Life is best lived when you are in the pursuit of something bigger than what you think you can do.
However with attempting big things,
failure happens, unless of course you go through life only attempting what you know you can accomplish.
When you step out to attempt something difficult, something beyond what you may think you can do sometimes the result isn’t what you’d like to see.
This now becomes your opportunity to decide between a number of options.
1. Play it safe and conservative.
2. Try the same thing again, dogged perseverance.
3. Try something else as “that” didn’t work.
4. Learn from what didn’t work, put in the hard work of improving and then set bigger goals.
Option #4 is relentless forward movement with continual improvement and this is where living a full life begins.
No longer can you choose to just get by, ask yourself “what if I had” or even slump into never attempting anything difficult.
When you tattoo Relentless Forward Movement on your brain you will always live a life of challenging yourself to go beyond.
“Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be…….” I changed the words to “getting your big butt up the side of the mountain” as I tried catching my breath in the midst of a run where I gained over 3000’ of altitude gain in just three miles. It was one of those too steep for words grades straight up the side of a mountain where every time you came to a crest you hoped it was the last one only to be disappointed as you lifted your head to see yet another pitch in front of you. The overwhelming feeling when I finally crested the last pitch and saw nothing but flattish ground and trees and even a couple downhills lifted my spirits and made my feet feel like they were floating on air. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18 Hope is a funny thing you know because it’s such an incredible feeling of expectation and wish for a certain thing to happen. As I continue to push myself past what I believe I am I find that hope is a very sensible thing to possess in abundance because it keeps me able to endure what I am going through.
Hope is what keeps me moving relentlessly forward as I continue to pursue this ultra life.
I’m not sure if anybody else is aware of this but moose are really LARGE! I was up running in the mountains and in the distance noticed one of our fine, furry friends just munching on some grass. I paused my run, took a long distance picture and happily continued to amble on. Suddenly I looked over to my left and there he was, right at the fence line only about 50 yards away from me. That made me nervous, when he leaped the fence and came out on the road I was running that made me even more nervous. Eventually after about a half mile of this he grew bored with me. And all I could say was “Thank God!” Which of course got me thinking about just what it means to be thankful and how to put it in the perspective of pushing yourself past what you think you are able to do. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 When we push ourselves mentally, physically and yes even spiritually there is no other place to go than thankfulness because no matter what gets thrown our way we can give thanks continually, rejoice always and pray continually. These were the exact things I was thinking with my friendly moose only in a different order. I was praying continually “please go the other way”, rejoicing always “awesome he went the other way” and thankful in all circumstances “Thank you God that I got to see that moose so closely I could make out the raised up fur on his back”.
Relentless forward movement is all about being thankful continually in all circumstances as you live an ultra life and watch how your perspective on life changes.
I really wanted to get out on a trail running, the weather wasn’t cooperating so the trails were full of snow and there didn’t seem any way to get there. So I did what any runner desperate for some trail miles would do……I went out on the trail any way. And of course as I “ran” along the trail the snow kept getting deeper and deeper and wetter and wetter and as I came above this rise and the mountains peeked above the clouds shimmering in the beautiful whiteness of new snow I realized just how blessed I am able to move my body and run through the incredible scenery that God has painted just for me to enjoy. Psalm 76:4 “You are glorious and more majestic than the everlasting mountains.” Being blessed enables me to run in such majesty means that as I enjoy the beauty God has placed me in I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. That requires that sometimes I need to get uncomfortable enough to put yourself into circumstances where you can see His majesty in ways you never knew you could put yourself in.
Relentless forward movement also requires being willing to put yourself into uncomfortable situations so you can truly live an ultra life.
Spring snow storms are really………..interesting. I chose that word because it was better than the cuss word I wanted to use. We recently had a storm that started on a Wednesday afternoon and finally melted off the following Monday. During this wonderful spring snow storm our basement flooded which normally wouldn’t be a big deal but we ended up having to pump the water out of the basement so it wouldn’t get to the level and put out our water heater pilot light. The exhaustion of continually pumping out water, carrying buckets out to the alley and then constructing a canal to drain water away from the house was in many ways worse than running an ultra marathon. Somewhere in this strange water marathon I realized that strength could only be exhibited by moving forward. As I was pumping out the basement wishing I was out running a mountain trail this strange verse came into my head out of nowhere. “The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.” Well with all the water my hands were pretty well clean but as I dwelt on this verse it dawned on me that clean hands come from surrendering pride and self-sufficiency to my God.
