Hail, Caesar!

Sometimes I run through neighborhoods not my own, as I was doing Monday when I met Caesar.

The subdivision in question is about a kilometer or so from my own and is a loop that provides a good alternative to the back and forth of my normal route. Besides, I have friends in that neighborhood whom I like to greet when I see them.

I was about a third of my way into the loop when I was joined in my paces by an energetic chocolate Labrador retriever. I thought for a short time that he was just chasing me out of his yard. But as I went on, so did he. He marked everything in sight, but was still able to keep up with me. It’s a dog thing.

Eventually, it was clear that he was going to go wherever I went. When I made the move to leave the subdivision, he made the turn with me. I didn’t want to lead someone’s dog out of their subdivision and into dangerous traffic, so I turned around intent on retracing the loop until someone would be found to claim him. At one point, I thought he had disappeared, and so I turned to head for the exit, but he reappeared by my side. So, on around the loop I went.

Soon, I heard someone calling a name. Apparently, my new buddy was named Caesar, and he was a wanted dog. But Caesar had no intention of abandoning the fun of running for the confinement of a leash. He was going to have to be duped. I stopped and reached out my hand to him. In response, he stopped, flopped over on his back and waited. I scratched his belly until his human reattached the leash.

The video was taken early in our run, which is embarrassing because I am breathing so heavily. Nevertheless, I give you Caesar.

Caesar, it was fun running with you.

Are You Faster Than a 72 Year-Old?

Hannah was a sweet 16 year-old member of my Sunday school class nearly a decade ago when I last ran with any serious intent. I frequently asked about her career as a high school cross country runner, and one day she flipped that on me and challenged me to run in an upcoming 5K, a delightful holiday affair called the “Jingle Bell Run”. I accepted her challenge.

Though I had not run in some time, I soon learned that twice around the figure 8 of our subdivision approximated the 5K I needed to master. I had no clue what kind of time I needed to beat her, but I was thinking that I’d be happy to finish and to give her the joy of beating me.

I did finish. And I finished well ahead of Hannah. And I was immediately filled with guilt. What would a more godly forty-something pastor have done? He would have circled back to cross the finish line in tandem with his young friend. But in the heat of the race, what does he determine to do? To squash her.
IMG 1864
I don’t know if I’ve grown more godly over the years. But I know the competitive impulse has not diminished. At all.

As many know, I took up running a year ago for reasons of health. My initial goal was to be able to finish a 5K by or near my 55th birthday. I did, with a great sense of satisfaction. My next goal is a 10K the end of March. But in between I was encouraged to run in a charity race this past Saturday for a local mercy ministry called Hope Helps.

I discovered that this event would be timed with chips embedded in the number bib, and that race results would be broken down by age brackets. Suddenly, running was not about exercise and it was not about finishing. It was about winning. My age bracket, anyway.

In the course of the race, of course, I had no idea where I was in relation to anyone else. I had chosen the race wisely. It being a new venue, there were not that many participants, so my chances of winning were substantially boosted by the lack of competition.

At 4K, however, I was passed by a man sporting a gray beard. I wanted so much to ask him, “Excuse me, sir. Do you happen to be between the ages of 55 and 59?” in order to determine whether I should try to beat him. But I thought that would be tacky. So, I just presumed he was.

Had he kept his pace, I never would have been able to catch him. But when the finish line came in sight, I realized that I had a real chance of overtaking him. I dug for whatever reserve I had and crossed the finish line wasted, but 2 full seconds ahead of my competitor.

So, yes, I won my age bracket. I beat the other 55-59 year old guy who ran it. I chose my race well.

After I’d recovered, Parry, the man I passed on those last seconds, came up to me, shook my hand, and congratulated me on a good race. I reciprocated.

Later I went to the results board and discovered that my new friend Parry was not in my age bracket at all. No, he left the 55-59 bracket a long time ago. I out-raced a 72 year old to the finish line.

So my racing resume is quite stellar. I can beat 16 year-old girls and 72 year-old men and, when the competition is light, other 55-59 year olds. Be impressed.

