, or meeting. Unfortunately, I missed seeing so many people, but I’m glad that I focused on quality of time more than quantity of people. Please note I do NOT mean quality of people!

A few of the highlights include:

  • Traveling to 10 States, covering 18 cities!
  • Seeing long-time friends, meeting lost boys from Sudan, and learning the cross-cultural challenges of a town in rural Iowa.
  • Speaking in seven different churches, and numerous small group gatherings – thanks for your hospitality!
  • Learning to surf in Santa Monica – I stood up on my first try!
  • Meeting in person most of the Relentless Elder Board members – we got a lot of work done!
  • Having a car to use: someone left for East Asia two days before I arrived and he let me use his car while I was back. God has great timing!
  • Participating in an excellent training seminar on Sexual Assault Forensic Examination.
  • Making new friends everywhere, and re-connecting with friends – some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years!
  • Participating in another successful GMHC!
  • Getting in a run with my ultrarunning buddies in Ft. Wayne!
  • Reading bedtime stories to my nieces and nephews.

Running highlights

November is Orphan Awareness Month. Please see my latest post at Relentless, a follow up on my first post on being aware of how we can best serve abandoned children around the world.

Coming up:

  • I’ve been invited to speak at Urbana 12 next month so I’ll be making a quick trip back to the States in just a few weeks!
  • In December I’ll be giving a series of workshops on child abuse and neglect at Chiang Mai Medical University.
  • Several more clinics for exploited people are planned for the next few weeks.

Thank you for all your sustaining prayers! I can’t do this without YOU!

I hardly sat still long enough to have photos taken, but here is one I can share:

At Inkwell Beach, Santa Monica, CA


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Of Personality and Spiritual Wholeness

A few weeks ago I wrote about being in a depleted state, then a couple of days later I wrote about running a self-supported 80km ultra run as the best thing to do on a stay-cation. I’m guessing that didn’t make sense to some people.

OK… I’m depleted, but then I do something that makes people feel depleted just by thinking about doing that, and seems to be the opposite thing that I should do. Not necessarily.

Because we are all created differently, we have different ways of rejuvenating. Different personality types gravitate towards different ways of resting, practicing spiritual disciplines, and also wearing themselves out. I know that I’ve been frustrated in the past when I’ve felt down or tired or whatever, and people suggest that I do this or that. I don’t want to hear what I should do, necessarily.

When I have commented that it is time for me to take a small break (such as half a day), some people have made suggestions that seem good, but don’t really appeal to me. Sometimes I’m game to try something new and I do as suggested. However, when it doesn’t do anything for me sometimes I feel even worse because I feel as though I’ve squandered the time that I had for rest and rejuvenation. I also feel like I don’t get it and that I’m a spiritual discipline flunkie.

Where I want to be…

If you are surprised to learn that I’m an introvert, perhaps this evidence will convince you: no extrovert will spend an entire day running on rural roads alone without even an mp3. Activity provides me a kind of rest in which my body is engaged, and I don’t have the distractions that I have at home. My mind is free to think, pray, listen, enjoy the scenery, and concentrate on running. When I’m done, both my body AND my brain are exhausted and it helps me to rest. I had lost my mojo for work, and even training. But when the idea to run the Samoeng loop burst into my consciousness I was so excited!

Robert Mulholland, in his book “An Invitation to a Journey”, discusses some of the different spiritual practices or disciplines in the context of what type of personality (Myers-Briggs, for example) may tend to do. A-ha! I’m not wrong or a flunkie for not feeling like doing a particular discipline or that I get more out of practicing certain disciplines than others. And when others give suggestions for my time, I don’t have to feel bad about not following them. Even so, Mulholland makes the point that it is good to practice certain things outside of our comfort zone for our holistic growth.

