Tag Archives: friendship

It’s a Bermuda-ful Day: Bermuda Half Marathon Race Recap

Last year, my friend Jen suggested a bunch of us do the Bermuda Triangle Challenge for our birthdays (a milestone year for a few of us). I’m not sure whether she really expected anyone to take her up on the idea, but eight of us ended up making the trip this past weekend–four members of Springfield Moms RUN This Town; another running/triathlon friend, Marianne; and three spouses, including Robert. Four of us went for the full challenge, which is a one mile run, 10K run, and half marathon on successive days.

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Two of us ran the half marathon only: Sophie, who is currently 18 weeks pregnant, and yours truly, whose body continues to reward me for not running two days in a row (exception made for Ragnar Relays). Plus, I wanted some sleeping-in mornings. Marianne was going to do the full challenge but her knee was talking to her after the 10K, so she wisely took it easy and went swimming instead. I told you she was a triathlete!

We all had a blast, and if you have the inclination and means to do an international race, this is one for your bucket list.

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We did not throw away our shot!

I blame the song “Kokomo” for my ignorance of Bermuda’s location–it is nowhere near the Caribbean, nor any other island, really. But it’s super accessible from the East Coast. Bermuda is an easy country to visit and navigate. The people are warm and helpful and buses and taxis are plentiful. Businesses take US currency, so logistics are a breeze, and even in the off season, there’s plenty of stuff to do, or beaches on which to lounge and stroll if you don’t want to do much. Robert was super bummed that he was not able to scuba with Jen’s husband Fred because of some fleeting chest congestion. But the guys all went snorkeling on Sunday and on Monday and saw tons of colorful fish, old cannons, and a gigantic elusive grouper fish that became the inside joke of the weekend.

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Some people have strange reactions to so-called runcations. Why would you want to run on a trip like this? Why exert yourself so much? Sounds stressful. Just lie on the beach!  

My favorite kind of foot photo.

My favorite kind of foot photo.

Well… People should do what makes them happy. But I think runcations can be more relaxing than trips in which you cram a bunch of sightseeing into a few days. Our group was up early each morning to run, which meant afternoons were for relaxing, and evenings were festive but finished up relatively early.

On a runcation, you may end up at the grocery store for a favorite pre-race snack or sunscreen, which gives you a glimpse of a place’s local culture. And hey. Running burns calories, so you can indulge in food and beverages without coming home with 10 extra pounds. (More like 5.)

Most importantly, there’s nothing quite like seeing a place through the power of your own two feet. No, you can’t tick off as many sites as you do from a bus or on a hectic tour, but you see them in a deeper way. You see and smell flowers:

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You get a good look at real local living, like homes…

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Businesses… (I’ve always loved this verse)

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Architecture…

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Even cemeteries. Running by cemeteries always reminds me to embrace the experience of running as the gift it is. I get to do this:

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Better to be running past it than buried in it!

And you get a flavor for the local population, at water stops and along the course. The crowd support was fantastic all weekend. People sat in lawn chairs in their front yards, clapped, and offered high fives and many a “Well done!,” my new favorite term of encouragement. I love when races put the runners’ names on the bibs, and here, people actually used them. There’s something powerful about total strangers cheering for you by name.

As for the half marathon–it was an excellent race. Spectacular course, excellent support, great logistics (mostly).

We stayed at the official run hotel, which meant we ran into legend Bart Yasso the morning of the race. He complimented us on our skirts. But really, how could he not:

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These are Sparkle Skirts, and I do believe we sold a few out on the course.

The start/finish line was modest but with all the amenities, including actual flush toilets (and soft drinks at the end, along with the traditional Gatorade and water–our group was elated). I had plenty of time to pee twice before the race, which is about right for me.

It was a beautiful morning:

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Sporting our MRTT “Be Amazing” shirts! We got a lot of attention for them.

Had time for a photo with the town crier, who also led us in a moment of silence for a fallen runner whose name I didn’t catch.

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Then we were off!

This is my fifth half marathon, and I wasn’t running for time. I’m trying for a personal best (PR) at the Rock n Roll DC in March, but for this one we all wanted to be leisurely, take in the scenery and get lots of pictures:

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Lots of mirrors for driveway visibility on these little streets. Couldn’t resist this one.

