Archive for the ‘Freedom’ category

From Here To There

June 15, 2018

In my quest to run 200 miles by mid-August I’m in the midst of it! One third of the way in and making “significant strides”, so to speak! It is the point of commitment…either stay the course or convince oneself of the lunacy of continuing to go forward. It’s the in-between…the “Kansas”, if you will, of decision roads. Getting from here to there is the challenge that often derails the pursuits of life.

In regards to my running, I’ve noticed that I encounter several quitting points each day in the journey. I question why I’m doing what I’m doing and plant seeds of doubts into the pace every time a stiff head wind offers more resistance to the effort. The quitting points never happen at the beginning or towards the end. They always invade my thoughts in the midst of the run, that tipping point where I’m the most vulnerable.

“Staying the course” is not something our culture is passionate about these days. We are addicted to the better deal and prone to give up because that’s the easier road to take. These days people are not convinced that perseverance has value and that resolve is a great quality to have.

When we’re between the here and the there retreat gains a following…or whining! I see it with a lot of children and youth these days. In the midst of the school assignments the student’s whining begins with a great sense of injustice…and the parent takes up the cause in support of their child’s lack of staying the course.

Getting to “there” was never meant to be a comfortable experience that demanded nothing. I’m getting “there”! Slowly, but I’m getting there!

Last Stool On The Right

June 13, 2018

There are certain habits in our lives that bring comfort and consistency. They are the frame that support the structure of our life. Like the links of chain for a playground swing, habits bring a swaying rhythm to our life.

One of my habits involves a stool, a laptop, and an early morning cup of coffee. Where I write my Words from W.W. blog almost without exception occurs at the Starbucks in Colorado Springs on the corner of Union Boulevard and Briargate Parkway from the last stool on the right, facing out with a view of Pike’s Peak. It is where I ponder, create, and edit, sometimes slowly and other times at a frenzied pace.

Kathy Buchanan, who is one of the writers for the Focus on the family long-time series, Adventures In Odyssey, sits on the last stool on the left with six stools between us. We joke with one another about our ingrained habit for our writing. When someone is in one of OUR spots we give a look of dismay to one another.

“You going to be able to function today?” I’ll ask her. She sighs deeply and replies, “I’ll try!”

MY stool is the launching pad for discovering. It’s even come to a point now where some of my friends know where they’ll be able to find me at 7 A.M. on mornings I’m not substitute teaching. Some days my writing takes a series of breaks for stop-by conversations. My stool, however, draws me back to why I’m there.

I sip the coffee as I search for the right word. A second sip is required when I’m slow in figuring and finding. My third cup means I’m approaching the finish.

Jim Ryun, the famous track and field miler, once said “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going!” My stool is my habit.

Afraid To Answer My (i)Phone

June 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 12, 2018

 

The heat is on! Not the Colorado summer heat, but the political primaries…that kind of heat! 

Last night I flipped between three local TV stations at 5:30 to see the local news. Each station was airing a political advertisement at the same time, but for three different candidates!

When I went outside and got the mail out of the mailbox I had to search between all the political postcards and propaganda to find the car insurance bill. I wonder if State Farm would see that as a valid excuse for not paying my monthly premium- that I couldn’t find it in the midst of all the campaigning candidates’ mail? 

But the worst so far has been the unbelievable number of calls I’m getting on my iPhone. Now, I have to admit that I’m assuming they are political calls, but why else would I be getting calls from Shoreline, Washington; Jamesburg, New Jersey; Pueblo, Colorado; Oklahoma City; East Tawas, Michigan; Newton, Massachusetts; Leota, Minnesota; Portland, Maine; and Oyster Bay, New York.

“No!” to all the questions that are being asked right now by moms! I do not answer the incoming call if I do not recognize the number. 

I’m listening to Amazon Prime Music on my iPhone as I do my morning run and Mercy Me’s song I Can Only Imagine is interrupted by an incoming call from Boynton Beach, Florida!