As we move relentless forward in this ultra life it is important to look at obstacles as ways to continue to put off the things that hold us back and see the ways that God is moving in our lives.
On every long run there is a point where you realize that physically you are done, your body just can’t possibly move forward and every ache and pain comes to the forefront. This is where mental toughness comes into play and quite frankly this is where you better have faith in something more than what you can do. For me this is exemplified in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “….My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” There are many times where people tend to look at admitting weakness as something negative but I believe it is the complete opposite, this is a positive in my life. Running loosens something in my life where I am able to not only see my weaknesses but allow the Holy Spirit to give me strength I know I don’t have.
Living an ultra life and moving forward relentlessly means realizing where you are weak and have need of a Savior is actually one of the strongest things you can do.
The power of the Holy Spirit both amazes and scares me. Growing up Catholic I always tend to think of the Holy Spirit as the shoulders of the Trinity. You know what I mean…..touch your forehead – Father God; touch your heart – Jesus Messiah; touch your right and your left shoulder – and Holy Ghost. The body of Christ to me has to be formed as a body is and so my body is a great place to start. You don’t really realize how important your shoulders are until you injure one. I remember I was playing softball after we got back from Kazakhstan and I slid into second base headfirst. As I reached out for the base my chest sort of rose up slightly and instead of hitting the bag with my hand and gracefully wrapping my hand around it, my right shoulder slammed so hard into the base that I knocked it out of socket. I was able to pop it back in but third base was now out of the question as I couldn’t throw the ball two feet away. So many other things started feeling horrible after a shoulder injury and I constantly felt off. So now bring my Catholic Holy Spirit analogy back into the picture. What happens when we hurt the Holy Spirit? Basically we throw the whole balance thing out of whack.
Ephesians 4 is an amazing chapter and if you start in verse 17 and then travel through the passage to the end you will travel through some great tips for Christian or Jesus following living. There is this one really cool passage though. Starting in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may help those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” It’s right there, did you see it? We can injure, harm, but what does it really mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God”? Some synonyms of grieve are “lament, weep, bewail, bemoan, suffer. These words imply showing suffering caused by sorrow. Grieve is the stronger word, implying deep mental suffering often endured alone and in silence but revealed by one’s aspect.” (Dictionary.com) Take this passage a little deeper with the full meaning of grieve in there and suddenly I begin to know why I feel off balance sometimes and out of sorts. When I let talk come out of my mouth that is criticizing or hurtful or anything that does not build others up grieves the Holy Spirit, literally causes the Holy Spirit to endure a deep mental suffering that is revealed by the Holy Spirit not being able to hold up the weight of what I am doing to others. That kind of makes me think a little deeper about what comes out of my mouth.
I think of the words in the song “Holy of Holies” where it says “take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am.” Maybe this is why the Holy Spirit amazes and scares me. I am amazed because I have literally in the past been glued to the floor by the Holy Spirit as God decided to heal wounds deep inside of me and the only way He could do it was to literally floor me with His power. I have been in meetings where the presence of the Holy Spirit was so over powering that you couldn’t stand on your feet, you were either on your face in front, on your knees or laid flat-out. And the Holy Spirit never once took advantage of me or people I knew that were experiencing the Holy Spirit in the same way I was. There are many days where I want the clean, pure touch of the Holy Spirit to fall on me once again so I can be healed of the brokenness that keeps me from stepping into the glorious future I know my Father God has already set before me. And this is where the Holy Spirit scares the crud out of me because see I know that the Holy Spirit is so powerful that He literally could fall upon me in a fresh way that has nothing to do with who I am or what I am doing, where I am running or what I am running from or to. That scares me because there is literally no place on this amazing earth that I can hide from the Holy Spirit. There isn’t a trail in the middle of a National Forest that can hide me from the Holy Spirit and I’m not really sure I want to hide from the Holy Spirit.