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Temps were in the 60s, but the ocean breeze kept things pretty comfortable. There was also a good bit of shade.

Here was the moment I knew I’d never forget. Crashing surf and party music:

The marathon is a double loop of the half marathon course, and we laughingly wondered when the leader would lap us. It was at mile 10. Mile 10!

I’m notorious for fading out in the latter miles of long races, which is something I’ve been working on. So around mile 11 I decided to take off and see if I could pick up the pace. I was assisted by a nice downhill in that! When I had about .2 left I stopped and waited for the group so we could cross the finish line together. They were only a couple minutes behind me.

At that point our stomachs were all growling. An 8 a.m. start is very civilized–and the 10K the day before started at 9!–but brunch was definitely calling. We passed a froyo place with just a tenth of a mile to go, and I’m now kicking myself that we didn’t go in to get some, because that would have been an awesome finish line photo. But it was still pretty wonderful. (And there’s video!)

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I mentioned that the logistics were mostly great. The big buzzkill was that they ran out of half marathon medals. That was a bummer. We were all looking forward to medal photos on the beach. And Jen, Stephanie and Todd (Sophie’s husband) had completed three races and were supposed to receive four medals, and we’d been laughing about wanting to get a picture of all of them on the “medal rack” in the hotel room (OK it was a tie rack, but still). I never did hear what happened, but they’ll be mailing them to us. Ah well.

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Stephanie and Jen are holding teeny pics of our friends Sara and Tish, who were with us in spirit.

Finally, I need to say a big thank you to my mother, who kept the three amigos safe and entertained so Robert and I could get away. We couldn’t have done it without you.

All in all, an unforgettable weekend!

Design Your Own Preacher Camp: What Makes a Clergy Group Work

Design Your Own Preacher Camp: What Makes Clergy Groups Work

The nerdy group, doing what the nerdy group does.

I’m meeting this week with The Well, my yearly cohort group. I like to say that I laugh more during this week of “preacher camp” than I do any other week of the year. This year has been heavier than normal, with several concerns for friends, loved ones and ourselves. This has made the mirth all the more necessary and sweet.

Many colleagues have wished for their own preacher camp. This prompted me to write “Design Your Own Preacher Camp,” which has become one of my most popular posts. I stand behind those instructions, although they’re a few years old and some things have changed.

There are many different kinds of clergy groups out there. Some get together mainly to play, meeting in a beach house, say. That’s great, and in a demanding job like ministry, it’s not frivolous to do so. As for us, we’ve been called the “nerdy group,” and we wear the badge proudly. We play a lot, but we also each bring two papers about the upcoming year’s scripture texts that we share with one another and discuss. For me, it’s easier to justify an entire week away from family if I can come back with something that is going to make my job tangibly easier. And this year I’m returning with a head start on 30 weeks’ worth of preaching.

I know groups that have formed using our approach that are thriving. I know others that started out but didn’t “take.” I wish I knew everything that makes for success in a group like this—I really want such groups to propagate, as does everyone in The Well. We think it’s vital for the health of our congregations. So I asked our group for insight into why ours has worked for seven years now, and here are some things they cited.

