September 20th, 2011

There's a Season for Everything

the running rev


A wise man once penned some famous words. Maybe you have heard them. "There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven." The author of these wor ds of wisdom understood that within the human enterprise, ( although we like to think we have ), we re ally have no control over times and changes that are part and parcel of life.

 One activity which sustains me during those stressful times, especially those challenging occasions when the sense of having no control over times and changes of life is really intensified, is my running. It is an activity that lends itself to every season. Running helps keep me sane.

This Thursday we enter into the season of Fall. We call it the Autumn Season back in Ireland. During this summer of rain, the blessing of all the rain was how the trees were just bursting, filled to overflowing with succulent green leaves and the grass underfoot was a brilliant shade of green all summer long that for an Irishman does the soul only good.

The Fall Season gets underway with the running of 29th Fall Classic Road Race. It looks like a record crowd with registration. It begins a season of special events for the Capital City Roadrunners Club. In November, the Club organizes the one and only Metric Marathon, and in December we have the "Not-the-Honolulu-Marathon, and its definitely not Honolulu temperatures. Both events are "fun" events always with a good turnout of runners - especially in December, the more winter-like the better it is.

As the green leaves give way to the reds, yellows and browns, that make Autumn a feast for the eyes, and as the days are cooler, and the hot, humid days of summer are but a memory, Autumn - the Fall reminds us that indeed seasons come and go and with it we grow older.

As the years pass, and the passing the big 60 mark earlier this year, without fanfare, and given the nature of what I do, one of the things impressed on my soul, at the deepest level, is the reality that life is fragile. For many, life is but a caged treadmill. You work, eat, sleep, then repeat.

I have learned that all the striving in the world as the search for success unfolds can come to naught in but a second. It is essential to learn to strive for the important things of life. There are many experiences in life that cannot be easily explained. There are many disharmonies and anomalies that the human mind cannot unravel. Many people go after schemes, taking advantage of others as they strive to get ahead. How they live with themselves must be another scheme.

For me, as a running reverend, the world around me is God’s handiwork. For me, God is Artist. Each Season brings to the eternal canvas great works of beauty that feed the soul as they provide a spiritual feast for the eyes. I love Autumn.

As Dr. George Sheehan, that great running philosopher, pointing out how Shakespeare got it wrong, and noted that the real question is ‘to play or not to play’ and what better way to ‘take up arms against a sea of troubles’.   As I play in God’s wonderful garden, cultivating a spirituality, which is very different from some of the rigid religious practices we all have encountered, I believe God is in control.

That God is in control of my life, even in those times when I clearly know I’m not, helps me keep a balance on what is often a razor’s edge of uncertainty.

That God is in control of my life, helps me deal with those things, both large and little that happen in life and that I did not ask for or order, but that God has ordered all things, placed all things in their proper order, a season for everything under heaven.

That God has ordered all things helps me accept that when things happen, and they will and they do, they are in fact appointments, God’s appointments.  Even though I cannot always, most always never, understand them, or even anticipate them. But the world is ordered by God. God is a God of order not of chaos. Winter will always follow Autumn. The moon will rise just as the sun will set.   Night follows the day or is it the other way?

And so it is my goal to enjoy the life I have been given. To enjoy life fully. I’m not going to trouble myself with unrealistic goals, unnecessary worries, amass anxieties, but know and accept the measure of my human capabilities. This involves being prudent in all my ways.   This involves a certain honesty in humility.

In cultivating my spirituality, within the measure of my capabilities, knowing that God knows my full potential, for I am created in the image of God, ( and each one of us is God’s work of art ), I seek to live life meaningfully, purposefully, and joyfully, maybe even doing a little song and dance sometime before sharing the sermon!   Maybe being more purposeful in play.   Not taking life too seriously.

To live meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully, means intentionally tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, feeling those good things of life, family and friends top the list.  For this life is fleeting and the changes and chances are such that life’s enjoyments are often gone, the moment lost, before we have taken the time to fully acknowledge and appreciate and enjoy them. Also, entering the sixth decade of life, the ever advancement of the aging process reminds me to enjoy those good things of life and to offer thanks for them, except maybe for the white hair.   

Of course, for the Christian, the challenge of the Christian life is to be able to give thanks in all circumstances of life, accepting all things, as appointments with God. Perhaps this idea is best stated in the solemn vows couples exchange in marriage, "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health ...."    Only we share that solemn vow with the Creator God.

In cultivating my spirituality, and running through not only the seasons of the year, but also through the season of life, from my days of foolish youth through more mature years, I have asked God to be the center of my life. As a Christian, the center of my life is Jesus Christ.

And so I place God, in Christ, at the center of my life. At the center of my work. At the center of all my activities, including, and especially so, my running. My spirituality takes time out for play - play renews my soul, my mind and my body.   I enjoy running.   It gives me a sense of freedom.   It nourishes my soul.

In cultivating my spiriuality, I seek to be content with my lot in life - after all it is divinely appointed. It’s not always easy as many things seek to bring discontent. It is through daily prayer and praise, through daily devotions and Scripture reading that I seek to reverently trust in the Creator God. For in all of life’s mysteries and puzzles, in all the enigmas of this fleeting life - all life in this world - God’s world - all life is under God. God as made all things and we are made in God’s image.

Thus, cultivating my spirituality, it finds its fullest expression that it is only with God at the center of my life, my work, my activities, that helps me make some sense of life, and so endeavour to live life fully, to be freed from that caged treadmill, and to fully experience the good things in life, and trust completely in God in the difficult times of life.

The last word goes to Dr. George Sheehan, who was an inspiration for those of us who joined the running boom in the 1970's. He set the bar high and removed the barriers of age, and introduced a generation to the notion we need to play. Not only could he run, but he could write. Listen to a passage taken practically at random from Running and Being, it involves finishing a race, and the exhilaration of the 'race' to the finish line.      As you read, I trust you are enjoying your life, for it’s the only one you will have.  Sheehan wrote these words in 1978: 

"Only in another season in heaven will I relive that finish. An impossible quarter-mile sprint and then holding on to the man I had just beaten so I wouldn't fall down. Hearing his heart pounding against my ear and my own beating in unison. Knowing only that and a world suddenly filled with friends saying nice things to an aging man who felt ageless in autumn."