Posted tagged ‘perseverance’

The Coach Makes Us Run 8 Miles

August 22, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 22, 2019

                              

We’re a week and a half into middle school cross country season. Eight days, so far, of practice and popsicles. 

Our athletic office secretary received an email from a parent after the first four days. 

“Is it true that the coach is having them run 8 miles a day?” 

No! To this particular mom I could have replied that we’re having a hard time getting her child to run an eighth of a mile! He’s comfortable walking…everywhere and at any time!

In fact, he was one of three who were walking downhill! And it was only a quarter mile into a 1.5 mile loop we were doing. 

The tragically humorous elements of middle school runners are contained on a long list that stretches the course.

One of our other downhill walkers was bemoaning the belief that he had pulled a muscle…during warm-up stretching! He walked most of the way downhill to a park where our workout would consist of a special Swedish type of running called “Fartlek.”

Fartlek means “speed play”, but to middle schoolers it means something that causes tittering through the ranks. “Pulled Muscle Boy” walked and limped his way through the workout. When we finished I told our 70 runners that we’d be running the half-mile back to the school and we’d have popsicles if everyone got there in time…no walking! “Pulled Muscle Boy” was one of the first 15 back, even though he had to run UPHILL! I’m trying to figure out if we can dangle a popsicle in front of him for each run, kind of like the rabbit for a greyhound race. 

And then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Yesterday I challenged the top group of runners to run a four miler with one of our coaches. I left the invitation open for any runner in our second group to try it also. (We have four groups, dependent upon experience and capability.) Other runners in the second and third groups did three miles. Group 4 did 2 miles.

I was delighted to see that about 40% of the kids did the four miler, another 40% did the three miler, and most of the remaining 20% did the two miles. 

It wasn’t 8 miles, but half of it, and considering we have an hour and twenty minutes to meet, talk, stretch, run, and warm down, it felt like an achievement.

There are those in our number who are wondering what their parents signed them up for! A few were maybe under the impression that cross-country was some kind of travel club that would take them to see some places they haven’t seen before. They were partially correct. There are a couple of places where we’ve been running that they probably had not set foot on before the last week and a half. However, none of our places are in any travel brochure!

A couple of our kids seem to have digestive issues at a certain time each day, right after we get stretched out and are about to begin our run. Funny how they have to “run” to the bathroom about that time. 

But then I have a few kids who yesterday ran the three miles and then asked permission to run another half mile. Absolutely, I said! 

I’m hoping for the same enthusiasm today when we go through an interval workout that will test their desire and require determination and perseverance when whining will be the normal middle school go to.

And the promise of popsicles will be dangled in front of them!

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!

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!”

Discerning Perseverance

March 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       March 4, 2016

                                    

This past month I have been going through the application process to be a substitute teacher here in Colorado. Your first question might be “Why?” My response, besides the fact that Walmart wasn’t hiring any new store greeters, would be “Why not?” I enjoy being around young people, and I get tired of hearing people say “Act your age!” At my age I’ve got one foot heading towards a tombstone!

The process, however, has been an exercise in frustration. It’s like an ongoing visit to the DMV, something very few of us list as one of our pleasurable activities. On the Colorado Department of Education application it seems I was asked about five times whether or not I’ve committed a felony. By the fifth time I was starting to think that I had…kind of like when my mom would keep asking me “Are you sure you didn’t do that?” I’m sure at some time through the process I confessed to her that I had committed some offense that my brother, Charlie, had really done.

In my application process I’ve struggled with new technology that I didn’t have to worry about when I applied for a summer job at Rollyson Aluminum Products back in 1973. How do I scan a document? How can I attach something to an on-line application without staples or paper clips? Why do I have to be reminded of the sad state of my first year college grades?

A friend of mine suggested that the torture of the process is God’s way of telling me that there is unconfessed sin in my life, and that I should repent…and then become a pastor again! I failed to connect the dots of his reasoning, but it did make me think of the Christian exalting of the ability to persevere. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-4 that “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” In James it says to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

So the question is how does one discern the need to persevere versus God closing a door you keep trying to go through? One of my favorite Far Side cartoons is of a bespectacled young boy trying to enter the door to his school. He’s pushing, but the sign on the door says to pull. Above the door is a sign that says “School for the Academically Talented and Gifted.”

No matter how spiritually connected a person is there will be a constant discernment struggle about whether he is to keep on keeping on…trusting in God…persevering in the faith…and seeing that the door is closed.

I know I’ve confused those two a number of times over the years. The temptation to persevere gets easily attached to something that offers more prestige, more power, and more money. Closed doors are often in the background of decisions that offer no enhancing of my resume. Inconvenience gets viewed as a sign that God is saying “No!”

Going back to “sin in my life”, I recognize that the distance I put between myself and God because of my desire to be in control also causes a blurred vision of what I am being called to do or not do.

