Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Boston Marathon 2008

I’ve been trying to think of something philosophical to write about the Boston Marathon. But it just ain’t happening! Actually I measured this years Boston by the people I ran into rather than the running itself. So here goes:

On Saturday I met Randy, a homeless guy, in Connecticut. Randy was hanging out at local rest stop pan handling. We started talking story over lunch and he noted that he was an ex-con, that he had no family, and that he had a few more months of living out behind the rest stop before he had a room in a half way house. I was struck by his candor and commitment to make life work. He had the tenacity of a marathoner, that’s for sure. Then there was Keith, the guy I stayed with on the North End of Boston Saturday evening. Keith is Irish—really Irish with the cool accent and everything. Keith’s hospitality and charitable personality embodies much of the spirit I’ve experienced in running marathons. Everyone on the North End seemed to know Keith. He exudes warmth and acceptance. We went to a concert in a church located in a back alley somewhere and heard a band called Ineloquent. That was Saturday.

On Sunday morning Keith and I went to watch the women’s Olympic marathon trials. Watching Dena Kastor, the winner was amazing. She came from behind and took the lead at about mile 23—talk about negative splits!! Check out Keith's YouTube video of the trials. Its terrific. That evening we ate with the Quantum Feet Road Runners Club in the North End. Eating with Jim, Ken, Chris, Lisa, Jose, Andrew, Jaime, Karen, Karen’s daughter, Sue, and Darlene was lots of fun (did I forget anyone?). Vince, my surprise roommate for the evening, was icing on the cake for Sunday. Vince has an opinion about everything! Ask him, he’ll tell you. He’s been fun to get to know. I've learned a lot about running from Vince and I've learned to text message at his expense.

On marathon Monday I got up early and took a cab with Charlie (a guy from Michigan) to the race. He’d been a hell raiser early in life and found Jesus. The cab driver was a Haitian guy named Francis. He sold “food” supplements on the side. Was food supplement spelled s.t.e.r.o.i.d? I didn’t ask. He didn’t drive like a New York cabby and he spoke English--no turban either. On the bus to Hopkinton I sat next to Eric, a guy who told me he was sick (as I shook his hand and sat down about 5 inches from his face). He was from Portland, was in his mid-30’s, and he got this, “Oh No!!!” look on his face when I was honest with him about being a pastor. I worked hard to quell his fears and soon he was opening up with me about breaking up after being engaged to be married, his family, his job, and his dreams for the race. He was a fun guy. I just wish he’d have stopped saying, “Gee, my throat feels awful.” It freaked me out.

I was alone at the athletes village for a while until my buddy Sue and Darlene got in. Sue is a blast, always fun to talk with, and she has a great son. Darlene is intense. She brought papers to grade. Can you believe it? She was going to grade papers while we sat there trying to talk with her. I ran into my "friend" Lance again while running. Lance Armstrong (the Lance Armstrong who won the Tour de France over and over again) and I have run marathons together twice--we don't talk. He always passes me at mile 16 and finishes about five minutes faster (he's also 15 years younger). But this time he didn’t have a television motorcycle driving in front of him spewing exhaust in my face or honking its horn. As we ran it was like watching the crowd do the wave with arms raising in the air people would yell "Lance, Lance." I kept saying, “No it’s Dave, Dave.” But they didn’t pay any attention.

Other notables include the screaming girls at Wellesley college (mile 13). They had all sorts of signs that read, “Kiss me I’m a Vegan” or “Kiss me I’m a Mormon” or “Kiss me I’m Single.” I kept thinking, “What would your dad say?” I don't think they cared! One of the workers at a water stop wasn't paying attention and dumped an entire cup of Gatorade down the front of my shirt around mile 10. It was real cold!! Towards the end of the race a guy pulled up next to me and waved his arms beckoning the crowd to cheer. I think he'd been doing this for several miles. They cooperated and he did this until we crossed the finish line. Where did he get the energy??!! And then there was the finish line male race volunteer who proudly informed me that it was he alone who was responsible for getting us coed post race changing tents! He apparently thought I'd appreciate that. "Great," I thought, "I can hardly walk and I have to go change my clothes in front of some woman." I don't think he'd ever run a marathon in his life. And of course there was the usual displays of earthiness--people putting Vaseline on their private parts in front of everyone, people urinating out in the open, etc. I don't think I'll ever get totally used to that stuff--but it is funny to see!

Monday evening was punctuated by dinner with my Alley Pond Road Runner Club friends--Nella, Fran, and Andrea and a few others. It was enjoyable, though I wasn't walking too well. And finally, the day after the race there was Margarite from the Corrib Irish Pub. She was from Ireland and we had a great conversation about life.

