Sunday, March 15, 2015

God of the Mountain is still God in the Valley

In his book “Ultramarathon Man,” Dean Karnazes describes the highest and lowest elevations of the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile footrace through the mountains and valleys of the Sierra Nevada range in California.  Dean said that the summit was breathtaking in every direction.  At the bottom of the canyon, it was utterly stifling.
   
It’s interesting to note here how air is used to describe both an awesome and an unpleasant feeling.  At the summit, Dean gasped in awe of the view; and at the lowest point, he actually gasped for air.

Photo courtesy:  Active.com
To me, it shows how the air we breathe encompass us wherever we are – whether at a mountain top or at the depths of a valley. That’s how God is present in our lives – like the air we breathe – God is present at the highest and lowest point in our lives.  Like the verse of the song, "God of the mountain is still God in the valley."

No matter how successful we are now, we all went through some rock bottom experience.  A friend of mine recently went through a divorce, and then underwent a thyroid surgery, and a month later learned that he will be let go of his job. How worse can it get?  It can feel overwhelming for anyone, but remember that God is with you in bad times as He was there for you in good times. When you feel like you are at an all-time low, gasp for God. With your faith in God intact, you can only get something good out of even the most difficult time in your life.

Even though I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)

How can I pray for you today? Let me know.  Post here, email me at prayingrunner@gmail.com, or post on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/prayingrunner

Sunday, March 8, 2015

No whining!

Under my visor, I was hiding what I truly felt. At Mile 22, I was dog-tired. I struggled to make each step because my calf muscles were as hard as brick.
But I could hear the cheers of a line of spectators behind the official race photographer who was clicking away at the runners as they pass. So the trooper that I am, I picked up my pace, swung those arms, held my head up high and flashed my game face of determination. The crowd cheered and the photographer took shots saying, "There you go! That's the way to work it!"

Running a marathon is not easy. I saw a poster on the course which says, "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon!" That's how hard running a marathon can be even for the toughest guy you know. So I guess it's reasonable to expect a runner to gripe in pain at some point. However, even so, you don't want to whine about it.

Helen Klein, at age 85,
broke the marathon world record
for her age group.
In the same way, the journey of life is like a marathon course. It's not easy. As you live your life, you go through ups and downs, you experience pain, you may trip and fall, and sometimes you feel like quitting. But you don't. You keep going and before you know it, you see a crowd of people cheering for you. In life, these are your friends and family and even some random stranger who believe in you. That's why they're there. Take delight in their words of encouragement even though they're not running your race.

Most importantly, don't whine! Even at the hardest part of the race. Even during the most trying event in your life. You keep moving forward with a positive and hopeful outlook. I overheard a response by Helen Klein, who at age 85 ran the fastest marathon for her age group, to a question as to how she is able to endure a marathon. She said that along the course, she just keeps thinking, "I'm going to have a good rest when I finish the race." Like a marathon, you can expect some difficult turns in your life. But instead of whining when you're actually faced with a difficulty, take time to reframe the problem and think about solutions.

Lastly, remember that there's that photographer on the course. While he knows what you're doing is hard, he's got his camera trained on you. Like a photographer, God has His focus on you all the time.While you give it all you've got, he's about to capture the best in you.  He knows your pain and wants you to worry less; but instead, God wants you to run to him even more.

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all that he's done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is there anything I can pray for you today? Let me know.  Post here, email me at prayingrunner@gmail.com, or post on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/prayingrunner

Godspeed!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The End of the Road (Not)

You've probably seen one somewhere – a road sign that says “Dead End.”  The metaphorical expression is so powerful; when you see one on the road, you are highly unlikely to think twice about proceeding further. There’s a similar road sign but that’s more benign – “Not A Through Street”. It indicates that the end of the road is imminent but doesn't terminate as abruptly as a dead-end road.  It warns you that you can’t go back to the main road if you keep going this direction.

In our life’s journey, how many times have we thought that our direction is going nowhere or worse, that we've reached the end of the road?  I think it can be pretty disheartening or even devastating for others. Lately I had a heartbreaking loss.  I thought about the what-could-have-beens and as well as the fears and insecurities I came with. The setback was painful enough for me to call it the end of the road.  However I realized in my prayerful reflection, this is not the end of the road.  Definitely it’s not a dead end.  

Sometimes, there are roads that we take that we want to go endless. It’s such a beautiful and heavenly experience that it feels that it’s meant to be forever, until we see a road sign terminating through access.  Don’t feel like it’s the end of the road! Because it’s not.  If you feel discouraged like I did, take comfort in trusting that God will eventually lead us to His path.  Allow me to share a Bible devotion from Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

After a long hiatus from posting on this blog, I finally have published this blog back up, just in time for my 38th marathon coming up this weekend in Napa, CA on March 1st.  No more pink rose to carry, which I've stopped doing last year, for I know the pink rose now belongs in the past. It’s time to run to celebrate an even healthier and fuller way of living.  Like how I want to live, I will run this race in peace, joy, and love.

