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Category: personal development

Has God ever stopped creating?

If we can think of anything that is true about God alone, it is the ability to Create ex nihilo. The event that is the defining symbol of God’s sovereign, limitless power is Creation ex nihilo. That God created the heavens and the earth, from nothing that was already existing, is foundational. All of what we know and believe about God is built upon the divine attributes and invisible qualities implied by God’s creating the entire cosmos. Creation ex nihilo is so important to belief in an omnipotent and transcendent God that the first attacks on God’s existence focus on whether the Bible speaks the truth about His creative work.

Because Creation is so foundational, we do not accept any ambiguity about the statement: “God created the heavens and the earth.” Our most familiar English translations of Genesis 1:1 are so final, so certain. But could it be possible that the Hebrew text is ambiguous in this very issue? Could it be possible that the Hebrew text leaves open the possibility that God is still working? Our English translations convey the sense that God created in the beginning, and it was complete. Our translations give me the impression of a child who has returned from school with news of something exciting. “Dad, I made a robot! Now, let me tell you what I did…” Our translations give the feeling that they announce a finished work, with subsequent details given to convey exactly what happened. There is no sense of continuing activity. No sense of the possibility that the account might not be complete. The end of the work, not its beginning, is prioritized in the translations.

Consider the English Standard Version of Genesis 1:1-3–

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light

But compare this to the Jewish Publication Society translation of these same verses:

When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

And the Young’s Literal Translation, 3rd Revision:

In the beginning of God’s preparing the heavens and the earth—the earth hath existed waste and void, and darkness [is] on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God fluttering on the face of the waters, and God Smith, ‘Let light be,’ and light is.

In the ESV (and NIV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, KJV, and most other modern English versions used by Protestants), the creation has a definite end. The period after “earth” makes it seem as if the rest of Genesis 1 is recounting an event only after it has been completely observed. However, look at the JPS version or the YLT version. These versions indicate that God’s work is beginning, but there is not a definite ending of the creating. We are watching something in progress. The omission of a period after “earth” allows the action to continue, and makes Genesis 1:1 an initiation of action, not a report of past events but of something continuing. Genesis 1:1 is an announcement that God is at work!

I was first made aware of these differences while reading Aviya Kushner’s The Grammar of God: a Journey Into the Words and Worlds of the Bible. Her book is a window into her encounter with the English Bible through which we are able to look on the differences between the Hebrew and the English, the ways in which culture and language obscure and illuminate the Scripture. Kushner writes that some of the punctuation and capitalization—none of which is present in the Hebrew—“makes everything look confident, definite… here, this is where it starts, this is where it ends.” On the other hand, the Hebrew is more flexible than the English, and can be “ambiguous, rich, lyrical, evocative” with the thoughts and actions flowing into one another.

When I am guided through other English translations by Kushner, I can’t help but notice how the Protestant translations I usually read make it seem, as Kushner observed, that the work stops—that it ends here. Creation is not ongoing; it is not connected to God’s continuing action in the world. The Hebrew is much more fluid and make clear that the beginning is connected to what God is doing next. Reflecting on all this makes me ask the question: Could it be possible that Genesis 1:1 is connected to what God is doing now? While Kushner is Jewish, not a Jesus follower, her observations lead me to remember what Jesus says about His Father in John 5:

For this reason the Jews began to persecute Jesus continually because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now [He has never ceased working], and I too am working.” -John 5:16-17, AMP

When Jesus says, “My Father is working until now,” we have to ask ourselves two questions. What is God doing? And When did God start working? I suggest that Jesus is hinting at the Creation in Genesis 1:1. Creation never definitely ended, and God is still working at it. While God saw that the world He made was, in fact, good, God is continuing His creative work today. God’s creative work is a constant theme of the Bible, and if we use the Hebrew as a clue, His creative work has never stopped. There is no period after “earth,” because God never stopped working.

