Why I Run.

4 Oct

I’m pretty bad at this blogging thing.  I grew up in a time when computers were the wave of the future, but I seem to have been caught on the beach when the tide went out.  So, when it comes to doing things with technology, I’m not that good.

But that is not why I am writing at this time.  I want to write about why I run, more specifically why I run for exercise.  I really don’t like to run.  There is a lot of effort, I get winded pretty easily, and I am a bit more….chubby than I used to be and so it is harder to move those pounds around.  I also don’t like sweating and when I run, I sweat a lot.  So, I have some reasons why do not like to run.  But I do it.  Or at least I make a valid attempt.  I have signed up for a 5K in December and am working toward the goal of running it without collapsing in the middle of the race course.  I have been doing interval training twice a week and been trying to go to the YMCA to continue working out.  It seems sometimes like a lot of work for a little result.

But I keep doing it.  Why?  When I really don’t like exercise and believe that I am not doing a very good job at doing this, why am I torturing myself?  Good question.  I have a few answers.  I have 3 boys, two teenagers and a 3-year-old.  I want to see them grow up and be a part of their lives as they become adults.  I have a wife I love dearly and want to be able to spend many years with her.  I have a job that is fairly stressful and I know that running/exercising is a way to relief some of the stress and to help me be able to better deal with that.  I want to get into smaller clothes and look and feel better about myself (I really don’t like the round paunch that I currently have).  Finally, my dad died last year at the age of 70 from heart issues.  I watched him fight his weight and the health issues brought on by it for many years.  He never really exercised (aside from a very physically demanding job) and did not eat well either.  In the end, his health and his death have prompted me to try to do better and to take care of my self.  And that is why I run.

On Books (and one in particular)

1 Aug

I was talking with my counselor this week and the subject of books came up in the conversation.  Now, anyone who knows me even in passing knows that books are a passion of mine.  I have lots of print books, a NOOK, and an iPad with Kindle on it all to…nurture my habit.

But this discussion was about what books I really liked and why.  I admitted that I like biographies, particularly those of people who worked very hard to get where they did in the world and not those of people with supersized egos.  But one that I like the most is a book named Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Neverwhere is a fantasy novel about a man named Richard Mayhew whose whole life is turned upside down because he does the right thing in helping a young woman one night.  In doing this, he is taken from all he knows and loves and is thrust into a bewildering world where nothing is what it seems.  It is known as “London Below” where those who have been on the fringes of society in “London Above” find themselves and they make up their own society.   Richard gets through a few initial scrapes with those in London Below to find the person he is looking for:  the young woman he helped earlier, named Door.  When he finds Door, they set off with two companions on an adventure to find out who killed Door’s family and to try to get Richard back to the life that he knew.

Throughout the time they travel, Richard finds himself questioning all that he has known and finding within himself a steel that he did not realize that he had.  He is called upon to face his fears and himself.  In one place he is called to face his own self and all the fears and limits he has placed upon himself.  When this ordeal is over, it is noticed by others that he is different, more centered, less boyish.  But there are other fears and challenges to be faced and when they are, Richard finds himself a different person than what he was in the beginning of the novel.

Neverwhere is by far my favorite book (I have it on audio book, in print form and on Kindle).  So why does this book speak to me?  I believe I tend to identify with Richard Mayhew as one who is an everyman,  is settled in his life and wonders what he will do if called upon by different circumstances. Richard’s character reminds me of myself in that he wants to be a good person who will be known as good in his life.  He  wants to be more than he is.  He is willing to stand with his friends even when he can turn back without anyone thinking less of him.  I believe that Richard is a template of the person I believe that I want to be.  And that is why I believe this one book speaks to me so loudly.

It is also a very well written book with a little bit of everything thrown in.  Gaiman is a great author and one would do well to have at least one of his works on the shelf to take down and peruse at one’s leisure.  For his works I am thankful.

I am not real sure if this makes sense to anyone but myself.  I have not blogged in a long time and not real sure what to say.  But perhaps one day I will be more proficient and be one who people will want to read.

Until next time, good reading and keep hope alive.

First Impressions

29 Aug

I had posted earlier that I was planning to write a few posts about my musings while listening to Washington:  A Life.  This is the first, and hopefully not the best, one.  

Ron Chernow is a man who like to write big books.  He has written about John Rockefeller, the Morgans, and Alexander Hamilton (which I am currently listening to in the car).  All are well received, massively researched, and of door stop size.  But don’t let the size scare you.  In the books I have listened to and perused on the shelf, one can find oneself hooked quite swiftly.  This is the case with Washington:  A Life, Chernow’s 2010 biography of George Washington that won him the Pulitzer Prize.  Take what you think you know of Washington and throw it out the window.  Even if what you know is true, you will find much to enrich your knowledge. I came away with a much greater appreciation for a man whom I had held in high esteem for a long time.

