Book Review: The Inner Runner

 

On the one hand, Jason Karp’s The Inner Runner is the running book I’ve been looking for: it’s not focused on technique and training but on the why of running.

This is from the publisher’s description:

Why are so many people drawn to running? Why is running the most common physical activity? What is it about running that empowers so many people? And how can runners harness that power to create a more meaningful life? The Inner Runner addresses these questions and a whole lot more. This book is not about how to get faster or run a marathon; rather, it explores how the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and helps you harness your creative powers. Learn about the psychological, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual benefits of running and introduce lifestyle changes based on the latest scientific research on running and its effects on hormones and the brain.

That description and the chapter titles drew me right in:

  • Why Do We Run?
  • Healthful Runs
  • Better Runs
  • Creative and Imaginative Runs
  • Productive Runs
  • Confident Runs
  • Becoming a Better Runner and a Better You

“Better Runs,” for example, discusses the benefits of a variety of runs: slow runs, fast runs, long runs, paced runs, track runs, social runs, and more. Karp is at his best when he gives advice that is both physically practical and psychologically helpful. Regarding starting a race too fast, he says:

Whether the race is a mile or a marathon, you can’t put running time in the bank. You will end up losing more time in the end than what you gained by behind ahead of schedule in the beginning. …Listen to your inner runner. When you run a race, ask yourself within the first mile (or the first lap or two of a track race), “Can I really hold this pace the entire way?” Be honest with yourself. If the answer is yes, then go for it. If the answer is no, then back off the pace, so you can have a better race. (61-62)

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Karp’s inspiring coaching. On running fast he writes:

Rather than worry about your pace or become a slave to the technology of running, make your runs better by feeling your runs and improving your own kinesthetic awareness. …Faster running comes when we don’t try as hard, when we are relaxed, when we are so well trained that the effort is almost effortless. (68-69)

9781634507950-frontcoverThough the book is more philosophical in nature, Karp delves just enough into the science to convince the reader-runner that he knows what he’s talking about. I can only imagine how invigorating it would be to have Dr. Karp as a coach. For example, he says, “The amount of time spent running is more important than the number of miles, since it’s the duration of effort (time spent running) that our bodies sense” (151). And I love the idea of “developing an inner GPS and becoming an expert ‘feeler’ of our runs” (70), even if it takes more time and work than The Inner Runner might imply.

On the other hand, The Inner Runner left me wanting more.

I resonate with Karp’s experience of running as a primary locus of creative ideas. But I had hoped he would get a bit more technical, or at least more deeply reflective, about what that process looks like for him. For example, in the chapter “Creative and Imaginative Runs” he writes, “I don’t have such a clear sense of how my running influences my writing or my other creative pursuits of my sense of self…” (107). There’s nothing wrong with that lack of clarity, but it made me wish Karp had either dug deeper or just left out that chapter altogether. So, too, with this promising but otherwise unexplored insight:

Ultimately, in life’s bigger picture, running is just an activity I choose to do. It shouldn’t define my self worth. Yet it does, and I am perplexed as to why. (179)

A number of sections read like journal entries that could have been edited down to make the book hold my interest more consistently and pack a more powerful punch.

Still, the book is inexpensive, and I starred at least a dozen passages that I’ve gone back to. I’ve also deeply internalized Karp’s advice about not coming out of the gate too fast and asking whether this initial pace is one I can sustain. That alone made the book worth reading.

You can check out The Inner Runner: Running to a More Successful, Creative, and Confident You here at Skyhorse Publishing, and here at Amazon.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Skyhorse Publishing for the review copy, sent without expectations of the content of my review.

All the New Ends: *Another* New EP from Amusement Parks on Fire, Reviewed

Press Photo

 

It’s not until about 30 seconds in to Amusement Parks on Fire’s beautiful new three-song EP, “All the New Ends,” that you hear their signature, shoegazy lead guitar. It sneaks in and out of the first track, an homage to the band’s heavier sound of previous releases, even as recent as November 2017’s excellent two-song EP Our Goal to Realise.

That APOF would begin their 20-minute (!) EP with a mellow (by their standards), lilting 6/8 waltz is surprising, but this band is so good–and had been on hiatus for so long until last year–that their fans will welcome any new direction. It’s still APOF after all: a beautifully crafted song with melodic vocals and layered but not overproduced guitar parts.

That first track, “All the New Ends,” seamlessly moves into “Temporal Rinse” with a wall of distorted, tremolo-picked guitars, overlaid with high-register, ascending diads that I can only describe as reminiscent of the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IV on Super Nintendo.

The listener expects that the band will, at some point, break through the wall of distortion and into a hard-rocking groove, much as “So More It Be” transitions to “Blackout” on their album Out of the Angeles, or as the final 40 seconds of “Road Eyes” prepares us for the almost danceable beat that begins “Flashlight Planetarium” on the Road Eyes LP.

