Love: Fitness, Fatigue & Form

In recent months a few friends have asked me to help them get in shape. Mostly through “friendly” encouragement, but sometimes more directly (and firmly) as a coach would. Various requests came in the form of invitations to run together, so we formed the Arch Bridge Running Club (Tuesdays, 5:00 AM running in/between Oregon City and West Linn). 1 A couple of us are training for a triathlon. Mostly we’re just running buddies.

RiskOne friend — not a runner nor desiring to become one! — asked me earnestly one day in mid-January if I would help him get in shape. Sure!

It took 86 days for his verbal desire to become “day one” of action. This month he began the journey through physical fitness. His resolve is now taking the shape of a new habit. (Don’t give up. Habits are usually stronger than desires.)

The key for him? Probably many things, like being disillusioned with getting older and sedentary. The inspiration of others on the journey, and a commitment to eating healthier has helped. Probably, like me, saying “no” is a challenge for him, so that there’s little left for cultivating a whole life.

Yet the key factor was this: beginning a new routine alongside his wife. (Yes!) This meant saying no to the customized fitness plan I had sent him (85 days prior) in order to say yes to a better and more realistic plan. (Principle: It’s good to say no to your friends for the sake of your wife.)

Personally, I default to doing just about anything alone. Which is precisely why I must not do so. Sure, there are times of solitude, and out of six runs in a given week, five usually are alone before the sun comes up (though with Strava you’re never really alone). Tuesday mornings are a reminder that I am both known and needed, and not just because I’m the one who usually sets the week’s running plan.

Being known is about vulnerability, where others can see you as you are: whether fit and fresh or fat and fatigued. In physical terms that means getting up early, when no one else will (especially yesterday’s you), to hit the road or gym hard. It means showing up to give your best, while not looking your best. It means turning on screens in order to get needed sleep. It means running slower on recovery days, since that’s wisdom. It means asking someone significant to check on what you’ve eaten, what you’ve spent, giving personal access to someone to see the behind-the-scenes of your life. The same holds true spiritually, relationally, emotionally. This is the pursuit of wholeness, where we see God’s love at work it us, whether fit or fatigued. Continue reading

  1. The Arch Bridge Running Club is open to all, though for your enjoyment some basics and baseline fitness are needed: 1) Be able to run continuously for thirty minutes, 2) sustain sub-9:00/mi for three miles, 3) a desire to be challenged. There are no dues, nor t-shirts (yet).
 

Good Friday, the forgotten holiday.

Good Friday is the forgotten holiday that speaks honestly (and brutally) about your past while inviting you do bury it with Jesus.

He died in our place, bringing us back to God. 1

We gather in reflect in the dark, without the cultural decorations (and relative obligations) of Easter Sunday, for each day needs the other. Without the resurrection Jesus’ death seems heartless, yet, through the cross the eternal life He offers carries the weight of God’s love.

When He cried out, “It is finished!” Jesus accomplished far more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.

I encourage you to find a Gospel-centered local church and participate in a Good Friday gathering, sharing this day with others near the foot of the Cross.

If you’re in Clackamas County, please join us as four Oregon City churches collectively contemplate His words, work and worth in the Cup, the Garden, the Trials, and the Cross. 

GOOD FRIDAY

 

  1. 1 Peter 3:18
 

Update in Uganda: Hurry home, Sharon.

Happy to see everyone! Surgery on Saturday was successful. Can we go home yet? Getting up to speed in her new wheels, a gift from NGM. Sharon lit up when she learned she could move around like this.

Happy to see everyone! Surgery on Saturday was successful. Can we go home yet?
Getting up to speed in her new wheels, a gift from NGM. Sharon lit up when she learned she could move around like this.

From March 10th to 20th I am in Uganda visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries (NGM) » see NGM Facebook page. Below is my attempt to summarize the story of Sharon and the care she is receiving. Click any photo to see it enlarged. 

A week ago we met Sharon, the nine-year-old girl who was run over by two motorcycles (called “boda bodas”) in Jinja, Uganda. After being admitted to Jinja Main Hospital in about five minutes, she laid in agony on a bed in the women’s ward for three days. Without treatment. Doctors and nurses did drop by, but only caused her pain.

