Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thoughts from the Trail

Many of you who read this blog know that I have taken up running this year.  It's been a rewarding experience with some weight loss, an improvement in my overall health and the rewards of reaching goals and milestones.  This morning was particularly rewarding as I ran along a leaf covered trail surrounded by the magnificent fall colors. As I ran, I was reflecting on what I've observed at the Legislature over the past month when I had something of an 'aha' moment.  The thought crossed my mind that politics has supplanted governance as the main focus of our elected leaders.  Sadly, it means that most decisions are made on the basis of what is most appealing to the electorate vs. what is best for the citizens as a whole.  Some believe that this is a paternalistic approach to governance.  I disagree.  I say that we need a shift in our political leadership culture that moves away from pandering to the interest groups that support you and towards a more serious commitment to the common good and in particular the needs of those who are most vulnerable among us. 

As Europe teeters on the brink of financial collapse and America wanders through the doldrums of a painfully slow economic recovery, it's time to recognize (again) that we find ourselves in a difficult situation as a province and nation.  We do not exist in a vacuum and what happens south of the border and across the ocean has a significant impact upon our economy.  That impact will ultimately affect health care delivery, education, transportation, infrastructure and the list goes on.... No amount of political rhetoric, chest pounding or desk thumping is going to provide what we so desperately need.

We need leaders who are willing to risk political pressure from party insiders in order to ensure that the poor, weak and oppressed among us find justice, support and help.  We need leaders who can step away from outside political pressure and being owned by special interest groups to address the pressing issues of our day.  We need leaders who are able to move beyond their personal interests and 'hobby-horse' issues and find a way to work pro-actively towards solutions that appeal to the broad base of the population.  Ultimately we need leaders who are willing to show leadership rather than vote hungry politicians whose decisions are based on gaining or retaining power.  What we need is particularly challenging to find in an adversarial system designed to score points by making the people on the other side of the aisle look bad.

A number of years ago, a Cabinet minister asked me an important question:  "How do I serve God in this place?'  It's challenging to say the least, especially in light of what I've written previously, but I firmly believe that the Church has a key role in supporting those who seek to govern from that stance.  I don't necessarily think that our answer is in 'taking over government' with our own political agenda. At some point we need to recognize that the kingdom is not of this world and that our primary concern is to be salt and light within our world.   I do think that the answer is found in the church taking up it's role as priest within our nation. 

Priests fill the role of intercessor through praying for those who lead.  We must pray for those who are entrusted to lead our province regardless of their political ideology.  Priests fill the role of advocates and a voice for those who are oppressed and experiencing injustice.  We need to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.  Priests 'stand in the gap' between those who are separated by ideology.  We need to find ways to build bridges towards a more proactive approach.  Finally, we need to be servants.  There are tremendous opportunities for the church to serve it's leaders and it's community by meeting the tangible needs that surround us.

Get involved.  Get engaged.  Change your world.  Make a difference.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My First Half Marathon

A year ago, we all got in the van and went downtown early on Thanksgiving Sunday to cheer Barb (my wife) on in her first ever Half Marathon.  I was supportive and loved the energy associated with that many people getting ready to take on a personal challenge.  She did well and we all enjoyed a hot drink while she ran her 21 kms.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that just 52 weeks later I would be standing in running great waiting to take on my first half-marathon.

I started running in January.  I did it as a weight loss strategy. In the beginning it was all about running a mile on the treadmill at the gym.  It was a good start but I soon grew tired of looking at the same parking lot.  I graduated to running around small lake in our area.  I thought it was reasonable. In retrospect, it's a challenging, hilly course.  Barb convinced me that running near our house might be a better option and so I began to run more regularly and for longer distances.

By early May I had determined that I would prepare for the GoodLife Fitness Half Marathon scheduled for this past weekend.  I trained through the summer and things were looking good.  In late August I ran 18kms for the first time. 