  1. Deep prior relationships. As it happened, we started out with two circles of friends that were connected to one another through a couple of key relationships. What that means is that nobody in our group knew everyone. But everyone had a strong connection to at least one other person. We invited people we knew well, not people we knew only by reputation.
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  2. The right amount of diversity. We range in age from young 30s to almost 50; we serve small churches and very large churches and everything in between. But we are all Presbyterian. And we represent a relatively narrow theological spectrum. Yes, yes: it’s very healthy to cross theological boundaries and  be in dialogue with people who are more liberal or more conservative than you are. But this is not where we do that. That doesn’t mean we always agree. We push each other all the time. But that’s not the point of our group. The point of our group is support, accountability, and the scripture work.
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  3. A shared focus. Most of us are pastors. We do have a woman who works for a presbytery and another who directs a national network of churches, but all of us are passionate about congregational ministry, and that’s the glue that holds us together. I’m not saying our group wouldn’t succeed if we had chaplains or seminary professors among us. But our focus is on pastoral ministry.
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  4. Accountability. The papers we write are our price of admission. We all recognize that the minute we relax that expectation, we are sunk. Our group is so much more than the papers. But our group wouldn’t be what it is without them. Even if you don’t do papers, figure out what accountability you need. The group I mentioned above that gets together for recreation? Even they have an expectation: if you have two “unexcused absences” in a row, you are out.
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  5. Interminable but important conversations. We set aside time each year for good-of-the-whole conversation. This may be as simple as deciding where and when to meet the following year. Or it’s a time to work through whatever group dynamics have come up. I’m contemplating a separate post on what happens when colleagues are in contention for the same ministry position—it has happened repeatedly in our group of 18. The point is, stick with those conversations, even when they are hard (or boring). Accept what you can’t change, but name and change the things you can.
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  6. Adding people the right way. We’ve added people to the group twice, and each time we added them in a batch. Adding one person at a time doesn’t change the dynamic enough; adding two or three at a time shakes things up, but also makes us more mindful of inside jokes and communal norms we take for granted.
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  7. Inviting healthy people with healthy egos. I don’t want this to come out the wrong way. We are all wounded and broken in myriad ways, and we do not have all of our stuff together. But our group works because we all understand the value of self-care, and we do not rely on this group for therapy. Our group has a level of intimacy with one another—and we have been through some very tough stuff together—and there are years when one person leans on this group more than others. All I’m saying is, do not invite a colleague to join a group of this nature because “he is really hurting and needs something like this.” Find other ways to support that person.
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  8. Magic. There is an X factor to these things. There are cohort groups that have great people and do everything right (assuming there is such a thing) and just don’t gel. There’s some luck or grace at work here for sure. So don’t feel bad if your group doesn’t come together. Just keep trying and searching for the right fit.

 

Friday Link Love: Roger Ebert, Louis CK, and Radical Generosity

Happy Friday, everyone. What do you have planned this weekend? May you find a little space for things that are bubbly and fun, nourishing and vital. We will be celebrating the 90th birthday of Robert’s grandmother. Joy!

Here are a few items that grabbed me this week:

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RIP Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality — Brain Pickings

I loved his writing and will miss his wisdom:

My colleague late at night, a year or two older, was Bill Lyon, who covered Champaign High School sports and became a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. … Bill and I would labor deep into the night on Fridays, composing our portraits of the [football] games. I was a subscriber to the Great Lead Theory, which teaches that a story must have an opening paragraph so powerful as to leave few readers still standing. … Lyon watched as I ripped one sheet of copy paper after another out of my typewriter and finally gave me the most useful advice I have ever received as a writer: ‘One, don’t wait for inspiration, just start the damn thing. Two, once you begin, keep on until the end. How do you know how the story should begin until you find out where it’s going?’ These rules saved me half a career’s worth of time and gained me a reputation as the fastest writer in town. I’m not faster. I spend less time not writing.

More at the link, including excerpts from his memoir and his TED talk.

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Human-Tower Competition in Tarragona, Spain — Colossal

The things we human beings come up with! Amazing pictures of a swarm of humanity working together:

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Kevin Ware on Louisville Teammate That ‘Touched My Heart’ — USA Today

H/t to my friend LeAnn Hodges. I didn’t see the Louisville/Duke game, but yikes. Yet horrific events can bring out the best in people:

[Ware’s teammate] Hancock thought back to last summer, when he suffered a gruesome shoulder injury in a pickup game. He remembered how others were aghast. He remembered how former Louisville guard Andre McGee was the only one to rush to his side, to rush him to the hospital. He remembered how much that had meant.

So as Ware lay there in the first half of the Cardinals’ NCAA tournament victory over Duke on Sunday, scared and alone and stunned, Hancock ran to him. He held Ware’s hand and told him they would get through this together. He told Ware he would say a prayer for him.

Ware didn’t respond at first, because he was in shock. Hancock took a deep breath, closed his eyes, clenched Ware’s hand and started the prayer.

…You can’t fault the other players for their initial reaction to such a macabre moment. But you can praise Hancock, and you should.

We are wounded healers, all.