Chernow begins his masterful biography by explaining that he wanted to write a fresh, one volume biography that utilized much of the recent scholarship that has been done in the last few years.  He tells the reader that he wants to remove the varnish that has covered Washington and show the man underneath.  To begin he opens with the story of the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait.  Telling how Stuart tried to work his magic to have the reticent Washington open up is quite amusing as well as eye opening. Though Stuart does not get Washington to regal him with stories and to smile and laugh, he does get glimpses of what the man underneath all the stories looks like and is able to bring that out.  It also gives a glimpse of what the reader is going to be seeing.  But what about that?  Was Washington always tight lipped and straight laced as he has been presented in school and in popular history?  Or are we missing something about him that would show he was like us on many points?  Join me on this journey and I will continue to tell what I learned about a great man who became greater in my estimation.

Old and New

23 Aug

I have been wanting to write something about this for some time.  I don’t consider myself a historian (not enough work done for that) but I do love history.  I have been listening to Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington and have been struck by how much he was like many of us.  I also have been struck by the fact that things today in politics, government and society are not much different from how they were then.  It gives me a boost because I always say that things today are the same as they have always been, we just know more about them and know about them sooner.  It also makes me realize that, as with many Bible characters, we put our country’s heroes on a pedestal that they do not deserve.  Yes, I will agree that they were men (and women) of character, courage, genius and fortitude.  But they were human and acted like it more often than not.  So, I have decided that I will blog some of my reflections that I have discovered in my listening and musing.  Maybe, just maybe, I can help someone see a way to help us though what we must face.  So keep your eyes open and see what come down the pike.   

Life can be scary. Sometimes.

1 Aug

My life is on a path of complete and total change.  I have been accepted to Union Presbyterian Seminary, I am getting married in November (which will require my moving to North Carolina) and I see my sons growing up in front of my eyes.  They say that change is the only true constant in this world.  Unless one is a Christian and knows that Jesus is our hope, then I would agree.  And with this change comes some scary stuff.  Like, what will going back to school be like?  I have not been in a classroom for almost ten years now.  I must admit I am a bit nervous.  And what about getting married?  Again?  What might happen there?  And moving?  Again, what might happen?  The answer is, really, anything.  That is what is so glorious and terrifying about life.  Anything might happen.  One just has to trust and make sure that one has done all that one can to be prepared.  And sometimes, that is not enough.  

So, even though I am a bit scared, I am also excited by the possibilities of what is coming in the future.  I can see that my life is about to change and there are a number of possibilities that are open to me.  I am ready to take a leap of faith and go down the road that I have not traveled for a while.  Wish me luck and pray as well.  🙂

Reading in Church (for fun and edification)

26 Jul

I am a liturgist at my church.  This means I sometimes lead the service in congregation responses and readings.  It also means that I read the scripture passages for the service.  Now I fall into the same trap that many fall into.  We want to read so that we sound like a well trained orator would sound.  And that is fine.  But many is that time that the passages beg for us to read them like the people in them spoke.  These are not just words to be read.  They are words that were spoken by people just like you and me.  So when Jesus asks the disciples what they were arguing about on the road, I like to imagine the disciples looking away, coughing, being generally uncomfortable.  One may even try to say something like, “Uh, um, Peter, what were we talking about?  Not sure, John.  Andrew, do you remember?” and so forth.  Would it not be better if we took the words and made them like this?  Would not they be better understood?  We have taken the disciples and the people of the Bible and placed them upon such a high pedestal that we have forgotten that they were just like us and sometimes had to be rebuked and reminded that they were not perfect.  Really, what is it that makes us want to make them that way?  Did Jesus work with only perfect people?  If you go by the accusation that he was a drunkard and a glutton one would have to say that, no, he didn’t.  You get that kind of accusation by being with those who are those things.  So why do we believe we have to sound like a well trained orator?  Because we are in church and that is where serious things happen and only serious people will be a part of that.  Really?  Sometimes, I believe, we need to be serious about church and sometimes that can require a bit of humor and a lot of reminding ourselves of whom Jesus called and commissioned.  Because if he could use people who argued about who was best in the kingdom and then were embarrassed by this, then he can certainly use you and me.


15 Jul

Growing up, I hated anything with fitness.  It made me sweat and seemed that what was supposed to be fun was made into work. I did not like it.  Did not want to do it.  Now, I find that I am trying to do fitness.  I am trying to run, walk and lift weights.  I want to be around for my boys and my fiancee, Jackie.  I want to be in better shape for when I am older so that I do not have to take medicine when I am older.  I also have been signed up for a fitness challenge by Jackie that requires me to log my progress.  Makes me a bit more focused about doing something to get in shape.  Now, if only I could eat better…..