Mulholland defines spiritual formation “as a process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” Regarding the process, Mulholland writes: “The primary arena of individuals’ natural spiritual path depends upon their preference pattern.” And later: “…in order for our spiritual pilgrimage to be a balanced growth toward wholeness in the image of Christ for others, we need to have dynamics of spiritual life that will nurture both sides of our preference pattern” “One-sided spirituality, while it may be comfortable and may seem to be advancing us on our spiritual pilgrimage, will ultimately begin to disintegrate under pressures for nurture from our shadow side.” (italics mine)

For me, this looks like embracing and not cringing every time the worship leader asks us to break up into groups of three or four, share, and pray together. But I’m challenged here to evaluate my spiritual formation and see where I have neglected my shadow side and how I may be more attentive to developing a more holistic growth. It is too easy for me, as a single person who mostly works alone, to always go to my default preference, at the cost of growing closer to God and even sabotaging my spiritual growth. Disintegrate is a powerful word, yet from my own experience, I think Mulholland is right about using it.

What is the personality and preference of the worship community at your church? Can you detect one-sidedness or is it balanced and more holistic? One-sidedness tends to attract the same kind of people, and others may not be as drawn to it. Mulholland: “Paul’s word to the Corinthians [1 Cor 12] becomes a reminder to us of our need for one another in our pilgrimage toward wholeness in Christ for others. The different members of the body bring to each other the strengths of their preference patterns as gifts of God’s grace to those of different patterns.”

What is your natural preference? Can you see how it is related to your personality? Where is your shadow side and how is it being nourished/neglected?

What other questions come to mind in this brief introduction?


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Depleted

I bonked. In endurance athletic terms applied to my work life, I bonked. Hit the wall. You know when your computer is stuck and keeps circling, circling… trying to load? That was me a couple of weeks ago.

I thought that I was keeping a good balance of my life and work. I have been eating well, practicing good sleep hygiene, emphatic about my Sabbath, in a small group, and of course exercising. (However, by the looks of my dirty house, I do not keep the balance in that department.) I was quite surprised when, a few weeks ago I totally bonked, quite suddenly at that. Kinda like what happens when your computer crashes. Circling, circling…

“Take care of yourself,” everyone says to me, meaning well of course, but it sometimes doesn’t come off very well as it usually means there is no follow up. To a self-sufficient, self-reliant, can-do-it-all-the-time kind of person, it can become a burden. It becomes another thing I’ve got to do for myself by myself. Not to sound whiny and needy, but sometimes I just want someone to take care of me – but isn’t that true of all of us? What I wasn’t doing is allowing my gracious Father to take care of me. I had taken over taking care of myself the way that I thought that I needed to. I wasn’t open to receiving, but going through all the “right” motions in my own way. Not that my way was bad, it was just incomplete.

I dragged through a couple of days, then took an extra Friday off, thinking I’d be OK. Sunday’s rest didn’t give me nearly what I needed. I needed a break and I couldn’t remember the last time I took a vacation. I was past due for one, but I limped through another couple of weeks anyway.

While the thought of taking a break was very appealing to me, another part of me was drawn to work even more and I kept putting it off. I felt addicted to work: I could stop for a day or so, but I’d soon get back to my fix. I slept well, but upon waking I was preoccupied with ideas and tasks. The solution to my restlessness was to do more, to feed the addiction. I was looking I knew that I needed to stop for a while but I became preoccupied with what shall I DO, even if I didn’t feel like doing anything? Furthermore, the thought of planning a low-budget holiday was stressing me out, so I just decided to have a “stay-cation” and try to be true to relaxation and restoration even while staying at home.

I asked forgiveness for the way I was living life on my own terms. I started to pray and ask God what would nourish and restore me. Goodness knows I didn’t have a clue.

So last Friday, I pulled the trigger and said, I’m OFF! I felt better immediately. It was great to spend a Saturday afternoon hanging out with my friends and their kids by the pool instead of in front of my computer. Saturday I also hatched a plan to knock something off my bucket list, which I will write about in the next post.

I do think that one can keep a good and sane margin and still have a break down once in a while. It is easy in this fast-paced and info-loaded world to forget the big story of which we are a part. We forget that our rhythm extends beyond the week through the whole year and beyond. Consider the Bible and the rhythm of feasts and fasts of the seasons, and on through the Jubilee years. There is a purpose to everything and every time, and we have to be more conscious of the way we live in the times.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30 The Message