Instead, the title “Temporal Rinse” turns out to be descriptive of the song’s role. It’s a sort of palette cleanser that moves listeners from the mellower “All the New Ends” to the epic and heavier final track, “Internal Flame.”

Rare is the song that eclipses six minutes and holds the listener’s attention the whole time. I think of the Smashing Pumpkins B-side, “The Aeroplane Flies High,” or Sun Kil Moon’s 10-minute “I Watched the Film, the Song Remains the Same,” or anything from Side B of The Cure’s “Disintegration.”

“Internal Flame” takes longer to build than those songs do, clocking in at an impressive 12:43. (This ought to convince anyone that this “EP” is easily worth its $3 in digital format.) By about the 7-minute mark, I was ready for more musical variation than the four-chord progression, but as the song structure remains constant, the band continues to add tracks: more guitars, more drums, tambourine, still more guitar lines, and probably dozens of other tracks lurking beneath the surface that make the song what it is. As an erstwhile recorder of music and writer myself, I can hardly imagine the challenges involved in tracking a 13-minute song so flawlessly.

“All the New Ends” releases in digital format on April 13, with CD and vinyl releasing likely this summer. Here’s the track listing:

  1. All The New Ends (4:31)
  2. Temporal Rinse (3:57)
  3. Infernal Flame (12:43)

Check out the album here.

 


 

Many thanks to the album’s PR team for early download access so I could write the review.

 

 

My Favorite Gospels Resource

Easter is near, the time of year where—if I haven’t already reached for it recently—I pull out my favorite Gospels resource: Synopsis of the Four Gospels.

There are three versions of this resource of which I’m aware:

– an all-Greek one (complete with Latin title: Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum)
– an all-English one
– the one linked above, which has both Greek and English

I love the color. The binding is secure. The size is beautifully large but not overwhelmingly so. My copy, though I got it used some years ago, even smells good. It might be the aroma of the Holy Spirit.

For those seemingly rare but delightful stories, parables, or teachings that all four Gospels treat, the Synopsis is a great way to see everything lined up together. Each year I choose whichever Easter account is the Gospel lectionary for the day, but I always look at all the Gospels side by side before preaching about the story of the resurrection.

Here are some pictures:

 

 

 

 

And if you really want to get into this text, check out this review—more of an homage, rightly—at the Bible Design Blog.

Now Reading: How to Break Up With Your Phone

3d+Book+Cover+HTBUWYP+jpgYes, the book you’ve always wanted to read (and that I was starting to write!) is now available: How to Break Up With Your Phone, by Catherine Price.

Despite the book’s title, Price teaches us not how to break up with our phones per se, but how to renegotiate the relationship–which requires a break of sorts, at least at the outset.

I’ve just finished the first part, where she builds a compelling (and alarming) case for limiting screen use. Part Two is the “how-to,” which I’ll share more about later.

I learned about the book from a New York Times piece of hers. It’s relatable from the very beginning:

The moment I realized I needed to break up with my phone came just over two years ago. I had recently had a baby and was feeding her in a darkened room as she cuddled on my lap. It was an intimate, tender moment — except for one detail. She was gazing at me … and I was on eBay, scrolling through listings for Victorian-era doorknobs.

We all have our “Victorian-era doorknobs.” And, until users rightly started jumping ship this last week, Facebook.

Many of us will nod our way through the book’s description:

Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch before bed? Do you frequently pick it up “just to check,” only to look up forty-five minutes later wondering where the time has gone? Do you say you want to spend less time on your phone—but have no idea how to do so without giving it up completely? If so, this book is your solution.

Check out the book here. Ten Speed Press has been kind to send me a review copy, so I’ll write more about it when I’m done, but I already know this is the rare book I’ll re-read once a year.

The Sole (and Very Interesting) Occurrence of “Mediator” in the LXX

God’s covenant people have always needed a mediator. And God—with limitless grace—has always sent mediators to the people.

A mediator joins two parties together, stands in the gaps, bridges their conflict. A mediator is “a go-between,” a re-negotiator, an arbitrator. An effective mediator is a miracle worker.

Scripture narrates a familiar pattern: God makes covenants with his people; his people break them; God uses mediators to make peace.

The Greek word for mediator is μεσίτης (mesitēs). Careful readers of Scripture know that “the idea of mediation and therefore of persons acting in the capacity of mediator permeates the Bible” (New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition). However, the word mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only six times in the Greek New Testament.

Three of those uses are in Hebrews (8:6, 9:15, and 12:24). Two are in Galatians 3:19-20. And one is in 1 Timothy 2:5, a theologically rich verse:

For
there is one God;
there is also one mediator between God and humankind,
Christ Jesus, himself human….

The concept and practice of mediation (think: sacrifice, atonement) does indeed fill the pages of the Old Testament. Most of the New Testament uses of mediator, in fact, reference the old covenant. So I found it especially fascinating when I learned that mediator=μεσίτης (mesitēs) occurs only once in the Greek Septuagint.

It comes up in a striking passage in Job 9:33.

