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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Great run, record month!

Ted and Steve and Mark and I ran the big 31 mile Shasta Dam- Ribbon Bridge loop today (Steve and Mark cut out at Mark's car at mile 23). I only went off course once, and I had to ignore Ted's insistent protests to do that. Otherwise it was a fine run on a very warm January day. I finished the month with 322 miles, breaking my old one month record of 311; only my third time above 300 (only my 6th time above 250 for that matter). I'm feeling pretty strong as I continue to prepare for the Cool 50K on March 14. The next couple weeks my running will be a lot lighter as I'll be on the road with much of my schedule dictated by others. Ted took these pics: the first in the rail trail tunnel; the second on Shasta Dam. Since I had just run up the 800' climb to the dam my air time was a little subpar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Insanely Good: Part 2

Them NFL dudes got nothing on this dancer: strongest man on the planet?

The Legacy of the Boomers?

If anyone wished to know what the baby-boomer generation would do when, in its full maturity, it hit its first self-created, big-time recession, I think we are seeing the hysterical results. After two decades of unprecedented economic growth, rampant consumer spending, and unimaginable borrowing to satisfy our insatiable appetites, we are suddenly going into even larger debt and printing trillions of dollars in paper money to ensure that someone else after we are gone pays the debt.
Speaking as a bona fide baby boomer, I guess I should feel defensive about Victor Hansen's remarks, but I figure the next generation is going to figure out how badly we (forgive the verb, but I can't think of another that fits) screwed them within the next decade or so and by then it will be undeniable anyway.

The current "stimulus" package going through Congress with Obama's blessing will either:
1. Greatly improve the economy.
2. Have no significant effect.
3. Make things worse.

Unless #1 comes true, it's hard to see how spending nearly $3000 for every every man, woman and child in America is justified when future generations will have to pay it back with interest.

Personally, I don't think the bill, with its billions for TV converter boxes and the like, will do any good but will make it harder to fix things (like Medicare) in the future. I hope I'm wrong. I'll even be tempted to vote Dem next time if I am. But it sure looks to me like more of the same kind of thinking that got California into the mess we're in already.

At best I suspect it may turn out be an OK deal for those of us 50 and over and a rotten deal for everyone else. Of course, it will get spun as: "It did work! Granted the economy still stinks, but it would have been even worse without it."

Whatever. Just don't blame this baby boomer if I'm right.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Japanese T-Shirts

Everybody loves worm puppy sometime...

I just hope #124815 sees this before it's too late!

And we'll keep loving myself until we get it right!

I'm glad to see you too. Now back away, verrry slowly...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Gospel according to America

American quasi-christian folk religion is best summed up in that great Christmas "carol" that we all know so well...
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I'm telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He's making a list and checking it twice,
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice...

He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
The interpretation isn't difficult. It's a Christmas song and Jesus ("Santa Claus") came the first time on Christmas Day and He's coming back for Judgment Day. In the meantime He is watching you and keeping score and every good and bad little boy and girl will get what they have coming to them so YOU BETTER BE GOOD!

So we all (well, most of us) sort of try to be good (as we each define "good"), but we're worried because actually we haven't always been all THAT good (even by our own lax standards!) and lo and behold, Christmas comes- an annual dress rehearsal for the Great White Throne, and YAY!!!- we got lots of goodies.

And so did the brat next door and the bully on the playground and the delinquent down the street and... pretty much everyone we know, regardless of how good or bad they seemed to actually behave.

It seems Santa is pretty much just bluffing, trying to squeeze a few random acts of kindness out of any gullible boys and girls, but he's really just a big old pushover who loves giving out toys and in the end, he just throws out all his lists and scorecards and EVERYONE GETS THE GOODIES!

Yay! Yay! and Double Yay!

And that's how God works and that's how salvation works and that's how the final judgment will work and so go ahead and try to be good if you want, but it really doesn't matter much to the Grand Ol' Teddy Bear in the Sky.

Friday, January 23, 2009

This morning

By the time I found the camera the mist had risen. Too bad.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet the New Boss...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I am not making this up...

Actual headline, from a real newspaper (not the Onion):

Former French President Chirac hospitalised after mauling by his clinically depressed poodle

Maybe next time he'll just surrender?

The Democrats are in Power. You're a Republican. Now What?