The Bullpen Gospels

Years ago when the Harry Potter phenomenon was in its rising infancy, some avoided the books judging them to be nefarious tools of the devil intent on dragging the innocent into the darkness of witchcraft and black magic. Upon reading the books I discovered that they were rather about loyalty, friendship, love, and sacrifice. Magic and spells and wizards only formed the context, the whimsical setting within which these greater themes could be played out.

So, I understand why one who is not a sports or baseball fan may pass by a book with the title The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran upon the presumption that it is a book about games and stats and standings intent on dragging the uninitiated into the darkness of boredom. Baseball here forms only a context, the whimsical setting for what is really far more a book about life and how it is lived.

Dirk Hayhurst is a minor league veteran, a pitcher recently released by the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system who is now living in Ohio with his wife and dog. While he labored in the minor leagues, and for a brief stint in the Bigs, he passed his time observing and writing. I’m not sure what kind of pitcher he was, but as a storyteller, he is among the best.

Yes, we get here stories of life on the road and in the locker rooms of single-A and double-A baseball, memorably and humorously told. Readers should know that he records what he sees and hears. Locker room topics and language can be raw. You have been warned.

The stories he tells about himself, his family, and his teammates are true. But as a skilled teller of tales, he causes us to care about these people as characters in a larger story of struggle, conflict, disappointment, and redemption. It is often funny, occasionally poignant, always full of wisdom, but never sentimental.

Last Friday I was at my son’s basketball practice, reading this book. What cooler stuff to be reading among other ‘sporting’ parents than a book ‘about’ sports. It was a good cover, until I found myself fighting back tears. It is definitely NOT cool to be caught crying in the bleachers of your son’s basketball practice.

It is, as I said, a book about life. Honest. True. I’m glad I read it.

Tim Tebow and Idolatry

Dirk Hayhurst is a professional baseball player and a writer with a depth and maturity of insight that I admire. His comments here on the “Tim Tebow Affair” (Tim Tebow: Are His Celebrity and Football Success False Idols?) are full of insight. Speaking neither for nor against Tebow, he rather challenges our temptation to wrap truth in the success of others. Odd it is that we who follow a savior who died in obscurity can be so caught up in celebrity.

The piece is so full of quotable wisdom that I simply must plop the final couple sentences here and encourage you to read the whole.

“…let us not continue some temporal media spectacle focused on production and sports celebrity. These things can evaporate like dew on morning grass.

“Instead, let’s focus on the same boring, consistent, and yet oh-so-exciting promises that have always been in front of us—that God sent his only Son into this world to die for our sins so that through his death we might have peace with God and new life. If that doesn’t get you pumped up, nothing any sports star can do will.”

I’m rooting for Tebow. I’m impressed by Tebow. But I’m once again reminded of how easily we create and then unwisely rest in idols.


Garfoose promo1By the way, Hayhurst is, uh, a character. His alter-ego is a ‘garfoose‘ – a half giraffe and half moose creation which I find wonderfully appealing. Nothing at all somber and dull about this guy. That’s why I like him.

Both his books are on my Amazon wish list. *wink, wink*

Reflections Meteorological

My usual routine is to run in the late afternoon on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. Since last week was exceptionally busy, I ended up running Thursday afternoon and then again, for the first time, Saturday morning. A morning run was a bit of shock to my body, but it afforded some reflections about the weather.

It made me wonder just exactly what ‘humidity’ means. I know what a dry day feels like and how it differs from a humid day. But all our measures of those conditions are relative. Summer conditions for my normal afternoon run are generally 90-95 degrees and 50-60% humidity. Most mornings here are 70-80 degrees and 90-100% humidity. But my guess is that the actual moisture content is roughly the same. Both conditions feel ‘humid’ and my run Saturday morning felt little different than the afternoon.

All which made me wonder whether there is an objective measurement of humidity, or if the ordinarily ‘relative humidity’ measure is really the best. I suppose a quick trip to somewhere on Wikipedia would probably tell me all that I need to know. But as far as I can tell, 95% humidity on a Saturday morning is every bit as ‘experientially’ humid as 55% on a Monday afternoon.