One might ask: “What is God doing? What is He creating?” God is doing so much in us and around us once we understand His work has never stopped. For example, He is creating in us a clean heart:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. -Psalm 51:10, ESV

and here as well:

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. -Ezekiel 36:26-27, RSV

He is working to fulfill his promises to those who have faith in Him, even if those promises involve a new creation:

As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. -Romans 4:17, ESV

He is working in us to His pleasure:

for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. -Philippians 2:13, ESV

and He is working to create a nation for His Son:

And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” they will be called “sons of the living God.” -Romans 9:26

As we can see from these and many more examples not listed here, God has never stopped creating. He was creating all the way through the Scriptures, and He is at work creating in our lives up until now. When we read Genesis 1:1 with a period after “earth,” we must take care to remember that God is still at work on what he started in the beginning. After all, the tension between completing and laboring is something we are intimately familiar with. For example, although the heavens and the earth have been brought forth, the first time we hear “it is finished” is when Jesus speaks from the cross. And even though Jesus has declared His work done, He still lives in us today to do the work of the Father and to build up His body. What are the ways He is at work in and around you? How will you join him in working to His pleasure?

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Spiritual Calisthenics

Have you ever tried to do something that flat-out humiliates you? Something you have absolutely no idea how to do and is so far beyond your abilities? Don’t stop because thats a perfect metaphor for the spiritual life.

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:7b-8, NIV84

In fact, that’s exactly how I feel–that hopelessness and embarrassment–about calisthenics skills. Most other physical pursuits I’ve tried have seemed attainable if only I’d put more effort in. I’d either already mastered the movements, or at least have been familiar enough with appropriate foundational movement patterns that I was able to do it in a small number of tries. Basketball, soccer, weightlifting, and marathon running are simply not that difficult. They are all composed of very basic movement patterns that literally everyone uses every day of their lives. The coordination takes only a modest amount of training and practice to become proficient. You just add weight or try to move faster.

Body weight calisthenics skills are something else altogether. Instead of standing on your feet and legs-your strongest body parts-you stand on your hands and arms-much less strong. Instead of using your legs to perform explosive movements with your arms, you use your arms to perform explosive pull-ups and muscle ups. Your anterior core (abs) become no less important than your posterior core and shoulders for stabilizing body movements and isometrics. And almost none of the skills-planche, levers, handstands, crosses, etc.-have equivalent movement patterns commonly used in everyday life. It is embarrassing trying to learn skills that your body has literally never had to perform.

If we are honest, this is exactly what the life of the Spirit is like. In our everyday lives-especially in the US-our survival depends on our ability to be materialistic and self seeking. We have no need or practical experience with (so-called) esoteric spiritual practices that place a sense of the transcendent over our sense of self. We have no practical or useful experience prioritizing our ability to anticipate spiritual movements. We literally have no understanding of how to perform miracles or communicate in the unseen world using unlearned languages. It is exceedingly difficult for us to fight demons because we have been told from birth that they don’t exist. Therefore we live under curses and demonic possession unaware. We do not expect healing because we believe healing only happens in stories. Like in a handstand, our world is turned upside down.

Unfortunately, while you don’t need a handstand to face reality, you do need faith. If you want to live in God’s world, you must have faith in Him and know what pleases Him. You must learn to recognize his activity and learn to join what He is doing.

What can we do when our experience is wholly inadequate to reality? Well, we have some tips from the physical challenges posed by calisthenics skills. Notice that there is some level of baseline strength that one must have in order to turn your world on its head. You cannot attempt a handstand if you cannot do a push-up. And there are disciplines that start from where one is to progress them to the more advanced activities. You may not be able to perform a front lever raise today, but a number of exercises performed consistently over time can help you bridge the gap.

While there is much about our spiritual lives that is beyond our ability to control, there are basic disciplines we should pursue in obedience while our spiritual strength grows. Do you pray? Do you read and meditate on Scripture? Do you cultivate a heart of worship? You cannot expect to perform miracles or even be other-centered if you don’t consistently engage these basics first! Work on the basics and make room, by faith, for God to move in your life.

Build your spiritual core.