On Sunday morning I stood with about 6000 other people who had prepared to challenge themselves, the course and those around them over a 21km course.  One man was 89 years old.  The gun went off and we began to run.  I ran with some friends, one has done many races and is a coach.  She was amazing at keeping me on track for 5kms. I got separated from them in the crowd after that and couldn't catch up.  I carried on at my own pace and enjoyed the run along Dallas Road.  I did well until I got to the area where I thought the turn around should be.  When it wasn't there and all I could see was the crowd in front of me turning in the opposite direction of where I thought the course should go, I began to struggle mentally.  I was discouraged and questioning whether or not I could finish.  When we finally made the turn, the trip home went by quickly.  (The trip home always feels quicker...)  When I passed the 18km mark, every step was a personal best.  As much as my hip flexors and feet were hurting, the pain was secondary to the reward of finishing.  At around 19 kms our kids were standing on the sidewalk cheering me on.  They said that I wasn't as happy as I'd been earlier in the race.  My smile had been replaced with a grimace!  That said, I was making good progress and the end was near.  I ran past Ogden Point and began to pick up my pace.  Fisherman's Park is 1km from the finish line.  Because we were close to the end, the crowds were fuller and people were cheering, clanging cow bells and waving signs.  In the last 500m, something took over in me and I began to charge the finish line.  (Sprint would be a strong word...) I started passing people and closing the gap.  My goal was to finish at around 2:00 hours. I finished at 2:06.  My pace was 5:58/km.  My fastest km was my last one.

Having never done this before, it was a tremendous learning experience for me.  I was reminded again of the power of encouragement.  All of those people standing along the road holding their signs, ringing their cowbells and shouting encouragement really make a difference!  The high fives I got from my kids at 5kms and again at 18 kms helped keep me going.  They said I was smiling a lot more at 5ks than I was at 18....

I'm kind of competitive.... okay... I'm a LOT competitive.  I like winning more than losing.  This race helped me see something more important.  I had turned the corner and was on my way back to the finish line and was still meeting people who had started with me but were well behind me.  I saw one person who was significantly overweight running slowly along at a pace that worked for her.  I had tremendous respect for her and shouted some encouragement as we passed on the road.  She was had taken on the same challenge that I had and while we were at different places on the road, her progress and pace was significant to her.  I was proud to run in the same race. 

My most inspiring moment happened when I turned the final corner and came onto Belville St.  By this point the pace had quickened as everyone gave it one last push.  I was no different.  I gave it everything I had.  (In my mind I was tearing up the road.  On video, it's not as impressive.... LOL!!)The crowds were larger,  in some cases 3 and 4 people deep, there was more cheering and most importantly, 500M away was the finish line.  All of my training had been for this moment.... I focused on finishing well and gave it everything I had.

On the morning of the race, a friend tweeted Heb 12:1.  The verse speaks of our lives as a race and the picture is of a stadium full of cheering crowds.  We are running the race, with Jesus at the finish line waiting to welcome us in.  Those who are cheering were just like us, except that they have finished the race and they want us to finish well too.

As you probably know, Steve Jobs passed away last week.  He's been quoted as saying 'Live today as though it is your last.'  For the most part, we don't do that.  We live as if our last day is many days away.  Reality is that you just don't know when your last day will be, so live like this is it!! 

 Live Well... Run Well...  Finish Well!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Game On!!

Hello Friends.  It's Thursday morning and I feel a bit like I've been running a sprint over the last 3 days.  The Legislature resumed on Monday with a Throne Speech and all of the associated pageantry.  Throne Speech is one of my favourite events of the year.  There's so much to see before it starts and so many people to see after it's over. It always feels a bit like a high school reunion at the reception after the speech.  The room is buzzing with conversation, laughter and general pleasantries.

All through the summer, we had a distinct sense of momentum and increasing blessing on the ministry.  There were certainly some significant 'firsts' for us that I can't share here, but there was something else happening that was hard to quantify.  It just felt like something had 'shifted' for us.  I found out on Monday afternoon that we had crossed a significant threshold.

Normally, I have to 'work' the room at the post-speech reception and wait my turn to speak to members as they are visiting with their guests and friends.  I don't mind that, because I understand that they have a job to do even in that setting.  What told me something had changed for us was when I entered the reception area and people began moving towards me to extend their welcome and appreciation.  My intent is not to boast so much as it is to give God glory for His faithfulness to the ministry. Something significant has shifted for us and there is a new level of trust, openness and confidence in who we are and in what we do. That trust and openness has translated into some remarkable conversations and opportunities this week. 

I'm excited about what God has planned for those who lead our province in this session.  I'm more excited to be a part of seeing it unfold.  Keep tracking with us.  It's going to be an amazing Fall Session.