On the morning of Saturday, June 29, I woke up early. This is normal for me. I have an internal alarm clock.
Quietly, I moved about the condo. Last thing, a grandfather wants to do is to clunk into something that might cause a sleeping grandchild to wake up early too.
When we travel, I always try to take my running shoes with me. If time allows, going for a run is a goal. This morning, I plan to take a run over to Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.
A few years ago, I also started carrying with me on trips the Upper Room. This is a magazine that publishes a daily devotional and scripture reading. People from around the world contribute devotionals. For me, the Upper Room has become my starting line. My new day always begins with this early morning read.
Before I head out, I scribble the address of the Lincoln Park condo on a small piece of paper and tuck it inside my running shorts pocket. If I were to croak on this run, at least the Chicago police would know where to drop the body bag.
I find my way down the three flights of stairs to the sidewalk. An unexpected, late Friday afternoon thunderstorm had scrubbed Lincoln Park. Dampness still hung in the air, and puddles waiting to be evaporated were hanging around.
The Commander Supreme and I experienced that pounding rain first hand. We had the responsibility of getting Caroline and Hudson back to the condo from Ranalli’s, a neighborhood pizza restaurant. Lauren and Doug had arranged to meet friends there for a farewell gathering.
It’s not a long walk from the restaurant back to the condo. But, in this thunderstorm there was no immunity from getting soaked. I wondered what Caroline and Hudson thought about this from their stroller seats. Perhaps they were asking themselves— What are Nahna and Papa doing dashing us home in this downpour? We know they are getting older. Have they lost their minds? For those few minutes, I think we did lose our common sense.
I turn the corner at the River Shannon and head down Armitage. My old brain knows my route from previous Chicago runs. The neighborhood is quiet. There is very little traffic, so I can plod through intersections without difficulty.
I pass by the Hotel Lincoln and head into the park that surrounds the Lincoln Park Zoo. Vendors have been working to set up for the Green City Market. This is a farmers market with participants from Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. Later this morning, I know we’ll be returning to make some purchases.
Part of my path takes me off asphalt and concrete. There is a crushed stone service road that runs behind some athletic fields. The thunderstorm formed puddles here too, and I alter my steps to avoid a big splash.
The service road connects me to the North Avenue Beach foot bridge. A weather worn fortress that crosses me over Lakeshore Drive. Even though I am safely above the fast moving vehicles, I occasionally sense the sensation of the cars clipping me out at my feet— like a linebacker tripping the feet of a fleet running back. Clearly, I am no fleet running back.
I plod down the steps, and inch toward the Lakefront trail. I turn left, and head north.
All cities have faults, but it appears that the people of Chicago love the Lakefront Trail. And, it is apparent that Chicago attempts to take care of the trail and its adjoining green spaces. For example, the sandy beach on my right has received an early morning manicure. Clever mechanical engineers have designed a beach sweeper that can be pulled behind a tractor. The sweeper clears the beach of debris and rake the sand too.
Plodding along, I continue to gaze out on Lake Michigan. I know from its shoreline to its horizon the lake is full of stories. Just like the people out on the trail this morning—their lives are full of stories. Some of those stories have been told, and some will be tucked inside forever silent.
Still pushing north, I can’t get caught up in a daydream. Runners pass me. I pass walkers. Over time, mother nature has roughed up some sections of the concrete and asphalt surfaces that my feet pound. I alternate between hard surface and a narrow shoulder of crushed stone.
My turnaround point is Diversey Harbor, and a landmark that I always thought was a windmill. This piece of landscape art is actually a metal sculpture named Chevron by John Henry, a Chicago artist. Made of steel and painted a shade of Chicago Cub blue, its placement seems to fit well into the trail.
My brain charts out the loop for turning me around and pointing me south.
On the way back, I note several places where wet sand runoff from Friday’s thunderstorm has captured imprints of footprints from runners and walkers. Even the pattern from my aging running shoes leave an imprint. But then I reason, my mark on the wet sand is only temporary. Soon another pair of foot prints will come along and cover me up.
A few years ago, I remember taking a morning run on the Lakefront Trail, and I caught a glimpse of a runner’s t-shirt. I have never forgotten the printed words: “Have you exercised your faith today?”
Now that is a tough question.
One that I have never ever considered.
I consistently attempt to exercise each week. My reason for the exercise is I don’t want my doctor fussing at me when I have my annual physical.
But, how many times during a week do I exercise my faith? What does exercising my faith look like? Is this something I do automatically without thinking, or do I need a prompt, a reason?
I know one thing for sure, at age 66 my time left on the trails of life is just as fleeting as my footprint disappearing on wet sand. I can watch those seconds tick away on any pedestrian crosswalk clock too.
But, I think that is the point, I shouldn’t watch those seconds tick away. I need to exercise my faith, and that means movement.
James Chapter 2, verse 17 makes it clear: In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
I wonder how many days I have lived with a dead, no action faith?
I’m pretty sure I need to make a faith course correction.
The real question is will I?