Running And The Christian Spiritual Life

ING RUN (Photo credit: sophiea)

I am still running and training for the Dallas Marathon. This year, I am trying not to let my spiritual life take a back seat to my running. Here are a few things that have helped.

Community Bible Experience – Take the New Testament, remove all of the chapter and verse identification, as well as the footnotes and cross references. Then read for 20-30 minutes a day for five days a week. Then discuss with a small group on a weekly basis. This is the recipe for the Community Bible Experience that seeks to get people reading scripture with the spirit and purity of the early church. In addition, when ordering the materials for the Experience, you are sent MP3s for each daily reading. This has become my ritual on my training runs. I have gone through an entire gospel on a long run. The richness of some of these scriptures has been breathtaking.

2GB W Series Walkman – Meb Edition – This headset is an MP3 player that requires no wires and doesn’t have to be plugged into another source. It charges fast and keeps its charge for a long time. I have listened to all of my daily readings (see above) using this device and it has been great. This will be a common companion on my runs. The one drawback is that it doesn’t want to stay in my ears. I have to stuff the back strap into my hat or headband to keep it in my ears. An extra highlight is the prerecorded running advice from U.S. Olympic medalist runner Meb Keflezighi.

Lord’s Prayer – After I listen to 30-40 minutes of scripture, I usually shut off the Walkman and pray. Immersing myself in scripture is a great way to set my heart right for prayer. Praying the Lord’s Prayer in this manner has been enriching. Each part of the prayer seems to have focus and power behind it. I have always seemed to pray better when I am moving around.

Psalm 23 – Following the Lord’s Prayer, I recite the 23 Psalm. In the context of my running, lines such as, “he leads me in paths of righteousness for his namesake,” are suddenly a  living object lesson. Almost every line can be connected to an aspect of running and the 23 Psalm becomes my running prayer. “He leads me beside the still waters…” is not just a comfort but a promise that I will have relief from the hurt and suffering I am feeling during the run.

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek – I have been a fan of Jurek since I read Born to Run. His free spirit mixed with an obsessive compulsive attention to detail reminds me a little of myself. He lays all of this out in his book on running and vegetarianism. Jurek mixes Eastern ideas such as bushido (emptying the mind) with New Age ideas such as discovery the power within. It obviously has worked for him (he runs 100 mile races and wins them) but the book ended with a level of sadness and uncertainty that I am not sure can be fixed by reliance on the self. Instead of being inspired by Jurek to try out these ideas, I have become more convinced that the power that I have (Christ within me) is all that I need (and more than I need) to provide the mental and spiritual power to run marathons. I won’t ever match the caliber of Jurek’s successes but his quest for running nirvana is fleeting and misguided and I feel led to counter it.

“3rd Planet” by Modest Mouse – The first time I heard this song on my MP3 player, I couldn’t make out what it was. It sounded familiar but it was not a common listen of mine. Then the controlled energy of the song mixed with the cosmically grandiose lyrics about the beginning and end of the world took me to the sadness of the Garden of Eden but sprinkled in a radiant hope that surprised me. My interpretation of the song is probably not even close to how it was intended but does that really matter if I am so inspired and moved by the end result?

*I am raising money for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital For Children. Go here to make a donation.

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