But as always, I offer my run in prayer for people who need prayers. Let me know how I can pray for you. Email me prayingrunner@gmail.com or post on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/prayingrunner or twitter @prayingrunner.

Godspeed!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Bend In The Road

My friend Enrique, running his first ever marathon at the California International Marathon (CIM), was starting to get utterly exhausted when he saw Mile Marker #26. Excited to finish and thinking that that was the finish, he began to sprint all out to the marker. What he didn’t realize was that the finish line was actually 285 yards more around the bend! The finish at the CIM was a straightaway of about one and a half miles, then two hairpin left turns. With the benefit of hind sight, he said that explained why there was hardly any fanfare at Mile 26. But he was enthralled to see the cheering crowd and the celebration when he made the turn at the bend.

Highland Road in Danville, CA. Picture taken
coming down from my grief retreat at San Damiano.
How interesting to see that sometimes our journey in life happens in a similar way. We go through life on a
straight path then suddenly there’s a bend in the road. Sometimes these turning points in our journey are not of our own choosing, but how we deal with them can define who we are. I met Joan at a grief weekend retreat. She was happily married for 30+ years when she lost her husband to suicide. She agonized in grief and guilt for quite some time, but after a few years she decided to go back to school even at her old age to become a grief counselor.

The road of life is never easy. Just when you think that yours is really hard, then you learn of somebody’s that’s even more tragic. In that same weekend, I met different people whose lives have been greatly affected by a death of a loved one. But one thing I saw common in all of them was that at the bend in the road, they hung on to their faith in God. They trust that that same bend in the road will actually lead them to God. I remember my son’s coach in track and field when he was running the curve in the 200 meters telling him to lean in. He said to counteract the force that pushes you outward when you run the curve, you need to lean into the curve. Trust those bends on the road are God’s, and then lean on Him.

This Sunday, on September 29th, I will be running the Half Moon Bay International Marathon (HMBIM). Unlike the CIM, the Half Moon Bay Marathon has a hilly finish. It also has a dozen of hairpin twists and turns! But I’m actually thankful for those bends on the road up and down the hilly course because they allow for an easier and safer running. Imagine if you want to avoid the turns and just go straight up the hill, you would have to negotiate an extremely steep slope!

The HMBIM will be #33 on the road to my “50 x 50” goal. Fifty marathons by the time I turn 50 years old. I will also run this race holding a pink rose in honor of my wife; and I will also be running this race bringing with me your prayer requests. You can post your special intentions on this website, send it via email prayingrunner@gmail.com, or post in on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/prayingrunner. You can also show your support by running with me or liking my FB page to hopefully reach other people who need prayers. I hope to run into each one of you one day; till then Godspeed!


P.S. Remember my friend Enrique who ran the CIM? I’m happy that, in spite of running on empty, he dug deep and sprinted those last two turns to see what lies beyond the bend – a glorious finish!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Defeat

There are no victors where there are no losers.

The 1982 Boston Marathon was headlined as “The Greatest Boston Marathon” because of two American runners who went at each other’s heels for the entire 26.2 miles, ending in the narrowest margin of victory in the history of the race. It was so close but in the end there was one winner.  Alberto Salazar beat Dick Beardsley by a margin of 2 seconds. Beardsley was once asked, “For 26 miles, how can you not run faster by 2 seconds?”

All of us have experienced defeat of some sort.  Not just in running. No one can avoid them anywhere. Somehow there is a defeat for everyone.

I have my own share of plethora of defeats in life; many of them I have overcome; but a few still remind me the feeling of loss. The first one happened 30 years ago. I was a high school senior competing for a college scholarship via a qualifying examination and interview. Of the 5 selected in our high school to compete, I was the only one who did not make it. The second defeat happened only 2 years ago. I stood by my wife as she fought breast cancer, especially the last 5 years of her 11 year battle. It was my fight as much as it was hers. I prayed to God to defeat her illness; but we lost.

I still bear these defeats today not so much for the pain as it is for the loss I feel. I have since resumed with my life after my losses but I know something is still lacking. I am like music that lost its melody; like sunshine that lost its warmth. I’m like a lover that lost its heart; like a runner that lost its motion.

This year, when I started to take a new path and experienced fear and doubt, old memories echo what I've lost in my past defeats – my faith in God. I am unable to see my present joys and victories .

However, take solace.  There is something magnanimous about defeats. It is not all about loss; for God loves losers as much as victors. So, to my dear readers, even when both praying and running are hard to do now, I will keep moving on with hope. In due time, I will be able to fully appreciate God's special gift to me.