The Chime of My Heart

Jogging, today, I overshot
the Victoria Park Island
footbridge.

The sight of the Boat House
Restaurant arrested me. After
a quick U-turn I was back on track
but wondered:

Was it the bald trees that muddled me?
Or
Was I hypnotized by the
tick-tock of my feet, or the
pendulum of my breath, or the
chime of my heart?


I was running in that place where the
need to let go of things that
need me to let go of them held sway.

I made my way over the bridge and
wound round the park. Now
back in myself, I saw a goose wink at me:
slipping through a park is not only
prayer, it is also life and breath.

Running the Faith

Yesterday I entertained a luxuriously long run. I’ve been slowly working up to longer distances after 6 weeks away from jogging while on my most recent jaunt to Switzerland, and then India. I am happy to be working my way back up to my pre-travel fitness level. I walked as much as I could while away, and did a few exercises – a push-up here, a sit-up there – but now is the time to do a little catch-up.

I find running to be relaxing. I know that not everyone has this experience. But I find that I sometimes enter a Zen-like zone on the trail, something I’ve written about elsewhere. Jogging is pretty much meditation for me. I have a profound sense of God’s presence when I am running. I’m not at all surprised that the apostle uses a running metaphor to describe the spiritual life in 1 Cor. 9, although the idea of running to gain a prize isn’t altogether intriguing for me. Running is the prize, in my experience.

While on my most recent run I started thinking about running a marathon. Once upon a time, I was asked if I would ever do this, and I said no. At that time, I think the idea of the physical and time demand was a bit overwhelming. But now I find that I crave this time on the trail. I get lost in my thoughts, or perhaps my lack of thoughts. The idea of a marathon intrigues me because it will demand of me the sweet discipline of clocking in a significant number of kilometres each week in preparation. And so the idea of running a marathon marries the discipline of training and the experience of spiritual communion. I suppose it becomes, then, a spiritual discipline.

Spiritual disciplines are notoriously hard to define. It is easy to point to prayer, scripture, worship attendance etc. But I like an expansive definition, and readily include art, and conversation with friends, and walking, and baking, and running, etc. A spiritual discipline is an activity that promises a more intense awareness of God’s presence, although sometimes in the modality of a delayed gratification. There are so many ways in which I experience a more acute sense of the presence of God. To think that running has this benefit, as well as the joy of increasing one’s physical, emotion, and mental health too, is an amazing thing. But that is true, too, for other spiritual disciplines.

I am not absolutely certain that I will run a marathon this summer, but a seed has been planted. Perhaps the plant will be a surprise, but that’s the nature of grace, ever giving me joy in new and wonderous ways.

The Centre of the Night

Sound weighs more in
the centre of the night –
every tick,
each tock
of clock now
a clang. And
the shutting of a
door becomes a
slam: no argument
needed to rid the
air of peace.

But my eyes
strain in this time;
and when I
squint, what
was fuzzy does
not clear, but only
disappears.

And You, God, in night
whisper invisibly –
to great effect.

Behind and Beyond the Break

“What are you doing for the Christmas break?”

This question frequents coffee shops and bus stops these days. My holiday has already begun, and yesterday afforded me the opportunity to spend some time playing board games with family. My youngest, after a time, suggested we should do more of this – more board games. This equates to more family time, less tech time; more quality time, less on-the-fly time. At one level, it all comes down to time. What we do during a holiday break speaks to what we do in the time on each side of the fissure which is the Christmas break.

I like the word break. I like its ambiguity. On the one hand, a break is a stop, or a rest; a moment for repose. Lunch break, coffee break, a break from the daily grind: these all point to the manner in which we need a moment in the midst of the many mundane tasks that front as productivity in our world wearied by the need to appear important, productive and competent. The sad truth is too often busy-ness simply masks fear. We scramble to do more because we fret about being found incompetent; a vice that I am reticent to contribute to the work ethics of rascally Protestants. I think this anxiety affects the human condition. We need a break from this angst, which brings me to the other manner in which we talk about a break.

A break is also associated with rupture, trauma, and disconnection. Arms are broken. Friendships are broken. Promises are broken. The images that we connect with this kind of break are not so positive: what are you doing with this Christmas break? What are we doing about the disconnect between the Christmas message of love incarnate and the crass commercial fiction that love can be bought; a fiction that leaves people in emotional and financial disarray in January? Do we even think about this Christmas break?

It seems to me that these two breaks are connected. The realization that what we do and what we value are utterly disparate shatters our sense of self; as individuals and as communities. It leaves us wondering who we are, but it also invites us to take up this question earnestly. And that takes time. A break commands a break. A break poses life altering questions: why isn’t there enough time for a family game? Why isn’t there enough time for the creative juices to flow? Why isn’t there enough time to take a break? Why, indeed.