Saturday, October 30, 2010

Solitude Amidst Life

Earlier this month I completed my first half marathon. To attain this, I had chosen a definite training plan which coincided with the month in which the race would be run. To be completely honest, I had no idea whether my aging body was up for such a challenge, nor did I know if my mental or spiritual state would have any effect on the desired end result. Upon reflecting on this achievement, I reviewed the personal goals (KRA’s-key result areas) I had outlined in late 2009 to see how I was doing in other areas of my life. Only one had been sorely neglected, the practice of a monthly personal retreat day (PRD)—and in my life, well, one could easily rationalize that away.

In actuality, my daily life (at this life stage) could not accommodate such a practice, so I had written a clear, possibly achievable goal : “one four hour period of time away monthly from children, spouse, home or other distraction" to clearly evaluate my life in its varied aspects- spiritual life, ministry, family and relational life, fitness, well, you get the picture. I committed the desire to the Lord at my last personal retreat day and it didn’t happen again until this month-eleven months later.

So, all my hours of preparation for that half marathon could be considered personal retreat moments- but the desired result was unattained. This practice allows one to slow down, reflect, readjust priorities etc, before months disappear so that intentionality is woven throughout the tapestry of life and deliberate steps are taken in the everyday.

One month down, eleven to go. Intentionality has to be a “best practice” and a practice to be guarded amidst the busyness and noise of life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commitment and Contentment

Living life takes a certain degree of commitment. To survive in today’s economic climate, one or more family members must work a minimum number of hours to provide food and housing. From childhood, minimum attendance is measured in elementary school with emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic, along with socialization with one’s peers. Completion of high school or college is more rigorous and has minimum course requirements and passing grades. Marriage (although statistics often measure the lack of commitment in today’s society), requires steadfast commitment, genuine love, grace, and each spouse’s benevolent desire to esteem their spouse higher than oneself. Athletic accomplishments (even for professional, naturally gifted athletes) require dedicated training, proper nutrition and hydration, adequate rest and sheer determination to finish well despite grueling pain, unpleasant weather, or obnoxious opponents.

Our pastor recently challenged each one of us to commitment in several areas. Written commitment cards and the public placement of those on the altar presently remind us that our personal faith should spill over into the lives of others, and into the local church. Those cards will no longer be prominent during the holiday season once the advent wreath and the scenery for this year’s Christmas play appear. Our corporate and individual ability to fulfill such a pledge will require faith, an unwavering dependence on Christ, and daily dying to self.

As 2009 drew to a close, I planned my goals (KRA’s in Reachglobal terminology) and knew that only a unattainable goal would push me sufficiently so as to make room in my daily life for consistent exercise. Having never run more than 5K, I chose a half marathon in late fall, and knew that discipline and the encouragement of family and friends would be necessary. Until my foot crossed the finish line (which most Garmin wearing runners faster that I would state was actually 13.3+ miles) l knew that the same focus and sheer determination that got me through hours of labor preceding each of my children’s birth would be necessary. And yes, I finished the half marathon and desire to do yet another!

Commitments that are kept bring deep contentment here on earth. A marriage with a love deeper than ever imagined; a successful career and volunteer opportunities into the end of one’s lifespan; healthy communities, organizations and churches and hope for future generations. How much greater will be the contentment in eternity?

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:23-25 (NIV)