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The Creative Power of Forgiveness

Akulacreative Color Palette
The irreversibility of action is one of the most profound truths of life. When we act, we interact with others from our position of human plurality to accomplish something more creative and powerful than we could ever accomplish on our own. Action is always an inter-action with others, and action is always resulting in an outcome that exceeds our own creativity and personal power. When we act, the consequences of our actions out live our selves. However, forgiveness can reverse the power of destructive action.

The inter-active, inter-personal reality of action is remarkable to consider. Because of our fallen nature and our lack of foreknowledge of future events, our actions can be creatively productive or creatively destructive. For example, we routinely see the creative power of action at work in politics. When DeRay McKesson asserts that #BlackLivesMatter, his actions are multiplied beyond his own power because others subject their personal will to the ideal that other Americans are willing to productively confront the structural devaluing of minority lives in our justice system. When President Donald J. Trump asserts that only he can #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, i.e., #MAGA, his actions are multiplied beyond his own power because others subject their personal will to the creative destruction of the American-dominated world order in favor of re-creating another domestic future.

We saw the irreversibility of action this past week in profoundly destructive and profoundly redeeming ways in Las Vegas. While the shooter may have had (yet unknown) plans effected in his own actions, the destructive power of his actions has been greatly multiplied beyond anything beyond his own power as the losses of life and health ripple through all of the families and communities affected. At the same time, his actions released the creatively redeeming actions of others who sacrificed themselves to protect others, risked their lives to keep the company of the dying, and provide immediate physical and spiritual relief to those who were suffering in the moment. While on the one hand, there was one irreversibly destructive act, on the other hand there were many irreversibly redeeming acts that negated the power of one’s rebellion against the sanctity of life.

In fact, action is so powerful that the only thing that can reverse or undo destructive acts is forgiveness. Forgiveness is the sole personal action that can release the actor and the one who is acted upon from the irreversible consequences of action. This is because forgiveness is so unexpected in the wake of actions with creatively destructive actions. Most of the time, when the circumstance demands forgiveness, it is because the hurt and pain caused by the original action is so deep that it creates a cycle of retribution in which the one acted upon is obligated to reciprocate the original action. Thus, the original action attains its destructive power. But forgiveness can have redemptive power, because it destroys the cycle of retribution while re-configuring the relation between the actor and the one acted upon. Ideally, forgiveness re-configures this relationship so that both parties can proceed as if the original act had never happened. In our human world, this is obviously not true since some of the artifacts of originally destructive acts cannot be reversed or restored (e.g., a man is paralyzed because he was struck by a drunk driver). However, future actions are no longer predetermined by the original act of destruction.

Have the events of the past week made you reconsider the meaning of life? The meaning of our actions? The power of forgiveness?

Peace and Blessings.

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Plantar Fasciitis Recovery Update–Good to Go! (Hopefully)

Today, I wanted to culminate my plantar fasciitis posts by letting everyone know that I think I’m good to go!

Well, I hope I’m good to go. It’s been 9 weeks since I last ran, and so I’m going to test it out tomorrow to see how it responds. This week, I have started lower body weightlifting again, and the one lift I’ve added back into my routine is the front squat. I went up to 245# today for triples, so not very heavy. My foot didn’t hurt throughout the day, and the only soreness is on the outsides of the foot where my weight has been shifting throughout the 9 weeks. So, I’m a bit nervous, but I’m excited to test it out tomorrow.

One other thing I’ve noticed is that footwear makes a big difference. I’ve been walking around almost nonstop in my Nike Zoom Pegasus 33’s, even inside, unless I get a bit skittish about wearing shoes I’ve worn pretty much everywhere else inside my house. Then I’m wearing my Adidas Sequence 9’s, which I’ve not worn outside (except to put kids in the car) yet. I can wear my Cole Haan GrandOS shoes with my SuperFeet inserts, but my Nike Pegasus 33’s with the SuperFeet Insoles are by far the most comfortable combination. So anyone with non-chronic PF may want to try certainly the SuperFeet, but also the Pegasus 33’s. Don’t wear the Pegasus without some inserts or additional support, however, since the Pegasus is not very supportive at all. Try the Asics Gel Nimbus if you want a neutral shoe that has a bit more support. I thoroughly enjoyed those shoes, and would still run in them if they weren’t completely worn down. In fact, if I were to do it from scratch today, I’d probably rotate the Gel Nimbus and the Pegasus 33’s (of course with my SuperFeet) as my training combination. I’m not serious enough for racing flats…