In my life recently I’ve had several situations where discernment has been needed. I wish I could say that I’ve nailed it every time, but there have been a few times where I’ve been pushing on the door when the sign says “Pull!” Quite frankly, when I’ve stepped back and finally seen what the sign says I turn red in spiritual embarrassment!

Reading Leviticus With Attention Deficit Disorder

February 26, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    February 26, 2016

                      “Reading Leviticus With Attention Deficit Disorder”

I’ve often thought I was ADD! Fidgety…restless…hard to stay focused. In seminary I would have to read my systematic theology books out loud to try to stay on track…and assist me in the understanding of what was being written about.

And now I’m about to finish reading through the book of Leviticus. It is an exercise in “literary rowing.” I’m like one of those oarsman who is trying to stay focused on the number of strokes he and his team are executing each minute. Row…row…row! The finish line is 3000 meters ahead…row…row…row!

Except I’m in Leviticus…”If someone has a swelling, he shall…if someone has a rash, he shall…if someone has a white spot, he shall…if someone has a skin disease, he shall…”

By the tenth skin condition I begin to itch! By the end of the second chapter about skin conditions and uncleanness I’m finding it difficult to continue with the literary rowing.

And then a couple of chapters later we get into sex! Actually, unlawful sexual relations. Read Leviticus 18. It’s a little disturbing to have to be told that you aren’t to have sex with your aunt…or your dad’s other wife.

Leviticus reads like one of those Apple product’s terms of agreement files that seem to go on forever. You know the ones I’m talking about…and at the end you’re to clip on the box that says you have read and agree to the terms. Who reads that stuff?

Leviticus is similar, but with the added spiritual element that convicts you to stay the course.

Why did God have to be so specific? Why was he so repetitious in his explanation of the expectations of his holy people, and what was not acceptable?

Two things occur to me! One is that the Israelites had a tendency to be ADD in their conduct. They seemed to be prone to forget what they were to be about and what they were to abstain from. They had short memories and shorter attention spans. Better explain it over and over again so they could finally hear it.

And second, the community of God’s people needed to be holy. Uncleanness, in any form, was to be atoned for or cast out. A community couldn’t be close to God and be marginal in how it was living.

Today I’ll finish the book! I’m sure God will say a few things he has already said once again just so that I will hear it. After Leviticus I’m going to go back and pick up one of my seminary systematic theology books and start reading to myself again…and nap!

Watching The NBA All-Star Game and Thinking About Faith

February 15, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     February 14, 2016

                

I’m watching the NBA All-Star Game…and wondering why? It’s 145-136 at the end of the third quarter. The only consistency has been the allergies each player has towards defense. Bill Russell is crying as he watches the game. No…Bill Russell is almost asleep as the camera shows him at courtside. Defense doesn’t make for good prime-time TV. The MVP will not be voted on the basis of how many steals he makes. There have been no shot clock violations.

As I watch the jog-and-gun display I can’t help but draw the comparisons between this hyped-showtime event and what many of us do in worship at church each weekend. There’s a lot of going through the motions, minimal passion, and a disdain for patience and perseverance.

There’s something not right with it, and yet we accept it as the way it is. Some Sundays church attenders resemble the YMCA pick-up basketball players…a willingness to shoot and and little else. A spiritual form of “it’s all about me.”

(Russell Westbrook just tried to pass to himself!)

The game is over…finally! 196-173! Russell Westbrook is voted the MVP. I guess if you can pass to yourself you must be the chosen one!

 

The Challenge of Staying the Course

August 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       August 23, 2015

                                       

Ten years ago I was running the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for insane people. My wife called to it as “The Death Race.” She wasn’t too far off! The only people more loco than Ascent-ers were the ones who ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon the next day, a 26.2 mile race to the top of the mountain and back down again.

Okay…there is one group even more loco! Those who run the Ascent on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday. Crazy and whacked!

The hardest parts of the Ascent race for me were Mile Two and Mile Nine. Mile Two because the adrenalin of the start had worn off and I was suddenly doing some “serious uphill running.” Mile Nine because I was beginning to be physically depleted but I knew I had four miles yet to go…uphill!

The urge to stop and recognize the reasonableness of my actions increased as the race went on. My goal was not to win. My goal was to finish! As the elevation got higher I considered revising my goal to simply surviving.

Sometimes it is hard to stay the course…not just in a race for insane people, but also some of the insane times of life we have to run through.

The church I pastor seems to be having an increasing number of building challenges. A roof leak into our nursery area, despite a new roof being put on two years ago, and now the frustration of trying to get the roofer to come and fix it! A drywall problem as a ripple effect of that. Other things that are wearing out, like carpet and light fixtures.

It seems that each week is filled with new challenges that give reason to step to the side, to surrender to the mountain!

Hebrews 12:2-3 has taken on new meaning for me, and a new thankfulness for Jesus. It reads “Let is fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That keeps me going!