Thankfulness – The Transition to Peace

I will never forget the day I was running a new trail and I came up this really steep ascent and as I came to the top the picture before me literally took my breath away.  I was a bit in front of the person who was running with me and as I took in this sweeping body of water ringed with trees all around and the sweeping mountains in the background I was nearly in tears at the beauty.  As I stood there in breathless wonderment all I could do is whisper to myself “Thank you, thank you, thank you God”.  I am so thankful for times like these in the mountains and on the trails when I either run around a bend or come down into a canyon or top a hard ascent and I’m greeted with such incredible beauty and majesty just set right there for me to admire and be thankful for.  

This characteristic hasn’t always been a part of my lifestyle.  I grew up surrounded by incredible beauty, had the privilege of sailing around the world in the Navy, have visited some of the most stunning places all around the world and I missed the beauty.  I missed the beauty not because I didn’t see it but because I was so busy expecting the beauty to do something for me.  I have also, regretfully, missed the beauty of people around me because I was expecting them to notice me, promote me, help make me wealthy or make me feel important.  I missed the beauty because I was jealously expecting something for myself instead of being thankful for the opportunity to experience such natural beauty and human beauty.  I decided as I began running and losing weight that I would be thankful for everything around me, even when there are times when I’m not enjoying life or faced with a struggle that will be difficult.

Being thankful allows me to see people, nature and even traffic differently.  I notice that as my attitude changes that situations change.  I’m not wealthier, healthier or have more friends or prestige but I am at peace.  Being thankful has brought me a peace that I could never have achieved trying to get people to notice me or promote me or think I’m awesome.

Thankfulness keeps propelling me relentlessly forward in this great adventure called life.  I would love to see you join me on this adventure, with a thankful heart and attitude.#RelentlessForwardMovement

Flexible Enough to Transition Gracefully

I’m taking a yoga class called Balance and Flex Together and it is all about building a stable core along with flexibility.  I watch videos of ultra runners and they leap up and down mountain sides like gazelles.  When I run I look like a buffalo and am content to just sort of crash through the turns, ascents and descents.  My style of running doesn’t lend itself to great finishes and makes recovery even more difficult.  So I began researching flexibility and balance and everything I read said yoga as a key.  I put this off for over a year because every time I have watched a yoga video or talked to people doing yoga the instructor always seems like a weird spiritual creature that I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around.  One day as a bunch of us were driving down the mountain after a run one of the gals started talking about a class she was teaching at the local YMCA.  She said it was yoga to music but very much combined balance, stability and flexibility.  Knowing this person was a pretty solid human being from our runs I decided to take a chance.  To my ever wondering brain I am finding myself able to run trails less like a buffalo and more like a gazelle.

You’re probably wondering what that little story has to do with transitions.  To transition well we all must become more flexible.  To be more flexible often takes nothing more than a decision on our part.  In today’s partisan, bickering world there is no flexibility.  This leads to a rigid lifestyle where you aren’t able to see the beauty, the intelligence or the opportunity in others’ viewpoints.  As we transition from point to point, it is important that to become flexible in the way we see ourselves and others around us.  The world today is trying to convince us that we have to believe one way or another and I’m here to tell you that if we have a firm foundation then it is relatively easy to be flexible enough to steer our way around the obstacles and transitions of life without losing who we really are.  My favorite definition of flexible is “able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances or conditions.”

The wonder of being flexible is how it allows you to interact with the world around us.  Rather than just crashing through life like a buffalo on the trails, we can gracefully bound up and down mountains, saving our body, mind and spirit a lot of battering and bruises.  In a life lived moving relentlessly forward there is no time for crashing through walls and mountains.  #RelentlessForwardMovement

Solid Core, The Key to Transitioning Well

When I started running I kept reading about this strange concept of a strong core.  At the time I was still pretty large so my immediate response wasn’t “build core”!  No my immediate response was  “I just want to see my toes past my stomach”.  As I continued running I realized that as I lost weight and look down to introduce myself to my toes again, one of the keys to running injury free was to learn to foot strike under my core.  This of course required a strong core so I could run more upright.  As I took pressure off my legs, I found with a more upright posture it was easier to breathe and my legs didn’t get as sore.

Now if I could apply that to my every day life. What is my foundation based upon? If my foundation is built around the latest fads and trends, I would have a foundation constantly shifting and slouchy. A shifting foundation cannot be strong because it will shifts and molds to the latest “thing”. If I want to build a strong foundation, something upon which I can smoothly and gracefully make the transitions in life, I would have to find something constant and concrete in an ever-changing world. This means I must place less emphasis on my feelings and emotions, and be able to dig deep for the truth and build a strong core on truth.