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After God: What Can Atheists Learn from Believers? — New Statesman

I especially like the responses from Karen Armstrong and Alain de Botton (not too surprisingly—he’s a Blue Room mainstay). Here’s de Botton:

For centuries in the west, there was a figure in society who fulfilled a function that is likely to sound very odd to secular ears. The priest didn’t fulfil any material need; he was there to take care of that part of you called, rather unusually, “the soul”, by which we would understand the seat of our emotions and of our deep self.

Where have our soul-related needs gone? What are we doing with the material we used to go to a priest for? The deep self has naturally not given up its complexities and vulnerabilities simply because some scientific inaccuracies have been found in the tales of the five loaves and two fishes.

The loaves and fishes story is a tale that resonates beyond matters of science, but I take his point.

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Louis CK on David Letterman — YouTube

Two of my favorite funny men:

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The Touch-Screen Generation — The Atlantic

Young children—even toddlers—are spending more and more time with digital technology. What will it mean for their development?

Long but excellent rumination on parents’ ambivalence about their kids’ use of technology:

By their pinched reactions [to questions about how much screen time their kids have], these parents illuminated for me the neurosis of our age: as technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives, American parents are becoming more, not less, wary of what it might be doing to their children. Technological competence and sophistication have not, for parents, translated into comfort and ease. They have merely created yet another sphere that parents feel they have to navigate in exactly the right way. On the one hand, parents want their children to swim expertly in the digital stream that they will have to navigate all their lives; on the other hand, they fear that too much digital media, too early, will sink them. Parents end up treating tablets like precision surgical instruments, gadgets that might perform miracles for their child’s IQ and help him win some nifty robotics competition—but only if they are used just so. Otherwise, their child could end up one of those sad, pale creatures who can’t make eye contact and has an avatar for a girlfriend.

And on the other end of the spectrum of childhood… college students:

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Addiction to Electronics Growing — Times-Delphic

“I occasionally see students using their phones during yoga or pilates, which makes me a bit sad,” Determann said. “If you can’t be unplugged for 45 or 60 minutes, that’s a bit concerning, in my opinion. I know that this has just become the way we, as a society operate, but the world will go on without you checking your notifications.”

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A Religious Wake-Up Call in the Matter of Drones — Alternet

A critique against drones from a Christian perspective:

Our use of drones is only defensible on “Just War Theory” grounds, if we are able to demonstrate an immediate threat to this country that is specific and specifically premeditated with a specific objective. Unfortunately, the current administration, with its complex entanglements of secrecy and formal denials, has not been able to explain or demonstrate an immediate threat.

Our use of drones are out of “proportion” because it uses the most advanced technology in the world to assassinate people who can basically only throw the equivalent of sticks and stones back at you. Moreover, it gives these people no chance to surrender. It is like capital punishment without an arrest, a charge, a trial, or a right of appeal.

Our use of drones is not humane, because it totally objectifies the enemy by making them into a picture on a screen. There is not the faintest possibility, in the conduct of drone warfare by means of remote control, that you can regard the enemy as a fellow human citizen of the planet.

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Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? — NYT

Longish article about a new book, Give and Take, and its author, professor Adam Grant who, and I say this in a nice way, sounds like a freak. You might describe him as… radically generous with his time—he answers every email request for help, he spends hours mentoring students, etc. But all of this giving comes back to him in very interesting, even powerful, ways. “The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other peoples’ lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.”

“Give and Take” incorporates scores of studies and personal case histories that suggest the benefits of an attitude of extreme giving at work. Many of the examples — the selfless C.E.O.’s, the consultants who mentor ceaselessly — are inspiring and humbling, even if they are a bit intimidating in their natural expansiveness. These generous professionals look at the world the way Grant does: an in-box filled with requests is not a task to be dispensed with perfunctorily (or worse, avoided); it’s an opportunity to help people, and therefore it’s an opportunity to feel good about yourself and your work. “I never get much done when I frame the 300 e-mails as ‘answering e-mails,’ ” Grant told me. “I have to look at it as, How is this task going to benefit the recipient?” Where other people see hassle, he sees bargains, a little work for a lot of gain, including his own.

There’s something wonderful about seeing the world in this way rather than the calculating tit-for-tat manner we are often trained to employ with one another. But I spent most of the article assuming he must be single, because what family could put up with someone who lives this way? Turns out he has a wife who stays home to take care of the kids. Which hey, more power to them. But it does color things somewhat, eh?

