Category Archives: Director’s Challenge

Personal reflections and challenges from the Director of NPA, based on outdoor activities, hobbies and passions.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE: Management

IMG_3062Any sustained physical activity, if it is to be enjoyed and repeated, must be managed. The honest truth – pain and discomfort are closely associated with most wilderness or outdoor activities that go beyond the family picnic or a stroll in the park.

But there is much to be learned from pain and discomfort, and if managed it actually becomes a positive element of the adventure. What do I mean? Pain can be a positive thing in this adventure called life? Since it is inevitable we might as well learn how to deal with it and let it make us stronger, rather than defeating us and discouraging us.

When I am out for a long run, hours on the trail, or along the roadside, pain almost always decides to join me somewhere along the route. Usually this happens when I am becoming fatigued or late into my run.  If I am cycling, this too usually happens after hours or days of riding.  Rather than letting the pain stop me, I begin a process of re-evaluation, and examination – what is causing this pain and how can it be alleviated?

Pain and discomfort have probably saved my life, if the truth is known. For example; dehydration is a very real danger with endurance sports, hiking, running, cycling etc. and if not corrected or averted it can lead to a very rapid spiral downward, physically, which can lead to serious health concerns and even death. Fortunately like most other issues in our bodies, before becoming critical, dehydration and other issues are brought to our attention through pain and discomfort.

I begin analyzing and reviewing my nutrition on-the-go, my form, the mechanics of my activity, my equipment, hydration, etc. Then I begin to make, the sometimes, small adjustments necessary to relieve the pain, thus allowing me to continue to enjoy and complete the challenge before me.

Life is the same way – pain cannot be avoided, but when it comes, it does not have to rob us of joy, purpose and satisfaction. Recognize it, analyze it, identify it and make the necessary adjustments in your life that will relieve the pain and keep you going with joy and passion in your life.

I have found that applying and living God’s truths of His Word, the Holy Bible, that they give me that standard by which to gauge and adjust my life. It doesn’t guarantee pain-free living and a problem free life, but it does have the answer for turning the pain into something positive and profitable in my life.

Next time you are in pain; reevaluate and make the appropriate adjustments and get back to enjoying this great adventure called life! If you need a standard by which to check your status or state of being, consider the time-tested and trusted truths of the Word of God.

Readiness

Depending on where you live, the winter season may have been a long one for you this year. Perhaps you are still in its wonderful, magical grip. Soon the weather will be calling each of us to venture out again and respond to that adventuresome spirit that has been tamed during the dark months.

Preparing for NPA’s bicycle ride across Texas has been a challenge for me this year, between work and family responsibilities, travel and weather conditions I have not spent a lot of time on my bike. Therefore I put a spinning cycle in the garage – some would call me a zombie and criticize me for not actually riding a real bike in the outdoors. Honestly sometimes I feel like a zombie watching the cycling video as I crank out 60 – 90 minutes on a bicycle that goes no where. But I look at it this way – when the day comes to get on my bike and actually ride, I will be better prepared than if I had done nothing.

In life there will always be critics of what you and I do, but you can’t let them stop you from being prepared for doors of opportunity. Live your life in anticipation of being a part of great adventures. But to do that you must maintain a state of readiness. Take care of you health. Develop good habits. Hang out with people who will encourage you to take care of your life rather than abuse it, neglect it or destroy it. That way when you are invited to be a part of something incredible, you will be ready.

Do the right thing this week – and be ready for life’s next great adventure. Contact us if you are looking for something to do with your life this year.

-Director of NPA

The Evolution of a Running Mantra

If you have ever participated in any distance running or just about any sport training at all, you know the value and use of mantras. They are an important part of the mental discipline it takes to complete the challenge. In this post I just want to share the evolution of my new mantra, not only to be used in my running life, but also in my spiritual life as I strive to be a follower of Christ, transformed by Him and His Word, and on mission with Him.

It has been about a year since I ran anything significant and the last 2 days I have begun again. I took the time off because of severe knee pain and what sounds like bone grinding on bone whenever I move.  I hated giving up running but I decided to save my knees for another passion of mine, leading backpacking trips into the mountains for at-risk teens. I figured the abuse of the weight of a pack combined with the ascents and descents would be more than enough trauma on my already abused knees.