Here's some excellent advice. Direct from Hollywood! Example:
And finally, DON’T use the fact that many on the left behaved abominably for the past eight years as an excuse to behave the same way. America needs adults. And if it bothered you when they did it, it’s a good sign that you shouldn’t do it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Strange Body

1. I STILL have laryngitis. The doctor says not to worry, but I may need a few weeks of complete silence to get better. We'll make that decision next month. I can talk fine when I'm running, but as soon as I stop I go all hoarse and crackly. I may need to preach from a treadmill!

2. I also asked the doc about my shoulder, which has been bugging me since it mysteriously began hurting last May. It's a mild pain, not noticeable most of the time, but still, I'm too young to be old. I had it X-rayed and was told there was some calcification and I'd need to see a physical therapist. That night it hurt much worse than it's ever hurt before- woke me up and kept me awake several times. The next day it stopped hurting altogether. Hasn't bothered me since- first time since May. Go figure. My atheist and agnostic friends will be happy to know that no special praying (that I know of) was involved.

3. If I make it thru the next 2 weeks, this will only be the third time I've run more than 300 miles in a month (twice my norm). The other times it was really tough, then just near the end of the month I'd start feeling better and end up feeling like superman (running wise). Early last week, less than halfway through the month, I was really struggling. Legs of lead. Slower than a speeding snail. Then (about the same time as my shoulder got better) it passed and I got the superman feeling back. Sometimes, if you push your body too hard, it breaks. Sometimes it says, "hey, if we're going to have to work this hard we better get stronger... fast!". You wouldn't want to race me up a mountain right now!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Making Good Decisions

Though he was commenting on the economy, David Brooks said something that I'll be thinking about for awhile in the context of "life in general":
As Jonah Lehrer writes in his forthcoming book, “How We Decide,” there are certain circumstances (often when there are many options) in which gut instincts lead to the best decisions, while there are other circumstances (sometimes when there are a few options) when calm deliberation is best.
Brooks also noted that the old view of consumers and investors as "rational" is now seen as too simplistic, and that other psychological factors need to be given greater consideration than in the past. I believe the Bible has been making the same point. Repeatedly. Emphatically.

Unfortunately Brooks doesn't explicitly mention sin per se, but obviously baser motives such as greed and fear have long been known to affect consumption and investing decisions. Today we are experiencing the consequences.

Nevertheless, back to the money quote by Lehrer on "How We Decide". Verrrrry Interesting. In the context of Proverbs 3:5-6, of course.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Relativism = Nothing-ism

from The Dictatorship of Relativism:

It is often said that relativism is the conviction that, when it comes to morals, there are no such things as absolute values and, when it comes to knowledge, there is no such thing as absolute truth. It is worth meditating on the use of the word “absolute” here. If there were a law against abusing innocent words, we would be justified in contacting OSHA about this unfair exploitation of “absolute.”

What a relativist really believes (or believes he believes) is that 1) there is no such thing as value and 2) there is no such thing as truth. The word “absolute” is merely an emollient, a verbal sedative intended to forestall unhappiness. What after all is the difference between saying “There is no such thing as absolute truth” and saying “There is no such thing as truth”? Take your time.

My one disagreement would be that I really don't believe that relativists really believe what they say the believe. They may SAY they don't believe in Value or Truth, but they act, over and over and over again, as if they do. Which is to say, Values and Truth are inescapable. Absolutely.

The Mystery of Prayer

When you pray for someone, say for a friend who needs to lose weight, you are dealing with at least three volitions: There is your friend's own choosing/acting/free will, which obviously does not disappear when you pray for them to make certain choices. There is God's perfect plan and sovereign will for the situation as He looks down and in His wisdom steers people according to His plan; obviously He will not move in a way that thwarts His perfect will just because you pray otherwise. And there is your prayer (and mine), which, according to the Bible, has power to move God and people, but obviously (thank God) is not sovereign.

So what exactly does intercessory prayer do? It doesn't over-ride your friend's will; it doesn't make God act differently than He knows is best. Yet Jesus said repeatedly that it does make a difference with God and man and history.

Will someone not be saved because I didn't pray for them? Because I didn't pray for them enough? (Jesus taught the importance of persisting in prayer). Because enough people didn't pray for them enough? Surely no one will be denied heaven because someone else was slack in praying! So does intercession do anything? Jesus says, emphatically, YES!!!