To transition well in life, find and build upon a firm foundation or core. As core strengthens, relentless forward movement becomes a reality.
#RelentlessForwardMovement

Transitions In Life

Two weekends ago I was running up one of our local canyons and the grass and weeds along the trail had grown up quite tall.  As I was cruising through aBighorn ultrarunner mini switchback section with grass as tall as my head I noticed in front of me a long limb from some berry bush with tiny barbs sticking out of it.  My immediate response was to transition from my left to my right foot while at the same time twisting slightly to my left in a mini pirouette to avoid the thorns.  Just as I did this with my left foot in the air my right foot hit an unseen rock sticking out.  The result was less than spectacular as I found myself once again falling straight forward with nothing to break my fall but my hands, arms and shoulders.  After taking a deep breath and spitting some water from my hydration pack on all the cuts to get most of the dirt out of the cuts I continued up the mountain until I felt I had gone far enough for the day and turned around and ran back.

That is an example of a transition that had a bad result but one I could bounce back up from.  We all have transitions in life and it is our response to these transitions that define who we will become in the long run.  Guess what we are all going to get old, we are going to transition from our younger, more active selves to a different body we will have to learn how to adjust to.  How will you transition, make the changes and keep moving forward?  There are career transitions, location transitions, home life transitions and so many more that I could go on and on.  With all of these we must learn how to respond and keep moving forward.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting some practical guidance based of course with stories from the trails as I run through life that will hopefully help you prepare for the transitions in your life by giving you some practical tips on how to keep moving relentless forward in this ultra life we live.  You will notice some transitions to this website as I prepare for the launch of my first book launch, Living An Ultra Life that will include a free gift of my journal.  Life Is A Marathon is a journal I wrote years ago for myself that I have put in PDF form and will send to everybody who signs up for my bi-monthly newsletter or who shares my site on social media and emails me to let me know.  There will also be a Living An Ultra Life Facebook page going up and maybe even Twitter.  Once again I am making another transition in life and I can’t wait to live this adventure with all of you.

Filling Up The Philippians 3:13 Trashcan

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.

Strengthen Your Strengths

I once told somebody that I no longer focus on my weaknesses and they looked at me like I’m crazy.  We were out running a trail on a section that was pretty difficult in that there were no flat places to run for like six or seven miles.  Everything was either up or down, a winding path through the forest, a couple of stream crossings and just one of those trails where it didn’t take a major effort to run it but you had to keep your mind on the run, stay focused on the trail.  As we finished that stretch and he looked at me complimenting me on how well I had done it, I told him I could because I no longer focused on my weaknesses as a runner but was simply focusing on my strengths.  He looked at me like I was an alien and then said the thing that I know everybody is thinking now, “How are you ever going to be a better runner if you don’t concentrate on getting better at what you’re weak at?”  And that is when I looked at him and said “because my weaknesses are part of who I am, they are put in me because there are other people who are strong at my weaknesses.  It is my job to learn from those who are stronger at my weaknesses to improve them but it is not my job to try to strengthen them.  My job is to strengthen my strengths and let the abilities of others improve my weaknesses.”  I approach my job in the same way.  I know that I am a strong sales person, negotiator and relationship builder.  I also know I am not strong in daily operations, organization and details.  Therefore I don’t spend a lot of time trying to strengthen my weaknesses, but spend an inordinate amount of time studying how to become better at my strengths and then rely on the team that surrounds me to be strong in my weaknesses.  In a corporation this makes people uncomfortable because corporate structure assigns job titles and then expects that job title to do everything themselves.  This leaves little room for team building and often in a corporate environment leaves the corporation with really strong operations but weak sales.  This happens because it is easy to work on the operations side, it doesn’t require people skills or negotiating, it simply requires knowing how to count or manipulate a computer properly.  I find the same is true in running and many other walks of life.  We tend to gravitate towards trying to improve our weaknesses because it is easier to spend large amounts of time improving something we are not good at than it does to strengthen and improve areas we are already good at.  I really don’t know why this is but I believe if we all started assessing where we spend our time we would find this mostly true.