At any rate, I’m interested in the research on this topic. It seems like Grant’s outlook requires you to see time as an abundant resource, which I don’t. As I write in the book, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of holy scarcity. There isn’t enough time for everything we want or need to do. So how do we move as creatively through our days as possible?

Speaking of which… may you shimmy and tango through your weekend and all of its work, play, errands, and maybe, a few surprises. Peace.

Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land

My friend Ruth Everhart has written a book.

Actually, let me be more accurate: she’s written hundreds of thousands of lovely, honest and true words over her years as a pastor and writer. But this week, we celebrate a particular achievement, the publication of Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. Ruth’s work is part travel writing, part memoir and part spiritual reflection.

Her book confronts the questions that confront us as we engage in pilgrimage—whether through travel or during our everyday journeys as people of faith–and the unexpected places we land in those journeys. Given recent current events, the book could not be more timely. That said, it is not a political book. It is a personal book, but in that wonderful way that the particular becomes universal.

Ruth is one of my Writing Revs—in fact, she and I are the only two charter members still in the group. (You can read about our group here.) My copy of Chasing is on its way to me, but I’ve had to joy of reading and digesting the book many times over the months and years. It’s gotten better and better through Ruth’s hard work and fine craftswomanship (I just made that word up). But what has been there from the beginning is a dogged willingness to ask hard questions of her faith and this land we dare to call Holy—steeped as it is in tradition, religion, conflict and grace.

Author Clyde Edgerton puts it well in his endorsement of Chasing the Divine:

I can think of only two reasons to buy this book:
1. You are not going to the Holy Land.
2. You are going to the Holy Land.
In these pages Ruth Everhart writes eloquently about her trip into the dust and beauty of Christianity’s cradle — about her wrestling with her beliefs, her faith, and her past. If all pilgrims were as curious, insightful, introspective, firm, and openhearted as Ruth Everhart, our old world would roll more happily and safely through the universe. In her story you’ll find bloodshed, humor, and — most importantly — love.

BUY IT!

Ruth and I will be at First Presbyterian Church, Arlington, VA this Sunday evening, December 2, at 7 p.m. to read and sign books. Stop by for some nourishment through food and words.

The Meeting I Almost Didn’t Go To

Buttermilk Cookies… sooo good. Guaranteed to help you sell books.

Six years ago, I was on my way to a gathering of Presbyterian clergywomen here in the DC area. I was running late. I took several wrong turns and got lost. There was bad traffic. And I had baby Margaret in the backseat, who was letting me know how eager she was to get wherever the heck we were going.

We were both hungrumpy. Plus I was in that overwhelmed, sleep-deprived state. Maybe you know the one? I almost turned around and went home. But I didn’t, and there was still plenty of food from Lebanese Taverna when I arrived.

After lunch, we went around and introduced ourselves. A friendly-looking woman I’d never met introduced herself as Ruth Everhart and said, “By way of networking, I would be interested in forming a group of writers. So if any of you write, talk to me after we’re done here.”

I got a sharp elbow in the ribs from the friend sitting next to me. After the meeting ended, I introduced myself to Ruth. Others did too. Before we left that day, we had a group of 5.

We are the Writing Revs. And I can say with near certainty that there would have been no book without them.

Now granted, Presbyterian clergywomen are a peculiar subset of society. Still, it’s kind of amazing that it worked as well as it has. We didn’t vet each other. We didn’t try it out for a while. We just dove in and started meeting. Those original 5 met for quite a while. Sadly, one passed away. Two have moved away. Happily, others have joined us.

Ruth and two other Wrevs hosted an event for me yesterday at presbytery, and it was so delightful. Ruth wrote about it here at her blog. It’s called “A Writing Group Can Wave Your Flag.” It’s a post about friendship and accountability and how hard it can be to promote our work, so it’s nice to have others help you along.

Ruth was a great carnival barker: “Come in! Congratulate the author! Have a cookie! Buy a book!” I sold and signed and gave out post-it notes. I can’t wait to reverse roles in November as we celebrate Ruth’s book, Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land. Ruth’s book is part travelogue, part theological memoir. It’s funny and deep and eloquent.

I’m very glad I didn’t give up on that clergy meeting six years ago.

And not just because my Wrevs make THE best cookies.