Monday, July 28, 2008

Running talk at church

I think a lot of you already know that I'm a member of the LDS church. For those who are not familiar with this church, we do not have any paid preachers or anything like that. Instead, for every Sunday meeting two or three members of the congregation are asked to prepare a talk beforehand to share with the rest of the ward. Yesterday, Lani and I had a turn to share our thoughts. I figured that since a major part of my talk was about part of my running experience, I'd share it with you. It's kind of long, but I think some of us may be able to relate in one way or another.

We were asked to base our remarks on Matthew 6:24, which says:
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Mammon derives from an Aramaic word for "riches," but I think this could also be translated to worldly possessions and things that often come with them, such as pride, power and prestige. A prophet from the Book of Mormon, named Moroni, describes the effects wealth and pride had on his people:
"... Ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel... For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted... Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not." (Mormon 8:36-37,38)
God has placed such importance on serving him that he made it his first commandment:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to [graven images], nor serve them..." (Exodus 20:3,5)

We may not overtly worship idols or graven images as many did in Old Testament times, but we can often let things take priority over worshiping and serving God and building his kingdom. Other types of gods include riches, material possessions such as cars, homes, and clothing. There are also intangible things like degrees and titles, or popularity or the "perfect body." Addictions, not just to drugs but to less harmful things like the internet, video games, or sports.

Obviously running is an important part in my life. It wasn't so long ago that it may have held too much importance. I could get up at 4:30 in the morning on a Saturday to go for a run, but I had a hard time getting myself up at 6:30 to read my scriptures before work. I could feel myself drifting farther from God. It was harder to feel his spirit. Admittedly, running had become a god for me. I was serving mammon by following my own self-interests.

When we moved to Arizona last summer, we were coming to a new job with a pretty nice salary, but when I got my first paycheck, we realized that things weren't going to be as comfortable as we thought. It was actually going to be really tight. Through many prayers we received the assurance that God would take care of us if we did our part. We felt our job was to reach out and befriend our neighbors. We were real excited to do this, and we knew that if we did, God would take care of us and provide a way for our temporal need to be met. I knew I needed to change some things about myself and rearrange my priorities in order to be worthy of the promised blessings.

One Sunday morning as I was reading in the book used for the lessons in one of our church meetings, I read the lesson for that afternoon, entitled "Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me." Things started jumping out at me like: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21), and "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33), "these things" referring to food, clothing and basic temporal needs. It wasn't long before I realized what running had become. I knew where my heart was, and I knew I needed to change my priorities, and that if I did so, God would bless me and my family for it. That morning, I made the commitment to myself and to God that I would read my scriptures every day before I went running.

I can tell you that blessings have followed. Personally, I feel more in tune with the spirit of God and much closer to him, and that I am better living up to what he expects of me. We have been able to spend time with our neighbors and get to know them. We have also been tremendously blessed financially. We received checks at very unexpected times (allowing us to make our trip for the Boston Marathon), and I was able to get a very nice raise.

I have truly seen Gods blessings in my life. He has kept his promises. I know I am far from perfect, and that reading in the scriptures every day doesn't make me more righteous than anyone else, but I do feel that it has made a difference in my life.

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