What are we talking about today?

Normal topics suspended for the A to Z Challenge. It's all books from April 1-30.

If you're here from the A to Z Challenge hoping I'll comment back if you comment first: Sorry to disappoint, but that probably won't happen. I work full-time and I grad school full-time, so I can't give the time to blog commenting that I would like. I'll visit after the end of the semester, I hope.

27 November 2007

Walking through the world

So in The Road last week (two weeks ago, I guess), we talked about Paul's trip to Athens, and how he responded to the idolatry there. The suggestion was made that Paul was taken by surprise at what he encountered there, and the question was asked, "Do we let Athens win in our lives?" FWIW, here is my comment on that blog. Any thoughts?

I think Paul knew exactly what he was getting into. Unfortunately, in this day Christians have a tendency to remove ourselves from the world as much as we can instead of focusing on being salt and light where God has placed us. By this I mean, we live in "nice" neighbourhoods, only spend time with other Christians, keep the kids away from questionable influences, etc. Not all these things are bad, but there again, if I'm completely insulated from the world, where is my opportunity to influence it?

It is possible Paul had the same sheltered childhood that I had. Perhaps he only spent time with other Jewish boys who were destined to become Pharisees. I'm sure the early part of his adult life was spent in the company of other "holy" people. But that changed on the road to Damascus. After that, Paul rubbed shoulders with worldy people everywhere he went, spreading salt and light as he went.

(Wow, this is getting long.) After Athens, Paul went to Corinth, which as I understand it, was the immorality capital of the ancient world. Vegas + Amsterdam + a bit more immorality for good measure = Corinth, and that's the mission field that Paul spent 18 months in.

If we step into the world with eyes shut and naivete intact, then we will be taken by surprise, and Athens (or Corinth, or Vegas, or Lubbock) has a much better chance of winning. But if we go out knowing what we are facing, prepared with the Word, and secure that the Lord will direct our steps, then we can take Athens!

You can't expect a new PR every day.

That's what I keep hearing from all the running experts. And sometimes it is hard to believe them, especially since I've had a remarkable eight months as a beginning runner. I started out pacing myself very slowly, not expecting much in the way of results, and thanks to being willing to make haste slowly, I exceed my own expectations. A lot. I was having a new personal record (PR) at least once a week for most of August through October.

The result of a summer of hard work was a series of really good races, starting with a 2-mile in September and culminating in a 12K last week. With any luck, I have another good race in me (4-mile) for next week to finish out the year. Of all the things I've accomplished with running this year, I am most proud of my second 5K finish: 34:43, or an 11:10 pace. I wouldn't have believed that I could do it-- in fact, I'm still in a bit of shock. And with that shock is the nagging annoyance that if only I hadn't looked at the clock, I would have finished even faster-- the surprise of seeing that it had only been 34 minutes made me forget to sprint to the finish.

But now the results have plateaued, partly because of changes in the weather and my own training schedule, partly because I started resting on my laurels, and partly because you can't expect the kind of results I've been seeing to continue. And now I have to adjust to winter training, which brings a different set of challenges.

And I reflect again at how much running is like life. No wonder Paul (the apostle) used so many running metaphors when writing his letters. Some days are glorious and you feel that you could carry on forever. Some days it takes everything in you just to keep going. Some days you wonder why you bother at all. Is following the Lord all it's cracked up to be? Why does it look so easy for other people? And easier still for those who aren't even bothering?

But the benefits outweigh the hardships (not worth comparing, I think Paul says), and that's what keeps us all getting out of bed, putting on the armour of God, and going after it again. Day after day.

Because the Lord doesn't let us rest on our laurels.

24 November 2007

I'm festive, and I can prove it!

So I put up outdoor Christmas decorations for the first time in my life this afternoon. This was a thought I had last year, when putting up the Christmas tree. I saw our four sets of net lights and thought, "What can we do with those?" Then I remembered we had a balcony that we can hang them round. But as this all occurred to me on Christmas Eve, it seemed a tad late for outdoor festivities. Not this year, though! From now until Christmas, I intend to run up our electricity bill every evening! Um...