I’m at my writing spot at the public library, deep into my book rewrite, and someone from Waltham, Massachusetts is trying to get my ear!

And so now I have this fear that an important call is going to be ignored simply because someone wants to convince me of the evils of a certain candidate for office. 

Political callers are the new telemarketers! In the last week out of 27 incoming calls to my phone 3 OF THEM were from people I knew…two from Carol, my wife, and the other from Amy Teten, who we financially support with The Navigators ministry! The other 24 calls were from phone numbers I did not recognize. None of those callers left a message! Perplexing, isn’t it?

I realize the importance of electing the best officials. In fact, I’ll probably take my ballots to the drop-off box at the library today. (Colorado’s primary is June 26!) My voting decisions are based on summaries from neutral publications on the political positions of each of the candidates. 

In the mean time I’ll hear my iPhone ringing in a few calls this morning as I’m running my four miles. They will come just as my pace has increased listening to the song “The Greatest Show” from The Greatest Showman. Suddenly I’ll slow down to a turtle’s pace!

Ugh!

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

The Roseannes At Starbucks

May 30, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 30, 2018

                          

Yes, I frequent Starbucks…like, right now! I can’t say enough about the baristas at the coffee cafe I visit six days a week. I know them by name- Steph, Rhea, Sarah, Chase, Cody, Viv, Kallie, Katherine, and Katie. 

Rhea began taking online classes with Arizona State in January and I edited a couple of English Composition papers for her. Sarah and I share family pictures together. Katie always greets me with a smile, like I’m someone she’s happy to see. Cody would be friendly to a rock. His break times are spent sitting with customers and talking about life.

They are great people who frequently are called upon to serve others who are demanding, obnoxious, judgmental, and entitled. 

The pace is furious. I was trying to share a story with Rhea one day about something that had happened at school and it took me another three days of visits to be able to finish it! 

Starbucks closed 8,000 stores on Tuesday for a four hour employees’ training session on anti-bias. The company’s decision to conduct the training grew out of a situation in a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men, who were waiting at the store to meet a friend, ended up being arrested. An employee had called the police about the men hanging around the store. The incident quickly gained nationwide attention. 

Racial stereotyping is not something I’m comfortable with. However, I am acutely aware of how I stereotype elderly people who are behind the steering wheel of a car, how I stereotype anyone who drives a BMW, anyone who plays basketball at a certain high school close to us, any guy who is “sagging”, anyone wearing a Michigan Wolverines tee shirt, or anyone who drops “F” bombs as easily as exhaling.

This post is to come alongside my baristas and say that they have to deal the Roseanne Barrs of the world on a daily basis. My barista, Chase, who has several tattoos, told me of a woman who ordered coffee one morning and told him his tattoos were an abomination to God. She was on her way to church. I apologized to Chase for having to be subjected to someone who felt she had to be God’s mouthpiece.

Were we surprised by Roseanne Barr’s tweets? Twenty-five years ago this week she made a mockery of the national anthem that she “kinda’-sung” before a San Diego Padres baseball game. She thought it was funny! Do we think she spent the past twenty-five years getting proper and well-mannered?

Everyday my baristas deal with the Roseannes of our area with patience and hospitable spirits. Perhaps Starbucks should consider another training session, but this time offer it for all those folk on this side of the counter who feel they have a license to kill-verbally, treat the employees like dirt, and don’t think their poop stinks!

The 200 Mile Club

May 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       May 29, 2018

                                      

It was an idea that sounded good, like toilet-papering the principal’s car on the last day of school or eating Captain Crunch cereal every meal for an entire summer, as did a college classmate of mine!

An idea that sounded like a challenge!

Coach Schneiderman, 6th Grade Math teacher, offered it up before he did the math. 

“What if we challenged the cross-country kids to run 200 miles during the summer? We could give some kind of prize or shirt to those who do it?”

“That’s a great idea, Coach! Maybe get shirts that say Timberview Cross-Country 200 Mile Club!”

A few minutes later Coach Schneiderman offered a scaled down figure. “Maybe 150 miles!”

