Monday, May 17, 2010

Altering Words

In the past two weekends, I have devoured two different books, and I have to share them with you. Please note: these are not requested reviews; I have gotten nothing for these books, and purchased them on my own. But, both of these very different books have really altered my thinking, and I hope you will consider reading them, too.


Two weekends ago, I read "Born to Run" by Christopher MacDougall. I first heard about this book a few months ago, from someone I considered a bit "on the fringe" and dismissed it pretty quickly as "not my thing." Then, I started reading more about barefoot running, started running barefoot on my treadmill, and bought a pair of FiveFingers. As my relationship with running started to change, I came across recommendations of this book again and again, and requested it from the library.

I sat down on Friday afternoon to start the book, still not sure that a book about a tribe of native peoples in the valleys of central Mexico was my thing.

This book was so much more than some anthropolgical tome. It was a first-hand account of a man in his 40s who wanted to love running, but found it to be occasionally painful, occasionally torturesome, and in all likelihood something that he would not be able to do the rest of his life. (Oh, how I could relate!) Then, he found himself reading an article about the Tarahumara in Mexico, who run long distances (and I mean 40 + miles) over rough terrain, wearing little more than sandals on their feet... running like this from childhood well into old age.

The writing was fluid and engaging. I was hooked, so much so that I read more before falling asleep that night. Then, when I woke to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I grabbed the book and slipped into the guest room to read "just a little more" before going back to sleep. I love to read, but I also love to sleep; if I am foregoing sleep for reading, you know the story is compelling.

"Born to Run" follows MacDougall's journey to find the Tarahumara in Mexico and his unlikely friendship with a man known as Blanco Caballo. It gave me a look into the ultramarathon movement in America, a biological and evolutionary understanding of human anatomy in relation to running, and a history of Nike and the development of the "running shoe." The book talks about barefoot running, but is not an overall endorsement of any particular running "style."

More than anything else, this book encouraged me. I love running, particularly now that I've changed my gait to a gentler and more natural one, eliminating the occasional pain and stiffness I used to experience. I had bought into the idea that running was going to (eventually) ruin my knees and I'd have to give it up at some point. I'd convinced myself that starting to run at 37 was a ridiculous idea. Running is for teenagers with lean bodies and long legs. This book showed me that I was dead wrong. We evolved to run; it was our primary means of survival. We evolved to run long distances, not necessarily quickly, but with endurance. And, when we run on strengthened feet, using our achilles tendon, arches, and calf muscles as they were designed to be used, we can run for a lifetime without debilitating injuries.

I finished this book fairly certain that I won't be joining in on any of those ultramarathons, going 100 miles through Death Valley in August, but I am sure that I am going to keep on running. Even if running isn't your thing, this book is a fascinating read! The story will capture your imagination, and you, too, will be encouraged by the good that can happen when people with very different lives and agendas come together in a spirit of friendship and fun.


This second book, which I read this past weekend, is also a personal memoir, but of a completely different experience. I could not recommend this book more highly; it changed how I look at life, how I experience God in my life and how I consider my prayer life.

"I Will Carry You" by Angie Smith is the story of her fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline. At her 18 week ultrasound, Angie and her husband, Todd, learned that Audrey Caroline had multiple conditions making her "incompatible with life." Faced with the uncertainty of the remaining pregnancy, they turned to God, and found strength in Him. She started a blog to process through this experience with others, and from that blog grew this book.

Yes, this is a difficult story to read. Her beautiful daughter was born alive, but lived only a few hours. Yet, the love, the fullness of life, that they shared in those last few months of pregnancy and those precious few hours in the hospital room with her!

Angie Smith weaves scripture throughout her story. Using the psalms, Old Testament stories, and especially the New Testament account of Lazarus' rising from the dead, Angie shows how her faith gave her the strength to trust in the Lord, even when all of "modern medicine" told her there was no hope.

I know what you're thinking; there's no way I want to read this story. It's too sad. And it is sad. I needed half a box of tissues to get through it. But, it's not a desperate sad. It's a hope-filled, trusting, hope-FULL sad. Angie knows that she and Audrey Caroline are apart only for a while; someday, they will be together again, forever.

I've noticed that I am praying differently now that I've read this book. I approach the Lord with more humility and trust. Her example opened some tightly-closed doors deep in my heart. I am encouraged by her deep and abiding faith in our all-loving God. I am heartened by her willingness to release control and do her best to live God's will. I am inspired by her strength; Angie Smith walked through the darkest forest I can imagine, holding only to her Father's hand, and came out the other side, stronger and more sure of His love.

I am hoping you will open yourself to reading Audrey Caroline's story. I guarantee you will be changed for the better by doing so.


Both of these books have altered the way I see the world. It's not often that I can say that about a book; even more rare that I can say it about 2 books at the same time. When writing does that, when it changes how I think, how I exercise, how I pray, it must be shared. Enjoy!

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