Paul had this same problem.  He had a weakness, something so debilitating that asked God three times to take it away from him.  2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  There is a subtle little switch in the language there and it may be hard to pick up.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  I know this may seem to contradict my suggestion that concentrating on my strengths is more important than concentrating on my weaknesses, but please notice one thing.  Paul is delighting in weaknesses and in hardships and difficulties.  He acknowledges these are all there and he acknowledges that this is where God’s grace is made perfect.  God’s power is made perfect not in my strengths but in my weakness.  That is why I could concentrate on my weaknesses (and they are legion) all I want to, every single moment of every single day of my life and it is not going to make one iota of difference.  My weaknesses are made perfect in God’s strength but I would never know that if I didn’t strive to do things that would show my weaknesses.  If all I ever did were things that are right in my wheelhouse, that fit into my strengths I will never know what my weaknesses are.  This is why I love the ultra distances in running because at some point you are going to run past your strengths and you are going to have to discover where you are weak.  I am a weak downhiller and technical trail runner.  It doesn’t mean I avoid them like the plague, rather that I accept them and work on my strengths.  I am a good uphiller and I have learned and continue to learn new techniques and strength building exercises to get better at the uphill.  With every uphill I carry out though I know that I am going to have to tap into a strength I don’t possess to get through the downhill.  However, I still go out and hit those trails simply because I know the One who can get me through my weaknesses.  I may hurt, I may have to slide down on my butt sometimes, exhibiting no grace whatsoever but I will get through it and hit the next uphill strong and confidently knowing I am working on this strength.  I know that I can run longer than anybody else, not faster because the fast gene passed me by, but I can go longer than most because I am working on my endurance with gladness knowing that my weakness, the lacking fast gene, is already covered by the grace and power of God.

So what are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  Acknowledge your weaknesses and find ways to get involved in the areas you are weak so you can see the strength and power of God at work in your life.  Then get out and live an ultra life by working on your strengths to make them stronger and letting your weaknesses be picked up by somebody else’s strength.

Grace Isn’t Just For Ballerinas

There’s a local trail runner that I both love seeing and hate seeing when I am out running trails.  I love seeing him because he really is an incredible athlete and he always has something positive and encouraging to say out on the trails.  I hate seeing him because he runs like a gazelle or an antelope or a mountain goat.  Nothing like the furry ape I feel like most of the time as I am lumbering up and down the trails.  I love watching him from afar because he looks so fluid, as if every appendage and muscle are working in concert with each other.  It reminds me a lot of when I was young and my mom took me to see The Nutcracker.  I was amazed at the body control the ballerinas and ballerina dudes (what are they called?) had and how they made each move look so effortless.  That is what this guy runs like and what the elites of my chosen sport look like when you watch Youtube videos of them running.  It could be a 16% grade uphill and they are just loping up making it look so effortless.  I hit a 16% grade uphill and I gulp and go “okay, here we go” and then plod up the hill.  I want to look graceful but really don’t think I do look graceful at all.  Or at least I used to……..until one day I realized that whereas I don’t run with the grace of the top runners and the athletes I so desire to be like I do run with a different kind of grace.  I run with a grace that can appreciate the effort I’m putting into the run and where I can enjoy the efforts of the other runners around me.  This is a grace that I have had to cultivate and that quite frankly came from shedding some stones in my life.  See when you are overweight you begin to get really conscious of what your body looks like.  I notice even today the tiny bulges and extra flesh I have in places that perhaps other people don’t have.  I seldom run without a shirt not because I am scared of the sun but because I still have some jiggly portions of my body and I keep saying that one day I’ll run without a shirt on and show off my six pack abs also.  But perhaps I won’t because I learned something else.  Nobody cares what I look like on the outside (or maybe not nobody but nobody that matters in the grand scheme of life) but what the people around me care about is how I carry myself.  I may not look like a ballerina trotting down the trails of life, making it look effortless but I do carry with me a certain grace that only comes from not looking at myself and setting what I look like or how I perform to be able to see the special me inside of me and what I have to offer to the people I am blessed to meet.

