Monday, September 23, 2013

Taking on a new discipline

Many of you have read previous posts about my 1/2 marathon training. So I apologize if this is redundant, but this is what I wrote for our upcoming church newsletter. 
In mid August, I started training for a 1/2 marathon.  Having said that, I have to say, I'm not a runner.  I have never enjoyed running, not even when I ran on the track team in high school!  But in the last few months I had been considering trying for a half or full marathon to help raise money for a cause.  Over Memorial Day weekend (Mule Days for those of us from Bishop) I talked with a childhood friend who has Leukemia.  She shared some of her story and I was inspired to change my thinking into doing and got signed up for a half marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since then,  I have been running 3-4 times a week and have been using my training time as a sort of spiritual discipline.  It's not a spiritual discipline in formal terms, meaning it's not what you would normally think of like prayer, fasting, service, or meditation.  But it challenges me in ways that I'm not regularly challenged within my faith life.  It started by doing something I don't enjoy.  It requires me to do it even when I'm tired or have "better things to do."  It humbles me as I face my true strengths and weaknesses, not just some fantasy of which I've convinced myself like "running a 1/2 marathon won't be that hard!"  And, in doing it, I've had a change of heart.  I actually enjoy getting out and running. I look forward to it (most days anyway). I can see places where I'm getting better and I'm looking forward to getting even stronger and faster! 
For me, I can't help but think of the parallels to our faith life.  How many things (prayer, service, worship, meditation, study, fasting) do we not trying because we "just don't do that type of thing," or "aren't any good"?  And yet, if we commit, for whatever reason, God uses it to grow us and bless us.  Establishing the habit is challenging and our old ways will tempt us at various points, but, if we stick with it, even on the days we don't want to, it will begin to shape us in ways we never imagined.  We may have growth in places we anticipated, but we are also likely to experience growth in ways that were highly unexpected. 
This month, I would encourage you to ask God, "What should I try?" And then be open to the answer.  It might be a practice of daily prayer, or of praying in public, or of visiting the sick, or of serving Sunday breakfast, or fasting, or tithing.  Or it may be something unexpected like running or painting or singing where God might touch you most profoundly. 

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