A New Year’s Resolution Revolution

I was humbled to be asked to contribute to the SISU Project’s new blog. The SISU Project is a group of runners in eastern Massachusetts who are not only rockin’ runners, but great people trying to live happy and holistic lives. Below is a link to the post, but please roam their whole site if you get a minute!

The post covers setting, progressing towards and achieving goals in the new year!

http://www.sisuproject.com/7/post/2013/01/new-years-resolutions-tim-ritchie.html

Happy New Year, spread some sisu!

Peace,

Tim

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Advent Armor of Light

Advent is quickly coming to a close, and I want to make sure it does not end having gone unnoticed. It is a temptation, and often a reality, to let this season pass without reflection due to our schedules, traveling, shopping and desire for Christmas itself.  As we enter the last few days before Christmas, I want to encourage all of us to be engaged in both a patient waiting and an active preparation. Please allow these two passages to serve as the basis for these two themes of hope and accountability:

Patient Waiting – HOPE – Future

7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  [James 5:7-11]

Active Preparing – ACCOUNTABILITY – Past/Present

11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us live honorably, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.  [Romans 13:11-14]

Advent, as it should, brings about feelings of joy and happiness associated with Christmas, presents, music, family and snow. Yet, we often overlook the true source of this joy – God’s compassion, presence and mercy. Above, James speaks clearly of the reality of a judge and that our patience is a vigilant and persevering one. The Lord’s coming is near and so now is the time for us to be especially aware of our shortcomings and our dependence on God. In Romans, this comes to life through the imagery of light and darkness (key Advent imagery). St. Paul spells out for us the deeds of darkness that are so easy to fall into if we are not careful. We need to put on THE ARMOR OF LIGHT, to put on THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, and no longer think about the desires of the flesh. To borrow an athletic metaphor from a Jesuit friend: when I put on my Boston College uniform, I know that I am both representing what the uniform reads and encouraged by what the uniform stands for. It is a special feeling to dress in uniform and take on whatever challenges await. In the same way, we put on light – our guide, our defense and our hope.

Children understand this season the best. The fact that ‘Santa’s watching’ is a clear motivator for good behavior for children in the Christmas season. Despite their excitement for Christmas morning, there is no doubt in their minds that there are real consequences to their actions, good and bad. This is how we must see ourselves. God is coming and He is truly watching us always. Let us be children of the light. Let us help each other down the path of righteousness. Let us put on Jesus and patiently wait, while we actively and joyfully prepare for His coming! Amen.

Workout: Just as in training we are aware of those things which hold us back (laziness, discomfort, distractions), let us be as aware of the things which hold us back from love (darkness, pride, selfishness). Let us also pray “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Peace, peace, peace,

Tim

 

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The Risk of Freedom

In the wake of human tragedy, the question rises quickly: “Why would God allow such a thing?!” A question filled with anger, emotion, accusation and the like, but a question that cannot help but creep into the minds of many who hear such news. Tragedy struck again on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut with a school shooting leaving many dead and many more lonely, confused and hurt.

I think God knows the power, immensity and value of true love, true love acted out in freedom. This freedom is a risk God takes – allowing us the opportunity to love each other completely, but knowing that we may not. When given the chance, our love for one another has done incredible things but our lack of love has done things equally horrendous. When love reigns, it inspires and spreads and it is its authenticity that allows it to do so. When tragedy strikes, the hatred is never enough to extinguish true love. In the brief hours following such terror, what has already emerged is a recognition nationwide of our connectivity. The lost in Newtown were sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, friends – parts of relationships that we somehow share in ourselves. It is this spirit of empathy, hope and love outpouring, that we hold fast to – our torch in the darkness.

We are entrusted with our freedom and it is ours to do with it what we will. God’s love was so much so that He let us go, holding onto nothing but hope that we will come back to Him. That we are not puppets, gives us the opportunity to kill, hurt and destroy, but more so, the chance to live authentically, the power to hope and the freedom to love divine.

I am heartbroken, but I think God is heartbroken right now, too. He knows as well as any what it is like to lose a child, and He is saddened at having to lose so many more yesterday morning.

I have seen a rush of thoughts and prayers pour out for the families in Newtown and for each other. Let those prayers flow like whitewater, especially today, and everyday. Peace. Please,

Tim

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God’s Image

To the loyal readers (reader…):

No promises here, but planning on getting back to this whole writing project. I think I’ve been so inconsistent because I forgot the purpose of this blog originally. It was not to craft literary masterpieces as if to be presented to a publisher. Rather, I wanted to think concretely about running, faith and their interdependence, all while forcing myself to write in order to make these thoughts tangible.

This renewed interest stemmed from a passage in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, which simply reminded me just how powerful and thought-provoking writing can be. In this scene a priest in a world where religion is outlawed shares a reflection as he rides his mule with a stranger toward perhaps his own demise. The passage reads as follows:

“… But at the centre of his own faith there always stood the convincing mystery – that we were made in God’s image. God was the parent, but He was also the policeman, the criminal, the priest, the maniac, and the judge. Something resembling God dangled from the gibbet or went into odd attitudes before the bullets in the prison yard or contorted itself like a camel in the attitude of sex. He would sit in the confessional and hear the complicated dirty ingenuities which God’s image had thought out, and God’s image shook now, up and down on the mule’s back, with the yellow teeth sticking out over the lower lip…”

A passage that has been bouncing in my head since, mile after mile. It speaks to our interconnectedness as humans, something which I often ignore, especially when faced with what seem like insurmountable differences. We are all created in God’s image – the good, the bad and the ugly, but in each a sliver of hope, beauty and unity.
PEACE.

