The Day I Discovered the Treadmill

The day I discovered the treadmill was cold and snowy and – did I mention cold?

The story begins something like this: On any given day, I would much rather lament my running incapacity than to do something productive to remedy it.  Every once in a while I do something advisable (recall Exhibit A).  But more often, I do not. (Notice there is only one Exhibit A.)

Secretly, I want to be a runner.  But running is intimidating.  To be a runner you have to – how should I put this?  To be a runner you have to… run.  Regularly.  And regularly is not something I do well.

Then it happened.  In a moment of weakness I succumbed to a friend’s request to come to an informational meeting about a training session she was starting.

“Just come to the meeting,” she said.  “You don’t have to actually join.”

“Will there be punch and cookies?”  I asked.

Unfortunately, I happened to be available the night of the meeting.  And while I didn’t really expect there to be cookies, there was always the chance…

So I went.

That’s all it took.  Which, of course, my trainer-friend knew all along.  Because as any good trainer knows, just getting to the starting line is the hardest part.  What my friend didn’t know is that for the last couple weeks I had been looking for an outlet to blow off the steam of a 10-hour-a-day desk job.  I had been coming up empty.  This is the door God opened.  Sigh.

I signed my form.  I paid my fee.  Okay then, let’s do this thing.

By the day of our first group run, I was pumped.  I had new running shoes and had cobbled together assorted pieces of hiking/exercise clothing that I thought could withstand a foray into this new and exciting world.  Then the run got cancelled.  They do that if it’s less than 0°F.  Wimps.  (Just kidding, trainer-friend!  I don’t actually want to run through snowdrifts at -20°…)

This is where it is either an amazing benefit or a curse to have your trainer also be your friend.  Because just when I was pretty sure I’d be walking my dog instead of going for a run, I got a message.

“I’ll meet you at the treadmill and help you with your run,” she said.

The Treadmill. (It would not be melodramatic to add Dah Dah-Dah music here.)

Up to this point, I had been on a treadmill exactly once in my life: three days prior in the running store where they were taking exotic measurements to match me to the perfect shoes.  I knew nothing about treadmills except that my trainer-friend had recently lamented she would rather eat dinner with rusted silverware than run long distances on a treadmill.  (Of course, her definition of running long distances and my definition of running long distances are a little bit different…)  The fact that she was willing to coerce me onto the treadmill proves that a) she is a good trainer, b) she is a good friend, and c) I was going to run on a treadmill.

In the end, our schedules did not line up, and I ventured to the treadmill solo.  But here’s the thing.  Even though I had walked by the fitness center in my apartment complex hundreds of times, the fact that I had easy access to a treadmill never even entered my mind until my trainer-friend pointedly brought it to my attention.  I had never thought about treadmills before, and so I didn’t think of them now.  The game had changed, but I was still in my old mind-set.

How many times do we start something new but carry with us old patterns of thought?  Sometimes, even when we know something (I had walked by that treadmill hundreds of times!), we still need someone to point it out to us.  Paul exclaims excitedly that the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17), but this is not always an instantaneous transformation.  Whether we’re talking about a physical run or our spiritual walk, we need the willingness of someone to come alongside us and give us that extra push.  We need one another to try new things, to be challenged, and to grow.  We need one another to lean on, to learn from, to follow and to lead.

God bless the gift of encouragement.

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).

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Journey Home

One of the best parts of any journey is returning home.

There are a few exceptions.  When I’m travelling with family and friends, I sometimes wish the trip would never end – or at least not yet.  But more often than not, by the time my plane, train, or automobile is pointed home, I am ready. I am ready to pet my dog, stand in my own shower, sleep in my own bed, be surrounded by things that are known and comfortable.

Most of my trips these days are solo sojourns.  If you’ve never travelled by yourself, let me tell you what it’s like.  It’s stressful.  And the stress is compounded if you’re travelling someplace where you don’t speak the language.  You are wholly dependent upon strangers.  (Very patient strangers!)  You have only yourself and your instincts to know which way to turn, how to find your way out, and how to find your way back.

But the curse of solo travelling is also its blessing.  You experience everything around you more deeply.  You pay attention more wholly and you interact with people you never would have interacted with.  I have had some of the most amazing personal encounters when travelling alone. I have banded together with people who, for a few intense hours or days, became my companions or my guides.

When it comes right down to it, we are all travelling alone. The Bible tells us we are like travelers in a foreign land; our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We band together through different seasons of life, but we are all trying to make our way home. There are moments when we wish the journey would never end – or at least not yet.  And there are other times when we cannot wait to have the worries of this journey behind us, and to breathe a sigh of relief to at last be surrounded by things that are known and comfortable.

True, our Father did not send us on this Journey entirely alone.  Jesus promised that when He ascended into heaven He would send the Holy Spirit to be our companion and our guide.  It’s not just our instincts that prompt our next steps, but the loving presence of God prodding our conscience, clearing our path, and always watching over us.  The strangers we meet along the way are never accidents.  They may be strangers to us, but no one is a stranger to God.  The Lord watches over the sojourners (Psalm 146:9a).

Where are you on your journey through life?  Are you experiencing the thrill of something new?  Grasp onto it with both hands.  Are you clawing through turmoil, exhaustion, or fear?  Keep pushing.  Are you pausing, reflecting back or planning forward? Take three breaths in, my friend, and go.  This journey isn’t over yet.  God has got a thing or two for you to do along the way.  Trust in Him.  Isn’t that what He told us?  “Therefore do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:31-33).

God’s blessings on the new year, as you continue your journey home.

 

And [Jesus] said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics…” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere (Luke 9:3,6).