I, however, had already penciled in the number 200! There are about eleven weeks in vacation summer. Two hundred split amongst seventy-seven days is about two and a half miles a day…if a person runs every day!

Sold! I presented the idea to the students who came to a brief cross-country meeting the last week of school. Some looked at me like I was a crazed coach and others were inspired by the challenge.

And then I decided to take up the challenge myself! What??????

Perhaps it came from memories of long distance runs that I used to take: running along the top of the flood walls of Ironton, Ohio; running the roads of Oxford, Ohio; running, along with 3 other Judson College teammates, 25 miles for charity once time; and running up Barr Trail in Colorado Springs as I trained for the Pike’s Peak Ascent.

But that’s been a few years, and I haven’t been getting any younger! In fact, Carol says I should have my cell phone with me when I run in case something happens. I inferred from that remark that the “something” was a heart attack, not that I stumbled and twisted my ankle. Sixty-four year olds may be one three mile run away from eternity!

So I’ve started. Six days in and I’m at 18 miles. My knees seem more like 180 miles. My body screams at me in unkind ways. 

Perseverance and determination, that’s what keeps me going. So far I’ve only been running laps around the Timberview track. It brings back memories of running around the Ironton Junior High School track I lived about a half mile from. In those days I’d run 24 laps, six miles, around the cinder oval. This summer I’ll begin to widen my circle and run some trails and streets close by. 

18 miles in, only 182 to go! After today I’ll be more than 10% towards the goal…barely!

In August I look forward to celebrating with the other runners who took up and met the challenge.

I’m also hoping to be about twenty pounds lighter by then, a pound for every ten miles! When I graduated from Ironton High School in 1972 I weighed 110 pounds. Now my right leg weighs about that much!

And when an eighth grader whines to me that 200 miles was too hard I’ll show him/her my running chart and say, “Your 64 year old coach did it!” 

“Oh!”

Expected Grace

May 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May, 27, 2018

                                       

It’s only a logo!

A local high school swim team lost the state championship because of a logo that was too big!

The logo was about twice the size of what a legally-sized logo is to be. The coach of the team filed a protest, not about the logo size, but because a swim referee had inadvertently placed the relay team that the swimmer was on in the finals of the event. The disqualification had come in a preliminary heat. The relay team’s time in the preliminary heat was the best qualifying time of all the teams competing. If they had competed in the relay final (legally) they would have won the state championship by placing eighth or higher.

A Colorado High School Activities Association official said that the swimsuit guidelines were stated at the coach’s meeting before any of the competition began. The guidelines were not new. They had been in effect all season. Swimmers who had suits that might be illegal were invited to bring them to the meet officials for determining their status. Four swimmers did, but not the swimmer from the relay team that was disqualified.

When I officiated high school basketball we were charged with not allowing players to “roll their shorts.” The players knew the rule and the coaches knew the rule, but there always seemed to be a few who tried to roll their shorts anyway. As a basketball coach I’m charged with making sure my players are in compliance of the same uniform rule, although a couple of 7th Grade players on one of my teams this past year were rolling their shorts because their height made the shorts look like pants. 

Rules are important in sports. Although not always understood, their purpose is to help provide a level playing field and keep the focus on the game, not the things that detract from it.

Rules are meant to make clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Grace is not a part of a sport’s laws. It does not come into play when a violation in an athletic contest takes place.

And there lies the problem! Not with the rules or the sport, but with people’s expectation of there being grace. There’s a certain attitude that gets conveyed many times by parents, athletes, and coaches that errors are to be overlooked. That grace is expected, not hoped for! Such an understanding of what grace is pollutes its specialness, its uniqueness. For grace to be grace it must come unexpectedly. It must be surprising. 

In sports the absence of rules promotes chaos, and the expectation of grace results in a widening ring of indifference towards what those rules are meant to enforce. 

It’s only a logo!

Yes, it is! It is only a logo that could have easily been changed out for another swim suit that was legal.