 

Grace is one of those words that you will find an abundance of in the Bible.  Depending on which version you are reading it is a high of 131 times in the New Testament and a low of 118 times.  One of my favorite is found in Ephesians 4:7 “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  Paul in chapter 3 talked about how even though he was the least of all God’s people he had been given a grace to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8) and how this special endowment had brought with it a responsibility for service.  I can’t set aside the stone of inadequacy I feel when I see great runners run past me but I can believe that I have been given enough grace to be able to encourage the other runners of life around me.  I don’t believe I am the wisest around me but I do believe I am been given wisdom to share with those around me.  I don’t believe I am the best at what I do but I do believe that I have been given a special endowment to understand how to do business profitably and that I am supposed to share that grace with those around me.  There is like a fine razor’s edge between too cocky and being not confident enough in your abilities to be able to do the things you are called to do.  That’s where grace comes in.  To believe that you have been granted an unmerited favor, a special endowment means that you can’t just use that to enrich yourself or make life more comfortable for yourself.  No grace is something to be shared and to be able to share it you are going to have to lay down the stone of inadequacy on the side of the trail and accept the grace you have been apportioned and then begin to use that grace to encourage other people.

 

Living an ultra life means laying aside the stone of inadequacy (the grace of the loping furry ape in my case) and accepting the grace that has already been given to you.  Then use that grace to encourage others around you.  It’s really difficult to move forward if you keep looking back at what you can’t do.

Live Life With Abandon

I was running a 50K race and had passed lots of people on a really steep uphill part of the trail.  I was feeling really good and was focused on getting to what I knew was one of my running nemesis, a highly technical downhill stretch on single path with lots and lots of cuts, leaping over roots and even some boggy areas.  I had practiced this section specifically a couple of times coming into the race knowing that my boat-like feet and quirky ankles really didn’t enjoy this section and since physically I knew I was going to be able, mentally I was still struggling a bit.  Sure enough as I got about half a mile down the trail I could hear the runners coming up behind.  A number of them were just whooping it up on the hill, as they ran past me when I moved off the trail they had great big smiles and looked like they couldn’t be happier.  One twelve-year-old shouted as he passed me “You’ll never see me again” as he bounced down the hill with nary a care in the world (I didn’t see him until the finish line by the way).  I would have hated to see my face because I was lacking that bounce, that live life with abandon surge down the hill.  I was concentrating so hard on not twisting my ankles and not tripping that I forgot a really big characteristic of not just trail ultra marathons but life in general.  That characteristic is simply this:  you’ve got one shot at life, live it with abandon and with unbridled joy.  As I watched nearly all the runners I had passed on the uphill go by me I resolved that no matter how hot it got and no matter what I was feeling like I was going to enjoy the rest of the run.  I was going to live this race like I want to live my life, with abandon and with a joy that doesn’t allow me to dwell on all the bad things that could happen.  Instead of being so focused on what bad could happen I decided right then and there to run the rest of this race not thinking about what disasters could trip me up but to focus on living life with abandon and thoroughly enjoying every aspect of the race.  And I did and it was a miserably hot day where many of the competitors had to drop because of the heat.  I had to pull off at an aid station and put ice on my head and chest to get my core temperature down but knew there was no thought of quitting with only a little more than seven miles to the finish line so did what I had to and enjoyed life.  I was able to finish up that race encouraging lots of other runners, helping some get to a shade spot or the closest water sprinkler or just dipping my buff in a stream and letting them wring it out over their head to try to cool down.  Living life with abandon doesn’t mean living recklessly but rather deciding that no matter what comes your way you are going to enjoy everything and you are going to make the best of what is going on around you.

1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Philippians 4:11 “…..I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  This is how you live life with abandon and set aside the things of the past that have weighted you down and kept you from not only finishing the races of life but also enjoying them.  It is this little word content or contentment.  With it comes great meaning and understanding.  One of the definitions of this word is “ease of mind” and to me that is something I know has held me back from living life with abandon.  Ease of mind seems to me a state of freedom from worry or restlessness.  This is something I strongly desire to cultivate in my life, not because there is anything inherently wrong in worrying about things but because there isn’t anything inherently to be gained by worrying about things.  Matthew 6:27 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  Being concerned about twisting an ankle or tripping over a root or a rock isn’t going to add a single hour to my life.  However, if I can go through these highly technical downhills with an abandon, a bounce to my step I may still trip over these hazards, I may even twist an ankle but I certainly am going to enjoy the run a lot more.  The same is true with all of our lives.  The more we can cast aside the worries and the weights holding us back the more the great future already planned for us can be enjoyed.

Living an ultra life means not dwelling on the twisted ankles and trips of the past but enjoying the present and enjoying being in the Presence of One who has already marked out for us the trails we are to take.  So stop carrying worry around like the heavy stone it is and lay it on the side of the trail and get on with this ultra marathon of life.