Those reflections aside, a couple of observations remain. I’m running about 5 K each time out, and enjoying the first 3 K. The rest is a chore. I’ve heard some runners speak of those experiences where some chemical kicks in giving them the assurance that they can run forever. For now he (or she) and I remain absolute strangers.


I have found another Florida Afternoon Run Motivator. Perhaps not pushing for speed, but certainly invites one outside.


However, today was a bit unusual. 85º and 51% humidity is not the norm for Central Florida late afternoons, but it was wonderful today. Of course, it does come with a de-motivator, pictured below.



I’d really like to return to blogging. I really would. I’ve gotten as far as including on my weekly action list: “Schedule time slot for blogging.” But, alas, I’ve not gotten to that one yet. It will come.

So, here just a quick note on one dull area of my life. My running.

After the 5K run in April, I developed some knee soreness. I laid off the knee for a couple of months and have slowly returned to a regular routine. This was the first full week back at it.

(I’m feeling good enough that I’m fantasizing a 10K run. Someone please talk me out of it.)

The accompanying picture (blurry because snapped while running) is what I have chosen to call a F.A.R.M. That is, a Florida Afternoon Run Motivator.


It very nearly became a Florida Afternoon Run Terminator (the acronym is yours to imagine). I finished just before the lightning and rain.

Not a Recent Convert

This post may seem to come out of left field.

Well, technically it comes from the pitcher’s mound, the reflections of Dirk Hayhurst, a seasoned minor league baseball player, and the author of The Bullpen Gospels: Major League Dreams of a Minor League Veteran.

He recently wrote an article for The Bleacher Report cracking a window on the world of professional baseball.

There is swearing in professional baseball, not to mention fighting, drinking, drugs, cheating, affairs, pornography, gambling, abuse, lying, stealing and just about everything else that would make your mother weep if she found out you were doing it.


For some players, professional baseball is the worst thing to ever happen to them.

And as much as I enjoyed this as a baseball fan, I wondered about what being thrust into church leadership, into church office, into the pulpit, can do to some of us. Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul says that an elder is not to be a recent convert.

Super Bowl XLV

Truths gleaned from last nights gladiatorial contest:

1. Joe Buck is the best sports announcer ever. No contest.

2. I will stop at Publix on the way home to complete our kitchen makeover. And I don’t even drink beer.

3. I would drive there in my VW Passat if I had one.

4. And I will NOT soon be downloading any Black-Eyed Peas songs. Or ever.

Oh, and good game.

Pitchers and catchers report 2/14. I knew there was something special about that date.

Andre’s Ghost

One of the comments attached to my post on Andre Agassi’s book Open noted that the book must have been ghost written. I assume that with nearly all memoirs, that is a given. In this case, Agassi makes every effort to communicate his great respect for and dependence upon the man who formed his story into captivatingly readable prose.

On the publisher’s web page there is, nestled among accolades from sources such as the New York Times and Time Magazine this snippet from Entertainment Weekly:

“Not only has Agassi bared his soul like few professional athletes ever have, he’s done it with a flair and force that most professional writers can’t even pull off.”

I get the impression that this reviewer somehow really believed that Agassi wrote this. But he is right: most professional writers can’t pull it off, and so Agassi turned to a Pulitzer Prize-winning professional writer. It is only fitting that the story of one of the best in one field should be written by one of the best in another.

There is a context in which ghostwriting can be a dishonest act (and it’s prevalence in Christian publishing is a dirty little secret). But this is not one of those cases. The ghost is not invisible. In his acknowledgements, after four paragraphs describing the extent of their collaboration, Agassi says this:

I asked J.R. many times to put his name on this book. He felt, however, that only one name belonged on the cover. Though proud of the work we did together, he said he couldn’t see signing his name to another man’s life. These are your stories, he said, your people, your battles. It was the kind of generosity I first saw on display in his memoir. I knew not to argue. Stubbornness is another quality we share. But I insisted on using this space to describe the extent of J.R.’s role and to publicly thank him.

Such humility and honesty I find refreshing. These qualities do not live in the acknowledgements alone, and this is what gives the book value and makes it a worthy and enjoyable read.

Even if there are no hills in Bradenton.