Oh For The Love

steep ravine start

happy to be back on the trail

I started running to lose weight and get in better shape. I soon found a rekindled love affair with running and, especially, the trails.

Last year, I set some aggressive goals and pushed myself to try to reach them. Not only did I not reach two of my four goals, but I injured myself in the process and started to not enjoy running as much. It usually takes long distance runners years (much more than 2) to get burned out, but I could tell I was headed that direction and I didn’t want to be.

steep ravine ocean view

amazing view of Stinson Beach from the Steep Ravine Trail

Time off! Time off was a must.

I took three weeks after CIM and then an easy trail run. A 10 mile trail race a few days later and the Plantar Fasciitis returned. A lot of stretching and 18 days later, I ran the Steep Ravine 25k in Stinson Beach. I was undertrained, although the rest had done me good. But this is not a race report.

Running through the trees and in and out of the view of the coast, I found a peace that I had been missing since I could not run, due to my injury. Climbing the steep hills, although exhausting, was also exhilarating. I stopped often to take pictures and walk breaks as needed. Most importantly, I remembered what I love about running.

Steep Ravine Trail

running through the redwoods on the Dipsea Trail

Being! Just existing with nature. I find myself on the trail more than in any other place. Nothing of the troubles and concerns of life matter when I am on the trail. The people I run with, whether I know them are not, create a family-like camaraderie beyond almost anything I have found elsewhere. Above it all is the peaceful contentment I find in solitude on the trail, and the communion I find with God in the presence of His magnificent creation.

So I am returning, not just to running, but to the love of running. I have no fear of failure, for my only goal is to run. I have no time constraints, nor pace objectives. I may get faster. I may not. Of only one thing I am certain, I will run… a lot.

goat hill

part of Goat Hill on the Way To Cool course

This week I returned to my home trails. Running with many friends in Cool for the upcoming 50k. I found myself alone on the trail several times throughout the day. It was during this time that I realized what changes I need to make in my running… and in my life.

I need to do more of what I do for the love of doing it! I have always advocated doing the “right thing for the right reason,” but I am not sure I have always kept track of what “the right reason” is.

I think I may have stumbled upon it…

LOVE! Perhaps it seems silly, or something, but, as Paul McCartney once said, “what’s wrong with that?”

My greatest peace comes from three things (maybe four): running, music (I like almost everything), and nature, the forth is probably motorcycling, but that’s another blog. In fact, when I am running in the mountains, listening to my iPod, I reach a near perfect place for me. When my legs are so tired that they lose their feeling and I’m somehow still moving fast enough to feel a breeze on my face… when I can smell the trees and the near by stream, and classic rock, blues or country is thumping in my ears, I am totally disconnected from everything except where I am and what I am doing.

Why can’t I do everything I do with that love? Seriously! Why can’t I?

mountains above Cool

mountains above Cool

I don’t see any good reason. I teach because I love math and I love my students. I play and sing because I love music. I run because I love running. I write because I love writing.

Truth be told, There’s enough of hate, anger, frustration, etc. I’m not going to add to that. It won’t be an overnight transition, but I will get there. The focus of all I do will be love. Besides, what’s not to love?

One Word 2014

It has come to my attention, and perhaps you have noticed this as well, that we, as Christians, have a reputation for being judgmental. We tend to place degrees on sins, as if we could rank them from most to least significant. We tend to add sins to the list of things God would not approve of, as if we know His thoughts and are able to determine His judgment. After all this, we then take our place as judges of all that is righteous and take it upon ourselves to determine who will and who will not be getting into heaven. That’s not quite enough for some of us, so we make certain that everyone knows what judgment we have passed and that God has so instructed us to spread the word. Now, I’m certain that none of you are like that, but perhaps you know some that are.

A lot of this judgment comes from the writings of Paul and so I want to share with you some things to think about as we read his letters. Paul’s letters can easily be divided into two categories, those written to groups and those written to individuals. Pick chapter 1 of any of Paul’s letters to the churches, from Romans through Thessalonians, before the end of the second verse, every single one of them is addressed to a church or group of churches. Each of them instructs the believers in that area to be forgiving, generous, and to follow Jesus. His letters to Timothy and Titus are about leadership and are addressed to specific leaders in specific situations. In his letter to Philemon he is specifically advocating to one person on behalf of another and we learn from this about grace and acceptance. Each letter has specific correction for issues among the believers in that time and place. Each of them has applications to us in our time. However, none of them gives instruction to use those teachings to judge non-believers, or even other believers. And yet, so often, that is exactly what we do.

So, as I consider how I relate to people around me, both Christians and not, I want to steer away from the teachings of Paul and lean more on the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus clearly taught that love was the most important thing we can give. He made clear that loving God is the most important commandment, but that loving others is a very close second. Jesus expects this of us, because He has already loved us:
John 3: 16-18 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

And:

John 15: 12-14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

So, if Jesus did not come to condemn the world, why do we? If Jesus taught us to love, like He does, to the point of laying down our lives for others, why don’t we?

Jesus gave us a list of things we should do that go way beyond our behavior to our very thoughts and intentions. He was always focused on our hearts more than on our actions. Just to drive home the impossibility of the expectations, He commanded us to be perfect! Seriously? Perfect? Yes, just as “our Father in Heaven is perfect.” His point is that we can’t do it! We all fall short of God’s glory. Which is why Jesus taught that the only way to Heaven is through Him. We are not going to get there by our own behavior. Not one of us is good enough.

