One of my favorite photographs is one I didn’t take myself, but one I found. It’s of a hero of mine – George Sheehan. He was a physician who started running in the 1970s and wrote about his experiences and the science of running for newspapers and magazines, becoming the philosophical voice of distance running for my generation. I discovered his 1975 book, Dr. Sheehan on Running, while attending a two-week engineering school in 1980, only weeks after the birth of our first child. The school was held at a private facility owned by Haliburton, and all I did after class was eat dinner, go running, and read my new book. It was way more interesting than hanging out at happy hour with half of the guys or watching ridiculous TV programs with the other half. I was a mostly new husband, a brand-new father, a young adult not long out of college, and for the first time in my life, enjoying doing something athletic.
The photo shows Dr. Sheehan, still in his running kit, typing on an old manual typewriter while sitting in a rocking chair on an open-air porch that overlooked the ocean. He’s writing his column immediately after finishing his run, while his thoughts are fresh.
Today, forty years later, the picture still resonates with my heart. I want writing, teaching, and mentoring to be so tightly integrated into my daily adventures there is no distinction. Running, cycling, backpacking, grandfathering, cartoon-sharing, writing, and teaching – all telling stories that put truth within reach and blaze a trail to a deeper life with God. That’s what I see every time I look at that photo. I want to be like George Sheehan.
I was fortunate to meet Dr. Sheehan on a couple of occasions; my favorite was at the Hospital Hill Half-Marathon in Kansas City in 1991. A bunch of us from Midland were attending the annual Road Runners Club of America National Convention which included the half-marathon, and Sheehan was the guest speaker at the pre-race dinner. When I finished the race, completely exhausted from the hills the locals were so proud of, Dr. Sheehan was standing in the finish chute shaking hands and giving high-fives to everyone passing through. He shook my hand, slapped my sweaty back, and said, “If you can do this, you can do anything.” Those words return to me at least once a month, reminding me that I finished that race, and I can do anything. Thanks, Doc.
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It’s Tuesday morning and I’m writing, like Sheehan, fresh from my morning run, 25* and calm, pace slow but steady. But I’m in our kitchen and not outside; in front of our fireplace and not near the ocean; using my Moleskine journal with a Pilot fountain pen and not a manual typewriter. I’m writing at home instead of my favorite booth because I’m trying to adapt my daily ritual to this current season of life.
The cold morning run left my mind racing with big questions: How do I structure my days to be sustainable yet effective? How do I integrate the things I love to do into something meaningful? Should we sell our house and downsize? Should I get a job at Walmart – I’d be the world’s worst greeter (who doesn’t care to talk to strangers)? How do I look for engineering work at my age? I don’t feel old, but I’m not naïve to the market or my old-timey skill set.
For all my love and need of structure and process and planning, I’m often surprised how improvisational my life has become. I’m growing comfortable with unpredictableness, but I must keep asking God, “teach me to trust you.”
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Sometime last fall I decided to check for any verse 64s that spoke to me. I’ve done this in the past – looked up all the Bible verses or chapters that correspond to my age to see if God spoke to me personally through any of them. It’s an easier project if you are twenty years old. Almost every chapter in the Bible has twenty verses, so you have a thousand to choose from. There are fewer chapters with sixty-four verses.
I finally settled on Psalm 119:64, “Your love, God, fills the earth. Teach me to live by your counsel.” (The Message)
This morning while I was running through Solomon Estates, God used that verse to remind me who he is and show me how he wants me to live these peculiar days of life.
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Thank you for filling us with your love,
for keeping us safe,
for keeping us healthy,
for keeping us together,
for blessing us with love for you.
Thank you for loving us through music;
music we can enjoy,
but even more
music we can participate in.
Thank you for loving us through each other,
through Katie and Byron and Angela,
through granddaughters Madden and Landry,
through the Iron Men,
our Bible Study class,
our church leadership,
the Noble Heart.
Thank you for surrounding us with brave, loyal, faithful, loving friends.
Teach me to live, know, and trust your counsel,
to be calm and patient while waiting for what’s next.
Teach me to trust you.
As you fill the earth with your love,
fill me as well.
Let me be known as a man of love, compassion,
grace, tolerance, courage, peace, patience,
adventure, and encouragement.
Let me leak your love everywhere I go.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32