So what does it do?

I don't exactly know (and neither do you!).

But I believe that part of it must be to show us the interconnectedness of all lives. My life, God's Life, your life, (and everyone else's lives) are all interconnected in mysterious and unfathomable ways. God ultimately controls the circle of connectedness but you and I have the God-given ability to add fresh input into the circle and so affect all the connected parties.

Sometimes God over-rides your acts and my prayers, sometimes He honors our choices, even if they aren't what He would have chosen. When I'm tight with God, my prayers tend to more closely reflect His will and are more consistently effectual ("If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you.").

Many years ago I was deeply moved to pray fervently and consistently for my younger sister for a year. I had little contact with her that year (2000 miles away) but she met a Christian guy (to whom she is now married) and became a Christian that year. She chose to respond to God's grace, God intended to save her before He prompted me to pray, but my prayers brought me into God's plan and were part of the circuit.

The absolute literal truth: No man is an island. But how prayer works is still a mystery to me. But then so is advanced physics. And people are more complex than particles!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Scotte Hodel

I just learned that Scotte passed away last night. As I wrote to his wife, I don't think I've ever felt so sad at the passing of someone who I'd never met.

The following is a poem his daughter wrote for him at Christmas. It has a lot of "insider" references to stories that Scotte told her/ read to her when she was young, but no matter...

By Kayla Hodel

I dreamt last night that I was young
Little enough to crawl between you knees

I was so excited to find you smiling down at me.

Just to know that you thought I was
Ta Petite, Your Little Girl

It's 1 am and I don't know
How much longer before I'll sleep

But Daddy, oh Daddy please

Tell me again 'bout how a donkey
Taught a man to honor God

Or sing to me again about
The steps it takes to follow

All my days.

And is that Roscoe in the sky
Sniffing treasures up in space?
And if you reach the end of your song,

Is there a monster there to make me laugh?

I slept too late, I grew so fast
But my Daddy, he held on tight
I loved it all - the laughs, the cries,
The "momma" look I'd practice with my eyes

When you'd tell a joke that gotten so old

No considerate person would let it be told.

But Daddy, oh Daddy please-


But Daddy, I love you, I love all your crazy smiles

I love you for your nose's appreciation of food
I love you for your teaching and your playful fiddlings

You've taught me more than you'll ever know.

What can I give in return?

Do I get my Gonzo at the end of the book?
The one who can do voices and crazy looks?

Do I get to keep you, my daddy?

A child is a gift, but I think God regifted-
Because when you got older he gave you to me.

Pray for Scotte's wife Viva and for Kayla and Adam. Their faith is strong, but how can you not miss a guy like Scotte?

Supreme Lack of Utility

"... Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of spaceships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively.

And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."

- David Blaikie

(Hat tip: Paige @ A Serious Case of the Runs)


I used to do a fair amount of spelunking in southern Illinois and Indiana when I was in high school. We'd hike out through some farmer's field in the hills to a hidden cave entrance only hard-core spelunkers knew about and go down, maybe crawling on our bellies for awhile before coming into a huge cavern or perhaps hauling in an inflatable raft to an underground river with blind albino fish. But we never did anything like THESE. Click on either pic to see some really amazing cave pictures...

Friday, January 9, 2009

The View from the Deck

This morning at sunrise and last month in the snow:
My cat's name is Nehi. Can you figure out why? (Two reasons).

True Love Waits

Yes, please, read the whole thing!

"Virginity Pledges Don't Stop Teen Sex," screams CBS News. "Virginity pledges don't mean much," adds CNN. "Study questions virginity pledges," says the Chicago Tribune. "Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds," heralds the Washington Post. "Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data," reports Bloomberg. And on it goes.

In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: "Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study."

Here's the rub: It just isn't true.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Physical - Spiritual (Matthew 8)

I read Matthew 8 this morning, in which the physical and spiritual worlds collide with the advent of Jesus' ministry on earth. He heals with a word, calms a storm the same way; casts demons into pigs and, rather than give thanks that the demons are gone, the people complain about the loss of pigs.

Human beings, alone among physical creatures, have spirits. The physical and spiritual worlds collide in every human being. Everything else that is physical is only physical. Everything else that is spiritual (angels, demons, Our Heavenly Father, cherubim, etc) is only spiritual. Only humans (including Jesus) are both.