Summer Read

9 Jul

I am well aware that summer is fleeing fast, but allow me the time to make a recommendation of a book for summer (or maybe even anytime) reading.  The book is Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron.  A fun and also enlightening read, Shade of Grey is fiction and fantasy at its best.  There is farce, humility, love and compassion.  There is also an element of some of the distopia that is so popular these days in books and book sales.  1984 and Brave New World are good books, but this one has elements that are a bit too close to home.  Fear is the regulator of the people, not fear of the government (that is seen as good), but rather fear of the unknown (the dark, past the outer boundaries, etc.).  This is what keeps the people in their place so to speak.  There is also the squashing of creativity and of making things better.  It is better to follow the rules, or find a loophole in them, than to express creativity.  If one does so, there could be problems.

As for love, there is a compelling love story here of two people who are opposites but at the same time kindred spirits.  Hard to explain.  Better to read and find out.  😉

All in all, this is a fun read and well worth the time to read it.  If you don’t have the time, it is available on audio.  Check it out and any of Fforde’s other books.  You won’t be disappointed.


What I do know is this…..

7 Jun

There are a lot of things I do not know.  I will be the first to admit it.  What I do know is that admitting this is the first step to learning anything.   I have noticed in my life just how much of the Bible I do not know.  I grew up in church, have attended all my life there and tried to read the Bible. In reading it though, I have discovered that what I thought I knew, well, was not what I thought it was.  See, I am trying to do a lesson on Psalms for Sunday school and I am discovering some very disturbing things.  First, I really do not know the Psalms at all.  Not surprising, we were always told it was important to know them but never really studied them.  Second, the Psalms are not warm and fuzzy, as we often like to depict them.  They are complex and oftentimes downright disturbing.  They oftentimes call on God to destroy people or praise those who dash babies heads against rocks.  This is supposed to strengthen my faith?  What kind of person wrote these?!

And then I have to step back and realize that the persons who wrote these are just like me. They are struggling to understand God and why sometimes bad things happen to good people.  They are praising God for His creations and goodness.  And they are working with God to make their faith stronger.  Sometimes there are highs and sometimes there are lows, but all the time there is a movement forward.  

Now does this mean I understand them?  Not at all.  I believe I have avoided the Psalms because I never really heard a reason why I should.  They were always used to prove something about Jesus and God.  They were always spoken with reverence that I just did not feel and therefore felt guilty that I did not feel this.  It was assumed that one really needed to know only certain ones to have a walk with God.  And in all of this there was me trying to do what God wanted me to do and feeling like I never would get there.

So, what I do know is this:  I don’t know everything.  Kind of liberating when one states that, but also kind of intimidating.  Because there are times when people expect me to know a lot, and I just don’t.  In those times I must do what is difficult for me to do:  Forgive myself and allow myself the grace I give others.  And read a couple psalms.  After all, the folks who wrote them were a lot like me.

Books to Listen to/Read

4 Jun

I have a passion for books.  No use denying it.  I have a full bookshelf (bookshelves) and boxes of books that I have yet to read.  It still does not stop me from buying or checking out new books.  I don’t have a problem; I can stop anytime I want.  🙂

That being said, I wish to make a review/recommendation.  I have in print three of the Armchair theologians series and have listened on audiobook to several of the same.  These books are described as written by experts for the layman.  I am here to say that is absolutely true.  These volumes cover giants such as Calvin, Luther, Barth, Aquinas, Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Edwards, Wesley, and MLK Jr.  These are men who have such stature that they need only one name to be recognized.  They are also considered to be approachable only by scholars and those with an interest in the field.  The Armchair Theologians series changes that.  The books in print are not large.  Most are between 150 and 200 pages long.  They explain tough terminology when used and break down complex concepts into easy to understand language.  They also include well drawn and sometimes humorous illustrations.  

The books on theologians show them as humans with all their flaws and genius.  They also give very good further reading lists.  Along with the theologians there are two other books:  One on Heresies in the Early Church and one on the Reformation.  Both are in the same line and both make the history come alive.  

If one wishes to listen to these books, there are several that are on Audiobook.  I highly recommend any that are narrated by Simon Vance.  His voice lends warmth, crispness and authority to what could at times be dull material in the voice of others.  A couple other narrators do a fine job as well.  It makes the books come alive and the same for the material.  

So do yourself a favor:  if you are interested in theology or Church History, check one of these out.  You will be glad you did.  I know I was.