Looking for a creative outlet, Sharon and I took turns drawing everyday items. She's so bright.

Looking for a creative outlet, Sharon and I took turns drawing everyday items. She’s so bright, and ready to go home.

So, by the time Ugandan friends and colleagues of NGM learned of her situation, a change needed to be made. You see, children’s bones heal quickly, and if those are left untreated — let alone treated poorly or wrongly — she would have significant challenges in the future.

I’ll let you get up to speed on her injuries, the terrible care received, and the generosity of many to help enable a better future for Sharon by reading Words in Uganda: “There is no hurry in Africa.” Also, many have contributed to her medical costs (which may sum as much as $4,000 USD). » You may join in this good cause on this GoFundMe page.

sharon-surgery-x-ray

Steel plates put in each arm, to be removed in about six weeks.

Fast forward nearly a week and here we are: well, here is where Sharon is. Home, that is. Continue reading

 

Words in Uganda: “There is no hurry in Africa.”

From March 10th to 20th I am in Uganda visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries » see NGM Facebook page. Below is my attempt to summarize the story of Sharon and the care she is receiving. Click any photo to see it enlarged. 

Wednesday morning began as planned: run before sunrise, being the bookmobile to deliver a favorite book as a gift to Olivia (more on her soon). It was another gift brought from the States and intended for her one day that on this day proved the key difference.

Rose nursing Olivia back to health, visiting morning, noon & night.

Rose nursing Olivia back to health, visiting morning, noon & night.

Olivia is paralyzed from the waist-down after receiving a poorly administered spinal epidural from a student nurse at Jinja Main Hospital. Eddy was born healthy, but since walking in that hospital to deliver her son, Olivia has not felt her legs and feet. As a paraplegic from malpractice without recourse she’s been relegated to a wheelchair. Next Generation Ministries took her in as a daughter and is paying for her medical expenses and a nurse to visit a few times a day to cleanse her sores and nurse her back to health. More on Olivia and her determined hope in Jesus in a future post.

A couple totes of supplies made the trip from home, and a new wheelchair. Nate sent those as a personal gift, a deep embodiment of the motto of NGM as “a river of relationships connecting resources to needs.” While I contemplated riding the wheelchair myself to each plane (and practiced at home with the kids), instead it was checked as luggage. So too were three special foam pads that made the trip in a tote of various supplies. Olivia has not received her new pad yet, but her gift was put to great use for another she hasn’t met either.

It was those pads that became the makeshift transporter bed for Sharon, a girl we met only Wednesday. Her needs were many, but time was of the essence. Yet, as the saying goes, “There is no hurry in Africa.” Everything takes time, that’s just the way it is, and you have to respect the slower pace of life.

Monday afternoon Sharon, nine-years-old, was walking home from school when a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) 1 hit her from the side and ran her legs breaking one, followed by another boda boda that ran over her upper body, breaking both arms. (We can only guess how it all unfolded, as no one stopped to tend to her.) A true hit-and-run, doubled.

Sharon was rushed by friends and family to the free government-run Jinja Main Hospital where on Monday they admitted her in five minutes but neglected to care for her for three days.

Sharon’s X-rays shown both arms are severely broken. Metal plates will be needed to ensure they heal properly.

As word spread about her injuries, many from their church family visited to offer encouragement, prayer, and whatever funds they had. A young man named Sononi (pronounced Saw-nan), a follower of Jesus, visited the hospital and noticed how none of the staff had cared for her besides doing the admittance paperwork. So he asked what could be done and took her for X-rays. I can only imagine how painful that was for Sharon. At great expense to himself, Sononi bought the pain medication as directed, which we learned was not administered to her in all of the three days she lay there.

It is no exaggeration to say that the conditions of Jinja Main Hospital are the worst I have ever seen, and more deplorable than I could dare to imagine. Known as the pre-cursor to the morgue, this is where one goes to wait to die. And the “deathbedside manner” (as I discovered) shown by the staff and especially the doctors produced a great well of emotion in me.