My right leg cramped up at mile 19 but I never really hit the wall. I had to slow down, but nothing else. I ran a personal best of 2:55:49 in spite of having a migraine headache for the entire race. Everything else hurt, why not my head too?! I think I can break 2:50 but we’ll see. At this marathon, the people were as much fun as the race!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lord, Save us from your Followers

I recently watched a film called, “Lord save us from your followers.” ( Since I am a follower of Jesus I thought it would be interesting to see why some felt they needed to be saved from the likes of me. It was a stunning look at the negative side of religion, particularly conservative evangelical religion, in America. What was most disturbing was that the message of Jesus has been lost in all the verbal cannon fire coming from the right and the left. It reminded me of a book I recently read called unChristian by David Kinnamon. The book, and frankly this movie, have put words to my feelings. For the last three or four years my frustration with evangelical religion has been on the increase. And frankly, I’m frustrated with myself! Have I loved the poor, the hurting, the wounded, the gay and straight, the atheist and the religious fanatics the same? No way. I’ve walked away and smirked like many others when two guys have passed by holding hands. I’ve felt superior to the fundamentalist religious fanatics I’ve encountered on various occasions. I’ve ignored some painful aspects of our world community like AIDS in Africa or immigration here in the United States. I need to change.

I am not ashamed of what Jesus said. He spoke as much about hell as he did heaven. I’m definitely not ashamed of what Jesus did or his claims to be God. I’m not ashamed of the cross or the belief in the literal resurrection or the virgin birth. If people want to hate me for those beliefs, then fine. What I am ashamed of is the way we as his followers have portrayed ourselves. We are anti-everything. I can’t live like that. I won’t give up Jesus, faith in Jesus, his church, or what the New Testament calls the gospel. What I want to give up—and what I’ll encourage the churches I work with to give up—is this “head in the sand” mentality that has separated so many of us who are Christians from reality, and from others in society. What I hope I embrace is a greater willingness to love people by my actions and with my ears. I’ll to listen more and talk less. And then maybe when I’m more like Jesus, others will be more willing to consider Jesus. The movie is only available on line. It costs $6.99. But beware. If you are an evangelical, you probably won’t like it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Beauty and the Soul of a Woman

I’m not a cross dresser. But I’ll admit that this winter, when I couldn’t find a pair of men’s running pants that fit, I tried a medium from the women’s rack—at the suggestion of the store attendant—and they fit perfectly. I have no idea why, but they do! I swore her to secrecy and now I’m coming out of the closet, so to speak, and can craft this post with a measure of integrity. I am going to write about women’s clothing and beauty. Here goes:

A couple of weekends ago I took my middle daughter Katie (see the picture) out to a woman’s clothing store to finalize her fitting for a bridesmaid dress. Walking into the basement I was astonished to see scores of dresses hanging along the walls, all big dresses for big women. And then to my amazement, when I looked into the mirror on the side of wall, I saw but a caricature of myself. I was smaller than usual or at least smaller than I thought I actually was. This was disturbing since I’m not so big to begin with! “All that weight lifting recently has done me no good,” I thought. But then my daughter stepped into the mirror and she looked smaller than she actually was and she’s anything but big. That’s when it struck me: the mirror created the illusion that the person reflected back was actually smaller than they were in real life. I have no idea whether this should be perceived as a really bad mirror or a really good business mind. Had the mirror intentionally been created to be that way? I don’t know. Any way you cut it, it disturbed me.

Being married to the same woman for 27 years, being the father to three daughters, one grand daughter, and having many fine women friends I have been privileged to learn a lot about women. I also have a mother (couldn’t leave her out even though she’ll never read this post). I am more than aware that our society imposes clear standards on what physical features are considered beautiful and which are not for women. Being slender and petite is one of the standards our society values. These standards are not typically applied in the same way towards men. I have recently been reading a book called Sex and the Soul of a Woman by Paula Rinehart. It’s an excellent read. (The last chapter is written about men and is worth the price of the whole book.) In reference to physical beauty, the author notes, “…there is no concept in our culture these days more conflicted than that of female beauty…I’m writing about something deeper, more intrinsic, than a lovely face or body. That kind of beauty a confident woman possesses is an odd mixture of mystery and warm allure that invites you always a little deeper into the essence of really knowing her.” (pg. 49) I think that this is true.

When you read the pages of the New Testament, you'll find that Jesus had a radically different view of women than the prevailing society. He valued women, respected women, and honored women. The same was true of the early church. Women were treated with more dignity than they were in everyday culture. (See The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark, Chapter 5). I know that, as a man, I swim in this culture like a fish swims in water, and its values and mores will affect me. But I hope that I value women not for how they look or how big or small they are but for who they are.