Darkness Can’t Hide Light

I have only attempted running at night with a headlamp a couple of times.  Quite frankly every time I go running with a headlamp I am even more amazed by the 100 milers that head out on trails, leaping over tree roots and winding their way through rocks with just a little patch of rock.  The last time I went for a run with a headlamp was my New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day run where I start out about 11:30 PM and get about 3 miles in and then run for another 3-4 miles after the stroke of midnight.  As I was running along our pathway system in my hometown (where there are only a couple of lights, mainly when you go under the main streets) I was struck by just how much I could see once my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I learned to keep my head steady so my light would stay out in front of me.  Now I wasn’t running a trail so I know my head will bob up and down a lot more on that but after a couple of miles I really became used to the patch of light out in front of me and how it was just enough light to show me any hazards like ice or clumped up frozen snow patches that I needed to be careful on.  The darkness was still enormous and at times seemed overwhelming but that little patch of light provided just enough for me to carefully hammer out my miles.  As I ran I realized just how often I attempt to run through life in the darkness also.  It really struck me as I ran that there have been countless times that I have purposely chosen to leave my headlamp at home and attempt to go about the ultra marathon of life in darkness and how if I had chosen just a bit differently in those times maybe I wouldn’t have taken some of the awful tumbles that I have.  The more I ran and dwelt on this the more I realized that I was picking up a stone that I thought had been dropped on the side of the trail long ago.  See I was picking up the stone of “what if” and “if I had” and all this stone can do is plunge me back into darkness because by going back over these topics again and again I was forcing myself to live in darkness instead of letting the light shine in front of me as I moved forward.  You may be catching a theme in these mile markers, hopefully it is starting to shed some light on your trail forward.

This is this awesome passage in Ephesians that by far describes the absence of light, or the misguided use of light so better than I ever will.  Ephesians 5:8-14 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Lie as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”  I am a lighting guy in my professional career as an electrical distributor (I’ve also worked as a lighting manufacturer rep and a short spell for a manufacturer of natural daylight products) so I have studied light professionally a lot.  In fact I am quite passionate about light and the effect on the human body, how certain color spectrum of light are better for us from a health perspective than others, how you can change the mood in an office or classroom simply by choosing the correct color spectrum for your environment.  I am also a firm believer that more light doesn’t necessarily mean that you have better light.  Light has to be used efficiently in order for it to do what it is meant to do and that is simply this.  Light displaces darkness.  It doesn’t replace darkness which is what I think a lot of people think, but what it does is that it reveals the hiding places of darkness and exposes it to be illumined by the light.  And so it is with us and how we approach our ultra marathon of life in everything we do.  However, it is how we exercise light that will make the difference in our lives and in the lives around us.  I love the phrase “the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth” because this requires action on our part.  You do understand that fruit requires action, it requires tending to the fruit tress, pruning off dead branches, ensuring your fruit tree has enough hydration and that the soil surrounding it has the proper nutrients.  Running an ultra marathon requires these same characteristics also.  However, if you tend to the fruit trees of life properly but you cover your trees in darkness nothing will ever grow.  Just as fruit trees need the natural daylight to grow and become fruit bearing trees, so do you need the efficient use of the Light in your life to grow beyond who you are today.  To efficiently use the Light you are going to have to expose some of the dark areas of your life to the light.  For me this meant that I could no longer ask myself the “what if” and “if only I had” questions in life anymore.  If I truly wanted to move on from where I was to become the ultra runner I knew God was calling me to be I was going to have to expose those dark questions to the light and be willing to let light overwhelm the darkness so I could see the hazards on my trail.  Light will always displace darkness, it’ll never replace it as the darkness will still be there.  But if you use light efficiently and in the right measures it will shine the path forward.

Living an ultra life means that to see the path forward you can no longer afford to keep running in the darkness of the “what if” and “if only I had” questions.  To move forward and confidently stride to the finish of this ultra marathon of life means you will need to expose the darkness to a tiny square of life, one little patch at a time until the light fully displaces the darkness and your eyes adjust and you can see the hazards that used to trip you up.

