Leaning Forward

I never realized I ran that way.  I don’t think I ever thought about it.  Still, she didn’t have any uncertainty as she said the words.

He can’t really see, but he’s sure that was you he noticed running by last night.  Nobody else we know runs like that—leaning forward.

Leaning forward?  I run leaning forward?

I checked, the next time I went running,  sneaking a glance at my image in a shop window as I passed.  I run leaning forward.  Try as I might, I can’t change that.

I lean forward as I run.

I know it’s not the best way to run.  I could use my core and back muscles better if I ran with an upright posture.  When I think about it, I do that.

Mostly, I simply lean forward and run.

I want to get to the goal.  Quickly.  Leaning forward, erroneous though the concept may be, seems to get me there more quickly.

I’m beginning to wonder though, if that will always be true.  I have leaned forward all of my life.

But, things change.

Years pass.

I am tired.  I’m not the only one.

In more areas than just that of physical exercise, I have begun to plod more than to run.  The energy, the zeal of youth, has begun to wane.

I sat on an uncomfortable table this morning and listened to my new friend’s instructions.

You’ll want to quit before the test is finished.  Don’t do it!  Push on through!  It may seem that you can’t go any further, but don’t give in.  We won’t let you get into any trouble.

I nodded my head sagely and with confidence.  In retrospect, I feel like one of the sturdy dreamers in the old hymn when the Savior asks if they are able to be crucified with him.  They told Him they’d follow Him to the death.

Well, we know how that worked out for them.  The day of the test came and they scattered, terrified.  At least one of them swore he didn’t even know the Man who had trained him for the day of testing. (John 18:17, 25-27)

Anyway, earlier today, this sturdy dreamer got on the treadmill for the stress test—really, I get stressed just thinking about it—and my new friend Dawn started the belt moving under my feet.

I didn’t do so well—just walking.  Dawn told me as much.

Why are you marching?  Just widen your stride and relax.  You know how to walk.

I don’t stroll much.  But still, I heeded her advice and relaxed, stretching out the length of my stride and kept up with the speed and elevation changes.  It was uphill all the way.  Every step.

And, just when I began to think I was almost finished, the final stage kicked in.  I had to run to keep up.  But, I know how to run, even if I don’t walk so well.

Finally!  Something I could do!

I ran.

Wow!  You’re a lot better at running than you are at walking, aren’t you?

My taskmaster laughed, and I laughed with her—as much as I could with my parched mouth and heaving lungs.  I was in my element now.

Except, I wasn’t.

Panic isn’t a word I like to use when describing my own state of mind.  It’s the only word that fits for what followed.

I wasn’t going to quit.  I wasn’t.  But, there were points when I wanted to beg Dawn to slow the treadmill down to a walk again.  It was irrational, I know.  Sometimes you can’t control how you react to circumstances.  I wasn’t in control.

But, I did finish the test and, shaky legs, heaving chest, and all, stumbled back over to the uncomfortable examination table.  I sat there, grateful for a place to sit and settle my emotions, as well as get my lungs functioning normally again.

I didn’t quit!  I ran to the very end.  Leaning forward, hands on the bars, I had finished all of the stages.

I finished the test!

But, as I sit late at night, here in my easy chair, I wonder.

Can I keep leaning forward?

Am I going to finish strong?

Shaky legs and all, will I finish strong?

You know I can’t run the race in my own strength, don’t you?  I never started it on my own either.

The Apostle—my namesake—wrote the words that echo down from centuries past and reassure just as much today as when he first penned them.

He who started the work in you has no intention of leaving you on your own.  You won’t drop out.  He will finish what He started.  Count on it.  (Philippians 1:6)

I will freely admit, there have been a few moments of panic in the last few months.  More than a few.

Still, for all that, I’m going to keep running.  Leaning forward, I’m going to run.

Even if it’s uphill for the rest of the way.

There’s a prize for the winner.  It’ll be better than a gold medal, or even a crown of leaves.  Much better.

I know I’m already in good company, but there’s always room for more on the road.  Maybe you’ve been walking a ways, but it’s time to start running again.  Why don’t you come along with me?

Run the race in front of you.

Lean forward.

Run the race in front of you. Run. And lean forward. Click To Tweet

The finish line is up there somewhere.  

Up ahead.




Are ye able, said the Master,
To be crucified with Me?
Yea, the sturdy dreamers answered,
To the death we follow Thee.
(from Are Ye Able ~ American theologian/poet ~ 1892-1976)


Crossing the starting line may be an act of courage, but crossing the finish line is an act of faith.
(John Bingham ~ American marathon runner/author)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

I’m Not That Man

I want to be that man.

You know—the person they think I am.

I want to spend my hours and minutes considering ways to help folks around me.  I’d like to be confident that all things work for good—confident enough that stress couldn’t ever color the edges of my emotions—confident enough that I would never give in to worry and despair.

I want to be the guy who knows exactly what action a true follower of Jesus would take in any given situation.  And, I’d like to take that action.  Every time, I’d like to do that.

I’m not that man.

I’m not.

Are you disappointed in me?  I am.  

I wanted to spend these last few days, the period of time we call Holy Week, in contemplation of the cost of grace.  I thought I could perhaps offer some deep insights into the substitutionary atonement made for us on the cross during this week so many centuries ago. 

I haven’t.  I can’t.

You see, I’ve spent the entire week—every single day—in activities that resemble the sacred arts not at all.  I’ve dug up roots from the ground.  I’ve hung drywall.  I’ve spread topsoil.  I’ve carried desks to storage, and brush to the street, and a load of poison to the recycle center.

Nearly sixty thousand steps this week, over twenty thousand of them just yesterday—that’s how far I’ve walked.  There are more steps to be walked tomorrow. 

It doesn’t sound very holy, does it?

But, as I took off my socks yesterday to prepare for the shower which would wash the sweat and filth off of me, I saw a shadowy picture in my mind.  

A nearly naked Man leaned over a basin of water, wearing nothing but a towel around His waist, and he washed the dirty feet of every single man in the room.  (John 13:4)

I looked at my feet and wondered how many steps those men had taken since last their feet were washed?  How filthy would the water in that basin have been?

But the Man completed his job, dressed again, and sat down to eat His final meal with them—the only one at the table with unwashed feet.

It was but a fleeting, fuzzy vision, washed away like dirt down that drain long before I wiped the steam from my mirror.

Today, my writing friends plied the tools of their trade and committed thousands of contemplative words to their pages and hard drives.

Not me.  I walked more steps.

I am not that man.

I wonder.

Is it just as holy this week to walk on along the road He has set before us? Click To Tweet

Is it just as holy this week—just as holy—to walk on along the road He has set before us?  



With purpose?

The Man who suffered—the Man who died—the Man who lives again that we may live—He made us to walk, and work, and weep, and worship on this road.

He made us to walk, and work, and weep, and worship on this road. Click To Tweet

Every week.  Every day.  Every hour.  Every moment.

They’re all holy because He made them so.

I’m not that man. Really, I’m not.

But, He is.


The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His.
(Francis Chan ~ American pastor/author)


Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
(Colossians 3:23 ~ NLT)



© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.