Adventures In Running

Monday, December 27, 2010

Learning about Christmas

One of the hardest things I have experienced the last several years has been being along most of the Christmas season. Christmas is typically a very family oriented time of year and it is bad enough having no little children in the house, but being alone just plain stinks.

This year I have been able to successfully avoid holiday depression and have learned a lot about the Christmas and the birth and death of our Savior. I think it was truly a blessing that I was asked to write the Christmas program for church. I started doing a lot of research on the topic back in early November and was able to immerse myself more in the actual meaning of Christmas than worry about missing the family celebrations that seem to surround the season.

While researching Christmas topics, I read about a book that Charles Dickens wrote for his family called, "The Life of Our Lord." This was basically his way to teach his children about Jesus Christ and I obtained a copy of the book and am going to make it part of both my Christmas and Easter celebrations in the future.

I also took the time to dig out my copy of "The Story of Christmas: Story Book Set & Advent Calendar." Jennifer received a copy of this as a Christmas gift many years ago and I was thrilled to find a copy for my own. There is a little ornament for each day in December up until Christmas and each ornament is a mini book that contains the Christmas story. Twilight and I read these stories aloud as I hung the ornaments on the tree.

I had never really read the entire story of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens and took the time to read that while I have been laid up in bed for the past week or so. Another book that will become part of my Christmas celebrations since it points out how we often overlook the joy and meaning of our lives while focusing on the negative in life.

My Amazon Kindle is one of my all time favorite geek toys in the world. Amazon often offers free books and some of the free books I have been reading this past week have made me appreciate much about the holiday:

  • The Christmas Story from the Family Reading Bible – it is always educational to see how other religions view Christmas and gain knowledge from their perspective
  • The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manager – a fascinating look from a journalists perspective as he tries to find if Jesus really was the Savior and if the Bible stories are true
  • 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever – steps to take each day in December to better enjoy the holiday season and make Christmas more meaningful in both secular and spiritual ways
  • Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas – made me appreciate Christmas carols and hymns so much more. I never knew that The 12 Days of Christmas had spiritual meaning behind each days gifts.

And – not to forget the best – lots of time spent reading Old Testament revelations about the birth of Christ, the stories in the Gospels of the New Testament about Jesus, and the scriptures and story of His birth in the Book of Mormon.

While I have been pretty miserable for the last 10 or so days as I have struggled with illness, I am really grateful for the opportunities I have had to learn and understand even more about the real meaning of Christmas.

Illness impacts training

One of the benefits I have found since taking up marathon running is that I am rarely ill for more than 24-36 hours. Prior to that, it seemed like the cold or flu would hit and drop me down for days on end.

I have been steadily running 5-6 miles daily for my short runs and working my long runs up in anticipation of The Goofy Challenge in January. My daughter and I are planning to drive down from near Savannah, Georgia to DisneyWorld on January 7th for a couple of races. Jennifer has been diligently training for her first half marathon event and I will be pacing her and enjoying the challenge of watching her complete the DisneyWorld Half Marathon on Saturday, January 8th. Then, on January 9th is the second race, the DisneyWorld Marathon. By completing the 39.3 miles in two days, I will be able to have said I completed The Goofy Challenge. This is going to be my last marathon for a year while I take a break to try and focus on building up my base speed.

Everything was going well with my training until December 16th. I came home from work and started feeling miserable. The next few days I felt worse until finally, on Sunday I had to go to an InstaCare and get seen by a doctor. I had not been able to run since the last Wednesday and my face hurt, my ear hurt, I was coughing like crazy, had a sore throat and could barely sit up without wanting to pass out. I was diagnosed with ear infection, sinus infection and bronchitis and put on some medication.

Just as an indication of how lousy I felt, I not only missed the Christmas program I had written for church, but was too ill to go out and celebrate my son Kevin's 20th birthday on December 20th.

The medication helped some, but not as much as I hoped and it wasn't until last Thursday that I finally hacked my way through a pitiful 3 mile run. Eight days without running during the time I should have been doing my last long runs was not what I had planned. I did manage to get 10 miles in on Christmas Eve Day, but was already starting to wonder if the antibiotics were actually working.

Back in bed on Christmas Day and back to the doctor the next day. Now I am on a stronger antibiotic and hoping this one will actually kick the illnesses out of my system. At this point in time, I can only hope for the best in the races and just plan on having a good time and finishing.