All of us knew we had to step in, as Sharon’s young bones would attempt to heal themselves, and she had zero chance of recovery waiting for someone to care and do something. Her family is so poor it may have been an upgrade in residences to stay and sleep at the foot of her bed, for at least there were walls an a fan, considering this heatwave at the equator.

We visited on Wednesday, through Sononi’s contact with Chris, Ezra and Peter, and the scene was worse than imaginable.

But we could see a spark of hope arise in the family even those they were getting no communication and even less compassion from the official medical staff there. So Paul led the conversation with the medical staff, empowering the Ugandan nationals (Chris and Peter especially) to enter the conversation. Unfazed, Sharon’s mother Jessica had been praying around the clock, and when we arrived Hellen was there, a dear friend who proved to be a key part of God’s work in this situation.

When confronted by someone seeking the truth we each have a handful of ways to respond, and not many more: we can be humble and honest, or can shift into self-protection mode and either denydeflectdistract, or minimize. You’ve seen this with kids, with colleagues, and even yourself, I’m sure.

This pattern was clear among the leadership at Jinja Main Hospital. Under-communicate, deflect responsibility, shift blame, and pretend the problem isn’t that bad. If you’ve ever had medical care where the doctor sees you as a number and not as a person, you’ve probably sought different care. That wasn’t an option here for the family. At first my thought was, “We would never settle for this in America.” But then I realized my arrogant elitism (the solution will not come from the outside). The Ugandan people should not settle for this either and we must empower them to fight in healthy ways for change. All people made in His image deserve competent, compassionate care. Continue reading

  1.  boda bodas are motorcycle taxis that cover the streets from “border to border” of Uganda.
 

Words in Africa: “I am not a white man; I am a child of God.”

(It would take a 600-page book to describe the emotions encountered in merely our first six hours today. It all came so fast I could not pause to cry until now. Let this brief post serve as a tiny glimpse into one significant encounter amid many on day one in Jinja, Uganda, East Africa. Today though March 20th I am here visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries » see NGM Facebook page.)

Met so many wonderful people today, day one in Uganda. And they each invited me into their daily adventure of embodying beauty and embracing brokenness.

Sometime in the middle of today, amidst many errands and meeting with a number of people, we were delayed on return from a newer “modern hospital,” the conditions of which could not possibly pass inspection for a makeshift day clinic for the homeless in America.

But we are not in the States, and this is the best care poverty can buy in Uganda. I’m told it is a vast improvement from government-funded healthcare (a statement validated as an understatement by a later evening visit to Jinja Main Hospital; more on that in a future bite, I hope).

Today, at Al Shafa Modern Hospital Limited a lady walked up with her under-nourished, famished, and deeply I’ll daughter. I think the girl is five years old. We encouraged her to enter the clinic and admit her child, to which she replied in Lugandan that she has no money and has lost all hope. This child clearly needed a blood transfusion and it seems malaria wants to steal the life of another beautiful child.

Against all hope Saluwa knew she had to daily decide between one small shared meal for the family or getting life-saving medical help.

If only someone cared for her and pleaded her case. Continue reading

 

Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

Courage: hearing and responding eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place.

Quote

Continuing from yesterday

The same could be said for churches and religious organizations. We do not genuinely fulfill what God is calling us to be and do as a community unless we develop the capacity to hear together the voice of Jesus in our midst—His voice of assurance and comfort, but also His voice of call and guidance. It is easy for churches or religious organizations to look elsewhere for models or trends to follow. Some church leaders are easily attracted to attending a conference or reading the most recent how-to book to learn how to help their church or religious organization develop in the same way as some remarkable church on the other side of the continent or the ocean. Others, in contrast, are nostalgic about a tradition, about the way things have always been done in this particular community, and speak of it as “own way.”

Yes, we need to learn from others. And surely we are right to stress the value of the heritage we have within our church communities and organizations. But both our search for new models and our love for our own way of doing things can undermine our capacity to hear the new word that Jesus has for us as a community. We urgently need to develop a corporate capacity to respond to the voice of Jesus and have the courage both to hear the voice and to respond eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place. 1

» This seems to me a vital need among our leaders, for me personally, and in particular for the Renew Church family in the coming year.

 

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17-18. Emphasis added.