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Running a Marathon, and a Strong Faith in God, Part Two

I hope you’ll excuse me if I pick back up on a theme I wrote about two weeks ago: running a marathon, and having a good, strong relationship with God.

As I shared with you a couple weeks ago, running a marathon is on my mind lately because I’ll be doing just that: the big day is tomorrow (Saturday, October 16), when I’ll be running the Baltimore Marathon, starting at 8:00 a.m.

(Lest you be too impressed: my one and only goal for this race is to finish it. I don’t care how long it takes me. . . which is good, because at the time the first several winners are crossing the finish line -- about 10:00 a.m. -- I won’t even be to the 13.1 mile halfway point!)

(Well, actually, I do have a time goal. I want to finish in time to grab a quick shower back at the hotel before their late check-out time, which is 1:30!)

Two weeks ago I said that having a good, strong relationship with God in a time of crisis is a lot like running the 26.2 miles of a marathon: it’s relatively easy, IF you’ve put the time in beforehand. My point was that a good, strong relationship with God doesn’t happen all at once. It’s built up morning by morning in Bible reading and prayer, and Sunday by Sunday in attending church. Those are the training runs for our faith, when we “put the miles in,” whether we feel like it or not, so we get stronger day by day, week by week, and then, when a challenge or crisis comes our way, our faith foundation is there to support us.

This week my point is simpler: so much of running, and faith, is “mind over matter.” Or should I say “heart and spirit over matter.” So much of running and the life of faith is choosing what to focus on, what to pay attention to.

Tomorrow, at mile 9, or 17, or 22, I’ll be faced with a decision: do I focus on my aches and pain and all those miles I have yet to cover? Or do I focus on my form and breathing and the distance I have already covered? The decision I make (repeatedly) will determine “how I did” in the race.

At various ages in our life: 17, 45, 68, or 88, we are all faced with similar decisions: do we focus on our failures and disappointments suffered, opportunities and friendships lost? Or do we focus on the blessings we have received and given, the successes we’ve enjoyed and friendships we’ve made and can still form? The decision we make (repeatedly) will determine “how we’re doing” in life.

As I've said many times before, happiness -- peace of mind, joy -- is an “inside job.” That’s true in running, and that’s true in life.

Our happiness. . . our peace of mind. . . our being joyful in life does not depend on -- in fact has almost nothing at all to do with! -- external circumstances.

We can decide to be full of joy, and that changes practically everything because joy is an internal disposition from which one views one’s circumstances. Or we can choose to be unhappy, and make that a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well.

So why not choose to be full of joy? Makes the race we’re in go a lot better!

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