Christmas Program 2010

I was asked to write the Christmas program for our choir's Sacrament Meeting presentation this month. The following is the basic program:


Choir Number: He Who Built the Starry Skies


Narrator 1: The Christmas season is season for giving. Gifts are abundant at this time of year and our hearts and souls are open to the spirit that guides us to give more freely of ourselves, our time and our talents to those we love and those who are in need. Let us listen to some of the words of our prophets as they speak about the gifts of the season.


As President Thomas S. Monson said, "If we change but one word in our Christmas question, the outcome is vastly different. "What did you give for Christmas?" prompts stimulating thought and causes tender feelings to well up and memory's fires to glow ever brighter. Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world's busy life and become more interested in people than things."


Narrator 2: Henry B. Eyring expressed the message of why mankind is more open to giving to those in need when he said, "God sends those messages to us with more confidence at Christmastime, knowing that we will respond because our hearts are more sensitive to the Savior's example and to the words of His servants."

Christmas is a time for giving. Someone once said he couldn't think of what to give for Christmas. The next day in the mail he received an anonymous list which read:

Give to your enemy forgiveness,

To your opponent tolerance,

To your friend your heart,

To all men charity, for the hands that help

are holier than lips that pray,

To every child a good example,

and to yourself—respect."

Narrator 1: Often, when we think of Christmas, material gifts and presents under the tree come to mind. Stores and the media constantly ask us to spend, spend, spend and we often tend to express our love by going into debt or giving only physical items. However, the true meaning of Christmas is not in the material gifts, but in the gifts that we can give without taking out our wallet or putting ourselves into financial debt. These gifts we should really give are the gifts that were given at the first Christmas.

Elder Mark E. Petersen talked about this day. "This was the first Christmas. There were no tinseled Christmas trees, no family gatherings, no children at play. But there were carols, the greatest ever sung. The angels of heaven joined in a great chorus rejoicing at the birth of God's Son. Now the redemption of the world could take place. Salvation could come to all mankind. Death would be overcome, for this little child, when he became a man, would bring about the Resurrection. All mankind could then live again."

Narrator 2: President Monson, in one of his Christmas messages asked, "I wonder if each might profit today by asking himself, what gift would God have me give to Him or to others at this precious season of the year?"

He then suggested, "May I answer that question and in all solemnity declare to you that our Heavenly Father desires each one of his children to render unto him a gift of obedience so all will actually love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Then, I am sure, he will expect us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

But He asks us to be selective and choose those gifts which will last. Said He:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19–21).

Open your hearts to the gifts God would have us give as we think of the peace of that first Christmas night.

Choir Number: On This Still, Silent Night


Narrator 1: What a precious gift was the birth of our Savior. This is a birth that was foretold many times in the scriptures as ancient prophets spoke of the coming of the son of God.


In Isaiah we read, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

How can we show gratitude for this the knowledge and blessing of having the Savior in our lives? Spencer W. Kimball suggested, "One of the things we can give at Christmas time, that no one else can give, is our thanks. There is so much to be grateful for. I give my thanks to our Heavenly Father and to all of you. This is a time when we ponder our blessings and when we also prepare for the new year, for which we should make new resolves and set new personal goals. This partial inventory of our collective blessings should help us to be ever more grateful and ever more determined. Please do the same within your families. Count your blessings, and express your gratitude to your eternal partners, to your children, and to your parents for all that they do."

Narrator 2: When we think of Christmas, we often think of lights. There are lights on our homes, lights in our windows, lights on the trees.


The Prophet Samuel foretold how light would be a sign of the Savior's birth when he said, "And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day."


"Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign;.."


"And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you."


As President Henry B Eyring said, "There is another glimpse of heaven that becomes easier to see at Christmastime. It is of light. Heavenly Father used light to announce the birth of His Son, our Savior (see Matthew 2; 3 Nephi 1). A new star was visible in both the Eastern and the Western Hemispheres. It led the Wise Men to the child in Bethlehem. Even wicked King Herod recognized the sign; he feared it because he was wicked. The Wise Men rejoiced because of the birth of the Christ, who is the Light and the Life of the World. Three days of light without darkness was the sign God gave to the descendants of Lehi, heralding the birth of His Son.

We remember at Christmastime not only the light that announced the birth of Christ into the world but also the light that comes from Him.