If you’re struggling with plantar fasciitis, and it just won’t go away, my advice to you is to rest. Before I took 9 weeks off of running, I had been dealing with PF from April 9th through July 9th or so. I would let it rest just enough to not hurt through the day, and then I’d run on it and it would hurt for two or three days. I’d go on and off like this until I tried to run a 60-minute fartlek workout in late June and it felt like something popped. I thought I’d broken something or torn a foot muscle and scheduled a doctor’s appointment, only to have a diagnosis of PF confirmed by cortisone injection. That acute injury probably saved my running career, certainly in the near-term. If I had kept on running on it, it might have turned into a chronic PF case. So, if you don’t have money for doctors, etc.., my advice to you is to bite the bullet and rest. If you can see a doctor, go get a cortisone shot and rest. Don’t run on it for at least 6 weeks. Go swim, tackle some weightlifting or calisthenics goals, catch up on reading or family/friends time, gain some weight (not too much) and let the rest of your body recover as well. Have the discipline to shut it down and alter your race plans. From what I’ve read, rest is the only thing that works for most people, and if you’ve gotten PF from running, you’ve probably got an acute case that will respond to rest. So make sure you rest. Don’t go looking for a magic cure or secret that will help you recover fast. There is no such thing, and people who recover instantly have a unique natural history with the disease.

I’m so excited to get back running, even if I have gotten into a sort of rhythm with swimming. I bless God for recovery, and I am more passionate about staying fit than I was before. This injury has taught me that your physical strength and health is not a blessing to take lightly, and that you should enjoy it while you can.

Peace and Blessings. 

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PF Recovery, Week 3, Day 4

I decided I’d give an update on plantar fasciitis recovery. The past couple days, my heel has been a bit temperamental. It has not hurt, of course, since I’ve not run in nearly four weeks, but I expected it to be near 100% by now. LOL, of course that’s the problem with PF. It takes forever. Does anyone really know why? Not sure. For sure, if I’d never gotten the cortisone shot in the first place, I’d already have been back on the roads and who knows what I’d have done to my foot. This experience is frustrating, but I’ve rekindled a love for training I started to lose. I started to say, “Oh, I have kids now. I have a real job now, this extra stuff has to go. I shouldn’t expect to be doing very much, performance-wise, anyways.” Well, I won’t be saying that much now anymore. Time will take care of that very well on it’s own. I’ll let time handle its own business.

I’ve been focusing on increasing the time I can swim for. Last week, I had one 25 minute swim and one 30 minute swim. The rest were all between 15-20 minutes. So the good thing is that I never swim for less than 15 minutes now. The bad thing is that I need to have the short swims up to 25 minutes and the longer ones up to 40 minutes.

Also, even though I feel that weight gain is one of the reasons I may be dealing with heel pain, I cannot convince myself it’s important enough to lose the weight to submit to the discipline required. I won’t complain about this, I’ll just keep trying at it.

I’m starting to miss running, but not so much running per se, but I miss not having any restrictions on my activities. I want to be able to more or less do what I want when I want to do it. Unfortunately, right now, I can’t. I enjoy running probably more than any other activity and I can’t do it. Also, I had been slowly building up heavy squats/deadlifts, and I’ll be more or less starting from scratch when I can add that back in. If you lift weights at all, you know how much fun it is to lift/push/pull heavy stuff. I do a lot of circuit training and the squats/deadlifts are the linchpins of my circuits.

All this notwithstanding, I am still blessed. I can do all of my critical activities without pain whatsoever, and many cannot say that. I can remain physically active at what I think is a high level. I can train 6 days a week. In addition, swimming is becoming an unexpected sanctuary.

