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  • Reverend James Squire

Own the Bone

“Own the Bone” is the title of a program of the American Orthopedic Association’s post fracture, systems based, multidisciplinary fragility fracture prevention initiative to address the emerging epidemic of osteoporosis-related fragility fractures. The title of the program got my intention where other ads don’t. If it has to do with bones, as a runner, I want to know about it, but this cause of injury is not something that I have to worry about.

Some of you have heard it said that runners have the hardest bones on the planet. It’s true! I have had two spine surgeries. After the first one, my spine surgeon entered my hospital room the next morning and said to me, half joking but half serious, that I had caused him to injure his arm, wrist and hand in sawing through facets on my spinal column. Keep in mind that he is a former college football player who continues to work out.

This is one of those life is a two-edged sword reminder for me. I have been running for more years than I can remember. As my oldest son said once, “Doesn’t matter if he is sick or healthy, injured or not, in bad weather with freezing temps, or hot weather that would cause us to wilt, he (me) is out there pounding the road.”

Running makes your bones hard. I had always heard that, but it wasn’t until a surgical procedure that I found out that it is really true. On the other hand, I have had injuries to most of my body from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. I am not a treadmill kind of person. I like to be out with the wind in my face. Before I got some degree of common sense I would run in the coldest and hottest temperatures just to see if I could. I no longer try to keep up with someone who passes me running on the road when I have no chance of reaching them.

My competitive juices are still there but I have them more under control.

What would be the equivalent in ethics that would help us live the strong moral life. It is no accident that the Hebrew people in the biblical record named their land Israel which is translated in Hebrew as “he who runs with God or he who strives with God.”

There are so many examples of when we run with God as we exist between faith and doubt attempting to stay more in the faith column than in the other alternative. Life is a two-edged experience. It is a dialectic always moving between two difference aspects such as is found in the prayer of Saint Francis which, in part, says: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury pardon; where there is doubt, faith…”

Similar to the image of the runner embodied in the name, Israel, is the title of a popular book when I was studying in New Haven. The book of prayers was titled, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? by Malcolm Boyd, an Episcopal priest. Boyd who was a Freedom Rider advocating civil rights, an anti-Vietnam War protester, later came out of the closet to become a spokesperson for gay rights. The book became a best seller. As we are running with Jesus, Boyd provided prayers that captured the everyday language of those who were attempting to make their faith stronger. He wanted people to “own the religious bone” so to speak as he chose running to be an apt metaphor.

Acting as a faith coach, Boyd wrote two things that I have found important in strengthening our faith which relates to what I wrote above: “Real answers need to be found in dialogue (also derived from the root word for dialectic meaning to move between different moments) and interaction, and, yes, our shared human condition. This means being open to one another instead of simply fighting to maintain a prescribed position.”

Boyd went on to comment on what is essential in strengthening and “owning the bone” of our faith running on the roadway as we strive with God and/or run with Jesus: “However, one might pray – in any verbal way or completely without words – is unimportant to God. What matters is the heart’s intent.”

It is hard to find something better to be part of our training than the Prayer of St. Francis which I will often give to others and tell them to take it out and read it particularly in moments where you run out of breath, religious or otherwise:

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace

Where there is hatred, let me so love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where is doubt, faith.

Where there is despair, hope.

Where there is darkness, light.

Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine master grant that I may

Not so much to seek to be consoled as to console

To be understood as to understand.

To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive

And it is in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it is in dying that we are born

To eternal life.”

“Own the bone!”

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