Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Blisters (June 8th excerpt from "Pace Yourself: 366 Devotions from the Daily Grind," set to be released in mid-May

(Originally written June 8, 2008)

Blisters. They create an incredible amount of pain per square millimeter. I’ve had plenty of agonizing friction wounds that at the time, seemed to surpass the pain of childbirth. Even the smallest of blisters can distract to the point of being oblivious to everything else. Just ask Seth.

For some unfathomable reason, Seth and a couple of his buddies decided to run barefoot on scorching hot tennis courts prior to their soccer game today. Why? I have no earthly idea. For Seth, however, the fun was short-lived as the tender skin on the balls of his feet disconnected with the tissue beneath, producing half dollar-sized blisters. He realized the consequences of his gleeful jaunt as soon as he donned his soccer cleats and took to the field. Eventually, several hundred milligrams of ibuprofen dulled the pain enough to allow him to score a hat-trick in the second half. But now, he is dealing with the reality of the situation.

He and a buddy have a hiking trip planned, starting tomorrow at noon. As a warm up for a photography hike through Yosemite, the plan is to put in thirty miles in two days with fully loaded packs. Thus, wounded feet come at a really bad time. Miles walked on rocky trails, up and down mountains, and under a full load are sure to be a constant reminder of the one minute when his brain lagged far behind his enthusiasm.

Lots of us do the same. We make instant decisions without much thought about consequences. We dive right in on a whim or a guttural response. If we had only taken time to consider the ramifications, we could have avoided much pain and agony.

Personally, I can’t count the number of times I have “opened mouth, inserted foot.” Don’t you just hate it when you mess up and instantly know it—with no way to take it back? The damage is done. So, recall the words of Solomon.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways. . .” (Proverbs 14:8a)

Daily challenge: Look before you leap.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Springing into shape. . .I think

Sunglasses on and ponytail swinging, the muted sound of each footfall registered briefly in my mind. The sound was a rhythmic, light pitter-patter, not heavy and plodding. I liked to hear the gravel crunching under my feet, a testament to progress. But soon my attention turned to my breathing. I was in the midst of a steep hill and still running. Running and breathing at the same time, mind you. Not the gasping for air kind of breathing but the kind that responds as it should to increased demand. That, my friend, seldom happens.

Topping the hill, I started down the incline. My legs, though not accustomed to such turn over, responded. I felt like a runner again, strong and swift. By the time I arrived back at the house, the big hand on the kitchen clock confirmed I had run well. It felt so good. I hoped it wasn't a fluke.

Back at the ranch-or actually, the YMCA-the line at the bottom of the pool has been a good companion. A while back, the only comforting thing about that line was the end of it, signaling that the wall was within reach. I purposely kept a lap counter on the pool's edge, a good excuse to occasionally stop and move the beads down the abacus-like counter. To swim a full mile was a test of patience and nothing about it felt natural. But now, other than the initial chill of the water, there is nothing I don't like about my swim. No longer do I pant from exhaustion or sputter from not having sufficient air for a flip turn. Instead, I feel free in the water; gliding from end to end with relative ease. It's a great time to think and pray, the water forming a quiet and insulating barrier to the outside world.

Once again, I am beginning to look forward to my daily exercise, whatever form it takes. On most of my recent runs I have felt to be more than a jogger. I think of some upcoming races.  Maybe, just maybe. . . I am tired of not running strong, sometimes using my age as an excuse for mediocrity. Though I may never be as fast as I once was, I know I can be faster than I now am.

I know the road will not be easy and smooth. Potholes of fear may threaten my progress. Life may force some detours. But for now, I have the address typed into the GPS and am heading for the start of a beautiful adventure into the world of fitness gains and challenges.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Caught in the act. . .almost

The tinny little beeps from my watch awakened me well before I was ready to get up. But get up I did. It was Tuesday morning and I had an appointment with a sadistic fitness leader and her 5:45 a.m. core class. In some odd way, I looked forward to it. I jumped into the clothes I laid out the night before (can't rely on my brain that early in the morning) and quiet as a mouse, tiptoed into the kitchen to find some breakfast. Turns out, I really didn't have to be that quiet.

As I went to open the cereal cupboard, I heard a raucous from within. It sounded like a herd, gaggle, yea, even a pack of wild mice having a heyday. I heard them on the top shelf, then the second, crinkling the bag of a cereal package. Since my presence didn't seem to bother them, I decided to look elsewhere for breakfast. Note to self: break out the mouse traps when I return from my workout.

Upon returning and with disinfectant in hand, I warily opened the doors to undertake the inevitable and necessary purge of moose poo. No, make that mouse poo. Whew! Anyway, what I discovered was an all-out assault on my food. That mouse had chewed a hole into the snap-on plastic lid of a large hot chocolate container and climbed into the depths to feast. Then he chewed his way into my beloved frosted shredded wheat cereal. The top shelf was completely covered with doo-doo, the other levels having lesser but still significant levels of yuck. Everything came out and surfaces were scrubbed clean. The cupboard is usable once again and the traps stand ready to snap down on the next marauding mouse who dares ravage my food.

I got to thinking about this whole scenario. How did I know what was going on under the cover of darkness and behind closed doors? Sure, I suspected foul play when I heard scurrying in the cupboard. But the dead giveaway were the signs left behind; the tiny brown pellets and shredded wrappings. Did I have to actually see the mouse to know that he was up to no good? What if I ignored the signs? Would you want to pull a glass from the first shelf and raise it to your lips? Probably not.

But don't we often ignore sure signs of foul play? We figure that if we don't actually get caught, all is well. But nay, not so. The filth of a life lived in secret contaminates everything. Unfortunately, a simple cleaning will only tidy up the symptoms for awhile. If we don't kill, exterminate, totally eradicate the real problem, we only fool ourselves.

Let's be honest. We don't all hide "big" problems like drunkenness, illicit drug use, or adultery. But I bet we might be guilty of trying to hide selfishness, covetousness, laziness, and pride. Our mouths become weapons. Some pens and paper may wander from our cubicle and end up at home because "they" won't miss such small things.We might shade the truth, be dishonest on our taxes, or even cheat our employer of full attention and time.

We must be careful. Our misconduct (or, in politically incorrect terms, sin), no matter how big or small, leaves a stinky residue behind that gives us away. There is no mistaking it. Though the trap may not have snapped yet, it will, sooner or later.  Let's not be afraid to come out from behind cupboard doors and clean up our act. Then we can say with King David, "Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin...Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 17:3,139:23,24).

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...