Monday, April 22, 2013

Left and Right

Life is good. 

So are mornings, especially mornings combined with good coffee, eggs and avocados. As I write on this sunny morning in Mito, Japan, it's amazing to see the ways God has blessed me this year in Japan and how close I was to not taking the leap of faith to come here a year ago. We are tempted to be such fearful creatures.

For sure there have been tough times. Sometimes the toughest part is when I can't determine what exactly it is that's stressing me out or making it difficult to have peace out here. Lately, my mind has centered around the idea that during these times, the cause is my lack of focus in what we were all made to be content in. God's grace is always sufficient, in all circumstances. It's my tendency to doubt this and consciously or sub-consciously find fulfillment in other things in which discontent seeps into the weaknesses of my heart.

Running has been a huge blessing this year. I've never had so much joy pursuing the strange sport and at the same time, I've never ran so slowly, patiently transitioning back into running after a long injury. Running has allowed me to more adequately see the beauty of Japan in my own backyard. At the beginning of this year, I read a book by Phil Maffetone, called The Big Book of Endurance. Dr. Maffetone is renowned for his truly holistic approach to running. He also was the first to implement the heart rate monitor for personal fitness some thirty years ago. Among countless athlete's, Dr. Maffetone coached Mark Allen's, possibly the greatest triathlete of all time, and even toured with the Red Hot Chili Peppers,  among other famous bands, to help them maintain their health. 

So many runners, whether fast or slow, are not healthy, either physically, mentally or in how they balance all aspects of their life. This doesn't make a lot of sense, considering the amazing potential benefits of running. In his detailed, science based style , yet easily applicable book, Dr. Maffetone provides so much information to challenge veteran endurance athlete's thinking. It is also a great starting point for new, or frustrated, runners entering the beautiful sport. (Thanks to the super swift Oklahoma native, Camille Herron, for indirectly leading me to this book.) 

Living in Japan has further affirmed the barrier breaking nature of sports. I've made so many connections playing dodgeball, or soccer or tag with the kids. One of my most proud moments at school was getting many of my 6th grade boys into the sport of basketball. It's diminished the game of dodgeball (with all due respect to dodgeball) on the other side of the gym but I'm definitely okay with the tradeoff. At the end of the year, several graduating 6th grade boys referenced playing basketball as one of the highlights of the year. Even considering their age, they were pretty bad; that and the lower hoop made me feel like Kobe out there. But we've had a blast playing after lunch.

Another example of sports breaking barriers is an older man, maybe 55 or 65 years old at one of my elementary schools employed as a utility man. I don't think I've heard him speak a word of english this entire year, but I found out he's a runner, so we do speak a common language. Last week as I was running in another town, a car pulled over, it was him, he just wanted to say hello and make sure I was alright! It made my day.

Several other students have told me, "I saw you in another town!" after telling their homeroom teachers. It all makes me really happy.

I love the connections sports make. 

Wish I could include pictures with the kids, but here are some from my runs the last couple days (I never take my phone running but for the blog there are exceptions. I am a man of the people.)
Ramen shop, need to go!