I once tried to estimate how many running miles that I have on my knees and that sort of brought the pain and grinding sounds into focus. We will wear out.

Well backpacking did something for me and to me. It strengthened my knees. Stairs were no longer as painful and I could almost go up and down them in a normal manner rather than with the halted movements that I had employed.

So slowly the idea of returning to running began playing in my head. I have fought it for a long time; reminding myself to save what movement I have left for the mountains and the young people.  But when the weight gain followed, frustration and a near desperation ensued.  I am going to be in pain whether I run or not. The older I get the more aches and pains I experience from just rolling out of bed.

So here I go again. I will run with caution. I will probably never put in the mileage that I once was able to accomplish, but I will run again. Some may comment that I am no longer running but more like shuffling, but it is positive forward motion beyond a walk.

As I begin this adventure anew, I found myself sore, and suffering as if I were running for the first time in my life.  Mantras of old began to roll off my lips but they were for another time and another pursuit, and they just were not helping.

I began this ultra-marathon pursuit out of a quest for discipline in my spiritual life; it did not have much to do with the physical challenges. I believe that our physical life is a reflection of what is going on in our hearts, the spiritual level of our lives. I wanted to be disciplined in my spiritual life, and my walk with God. I wanted to be committed and willing to pay whatever price was necessary to finish the course that He has laid out for my life. That was the motivation for running.

As I began running again I had to revisit that purpose, and as I remembered that, a new mantra was formed that drew my meditations back to the Bible in the book of Isaiah.

I was chanting – “run when you do not feel like it, walk when you have to, stop when you can’t, quit when He (God) can’t.”

Isaiah 40

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:

31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I may get tired. I may stop for a while, but I can never quit if I believe in God, His promises and His divine nature.  I stopped running for a year. I did not want to run today, I hurt too much, but I did not quit. And as I ran God reminded me of these truths. He reminded me of His character and His promises. I choose to believe in the promises and not be controlled by the pain.

You and I may stop in our walks with God, but may I encourage you to not quit on Him, He will never quit on you. He never gets tired of loving us, forgiving us, helping us, guiding us, restoring us. He has His strength waiting for those who trust in Him. And even when you just don’t feel like it, just keep moving closer to Him. Pray. Read that Bible in your home. Call a friend who loves the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Visit that church near your home.

I am running again, not just physically, but in my spiritual life too. Even the young man faints and becomes weary and falls, but those who wait on the LORD, trusting Him and His promises, their strength will be renewed and they shall run again. Trust Him. Believe Him. Live in His promises and not in the pain. Let Him transform your pain into victory and something beautiful.

Continue to run when you don’t want to, walk if you have to, stop if you can’t, quit only when God can’t do any more.

John Muir – The Mountains Are Calling

John Muir, in 1876, began to urge our national government to preserve wilderness areas and adopt responsible conservation practices. His vision and passion for this great country and preservation of its natural beauty and resources helped the establishment of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, as well as the Sierra Club.

He had a calling. He is quoted as saying, “the mountains are calling and I must go.” What is calling you today? What passion drives you and gets you out of bed when you would rather just bury your head under the pillow and pretend the world does not exist? What is that defining purpose for your life?

If we have found that passion and purpose, then life is a wonderful experience, but if you lack that calling, that clear direction and vision for your life, then life can be disappointing and miserable at the very least.

New Path Adventures wants to help people discover a God-given purpose and direction for their lives. If you need a calling, if you are unsure what you are living for, contact us, we would love to help you discover that call.

As the director of NPA, I hear that call in my life often. At times it is in danger of being drowned out by so many other things in life, but when I am still, I hear it again. The youth generation is calling and I must go.

Find your calling today and answer it.

-Allen Owens, Director/Founder

WEEKLY CHALLENGE: Road Kill

865 miles bicycling across the great state of Texas was full of challenges and adventure. Every day presented a new pain and discomfort along with a new victory and sense of satisfaction. It was a mixed bag of sensory awareness, that is for sure. Our cycling team completed each day with a debrief and discussion of life lessons learned and practical knowledge gleaned that will be applied to next year’s Ride Across Texas.

One of those life lessons that stuck out in my mind that I shared with the team is something that I have witnessed and been reminded of over and over again through my many, many miles of ultra-running, and riding across 3 other states on my bicycle: Road Kill.