One of the things I’ve appreciated about swimming is that there are no speakers in the pool. The only thing you hear when you’re in the water is water. I like the sound that rushing water makes, or the rhythms of others’ arms making strokes while I’m waiting to get into a lane. When I’m in the water, though I know that I’m slower than most others, I don’t have to dwell on it. You don’t see others unless you’re on the side of the pool  or right next to them in the lane. This way, my focus can stay where it should be–on my goals, my technique, and my thoughts. Compared to just about everything else in the gym, and even on the jogging paths, this allows an unmatched level of focus on my thoughts and technique. It is a vivid reminder that I am running my “race” and living my life, not anyone else’s. If you need some time just to exercise without your mind being assaulted from all sides, try swimming (or trail running, which I can’t do right now). I’ve enjoyed my time swimming, and will keep it in my routine even after I start running again.

I’ve taken a break from trying to get 20 pullups, but I may work almost exclusively with weighted pullups. I’ve been doing weighted pullups regularly, but I’m trying to be careful not to over-train my shoulders and back since I’m swimming. I can’t imagine having to rely on the stationary bike. That’d just be too much. Other than that, the only other strength exercises I’ve consistently done are calf raises and bridges.

Let me say something about bridges before I close this entry. I started doing bridges regularly as a way to avoid core imbalances while training squats/deadlifts regularly. I already had no idea why folks do crunches/situps/ab machines or any other common ab work, but now I really don’t know what the point is. First off, your core is not just your front, but your sides and back as well. For athletes, the back and sides of your core are probably much more important to performance, yet much weaker than your front. Most ab exercises you see folks doing don’t even begin to touch these areas. Second, you can hit your core using any bridge variation and keep the area under much, much greater time under tension. Third, your core is meant to be stable in order to transfer force from lower to upper body and vice-versa. Thus, you probably get much better core strength gains from doing any of the hip-dominant compound lifts, pullups, sprints, jumps, pulls, or standing pushes than any of the “ab” exercises. Bridges not only provide functional strength to the core, but make an athlete much better at most of the other foundational movement patterns.

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Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

Let me say that this statement contains a useful summary of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer believes to be the essence of Christian life, lived for the purpose of building up others in Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes this in the first chapter of his book, Life Together, which crystallizes his theology of Christian community. As time permits, I will try to share a few reflections from this book that I believe are encouraging. I have finished reading the book for some time, but it is difficult to write a review so I will share a few thoughts over the next week or two as I have opportunity. Let us start by discussing the quote above.

We see his emphasis on grace. If you have read more than one paragraph of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writing–in most cases even only one paragraph–you will know that Bonhoeffer believes that the grace of God in Christ is the reason for living. It is the rationale and motivation of our ethics. It is the breath of life and the substance of what we call death. To Bonhoeffer, grace is everything, and so it is fitting that this quote from his book, Life Together, begins with grace.

We see that his focus on grace yields to his acknowledgment that God allows us to live in community with other Christians. I’ve written recently about how much I am disappointed and dissatisfied by church. I think that Bonhoeffer, even if he saw exactly the same data that I experience, he would conclude that even the church experiences that I have had are a supreme gift of grace that must prompt a response of praise and gratitude and not one of self-righteous complaint. When Bonhoeffer wrote this book–one of his last–he was writing as a pastor who was a leader of a non-sanctioned non-denominational seminary in Germany during the Third Reich. Communities of authentic Christianity were not common. So he wrote this with the understanding that the enjoyment of Christian community for many could be abridged at any moment by the governing authorities. Thus, not only is it grace, but it is a privilege if God calls you to live in Christian community with others. If He calls you to respond to Truth in Christ, He does so without respect for your external circumstances. Many are called to labor alone. That is not my call in Christ, thank God. He allows me to live in community with other Christians.