So here we are, not good enough! None of us! And we, way too often, have the attitude of, “I’m a sinner, but not as bad as that person, or that group.” Why do we insist on comparing ourselves to others, rather than comparing ourselves to Jesus?

Believers have always been persecuted to some degree for their beliefs, and it will always be so, but how much of the attitude others have towards us is our own responsibility? 70 some years ago Gandhi is attributed with saying something like: “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I don’t know his exact words, but that certainly reflects that attitudes of many.

Don’t you think that, maybe, it’s time we did something about that? Don’t you think that, maybe, if we acted more like Jesus, and less judgmental, that we might repair some of the damage that has been done to the world in the name of Jesus?

What if, instead of listing off what sins would keep people out of Heaven, Phil Robertson, and a lot of the rest of us, answered more like this: “It’s not my place to judge what is or is not sin, I’ll leave that to God, but I know we have all sinned and we are all in need of a Savior. It is our sin that keeps us all out of Heaven and it is His grace alone that gets us in”?

For the past several years, I have been taking part in what is called “one word.” Rather than make a bunch of “resolutions” that I probably won’t keep, I choose one word to define my year. Last year my word was “kindness.” I’m not certain I am more kind than I was a year ago, but I think I may have had more kind moments.

I am hoping that I have been more effective in building relationships, at least more of the time. I hope that I can step it up a little more and improve more at building relationships this next year. I think that Jesus’ teachings are more about building relationships than about anything else.

What if our word this year, for all of us, was “love”? What if we love like Jesus did? Forget about changing the world! How would it change your community? How would it change your school or your work place? How would it change your family? How would it change you? How would we each change if we loved first, if our primary motivation was love… all the time?

I’ll leave you with another oft-misquoted Gandhi saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” What he really said, I think, is even better:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

Actually, Paul said the same thing when he said “if I have all this, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.”

In fact, Jesus said it it too when He taught us to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and when He said, “love others the way I have loved you.”

Let’s all love others as Jesus loves us!

Truth be told, I want it said of me that I loved well.

Here a truth, there a truth, everywhere a truth…

I have heard a lot lately about “speaking one’s own truth.” It seems a popular notion that truth, like beauty, is in the eye (or mind) of the beholder. I will concede that opinions, perspectives, and emotions are all individual and may be completely different form person to person. But truth? Isn’t what is true independent of who perceives it?

As a high school math teacher, I am faced daily with those who are entirely convinced that what they subscribed to as an “answer” is completely true. Some of them will argue the point long after I have shown them how to correctly solve the problem. I have tried to tell them that no matter how firmly they believe that 2 + 2 = 5, it just is not true. Truth, real truth, is like this.

The most significant argument for the existence of truth is the fact that there exists those things which are absolutely not true. So, we propose that all things have an opposite and that, therefore, truth must exist. Now we begin this new year with the quest for truth and, in order to find truth, we follow the trail of those things which are true back to the source of truth.

Does Truth Exist?

Before we can determine the nature of truth, we must be convinced that such a thing actually exits. Some might take it so far as to question our own existence, but I think I will concur with Rene Descartes and conclude that since we are able to think about these questions then we must exist. Certainly, even the most esoteric of you could agree that if we do not exist then truth (and everything else, for that matter) is not really very important. So I will accept my own existence as fact and move on toward the question of truth, itself.

Many people believe that what is true for one may not be true for someone else. If this is the case then these “truths” are not absolute. The question the truth seeker must ask is whether these truths are derived or descended in some way from absolute truth or if truth is always relative. A third possibility is that any truth can be described in “if-then” form; that is that if given certain circumstances and conditions, then a certain truth becomes, in fact, true. Truth, then, is not necessarily relative, but it may be conditional. Another consideration that must be included in our quest is that belief does not constitute truth. Something does not become true simply because many people believe it or because it has been believed for a long period of time.

It would be ideal to start with a most basic and foundational morsel of absolute truth and follow it from conclusion to conclusion in direct fashion to determine what is true and what is not. Unfortunately this assumes two things. First that there exist such an absolute truth and second, that all other truth is derived directly from it.

Truth be told, Kierkegaard said the very same thing: “Life may only be understood backwards, unfortunately, it must be lived forwards.”

Introduction

Since my freshman year of college (perhaps earlier) I have been fascinated with the world of thought. I am curious about how people come to such absolute conclusions about what is true and I am also curious about how so many people convince themselves, and others, that something that seems to be so obviously false is so completely true. It is somewhat of a cliche to ask the question “What is truth?” But this is, after all, one of the fundamental questions of humanity, along with ascertaining the purpose of life and the concerns that we all have about what, if anything, comes afterwards.

It stands to reason that, if we are going to endeavor to find truth, we must first determine what it is. I first attempted to challenge this question with an extrememly jevinle paper submitted to my freshamn philosophy instructor. My grade was indicitave of my level of thought on the subject. Now, some years later, and hopefully a little wiser, I am drawn once again to this quest.

I am not promising a continuous discourse, but rather, hoping for a periodic discussion that many of you might participate in. I do not intend to abandon my other writings, although the political discourse will soon be fading for a while, but in between my other thoughts I hope to travel a journey towards greater understanding and more unified thought.

I hope you’ll join me and, perhaps, Truth will, in fact, Be Told.