Job has already lost everything. But we remember as he utters these words in chapter 9 that the Bible describes him as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” It said he would “rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings,” just in case his children had sinned. He covered all his bases. He kept at least the semblance of a covenant with God.

And yet Job senses a breach. All manner of tragedy has befallen him, and everyone around him tells him to curse God. He won’t, but still he feels at odds with God. Job says to the Lord:

… you are not a mortal like me, with whom I would contend,
that we should agree to come to trial.

Would that there were a μεσίτης/mesitēs/mediator for us and an investigator
and one to hear the case between us two.

(This is from the NETS translation, which translates μεσίτης as arbiter.)

Job longs for a mediator, an arbiter between him and God. An “umpire,” the NRSV says, translating the Hebrew.

Again, Job calls for a mediator, even though we have no narrative evidence that he broke a covenant with God! He acknowledges that he can’t “contend” with God as in court, but still yearns for a “mediator” to bridge the gap between him and God.

And now, for the pastoral payoff:

If Job, who led a blameless life, thought he needed a mediator to get to God, how much more do we, God’s not-blameless people, need a mediator to be in the presence of a perfectly holy God?

Short Review of the Brooks Ravenna 9 Running Shoe

Ravenna 9I just posted this short review to Brooks’s site, and thought I’d share here, too.

The Brooks Ravenna 9 is the best Brooks shoe I’ve tried. It’s springier and faster and lighter than the Ghost 9 and Ghost 10. It holds up well, too, for 5-10-mile runs. It’s got good support, especially in the heel.

It’s not a stability shoe, per se, but it feels plenty stable, without compromising weight. Coming from the Ghost, I found this shoe really fun and easy to run in. It’s a good blend between being fast and supportive enough for longer runs.

My only complaint is that the amazingly bright yellow and blue color isn’t available in the wider version (black only for that). I had these bright shoes for a few days and got lots of comments. My runs were good, too, but the right shoe was too narrow, so I returned them (super easy process with Brooks) for the 2E wide black ones, which feel much better. That said, both the normal and wide width could stand to be just a bit roomier in the toe box, as the Ghost is.

All in all, a great shoe. Find it here on Amazon (affiliate link) or here at Brooks Running.

Getting Absorbed in the Beauty of Scripture: First Impressions of the ESV Six-Volume Reader’s Bible

Crossway Image.jpg
Image via Crossway

 

We who would read the Bible experience hindrances in our quest. I am interested especially in the competing values that create internal conflict, keeping us from Scripture reading. We do well to think through what other values we have that potentially undermine our goal of spending time reading the Bible.

Readers of this blog know how much I value reflection on and study of Scripture, down to the verse, word, and even ἰῶτα. I love reading Scripture atomistically. But I hope that kind of reading is always an accompaniment to (not replacement for) reading Scripture as a narrative, paying attention to its grand sweep. Reading Scripture slowly and word-by-word goes well with reading Scripture in big chunks.

Until recently I have underestimated the impact of chapter and verse divisions on my ability to engage Scripture fully. I have nothing against versification per se, but even the most casual Bible readers are likely to have a sense that those ways of marking the text are later additions and not present in the first manuscripts themselves.

Not that we can get back to some sort of pure, unadulterated “early church” experience of reading Scripture, but can we at least try to simulate the experience of original hearers.

An article by Ruth Graham in Slate recently reminded me of the advent of reader’s Bibles, which present the Bible in single-column, verse-less, novel-like format for more fluid reading.

Crossway has been kind to send the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set for me to review. I’ll write more in the future, but for now I want to comment on my experience of reading Scripture with the ESV Reader’s Bible. I want to say just two things at the outset.

 

1. This Reader’s Bible is beautiful. The production and presentation of Scripture is unlike anything I’ve seen.

 

Behold:

 

 

 

 

The binding, layout, and font are all gorgeous. I don’t love the graphic surrounding “ESV” on the binding, but that’s a minor quibble.

 

2. This Bible more than any other has facilitated my being fully absorbed in the biblical text.

 

I’ve had inspiring and Spirit-filled reading experiences already (and I’m only up to Genesis 22). To be clear, the experience is due primarily to the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit who inhabits it. No binding or font choice can bring that about. But this reader’s Bible removes what I didn’t realize were distractions to prolonged reading: verses, chapters, headings, study notes, cross-references, etc. I don’t even know which chapter of Genesis I’m on sometimes, and I don’t want to stop reading. That’s a win on the part of Crossway, and (especially) a shout-out to the power of Scripture.

Here’s the link to the Reader’s Bible page at Crossway (here on Amazon). It’s not cheap, but it’s also reasonably priced considering its value (and the immense value of the Bible itself). This fall there is also a paperback version coming out, available now through CBD.

In future posts I’ll write more about the ESV translation itself, the font and layout specifics, and more, but for now I wanted to share how valuable and formative it’s been for me to use this edition for reading Scripture and getting caught up in its beauty.