And this brings us to the third thing we see here: community. If we are in Christ, our lives are not our own. Bonhoeffer understood that our lives are lived in Christ, through Christ, expressly for others and not for ourselves. To me, this truth is tricky because, of course, it is only possible for me to be self-aware, physiologically. I can only be aware of things that are revealed to me, speaking from what I understand of our cognitive processes. However, in Christ, our lives are not our own. Starting in my own household, since I am married my body belongs to my wife and not to myself. The desires of my children often come before my own, discipline notwithstanding. Choices that I can make, even if I do want to satisfy my own desires, are circumscribed by household resources that do not belong to me but to my household as a unit. And this is before I leave my doors. If I read the Scripture, yes I am transformed but my transformation affects my brothers and sisters. And much about my spiritual journey cannot be accomplished if I am isolated from my brothers and sisters. How can I experience grace if I never need to ask for forgiveness? How can I experience kindness if I am never put in a position to rely on the sovereign choices of others? I cannot develop self-control or patience if I am never subject to the will of another. I cannot exercise love or be loved if I am not in any relationships. It quickly becomes clear that what Christians call the fruit of the Spirit cannot be cultivated outside of community. It also becomes clear that these fruit are not produced for our own sustenance, but for the sustenance of the entire body.

How is God calling to you to live for the Body? In what ways can you thank God for the Christian communities around you?

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PF Recovery, Day 4

4 days pain free! Even on first step out of bed…

I never thought I’d be saying that so soon, but it’s true. Hopefully it’s not just the cortisone, but that there is some healing going on as a result of wearing the inserts and avoiding running. It’s been two weeks tomorrow since I’ve run on the foot, and I’m getting antsy, but am just glad I can continue to stay fit by going to the gym and swimming. I’m very thankful for that.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about this, and I’m definitely modifying my goal for this fall. I’m certainly not doing the marathon, and I think I’ll defer Richmond until next year because I really want to run Richmond. I will pick a 13.1-miler or 10K, and use the training to establish a base that will help me reach my goals of a 6 minute mile and a 75 minute 10-miler.

Revising my goal will allow me to be flexible about really listening to my body and my foot, rebuilding some of the lower body coordination and strength I may have lost due to not lifting heavy squats/deadlifts and not doing hill sprints, and changing the way I work in faster intervals.

PF is a really remarkable thing. As I said, there were a couple very interesting posts here and here on PF I found informative on runresearchjunkie.com. These posts (aside from a YouTube video I have to find the link for you for) are hands-down the most informative and credible pieces on PF written for the general audience. Virtually everything else I’ve read is either solely anecdotal accounts or polemical position-focused writing. 

Both articles deal with the science of PF’s etiology, natural history, and effectiveness of treatment strategies. You should read runresearchjunkie’s write-ups, for sure, but the rundown is as follows. First, there seem to be relatively few effective treatments when compared with the natural history (i.e., course of PF without any intervention or treatment). These effective treatments are basically limited to *rest*(!!, which I guess to some folks is the same as natural history), low-dye taping, orthotics, and cortisone shots. Almost everything else you see advocated as effective courses of treatment have not been demonstrated in randomized, controlled clinical trials (RCTs).

Now, if you read the running blogs or do a quick Google search of “plantar fasciitis treatment running” or some combination of plantar fasciitis and athletics, you will believe that the treatments I’ve described are wholly ineffective. First off, many writers seem to believe that cortisone therapies are actually harmful, when in fact, they are demonstrated in RCTs to be effective. I believe much of the controversy centers on the risk of PF rupture. As I wrote previously, PF rupture seems to be associated with cortisone shots when the drug is administered wrongly, or the athlete decides to return to normal activities too soon. Orthotics are another controversial treatment, if you were to believe the anecdotes on running blogs, etc. Some people swear they are worthless. However, one must be careful to define what is meant by “orthotic.” First off, if orthotic includes custom and generic, then it is clear that orthotics are effective. The question seems to be, “Should I sink $100s into custom orthotics or buy a good off-the-shelf orthotic?” The answer to this question is, in fact, more equivocal, with some podiatrists instructing their patients to purchase OTC orthotics before they try prescription orthotics. Nonetheless, orthotics are clearly effective, and demonstrated so in  RCTs.