It offers such a vivid application of the truth of this statement made by Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.”  So what does that quote have to do with road kill and bicycling? Well it is obvious that in this statement Christ, being the way, offers a safe and rewarding route that ultimately leads to God as Heavenly Father.  Thinking about that for a moment tells me that there are other routes or ways also and of course each of them would also have their appropriate end.

One thing about road kill in west Texas or any where along Texas highways or back roads, is that with the Texas sun beating down on it, you will smell it long before you see it.  I also have observed that the majority of road kill can be found on the shoulder and not necessarily in the travel lanes that are kept cleaner and clearer of debris.  Often times the safety apron of a roadway is indicated by the evenly spaced rumble strips that warn a driver that they are straying from the designated path of travel.

For safety though our team primarily would have to travel using the shoulder of the road as our path. On this safety apron we encountered a great deal more friction and debris, including road kill.  Every time we hit a particularly dirty shoulder or decaying road kill, I would look at the main road and think about how nice it would be to be traveling in that smooth, clear, clean lane.  And sometimes, if traffic would allow I would even cross those rumble strips and enjoy a few brief moments of first class cycling on a smooth, clean strip of pavement…

Then reality kicks back in and I have to get back onto the shoulder or become road kill after losing a race, with a fully loaded 18-wheeler, that is keeping America moving.  As I cross back over the rumble strips and onto the shoulder I realize that this maneuver is a great illustration of life.

God, really does care about us and He has prepared a way, a path, a direction for us if we will just follow His Son.  God is even kind enough to warn us and try to get our attention as we begin to stray from the way… All the junk in life, the death, the stench and wretchedness of a life wasted is found when we are not traveling in the way that He has prepared for us.

Enjoy the prepared path that God has for your life – leave the stench of road kill and debris along the shoulder of life behind, and enjoy the pleasant travel experience of journeying in God’s truths.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE: Remember The Details

Wrong boots, wrong socks, and poor foot management can lead to painful foot problems even beyond blisters. Now couple that with rough, steep terrain hiked over an extended period of time and the suffering can be out-right debilitating.

I know this pain. During 8-days of backpacking in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, I trashed both of my feet.  The pain was excruciating and every step was a battle to take. But there is a wonderful by-product to pain; I remember that day with such clarity. That extreme pain became the element that kept this, otherwise wonderful, experience clear and retrievable in my life.

Don’t let the idea and possibility of pain keep you from experiencing a new adventure. Embrace the pain as part of the adventure that will allow you to recall the other fine details of that epic event in your life.

Christ suffered on the cross as He gave His life for us. I am sure that He remembers that day with such clarity, and as we approach the Easter season remembering His suffering, I have to believe that He is still thinking of me. Take heart, you may not like the pain and suffering of life, but it does help us to remember the important, life-transforming moments that are a part of our adventures.

WEEKLY CHALLENGE: Anticipation

One of the aspects of an extended backpacking trip that I truly enjoy is the anticipation of the trip. I love how it occupies my thoughts, as I try to imagine every day out on the trail, every activity and how I will spend the nights.

Mental impressions and images of crossing mountain streams, and on the other side taking the time to fill up my water bottles.

Scenes of preparing a well-deserved evening meal as a small fire begins to glow, inviting me to sit by it way too late into the night. But the sleep sacrificed is invested in the honest, fun, life-bonding conversation with wonderful people around that campfire.

And just the thrill of thinking of finishing the quest! Oh so many experiences run through my mind – it consumes me. I can hardly think of anything else.

When my mind is focused on that coming event, I find I am more productive in planning and preparing for it. I waste less time, because now if I have time on my hands, my thoughts lead me to a task that takes me one step closer to that moment.

I want this to be a great picture of my life – but beyond an extended trek into the backcountry – I want this to be the picture of my walk in life, the adventure that I live every day as a child of God and follower of Jesus Christ.

I am thrilled and want to be consumed with the anticipation of being home one day, in Heaven with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the meantime, may my thoughts, planning and preparation be saturated with anticipation of what it will be like when I see Him face-to-face and I am in His presence.

Oh may that consume your life too, if you know Christ as Savior. It will be hard not to live a productive, meaningful life if we are focused on seeing Him someday soon.

But our citizenship is in heaven; and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: – Philippians 3:20 The Holy Bible (ESV)