An “iPodless” Run

June 25th, 2008

Focus Text: Psalm 19: 14 (NLT)

14 May the words of my mouth
      and the meditation of my heart
   be pleasing to you,
      O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

As many of you know, I do quite a bit of running.  In my subdivision, I have a route mapped out that allows me to complete perfect distances of three, four, or five miles depending on my goal for that particular work out.  In addition to my plan, I also have apparel.  Now, I’m not the guy with the really short shorts that makes you feel uncomfortable when you drive past.  No, basketball shorts work just fine for me.  I’m also not the shirtless guy . . . probably never will be . . . no further explanation is necessary.  

I do have nice running shoes and I wear a hat backwards to help with the sweat.  Sunglasses are a must in my life.  Laura makes fun of my sensitivity to light; I think she’s just jealous of my shades.  I even own a really cool miniature water bottle that is shaped like the contour of the palm of my hand with accompanying strap.  Nice!

But one other crucial item always accompanies me on my runs: my iPod.  I don’t run without music- ever!  I have certain albums that I run to, even certain songs.  Sometimes I even listen to podcasts (one stellar podcast comes to mind:)  I find that listening to these things makes my run seem faster.

This past Sunday afternoon, I suited up to head out into the neighborhood.  As far as my week’s plan went, I needed one more run to complete my work out.  Basketball shorts . . . check.  Making sure I’m not the shirtless guys . . . no problem.  Superfluously expensive running shoes (still manually operated, mind you) . . . check-a-rino.  Backwards hat and sunglasses . . . affirmative.  And the final piece to my exercise ensemble . . . hmmmm . . . now where could it be?  Dang it!  

That’s right, as we do on many Sundays, Laura and I had driven separate cars to church (mainly since I have to be there to wake up the rooster before he crows), but we had ridden home in one vehicle.  Therefore, my iPod was still in my truck at church.  Drats!

Now, I cannot over-exaggerate my dependence on this little MP3 player.  For a few moments, I actually contemplated skipping my run.  However, some semblance of self-discipline prevailed and I decided to set out with no music in my ears.  I felt like a scared little chick pecking my way through my shell for the first time.  I actually told Laura that this was going to be a tough run because I would not have any music to pass the time.  I prepared for the worst.

You’re like me; I know so because you tell me all the time.  Also, I watch you.  Each of us wanders around with headphones draping down from our ears, an endless expanse of auditory data streaming directly into our brains.  At camp two weeks ago, I actually had to ask a student to turn down their headphones because they were so loud that I couldn’t sleep in the next room.  The next room!  You know who you are and that’s sad.  

We need noise.  White noise.  Ambient noise.  In some of our cases, loud noise.  We crave entertainment.  Noise drowns out the downtime.

The run began.  Immediately, I was intrigued by the changes of an “iPodless” running experience.  First of all, I began passing people and much to my surprise, I could speak to them and hear their reply.  Usually, I just wave and continue running.  I passed dozens of children playing an assortment of various games– with no headphones, I could hear them laughing and screaming and arguing and laughing . . . more arguing than anything.  

Next, wildlife came out of nowhere.  I felt like I was the main character in Disney’s Bambie III: Rise of the Killer Does.  In my first two miles, I passed two deer, four rabbits, innumerable dogs, and a horse– all in my little suburban neighborhood.  I was astounded!  I suppose that they had probably been visible the whole time, but with my headphones in, I’d never looked up to notice them.

Now, obviously my headphones had not hindered my sight; but it’s amazing how you look at what you hear (or in my case, you don’t look at what you don’t hear.)  When I crossed intersections, I no longer had to look four or five times before crossing because I couldn’t hear the cars coming– once was enough.  Birds incessantly chirped at me.  Dogs barked their protests at my audacity to enter their territory.  Children talked to each other about me as I passed.  The horse across the fence rustled in the woods as I ran past him.  To put it mildly, hearing my run was a completely different experience. 

The most notable change, though, was the volume of my thoughts.  Psalm 19: 14 is a famous passage that deals with two things: words and meditations.  David masterfully expresses the desire of a pure heart before God: “let what I say and what I dwell on please You.”  Like my weekend experience, removing the distractions is essential a healthy spiritual work out.  