Such light will be visible in our heavenly home. It will bring us joy then. Yet even in this life you have been blessed with a part of that wonderful experience, through the Light of Christ. Every person born into the world receives that light as a gift.

That light is easier to discern at Christmastime, when we are more likely to pray to know what God would have us do and more likely to read in the scriptures and so more apt to be on the Lord's errand. Our worship of the Savior and our service for Him brings light into our lives and into the lives of those around us."

Narrator 1: The humble songs of our Primary children express so perfectly the story of the birth of Jesus. We would like the Primary Children to come up and join us on the stand at this time.

Coralyn: Softly play Away In a Manger while the children come up.

Once children are quiet – Narrator 1 continues…..

Narrator 1: The story of the first Christmas is given to us in the book of Luke: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


Children: Once Within a Lowly Stable


Children: Picture a Christmas


Primary children are excused.


Coralyn: Softly play Silent Night while the children are seated.


Narrator 2: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.


Narrator 1: And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it
wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered
them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Congregational Hymn 207 – It Came upon the Midnight Clear


Narrator 2: In order to feel the real spirit of Christmas, we need to try to follow the example of the Savior.


President Howard W. Hunter suggested, "This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again."

Narrator 1: President Monson also suggested that "Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. To catch the real meaning of the "spirit of Christmas," we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the "Spirit of Christ."

When we have the spirit of Christmas, we remember Him whose birth we commemorate at this season of the year. We contemplate that first Christmas day, foretold by the prophets of old.

If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must listen for the sound of sandaled feet. We must reach out for the Carpenter's hand. With every step we take in His footsteps, we abandon a doubt and gain a truth."

As we give of ourselves and think of others during the holiday season, it is calming and easier to think of those in need when we remember the humble circumstances into which the baby Jesus was born.



Narrator 2: Think for a moment and ask yourselves, What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?

President Gordon B. Hinckley expressed this best gift so well when he declared,

"He came as a gift of His Eternal Father. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

On Calvary's hill He gave His life for each of us. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55).

We honor His birth. But without His death that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting. His was a great Atonement for the sins of all mankind. He was the resurrection and the life, "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Cor. 15:20). Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave.

Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful.

It is peace. It is the peace which comforts, which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.

It is faith. It is faith in God and His Eternal Son. It is faith in His wondrous ways and message. It is faith in Him as our Redeemer and our Lord.

We testify of His living reality. We testify of the divinity of His nature. In our times of grateful meditation, we acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith. This is what Christmas is really about."


Choir Number: Remember Christmas


Closing Remarks: Bishop Anderson



Hymn 203 – Closing – (Choir and Congregation) Angels we Have Heard on High

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gerbils and Crappy Air

Usually I do my long runs on Saturdays (because I have a lot more free time on Saturdays than workdays) but decided to do my long run on a Friday night this week since I have several things to do on Saturday.

Right now the Salt Lake valley is experiencing an inversion. The air quality is deteriorating and they declared today a "red burn" day which means we should cut down on driving and avoid burning fuels and exercising outside unless it is impossible. So – I burned lots of gas driving out to Kearns to run at the Olympic Ice Oval.

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to be told that on red burn days they only charge runners $1 to use the track, on yellow burn days it goes up to $2 and on green burn days it is the normal $3.

The run started at 3:30 and I had figured correctly that there would not be many other runners that early. I started out in my Vibram Five Fingers and did the first six miles in reverse direction from the way the track normally flows. The Oval was built for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake and has the speed skating track surrounded by a four lane running track and the 'short track' oval inside the larger oval as well as a hockey rink. The building is cool, but unless you are on the ice it is not cold, so we are always able to run in shorts and t-shirts (I usually use a long sleeved shirt). The running track is slightly less than 3.5 laps per mile. I wanted to run 16 miles, so knew I would have to run 56 laps. I have purchased a lap counter that I carry to help me keep track of where I am.

After 6 miles, I switched to the normal flow of the track. A few more runners had shown up by then. No skaters yet on the main speed skating track. The last time I had run here was prior to the Vancouver games and I was able to watch Apollo Anton Ohno and other skaters prepare for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games. After 7 miles, I switched over from wearing the FiveFingers to Crocs and used them for the remainder of the run. It is nice to have my long run done for the week. Now – if only I was still asleep in the middle of the night.