I think that the problem seems to be in the tension between the expectations of the athletes and the reality of PF. First off, just because a treatment is demonstrated effective, doesn’t mean that it is foolproof. For example, suppose the natural history (course without treatment) of PF is that 50% of patients are returned to normal activity after 4 weeks of rest (I’m just throwing these numbers out there as examples). Well, if cortisone returns 55% of patients to normal activity after 4 weeks of rest in an RCT, then cortisone would be demonstrated an effective treatment. But, what this says is that there is a relatively small effect size (true for almost all PF treatments, regardless of the actual numbers) meaning that there is relatively small improvement in treatment efficacy over the natural history. When athlete sees a doctor or a physical therapist, what they want is fool-proof, not something slightly better than their current inability to perform. Yet, that’s what you get with most PF treatments, and hence why there’s so much controversy and passionate debate about this topic based in anecdotes and personal experiences. PF takes time, rest, and seems to resolve itself over time. The control of this recovery, unlike the recovery from many other types of injuries an athlete can suffer, is simply out of their–or their care provider’s–control.

If you have PF, you know that it tests your ability to trust the process and be patient. Have you had PF? Are you able to let go and listen to your body while letting the process work?

Peace and blessings.

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PF Recovery, Day 3

This was a rest day, since I try not to workout on Sundays. Did a few calf raises here and there, all without pain. I’ll say more on Monday after I have a chance to swim. 

Peace and blessings. 

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PF Recovery, Day 1

Plantar fasciitis makes you grateful and very thankful that you have the physical ability to run, lift (somewhat) heavy things, and move through almost any natural pattern without pain. Because plantar fasciitis seemingly comes from nowhere, and apparently goes away of its own accord.

However, on my first day of what I’m calling “plantar fasciitis (PF) recovery” I am just thankful. I am thankful that I learned to swim well enough to get a decent workout in the pool and develop some cardiovascular fitness. I am thankful that I can still do enough lifting to keep my weight stable and still look strong. I am also thankful I have good insurance and can see the doctor.

You see, the most important thing for PF, I’m realizing, is rest. A lot of it. Preferably no running. So every time I complain to myself I can’t run, I remember how thankful I am for the fact that running is still in my future. 

But yes, the most important thing for PF, at least for me, is rest. A lot of it. I haven’t run pain-free (afterwards) for nearly 3 months now. This is probably because I never gave my foot the rest it needed to recover. Each time I would feel my PF getting better (after 2 or 3 days of no running and swimming/weights as my cross-training–sometimes as much as a week), I would go run. The run would feel awesome, but the rest of the workday and when I wake up my foot would be incredibly painful. I would always be tempted to run after it feels even a bit better, but after calling the doctor’s office, two visits, and a referral to the podiatrist, I am now accepting the fact I need to submit to extended rest. At least 4 weeks of it.

This is because the podiatrist made me (can I say that?) take a cortisone shot. Let me tell you, that thing is amazing. Instantly pain free, for me (especially since my PF was feeling better after taking a week off before the podiatrist). When I say instant, I mean once he took the needle out, it was as if my PF was normal again. 

However, if you have PF and you get a cortisone shot, by no means or under no circumstances run on your foot–not even if you’re going to miss your train to work!

This was what was going through my mind yesterday and this morning while I was thinking about all this. A quick Google search will reveal how controversial the cortisone shot is in the running community. Some say absolutely not unless you are seriously considering surgery. Others say there’s nothing at all to worry about. The main two side effects that other runners have reported experiencing are complete rupture of the PF and/or fat pat atrophy. However, reading some of the critical reviews you can find on PubMed, you come away with the impression that a good portion of this is due to two things: poor administration of the cortisone and continuing to exercise during the healing period. I have read that the most critical time after the cortisone shot is 2-3 days after administration. It is during this time that the short-term cortisone makes the tendons the weakest, and so if you run while the foot feels amazing after the cortisone (and it feels truly amazing!), you are at the very least risking long-term chronic PF injury, and complete PF rupture at the worst.