Words are important.  They are the immediate expression of our hearts.  Halfway up the first hill, I passed a lady working in her yard.  I was huffing to catch my breath so my words to her were short and sweet.  “Evening!”  When we run for spiritual health and diminish the “white noise” of our lives, our words become shorter . . . and maybe sweeter.  We may feel out of breath, but we’re more likely to make what we say count and to please God with each syllable.

Meditation has also received a bad rap.  We instantly think of eastern religion or monks face down before ginormous golden idols.  However, it should be noted that God had the original idea of meditation.  In essence, it’s removing distractions and quietly reflecting on God.  Ancient Hebrews used to rock back and forth as they “meditated” on spiritual things.  As I ran without the distractions, I found myself “huffing” short phrases to God.  When you’re running, you find yourself listening more than speaking.  Maybe that’s why the Bible so often compares our spiritual journey to running a race; maybe that’s the only way God can get us to pipe down.

Our goal shouldn’t just be to win; it should be to please the Creator of the race.  God is more than a referee; He’s a judge.  Referees simply declare the winner based on the rules.  Judges evaluate the quality of the runner’s performance.  The objective of this race is not to finish ahead of others; it’s to run well and to be pleasing to the Judge.  

So, please don’t misunderstand me and throw away your iPod (but if you do consider it, feel free to discard it at my house.)  I’m not anti-music and I will definitely still run with my headphones.  But in your spiritual walk, take some time and try setting aside the noisiness and letting the meditations of your heart rise before the Judge of the race.  You may be surprised at what you might hear.

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~ by johndriver on June 25, 2008.

4 Responses to “An “iPodless” Run”

  1. I agree, david did put it in a perfect way. – “let what I say and what I dwell on please You.”
    knowing that God knows what your thinking is quite amusing to me. knowing that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be pure in mind all the time, and knowing that thatdoesnt please God.
    Let alone the things i say (especialy when i get angry).
    I can only pray that God can blemishes the ugly and impure thought of mine and the hurtful things i say.

  2. This makes me want to go running. Even though I manage to be bad at running and can probably only make it a mile– not to mention my fear of strangers that live in my neighborhood. They scare the potatoes out of me when they stop right next to me until I come to realize there is a stop sign….
    ANYWAYS…
    I obviously don’t have a deep, spiritual erosion of thought to share with the world, however, I really enjoyed reading this.
    I really like the Bible verse too. I’m going to go highlight it in my own Bible because it’s definitely something I should think about everyday.
    :]
    RachieG.

  3. I loved how you distinguished the differences between a referee and a judge. I’m so glad that God is a JUDGE and evalutates the quality of my performance, instead of always strictly by the rules. As soon as I read what David wrote about…and how he wants what he says and what he dwells on to be pleasing to God, I thought of Rita Springers song “Worth It All” …. It reminded me of how that song talks about worship being pleasing to God. Not only in my worship do I want to please God, but also in an area that I tend to skip over every time!… MY THOUGHTS. I probably run more without music. I have taken some of those days to pray to God, but most of the time I just stare at whatever is outside. It did help me though when i did just simply listen during that 30 min or so. The bible even tells us to be quick to listen. I should work on this!

  4. When i started reading this, i couldn’t help but expect to hear nearly exactly what you wrote. How a jog without music is a completley diffrent experience, and how you really do think more with less distractions. Like that Switchfoot song “Adding to the Noise”. What I did not expect to read about was meditation…i didn’t ever think about calling it that. I do a lot of thinking, all the time. Even as a kid, i was freakishly self sufficient on the playground, because i would just sit alone, up against the wall, watching everyone else and wondering about them. My point being, as i read that segment about the Hebrews rocking back and forth while meditating, i couldn’t help but stop rocking back and forth. I didn’t even realize i was doing it, but as i read, sitting in the revolving computer chair, i continued to teeter a little bit, while all the ideas about finding time to actually think about God, started to creep into my head, under the radar.
    What i think i’m trying to say, is, this Daily Thread is a big help. It pretty much picks up the tiny ideas or theories that i have during the day, and throws them back at me with a big green check mark etched across them. “See Erica, i told you you were catching on”
    Thanks PJ! 🙂

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