Anyway, so I've been working on the Christmas tea pretty steadily since yesterday morning, and I think I have the entertainment side pretty well done. Several people have rallied round for the door prizes, and my dear friend Ruth has the advertising well in hand. All that remains now is for me to not say anything really stupid on the night-- which may prove problematic. We'll see. I haven't gotten to emcee anything for a long time, so I'm planning to have a good time with it.

And since I have to be at church at 8:30 tomorrow morning to cover the walls with posters, I should stop being on the computer and start doing something else. More to come...

Snow!

So the weather guy took a lot of time and effort on Tuesday evening to tell us why snow was unlikely this weekend. And then he had to get in front of the camera on Thursday & Friday to talk about how more snow is expected. Yeah, I'm so glad I don't have his job.

Anyway, we have snow, mostly on trees and bushes. We did have to brush it off our car this morning, too.

I am totaly consumed with planning the ladies' Christmas tea. It's going to be fun.

22 November 2007

We won!

Okay, no, we didn't. In fact, I finished with only 4 people behind me (but at least I wasn't last!).

So, I hope you tuned in for a blow-by-blow recap of my 12 K. If not, now would be a good time to stop reading. The race started at 9 AM, and we got there at about 8:59 (my fault). I was still pinning Chad's number on him when the gun went off. (Actually, the guy just said "Go!" The West Texas Running Club doesn't seem to have a start gun.) Anyway, the time-and-temperature boards I saw on our way out varied between 21 and 25 degrees, so it was pretty chilly.

So after such an inglorious start, our first 1/2 mile or so was uneventful, although we did realise at that point that neither of us had eaten breakfast. Oops! I had four shirts on, and the outermost one was a fleece pullover, which I had to take off as soon as I started getting warm (about mile 1). Chad took off to go at his own pace, because otherwise he would have been too cold. I passed the turnaround for the 2-mile race and kept going, muttering to myself, "Well, I'm committed now."

Let's see... at mile 2, two of the three people in front of me stopped to walk, so I told them they couldn't stop because I was using them for my pacesetters. They thought that was funny, but they were behind me for the entire rest of the race. (I stayed pretty close behind the third one of the trio until... but I'll get to that later.) At mile three, I took off my glasses (they were too fogged up to see out of anyway) and my headband. Then I realised that I wouldn't want to put it back on once it was cold, because it was pretty sweaty. So I put it away and got out my other one, which I hung around my arm because I was way too hot to put it around my head right away.

Sometime between miles 4 & 5, I started getting cold again, so I stopped and put on my pullover and put the dry headband on. I ran on to the 5-mile mark, and that's where it started to get hard. I was freezing cold, everything was sore, I was having trouble regulating my breathing, and I was losing ground mentally. So I suppose I hit a wall of sorts. I continued pushing, mostly because I was determined to finish the race. The course went past the start/finish line and onward for about another mile before turning back toward the finish-- and that was the hardest part mentally. But all the runners coming back were very encouraging-- "Good job", "Keep it up" and the like.

So I passed the 10-K mark with a time of 1:16:51, which was a few minutes slower than I wanted, but there was no sprinting to the finish at that point, since I was still over a mile away, and also facing a hill. I had to stop and walk for a couple of minutes, but I started running again at the turnaround (especially since I saw how close the people behind me were). The man was there collecting the "Runners on the Road" signs, but he didn't take the turnaround cone until after we passed (at least, I guess he picked it up then).

I ran down to the 7-mile mark, and I heard footsteps catching up with me, so I had sped up without realising it. The man caught up to me right at the 7-mile point, where he stopped running. I was about to stop, too, because that little bit took it out of me, but he said, "Good job! Keep going!" so I kept going, reminding myself that I wasn't going to stop with only 1/2 mile to go. I picked up the pace just a little bit, round the corner, passed under the overpass and into the parking lot where the finish line was. The had already started the awards ceremony (as good a clue as any that I wasn't getting one), but I sprinted past them and across the line. My time was 1:32:??. Yeah, I didn't see the seconds. So I was outside my goal time by a couple of minutes, but hey, we ran a 12 K, so I can't complain too much.

Oh, and just as I came across the finish line, a snowflake fell. I was just so happy to be done; I had been looking forward to that moment all week! :)

We stood around for the awards before leaving, and by the time we got into the car, I was freezing. So it was nice to get home, shower and warm up before dashing off to Charlie & Toni's for our Thanksgiving lunch.

