Moving with a Spiritual Partner

“Hey man, you think, like, maybe, we could meet up for a run in the morning, it might be fun, you never know”

Hesitating, “let’s try it.”

And so was born a friendship that covered countless kilometres of running as marathons and such were prepared for. My running buddy and I realized quickly we were dads that run not runners that dad. Still, we spent a lot of time together and while our calves, hearts and lungs benefitted, I would dare to say our souls benefited more so. 

The value of spiritual friendship is not something I have read or heard much about but in my experience it is among the richest experiences one can have.

The guy in the photo is Blair.

You know he is spiritual because of the righteous beard:)

In fact, he was an elder in the church that first called me into full time ministry. 

We became fast friends, though we mostly ran pretty slow. Together we covered an entire valley running all over the place as we learned the pains of chaffing, blisters, running out of water…oh the joys! We also spent countless hours on a pretty path beside a stream, only occasionally hitting the end of the path 29km away from our houses. 

As the distances piled up so did the conversations, prayer requests, and serious vulnerable admissions. Spending time side by side and moving meant we could slowly but surely open up about all matters. Being roughly the same age and stage (30-40 year old straight white males with young children and sometimes pregnant wives) we had plenty to celebrate and plenty to whine about. We learned to trust each other and hear God through each other.

I am forever grateful for the time we had together running because it helped me be a better father, husband, pastor etc.

Also, it afforded us time to talk about faith, God, what it means to be a church and how the church might look and the roles it might play in our lives and the life of the community. It was a chance to speak of how God was working in me and to be pocked and prodded and pushed if I was getting a bit too lazy or passive. 

I cannot recommend highly enough the value of finding such a soul to share some time with. 

C.S. Lewis once noted that a friend is someone with and interest or passion/hobby that you shared, someone who looked at something and said, “what?! You too?!” 

You do not have to be running together (though I guess not looking each other in the eyes too often likely helped us). Any activity, I suppose, will do, so long as it brings you into proximity of each other and affords you the ability to chat while engaging in the activity. 

There is trial and error in this, and I have only ever had two really close spiritual friends. Getting it wrong can be painful (I know). Opening yourself up can feel vulnerable and maybe even weak (like I was admitting I needed a friend that day I asked Blair to run with me), still, if it works out it will be worth it. 

Have you ever had a good spiritual friend? How did it come about? Any advice for folks looking for one now? Having recently changed cities, I am, of course, asking for a friend:) 

Every Decision Impacts our Future

The moment we make a decision we impact both the moment we are in and our future selves. It is so simple it is hardly worth mentioning. And yet too often I can find myself ignoring this truth. Maybe you can relate. The decision to eat an apple or carrot rather than a pie or cake ripples forward. The decision is mine to make for me and for future me.

I find this empowering. 

It means that I can look at the moment I am in and both recognize and benefit from decisions in the past and thus be motivated to make decisions with the longer term in mind even if the past decision was wrong and is now holding me back

In financial matters we consider compound interest and marvel at the extent to which differed spending can lead to far greater spending (and generosity???) as math does what math does. Again, if we have mr or mrs spendypants and have little to show for it maybe we learn our lesson upon reflection.

I believe that the incarnation of Jesus, the Divine made Flesh, teaches us that our bodies matter and thus our decisions regarding what we put in them and what we do with them matter as well.

I believe the concept that we are made in God’s very image elevates our bodies to an importance and dignity we rarely give them.

I believe the promise of resurrection and the bodily nature of the resurrected Christ teaches us that our bodies matter. 

The mind and soul are not disconnected from the body by my understanding of the bible. 

This need not be a call to being and Ironman or olympian, I am neither and don’t plan to be. It is, however, a call to recognize that how we treat our bodies matters and can be an important element of faithful living. Just because it might be hard doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that we should ignore it. 

Of course there are certain historic spiritual disciplines that touch healthy living and recognize us as embodied people that we might consider (fasting, pilgrimages, etc.). We may make them part of our journey at some point; and likely one day there will be posts about them.

There is also this (and I didn’t come up with it but am paraphrasing based on memory some of Roger Joslin’s work): historically spiritual seekers would set aside time to be still and come to God. Joslin argues something I think intuitively sounds correct, namely, that in the past manual labour was par for the course and sitting still was the exception. What this meant for spiritual practice is that one trained the mind to connect the exceptional (stillness) with “time for God.” Today, for many of us, stillness is more standard and movement more rare. The upshot? There is a potential to train our mind-body relationship in the opposite direction, when we walk, run, swim etc, we pray, meditate, come before God. We teach our bodies and minds to work together in the creating of thin places (where the divide between the heavenly and the earthy seems to narrow).

I suspect at least part of why this works so well is that, as sages past have always said, focusing on the breath is helpful and when we do these activities our breath becomes more important, more noticeable. 

My invitation to you is simply this: if you have been struggling to pray or meditate lately, consider doing so while walking. I suggest finding a safe place to walk, with minimal distractions (and more importantly, distracted drivers). Before you leave your house simply pause and dedicate this time to God and commit to focusing your attention on God or breathing or a biblical word or phrase. As you go and your mind wanders (as it will), gently return your thoughts to God/breath/scripture. If it feels right, when you get home write down any insights or prayers you would like to remember.