Being Lost Enough to Get Found

Beautiful fall day during hunting season so I’m out running a trail in the Bighorn Mountains with an orange jacket on, orange buff on my head, my running pants with orange stripes and was just happily following this wonderful trail from Spring Marsh down to the Narrows where I was going to turn around and run back uphill.  Well, at least I thought that was what I was doing.  Instead I ended up on top of a mountain that I had never been to the top of before, and that I didn’t recognize, and my trail I had followed just sort of petered out into nothingness.  I broke out my compass and tried to remember which direction I was supposed to be running and realized that not only was I not running northeast that somehow I had gotten turned around and was running due north.  Where in the world was I?  I was already at about 6 miles so knew I should have been to the Narrows by then and somewhat remembered seeing Leaky Mountain off to my left or north at some point on the trail.  Suddenly I remembered where there were a bunch of fallen trees across the trail and taking the trail to the left probably about 3 miles before and I began wondering if I should try to find my way back even though now I couldn’t even really find the trail I had run on.  I decided to hoof it up a bit further so I could get to the top of the treeline hoping maybe I would spot a landmark or something that would help me find the best way back to my car, knowing that I was severely off the path and was going to do a ton more mileage than I had planned.  I wasn’t particularly worried but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was lost, hopelessly lost and I needed to get found really quickly or it was going to be a long day.  Just as I topped out of the tree line I heard the most joyous sound I thought I could ever hear, a series of gun shots rang out, and even better because I was up so high I could tell where the shots came from.  Remember the beginning part of being all dressed in orange because it was elk hunting season?    I pulled my whistle out and started blowing as I ran down a sort of game trail down the hill and when I got to the bottom, all dressed in my beautiful orange, I saw the most awesome sight I could see right then.  Three hunters all decked out in their camouflage, high fiving and getting ready to jump on their horses and head deeper into the woods to where their elk had fallen.  Of course now they are really looking at me strange but I confidently and boldly strode up to them and said “I am unbelievably lost now.  Could you guys tell me how to get back to Spring Marsh from here?”  As they shared a laugh and joked about stupid runners getting lost they pulled out a map and showed me where I was and where I needed to get to.  They also pointed out the best paths to get where I needed to go and pointed out the forest road that would be the best point of where I was going.  They even offered to give me a ride on the back of one of their horses after they got done getting their kills sorted out.  I told them I would be cool and one of the guys handed me his map and told me to put it under the wiper blade of a blue Dodge pickup when I got back and we separated ways and I proceeded to run the 12 miles back to my car.

I truly have a penchant for getting lost, always have and probably always will.  I used to panic when I got lost and start to get really freaked out as soon as I realized I was going the wrong way.  However, something truly remarkable happened along the way as I began to put perspective into different ways to handle my reactions and some of the bad habits that weren’t allowing me to enjoy life as much as possible.  I examined why I freaked out so much when I got lost and decided that I didn’t trust that I could get found and I had a permanent sense of lost somewhere deep inside my heart.  Jeremiah described this another way “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains.  They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their resting place.” Jeremiah 50:6  Being lost isn’t permanent, forgetting your resting place just might be.  If you have a sense of always being lost, it’s probably about time to get found.  The only way to get found is to remember where your resting place is.  I love prophecy simply because prophecy doesn’t fit into our neat little boxes that we tend to try to throw stuff into.  It’s just as easy to look at that verse above and blame being lost on the shepherd as it is blaming me being lost in the woods on my poor sense of direction.  It’s an obvious leap of faith but notice that the “they” referred to isn’t the shepherds but the sheep.  And it isn’t the wandering that Jeremiah is pointing out, it is the forgetfulness of where the resting place is.  When you forget where your resting place is located, you go through life anxious and afraid of everything around you.  There is no peace and there is no sense of direction or stability in your life.  Your resting place is that center of peace, the place where you know it’s just a matter of being aware of who you are and what you were created to do and then determining to find that place again.  Your resting place is your sure place, an inner peace that transcends any sense of being miss-placed or lost.  Finding this place is going to cause you to have to reach back into your bag of stones, the things of your past and to find the stone that best represents why you are feeling lost.  Then you are going to have to apply truth to being lost and get yourself found.  This means you are going to have to find the place of peace that got lost and has been lost for a really long time maybe even.  You are going to have to not get lost on purpose but you are going to have to get lost while out adventuring so you can get found because in this getting lost to your self and your own ambitions and plans for your life (just like I get lost sometimes on the trails I am running) this situation is going to cause you to not panic and over analyze and spin headlong into a bad habit that won’t do a thing to help you get found.  You’re going to have to find a place of peace, a place that is higher than where you presently are so you can look around for some landmarks and maybe if you’re lucky and time it just right hear a volley of shots that signal you to the fact that somebody with a map may be really close at hand and that even if they joke you some they are going to set you on a path back to your resting place.

Living an ultra life means you are going to have to acknowledge that sometimes you are lost and then drop the stone of being uncomfortable by the side of the trail and get back to your resting place, that place of peace.