21 November 2007

Sleep is for...

Well, me, most of the time.

Everyone at work assures me that they will be thinking of us tomorrow morning while lying in their warm beds. I say, warm beds are for... um... people with sense!

So we got nice new T-shirts for the race. They're brown, with a cute running turkey on the front. I am really looking forward to wearing mine to work on Monday.

So... Thanksgiving! Our plan, after running the race, is to do nothing. This "nothing" will be hampered by the absence of anything worth watching on TV, but I'm sure we'll think of something. I mean, nothing.

Hey, go here to see webcams of Glasgow's George Square decorated for Christmas. It is best viewed when it is dark in Glasgow.

20 November 2007

I love cold!

That's what I keep telling myself, anyhow.

The weather forecast for race time Thursday morning is 29 degrees with 9 mph winds, and a "feels like" of 21. Therefore...

I love cold!

18 November 2007

So Chad and I went running (this is turning into a running blog, isn't it?) in a new place last night.

Well, a new place for me. He used to do his long runs there when he was involved with Team in Training, but I had never run out there. However, we are running a 12K (7.45 miles) on Thursday and I wanted to run the course for practise before running it for real.

Problem #1: Hills. I haven't run on hills since I lived in Scotland. They really took it out of me, so that we ended up walking the last mile or so.

Problem #2: Dark. We went over there later than we intended, so it was dark before we were halfway done, and we were not in the, um, best of places. But it is amazing what a prayer for protection can do.

So, I am now confident that I can at least start the race, even if I don't manage to finish it. Stay tuned...

17 November 2007

This may be the coolest thing I've ever owned

So I'm blogging from my brand-new laptop. Yes, that's right, she-who-hates-expensive-things has an expensive new toy.

But in my own defence, we did buy it on clearance. Denyce commented on Brandon's blog that Office Depot were having an unadvertised clearance, so we skadoodled ourselves over there last night and found that the older models are not so bad. In fact, I'm pretty happy with the quality of my nice new Gateway.

And, of course, we wouldn't have gotten it if we weren't going to need it later. This is going to be my transcription and otherwise-using-in-Scotland computer. And I'm pretty excited about it.

10 November 2007

As long as you keep your marathon out of the cornfield.

So this morning the West Texas Running Club held a half marathon. I personally am not into the half marathon thing. So we volunteered instead, handing out water, Gatorade, and goo (PowerBar gels) to tired runners. I have to say I'm not keen on trying this particular distance any time soon. But, hey, we got free bananas and bagels.

Also today, we went to the corn maize with some people from my work. Last year when we went, we wandered around in the dark for a long time before finding our way out. This time, Chad decided to follow the map, which meant we breezed through the maze in no time at all. While fun in in its own right, the trip through did lack the "Where are we now?" quality that just bumbling about brings to the trip.

Oh, and the hometown college football team lost. Again. Heh heh heh.

09 November 2007

I do still exist!

Yeah, time to catch up. And, you know, blog about all the things I've been thinking about for the past three weeks. Here's the gist, for those who don't have time to read it all:

I've been tagged.

I like working out, but not at a fitness centre.

TV bad, real life good.

We stopped teaching Sunday school. For now.

I've been tagged!

Here are the rules. 1)Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves. (2) People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules. (3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (4) Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1. I hate, hate, hate the word "butt". Really. I much prefer "bum", "bottom", "backside", "rear"... you get the picture. I'm pretty sure said hatred dates back to the time when I heard my sweet little sister use the word "butt" many years ago, and I was horrified, not only because I was pretty sure she learned it from our brother and I, but also because she said it in such an ugly tone of voice. A tone that said, "Yeah, I know this is a naughty word, and I'm saying it anyway!" So I hate that word now.

2. I love people! I love being around people. I love having long conversations that flit between the deep and profound and the shallow and silly, and back again. I love spending time with people who also love spending time with people. Unfortunately, I am not so good at expressing my love for people.

3. I love the word "brilliant." In fact, I'm known for loving the word brilliant. People at work, when talking to me, will try to work the word "brilliant" into the conversation because they know I will be delighted.