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Reflections: Finding God in All Things

Part 1/4 of a series of reflections on this running season which has just passed. Through the months I have been training and racing at a whole new level. I hope to share some of my delayed and compiled insights from this season and where God has been hard at work.

Part 1: Consolation

There have been so many high points this past season (running from 1/1-6/25). I have broken four minutes for the mile, finished in the top five in two major US road running championships and have been granted many opportunities to travel the country racing. These have all stood out as clear moments of joy and I was truly blessed in having been given them. In each I was able to see the fruits of my hard work, share the feelings with people who have helped me get here and rejoice with some fellow runners on the same journey as myself. So, where was God?

I want God to be my first thought, always. But, for now, I seem to only think of Him first when my airplane hits some turbulence (meant literally). I hope, through prayer, the Ignatian Examen and this blog, I will turn to Him as quickly in these moments of consolation, as I do when the fasten seatbelt sign comes on. When I crossed the line sub-4, I spent a few minutes wondering if this was real, sharing some hugs with my coach and teammates, pointing to friends in the crowd and when I finally came out of oxygen debt, I prayed a quick ‘thank you’ to God. I believe that God loves me so completely and that He loves to see me happy. So, even when I was caught up in the moment, God was caught up in me. I have mentioned in previous posts that God has given me this beautiful gift of running because He knew it would be the best way for the two of us to communicate and when He wants to reaffirm our relationship sometimes He does so with such clarity (other times less so, see future post).

I do wonder how invested God is in my running, when it comes to the specifics, race results etc. I am sure (though maybe not sure) that God is not picking favorites up there, causing some runners to trip, others to tie up and me to cross the line first. I am, however, confident that He is invested enough to continually show me He is there, and I think this is the foundation of prayer.

So, even though God may not yet be my first thought crossing the finish line, I know that I am His. My consolation in these special moments is that God takes even greater joy in them than I do.

Peace,

Tim

Part 2/4 – Desolation…soon

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You Are Not Defeated

Rejoice! God is real and He speaks clearly through Fr. Jack, his cousin, and our tears…many tears.

Watch Father’s beautiful reflection from a few Sundays past:

http://at.bc.edu/laetare/

Peace always,

Tim

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Love in a Hopeless Place

I was blessed to have spent a large portion of this past weekend on retreat with 90 curious, caring and Catholic students from Boston University (yes, Boston University…). Despite their college of choice, I was inspired and in awe of their hunger for faith, their openness to instruction and their receptivity of God and His message. It brought pure joy to my heart to see students on their knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament, students sharing a shoulder for a crying friend, students attentively listening to guest speakers and students taking great risks to be vulnerable enough to maybe let God in. That God was present among us was clear, in my eyes, in my ears and in my heart.

The theme for the retreat was “Grounded: Christ is our Rock.” For some reason, I was deemed worthy to speak and share my experiences for a portion of the Saturday night section of the retreat. My challenge was to address the role of prayer in grounding one’s life in the unshakable foundation of Jesus Christ. I was to teach and share on the purpose, practice and progression of prayer, through its unique and varying stages. In keeping with this very appropriate and significant theme, I placed at the center of my talk the need for prayer to exist simply because God exists. There is a tremendous desire in prayer, and a common tendency, to think that we pray for our own benefit, or even for God’s benefit. Though the rewards of our prayer are great, they are not the foundation, the foundation of prayer is the worthiness of God that warrants our prayers. He is who is, unchanging and eternal, and therefore, someone in whom we can and must place our heaviest anchor.

This blog has shown in the past that life, noticed mainly in running, is full of consolation and desolation. Every day presents new opportunities for success and better opportunities for failure, but in each of them exists another great opportunity – to hold on to the Cross with confidence that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. As I spent the night in conversation with these students, listening to their lives and sharing mine, it was apparent that we each struggle uniquely, but we find solace in common. We learned that we are not alone in our fears, troubles, joys and experiences. Rather, we stand with each other as friends, because we stand on the same holy grounding. The conviction of my friend is a pillar of my own. It is my friend who helps me to bear my cross because he is an agent of The Cross Bearer, whether he knows it or not. Together, through good friends and hard prayers, we started to see at the retreat what has been there all along – the person of Jesus Christ, sometimes scared, sometimes sorrowful, always healing, always praying, the Crucified, but the Risen!

Though we rejoiced over our friends and our God, the retreat was not all easy. The difficulty is in recognizing that the greater challenge, in grounding ourselves in Christ, is not the attachment to our God, but much more so the abandonment of ourselves. As the students shared their stories of transition, lost identity, daily struggles, sin, pride, and slowly launched these testimonies as waves upon rock, to watch them crash into mere droplets, they noticed a similar erosion event occurring.  As we offered up ourselves, in our strengths and weakness, God offered Himself even more fully to us. As our attachments shattered on the Rock of Christ, in return did His grace begin to shatter the rock of our own hearts, revealing beneath it, a fleshy, living and holy Heart.

The retreat was a wonderful example of the power of prayer and the support of friends. Over the weekend we all became a little more aware of God’s goodness and His relentless longing to love His created children. These students, as they danced to Rihanna in the middle of life’s challenges, truly found love in a hopeless place! (by which I can only assume they meant BU…)

Let us offer our hearts to the Lord, so we may be free enough to receive His!

Peace!

TIM

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