A couple of friends and I ran a hard uphill route the other day and around mile 5 my mind kept coming to a place where I was content with my effort and in a way I was excited because I knew I was halfway to the point where we would turn around and run back downhill. My mantra on runs like this is Relentless Forward Movement. When I hit the next burning glutes section I just begin repeating that knowing that it isn’t really going to make the uphill slog any better but it is conditioning my mind to overcome the pain and uncomfortable feelings running through my body. We finally arrived at the turn around point and began the 10 mile run downhill which is ways is just as bad as the uphill but a lot more fun because you’re losing altitude and it’s at least easier to breathe. Suddenly as I got around 18 miles in my mind started thinking about how much like life this run was. Maybe it was the slight uphill or something but my mind was so set on how often in life we allow the ups and downs to affect the way we live our lives, the way we interact with family and friends, the way we work, the way we worship our Creator. For the next two miles I thought mainly about what is my mantra to set my mind at peace over all the circumstances that are going to occur on a daily basis, how am I going to be of steadfast mind no matter what is going on around me.
There were so many verses that coursed through my head about steadfastness. Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O god, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 112:7 “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” The definition of steadfast is “resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering”. The Holman Bible Dictionary has this remarkable explanation of steadfast. “A word meaning to endure patiently. A steadfast person is one who is reliable, faithful and true to the end. Paul said Jesus was a person of steadfastness (Romans 15:3-4). The NAS translates steadfastness with “perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). James said that trials that test our faith produce steadfastness (2 Thessalonians 1:3 KJV “patience”, NAS “endurance”, NIV “perseverance”).
Maybe those definitions are why my mind was so settled on steadfastness those last 2 miles. The secret to running long amounts of miles for long amounts of time is simply the ability to get your mind into a better place so that you can overcome whatever the route is going to throw away. It means that no matter how many twisted ankles, rolling hills, long uphills, rocks, stumps and roots that are trying to trip you up, no matter what your stomach is feeling like, no matter how hot or cold you are. None of these things matter because you are going to get your mind in the right place. For me this means that on a daily, almost minutely, basis I have to get my mind centered on thoughts that are going to bring about the desired result I am looking for. Maybe others are stronger and don’t need to re-center their thoughts on a constant basis but that is where I am and it works for me.
But what about most people? How many people who aren’t ultra runners struggle with the same thought life that doesn’t allow them to be steadfast in knowing that no matter what life throws at them are still going to endure to the end because there is this great big God who has us in the palm of His hands? Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what you’re going through that there is a way to keep your mind steadfast? There is a way to keep your mind steadfast on the Creator God and His ability to keep you from harm and there is nothing He longs to do more than to renew your mind so you can shove out the negative thoughts about not making it up the hills of life and that He is there to deliver you to a better place. That’s what steadfast thinking is all about and why the mantra Relentless Forward Movement is so important to us no matter what we are pursuing. When I am making forward movement there is no place for the negative thoughts to enter into my thinking and I am able to stay steadfast in my thoughts dwelling on my Creator God delivering me once again to a place where my feet fall on flat surfaces and He draws me into His presence.
That is what living an ultra life is about. When we live our lives to the full, to the extent where we feel like we’re bursting with joy and contentment we are all about living an ultra life. And it all starts with our hearts and our minds.
I was out running at lunch time today and when I got back my peeps asked me how my run was and I said it was definitely a Bob Seger run. I work with some really young people because two of them said “who’s that and what’s that mean?” I then had to explain that there used to be a day when music was played on instruments instead of computers and there was this genre called rock n’ roll and Bob Seger was one of the best and a Bob Seger run is a run “Against the Wind”. Of course they know how to keep me humble so they just said “why didn’t you just say it was a windy run”. Unimaginative cretins! Just kidding, they may actually one day read something I wrote. As I was out running against the wind I kept thinking about how we all seem to be running against the wind. And it doesn’t make life very joyful when we are constantly (or is it just me?) running against the wind.