4. I hate driving. Traffic is lousy, petrol is expensive, and there is that minor detail that I'm sitting inside a fast-moving box of metal. Plus, so is everyone else, and some of them are none to careful about what their box of metal does. I so frequently think, "Man, I wish I had my bike," while in my car. Which leads me to...

5. I love my bike! I would much, much rather cycle than drive. I don't understand people who think it's weird that I cycle. I think it's weird that they don't! What better way to start my day than out in the fresh air, getting exercise and time to myself, all while heading to work. Why would I trade that in for the aforementioned box of metal?

6. There's a phrase used in every segment of every Bible bowl sketch at South Plains, and that phrase is, "That reminds me of something in (fill in the blank with current book)." I love that phrase. As with most things in my life, I started out by making fun of it, and now I can't stop using it. For everything. "That reminds me of something in Lord of the Rings." "That reminds me of an episode of Friends." "That reminds me of what Tim used to say." (Tim tagged me, I had to fit him in somewhere!) And, quite frequently, "That reminds me of something in the Bible!" (Bizarrely enough, I tend to use that one when I'm annoyed at something. Or someone.)

7. I have brilliant ideas for a blog post, or an encouraging note to send someone, or an intelligent point to bring up at our next small group, only while out walking during my lunch break. At a time when I am far away from a computer, or even pen and paper, I have my best ideas. And by the time I get to a place where I can record them for postertity, they are gone forever.

8. I fail to see the reason why anyone who has a blog needs to be tagged. Seriously, isn't that what a blog is for anyway? I put eight things about myself in every post-- and so does everyone else. Anyway. I don't follow directions well (oops, slipped in a ninth one), so I refuse to tag anyone.

I doesn't work, so much.

So we got one of those 7-day passes to the local fitness centre, otherwise known as Bodyworks. It took a lot of standing firm to persuade the nice young man who showed us around that we really only planned on working out for 7 days, and did not wish to purchase one of his unbelievably expensive gym memberships.

Anyway, so we had our first experience of a spider climber (Chad's conclusion: "I am not a spider! But I could be a monkey." Followed by some discussion of whether or not he is a spider monkey.). Also, I got to go swimming for the first time in a couple of years. And climb a rock wall (still no good at that).

However, seven days of running on a treadmill did fill me with gratitude for the neighbourhood I have to run in. Keep your fancy gym equipment, I'd rather have a stretch of tarmac any day. Or asphalt. Or pavement. I'm not that fussy. And I don't run far or fast enough to worry about the injuries that come from running on a hard surface.

At least, not yet.

TV comes from a very hot place

I used to not watch TV. When I was a teenager, the television was for: 1. Watching basketball. 2. Keeping my family occupied while I did more important things.

Alas, my downfall came when we moved into a flat with free cable. I resisted for the first year, but at some point I became addicted. Now I use it for the same kind of mindless entertainment everyone else does-- even when there is nothing on.

Anyway, so I started watching the CSIs when we went to Scotland last fall, and managed to get hooked on these police procederal dramas. But my new current favourite is Life, followed by NCIS. But really, I should just lose the TV.

Also, if you're not watching Life, you should start.

Journey(land)'s End

So we finished being journeymen a couple of weeks ago. I think I mentioned before that we had never taught a group this young before, and they brought us no end of delight (and some degree of torn-out hair) for eight weeks. So now I have for you, things I never thought I'd say in Sunday school.

*Bibles are not for throwing.
*If you're going to call him an idiot, you'll have to wait until you get home.
*Your puppets are NOT kissing in this show!
*Yes, boys wore dresses in the Bible (said at a moment of frustration).
and my personal favourite:
*No, you may not do the chicken dance in Bible class.

I know, I know, I'm such a killjoy.

And some of the best things I heard:

Mrs. Wilcox, why do you talk so funny?
This clay smells ridiculous! (I have no idea what that meant.)
Where's Mr. Wilcox? He's the fun one! (I hear that EVERY time we teach Sunday school.)
Can I stand on my head?
Do we have 14 people here?
He's a not-so-smart guy. (This, presumably, is the child who is not allowed to say "stupid.")
No, he's a stupid guy! (This one is, I guess.)

Can't remember the others. Maybe next time.

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