Therein lies the rub. To most athletes, let alone running, the cortisone shot would make a return to full activity so tempting. In my reading it seems a lot of us have gotten into this trouble because we are pushing the envelope in the first place and trying to prepare for a goal race or competition. Once PF hits, whatever goals one may have had must certainly be revised. But who wants to lose fitness during a training cycle? Once you have the cortisone, it can be incredibly difficult to resist a workout. Especially if your foot feels amazing like mine does. Don’t risk it. You won’t feel the damage, but damage will certainly be done. When the cortisone wears off, oh boy…

That’s the weirdest part of all this. My foot feels amazing, but I know it’s not healthy. I’ve read enough to know not to mess with this so early on. So it feels like my mind is playing tricks on me because I still act as if it is delicate, but there is absolutely no pain. My worst nightmare is if something I do now makes it much worse since I’ll have no immediate feedback until much later after the damage.

Anyways, I guess the short of it all for day 1 is: cortisone is an absolutely beautiful thing. I believe there will be no horror stories on the other side. And, yes, I will take the 4 weeks off. The horror stories of runners who’ve pushed through on the cortisone are very persuasive! I won’t be adding to the list. 

For day 2, I’ll describe my cross-training and some of the exercises I believe were making a big difference over the first week before the shot. I’m taking a break from them until after the third day post-shot, but my foot was feeling a great deal better and so I think they were doing something for me. 

A bientôt.

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run the race to win

What does it mean to “run in such a way as to get the prize”? (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Whatever it means, it is not just talking about the race. While the race is the focus and the ultimate goal of one’s training and attention, the race is simply the part of the athlete’s life that is seen by all. The race is much more about the preparation coming beforehand.

Ever since I’ve started taking up distance running as an amateur pursuit, and not just as an accessory to basketball and soccer training, I’ve been struck by how much my race times are predictable once I take a look back at my training log. There is so much truth to this that if I’d truly understood this in high school, I’d have been a much different–and much better–track and field athlete. (I would have been an excellent 300m/400m hurdler, or a decent 200m sprinter). This is because I’d have taken much more care to steward my training and my body very carefully. The goal would be the peak at the conference and regional championships (as a sophomore or junior) or regional and state championships (as a junior or senior). Every moment before then would be taken in light of the ultimate goal of winning one of these races.

In the middle distance events, I found that there is still much more variability than in distances exceeding 10k. Between 1500 to 10,000m, there is a delicate balance between tactics and talent that reveals what is in the heart of the most talented runners. If you are one who is head and shoulders above the rest of the field–and believe that is true–then you can run a fast, honest pace from the gun. This reminds me of Genzebe Dibaba and Sifan Hassan racing to break the world record at 5000m. They knew the race was among only two runners, and from the gun ran with such confident assurance. However, when the best racers equivocate, it leaves room for the less talented runners to steal a victory. As much as I love Leo Manzano, he has no business with an Olympic bronze medal at 1500m. In this case, the less talented runners race with grit and faith, while the more talented runners race with doubt and fear. At its essence, this is what makes a tactical race fun to watch–despite the often pedestrian paces.

For the longer distances, however, it is very much like the sprints. Everyone knows the one or two individuals who will have a real shot at winning. This is because there is very, very little room for error. While these races are given somewhat to tactics, they are principally determined by the condition of the physiological systems of the racers. Therefore, the training is an accurate indicator of the fitness and race capability of the racers. For sprints and distance events exceeding 10 miles, there is very little left to chance barring injury or other accident.

This is where we return to the statement above: “run in such a way as to get the prize.” You cannot run to get the price starting with the gun. The racing begins in the training so that the athlete is transformed into one who is able to get the prize. Your physiological systems must be different when the gun goes off than they were when you started training towards the event. World class athletes know this, and approach their training with the same methodical precision as a world class researcher. While the effort is not the same in each session, every session has a purpose. Each moment has a place in the athlete’s teleological transformation. This is how our lives with God should be viewed. Each moment is not the same. However, we must approach each of our days with God intending to be transformed into one who thinks His thoughts and knows His ways. We do not run the race once we enter His presence, because that is the end, the peak, not the race itself. The race is to be transformed into Christ’s likeness by having our minds renewed daily through interaction with Him, His Word, and His people.

We must run the race so as to win the prize. How will you run your race for the glory of God today?

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