“Let me explain. No there is too much. Let me sum up” (50 points if you can guess the movie reference). So anyway I’m out running against the wind and I can’t get this concept of the Holy Spirit out of my head, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:2 The wind blows like that in Wyoming some days (okay in certain towns that start with a C that is pretty much every day) and when I’m out running in the wind I can picture the looks on the faces of the men and women packed into this room patiently (well probably not since Peter was there) for what Jesus had told them was coming. Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind comes rushing into the room and the Holy Spirit falls in power on these early Jesus followers. They stumble out of the room speaking in the tongues of people from every nation that are gathered in Jerusalem and these people have never spoken this language before. So now I want you to picture running against that kind of powerful wind. This will do more than bend you straight up and make you feel like you’re running in quick sand. The power of the Holy Spirit is so strong that if you try to run against It you are going to be flat on your fanny in a Jiffy Lube moment.
Yeah but I’m sure I’m the only person that ever runs against the Holy Spirit, right? I’m sure that nobody else ever speaks ill of somebody else or mutters about their spouse and their weird habits that just pester and annoy you, right? I’m sure I’m the only one that when you know you’re supposed to be doing something productive that could change lives (like writing) you turn the TV on to some worthless program because you just need to veg, right? I mean I know I’m the only one that knows I could either eat healthy or I can eat that candy bar and drink that Coke, right? Hey, what’s one beer or glass of wine or another or another or another………yeah I’m the only one who’s ever been there, I know. Or you blow your top because your computer isn’t doing what you want it to do, stupid machine that can’t read my mind instead of the fat fingers that are trying to type in the right thing. Yeah I know, I’m the only dude that has ever done things like this. Did you know that these are all examples of running against the wind? “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Scared yet? Dang I’m scared because I know that there are so many times I fall short of the glory of God and there I am running against the wind again. But then that’s probably just me.
I do know that as I turned around and ran back to my office my pace quickened and it was a much more enjoyable run (not that there is such a thing as a run that isn’t enjoyable) and it made me think about what it is like to run with Holy Spirit through life. I want to run through this life living a Stephen type of life. You know this guy right? “When the Sanhedrin heard this (Stephen’s testimony), they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The guy is about to be stoned to death and he is testifying about heaven opening and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. That takes a special kind of peace and contentment that can only be found when you are running with the wind, not against it.
One of my favorite things to do in life is to look at where I am living in the past. Whether it be some great victory or some crushing defeat I am learning to solidly put these behind me and continue to move forward. My favorite mantra when I am doing a long run over 20 miles is simply “keep moving forward”. It is probably my mantra for life. I first came up with this on my 50th birthday as I was attempting to run 50 miles. My mom and dad surprised me by having a reporter from our local media company track me down the day of my run and interview me for a feature that actually aired that night on television. I didn’t see it because I was spending a lot of time recovering and eating with my family but somewhere out there is a tape of this. Anyway, one of the things this reporter asked me at the top of a hill around mile 27 or so was why I was doing this. I told her something about wanting to start the second half of my life strong and that I couldn’t think of something that would ingrain in my spirit strength like running 50 miles in the July heat. She then asked me what my plan was to be able to do this and I simply replied “keep moving forward and don’t think of the miles already behind.” I believe that this is what causes us to move into who we were designed to be, that spirit that says “no matter what has already happened, how many miles are under my feet I am just going to simply keep moving forward.” Our forward movement is what gets us places in life but so many people I know are still dwelling in the past – either the positive past or the negative past or a combination of both – and all it is doing is bogging them down and keeping them from running this grand ultra marathon of life.
Paul said this so much better than me (as he does a lot of things) in Philippians 3:12-16 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
I could leave it right there and let it soak in. All you are being asked to do in this ultra marathon of life is to forget what is behind you, it’s behind you and there’s nothing you can fix or do better. There is no victory in the past that is going to equip you for the future unfolding in front of you. Sure you can learn from everything but each and every single day you have on this earth is going to unfold in a different way with different challenges and stresses, different joys and reliefs, and the only way you can press on toward the goal to win the prize is to keep moving forward without the weight of what is past. I have done this many different ways in my life but the most spectacular and clear way I ever did this was to just write down on a piece of paper all the things I had accomplished and all of my failures I was still holding onto. And then I created my Philippians 3:13 trash can. It was metal and all I did was take the paper that I had written down everything I could remember up to that point in life and I lit it on fire and dumped it in the trash can. I watched my victories and defeats go up in flames and then I could confidently say quietly but assuredly “Okay God let’s keep moving forward.”
Living an ultra life means letting the past go where it belongs, the past. An ultra life is best lived continually moving forward.