The physical and spiritual worlds meet in the human mind. Our mind is physical- without your brain-meat your mind doesn't function! Our mind is spiritual and non-physical. We can think immaterial thoughts and contact God and control our physical bodies with our mental powers.

The spiritual immaterial part of a Christian's mind- his spirit or soul, has been regenerated and seeks God. The physical, the human brain, is still "flesh"- unredeemed until we die and our raised with new bodies, new brains - and still has lots of bad habits and inclinations.

In Matthew 8, at the onset of his revelation of how to be fully human, Jesus demonstrated that a person who is walking with God has authority over the physical world, authority over the spiritual world, and can live in the spirit of Romans 8:28 (Jesus' calm in the storm) because God's peace and love control his spirit and he knows that when this body is lost it will be replaced by one that isn't defective.

He has this authority because God has this authority and he lives only for God's glory and will.

The people in Matthew 8 didn't get it. Do we?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thinkin' 'bout my sugar...

The average American consumes about 150# of sugar per year (I've seen estimates ranging from 135 to 185). Hunger is a God-given desire. God built hunger into our bodies so we would eat the food we need to get the nutrition we need to be active and healthy.

Say we need about 2100 calories a day. In the Garden of Eden we could wander around and our hunger would lead us to eat about 2100 calories of the goodies there (carefully avoiding the apples or whatever that forbidden fruit really was) and in so doing we would get all of our nutritional needs met: fat, protein, vitamins, fiber, minerals, etc.

Now say that each day we eat 1400 calories of that good nutritional food and 700 calories of sugar. What's the problem? Obviously we are only getting about 2/3 of our actual nutritional needs met now.

If we consume 700 calories of sugar a day we either need to eat 2100 calories of real food (for our nutritional needs) and the additional 700 calories of sugar will make us gain one pound every five days or, if we limit ourselves to 2100 calories total we rob our bodies of much of the nutrition they need to function at their ideal capacities.

And yes, 150# of sugar works out to approximately 700 calories a day.

My problem is I'm training hard this month, which means I need an extra 1000 calories a day, and I can't figure out how to do that without eating a lot of sugar and fat (I'm not feeling much sympathy here!). Well, I know how to do it in theory, but I get tired of fruit and whole grains after awhile.

In fact, if there were any donuts in the house right now...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Today's "Message" (Mt 6)

Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Use the phrase "Running Fast" in a sentence...

How shall I fast? Let me count the ways. There's:
  1. The partial food fast (fast from one or more types of foods, generally the smaller the breadth of the fast, the longer the time frame: e.g., fast from beef for a month, from meat for a week, from fat for a day).
  2. The complete food fast: one meal, one day or longer.
  3. The solid food fast (certain types of liquids only)- one day or longer.
  4. The non-food fast: abstain from some regularly used, non-sinful, enjoyable item or activity for a day or longer; e.g., from the internet or other media; from a hobby (running?), etc.
Why fast? In the Bible fasting was often associated with mourning and repentance and prayer and was undertaken in response to a crisis or great need. A regular (non-crisis) fast helps us learn that we do not have to obey the flesh's every craving; helps us step outside of our habitual activities and better understand the place and power they hold in our lives; help us better understand hungering and thirsting for God; serves as a constant reminder to pray; etc.


I'm on Facebook and after ignoring it for a long time a bunch of people asked me to be their "friends" so I'm trying to figure out how to best make use of it. It seems like a good idea in theory, but sort of clunky to use in practice.

It enables me to touch base quickly with some folk I couldn't otherwise have found, but I'm not really into the whole "Right now I'm thinking of trimming my eyebrows but I can't find the hedge clippers..." genre.

OTOH, I did put a whole bunch of cool pics up there- an easy way to share photos. And I think it has capabilities I haven't yet discovered (and maybe never will).

At least now I can keep an eye on the teens in our church (and vice versa?).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shasta Dam to Sundial Bridge

Steve, Ted and Shasta Dam

Mark V leaving Shasta Lake far behind

Runalong, high above the Sacramento River

1/3 of the way to Sundial

Ted and Steve running the power line hills

The glass-bottomed finish line

The four of us are now averaging 20 miles per day for 2009. At this rate we'll each run over 7000 miles this year!