by Mark

Poppies, football and perspectives: why I agree with FIFA

November 3, 2016 in Mark, Culture, Random, Sport by Mark

Next Friday the England football team will take on Scotland in an important World Cup qualifying game, and since the game happens on November 11th, Remembrance Day in the UK, both teams have proposed that they wear poppies (the traditional British symbol of war remembrance) to commemorate those who lost their lives in past wars.

PoppyIn the past 24 hours it has been revealed that FIFA, the governing body for world football, has denied the request of England and Scotland to wear poppies, as it violates their principle of not allowing political, religious or commercial messages on team shirts. Many in the UK have reacted strongly to this decision, with the Prime Minister Theresa May saying it is “outrageous”, claiming that the poppy is a neutral, non-political symbol to remember those who have died.

While it is undoubtedly true that many who wear a poppy do so purely to remember loved ones who have passed away in wars, I think it is naive to think that the poppy would be universally seen to be non-political. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Looking back: Kids’ Soccer Festival

December 27, 2011 in Life, Mark, Church, Mission, Sport by Mark

This week we are busy packing up our belongings deciding what to give away, what to leave with friends, and what to fit into the four suitcases that will come with us to the airport on Saturday morning as we head to England, and then on to Tanzania in a couple of weeks!

Much as we are looking forward to arriving in Tanzania, we will be sad to leave friends and family here in the US. One of my enduring memories of our time here over the past year or so is the 4-week “soccer festival” that our church hosted for kids from the local neighbourhood last summer. Here’s a great little video from the festival made by Stephen, which will help to bring back some great memories when we’re on the other side of the world… Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Cascade Lakes Relay

August 27, 2011 in Life, Sport by Mark

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity, along with eleven other crazy people, to run in the Cascade Lakes Relay, a team relay covering 216.6 beautiful miles in central Oregon. After being warned of unbearable heat, long and steep hills, and sleep deprivation, the reality was actually a lot more fun and a lot less painful than I was expecting!

My contribution to the relay was 5.4 miles on a track through a forest, 7.1 miles up a long gentle hill (which might have also been through a forest, but it was midnight when I ran so I’m not really sure) and then 7.2 miles around a lake the following morning. I actually felt great on the first two runs, finishing them in 46 and 61 minutes, although by the third (66 mins) I was ready to finish! Our team finished in around 36 hours, and had a lot of fun in the process!

The highlight for me was definitely running up the long hill in the dark, and seeing millions of stars, including several shooting stars! I’m pretty sure they were anyway, although I may have been hallucinating by that stage…

Decorating the vans in preparation...

Decorating the vans in preparation...

Friends standing around

With our mandatory nicknames...

With our mandatory nicknames...

Can you guess which one is me?!

Can you guess which one is me?!

Brad and Jeremy looking cool

Brad and Jeremy looking cool

Our van pretending to be serious at the start

Our van pretending to be serious at the start

The second van

The team waiting for me on my first run

The team waiting for me on my first run

Why does it look like I'm walking?

Why does it look like I'm walking?

The moment I realised the finish was 200m further than I thought...

The moment I realised the finish was 200m further than I thought...

David running crazy fast

David running crazy fast

Kolby, with Daniel and a pretty mountain in the background

Kolby, with Daniel and a pretty mountain in the background

Monica getting ready for the costume leg!

Monica getting ready for the costume leg!

Our van photo after we had finished our legs

Our van photo after we had finished our legs

Having finished and had a lot of fun in the process, I’m just left wondering what my next running challenge should be, and how I can be part of the relay again next year from Tanzania…

by Mark

Oregonian Summertime

July 29, 2011 in Life, Sport by Mark

As our four previous visits to Oregon had all been in the winter, it has been reassuring the past few weeks to discover that Oregon does actually have a summer too, and so is not identical in climate to the autumn-winter-spring-autumn cycle of southern England. The last few weeks we have been able to get out of the house a bit and to enjoy the summer with friends.

For four weeks I was helping to run our church’s “soccer festival” (I’m highly ashamed to say I’ve now become so used to saying “soccer” that the word football sounds strange to say…) This was a time when kids from the ages of 6-12 from the local neighbourhood came to the church to play soccer/football and to hear about Jesus. The days were packed and the festival was hard work, but we had a great time with the 120 or so kids who came each day, building good relationships with them, many of whom are wanting to continue to play at the church once a week.

Immediately after the soccer festival was finished we spent a weekend camping with various families from the church at River Bend County Park. The first day was wonderfully relaxing as we sat in the sun by the river reading our books. After that the weather turned slightly wetter, and we felt just like we were camping in England! Let’s just say we were very grateful for the covered shelters where we could build a fire and cook meals, and that we were rather soggy by the time we got home…

Building a boat

The teams compete to build a boat that will sail down the river...

Our good friend Likius, who organised the soccer festival (and likes to have his photo taken...)

Our good friend Likius from Namibia, who organised the soccer festival (and likes to have his photo taken...)

Last weekend we were very excited to be able to see our friends Brad and Stephanie get married! It was a great day with warm sunshine, and was the first summer wedding that I had been to in the US!

Us with Brad and Stephanie

Us with Brad and Stephanie

Stephanie and Jennifer

Stephanie and Jennifer

Over the past few weeks I’ve also been doing quite a bit of running, training for the Cascade Lakes Relay – a 216.6-mile run completed by teams of 12 people. My three legs (5.4, 7.1 and 7.2 miles) sound daunting as they’re at around 5,000 feet and hilly, but I’m looking forward to them nonetheless (or at least looking forward to having finished them…) The relay is next Friday and Saturday (5-6 August), so watch this space to see if I survive…

by Laura

Running on my Feet

July 9, 2011 in Life, Laura, Sport by Laura

I like to run occasionally, sometimes for exercise and sometimes to get me going in the morning. I’ve done this for a lot of my life and have experienced different seasons of running – some more enjoyable than others. Lately, over the most recent years, running has become more interesting to me than ever before. I would say this has mostly to do with my new love affair with running on my naked feet.

Barefoot Running

Before I moved to England with my husband five years ago, I would never have guessed that a person wouldn’t go barefoot on a sunny day. Coming from southern California, I guess I might not have realized that some people don’t actually have sunny days. My time in England opened my eyes to hundreds of people who go shod all day – even in their house, rarely freeing their feet except for the occasional swim at the local pool, or perhaps the shower and maybe bedtime. It was then, amidst this contrast to what my life had previously been, that I began to seriously love going barefoot. Whenever I could.

Then in the pursuit of other minimalist living rituals, I discovered the concept of barefoot running. Apparently, I found out, people intentionally forget to put on their shoes before they go out for their run – and were making this a habit. The idea caught my attention and I continued to research what this meant.

Several arguments, combined with my own eventual trial and error, convinced me that barefoot running was indeed the way. And from that point onward, I have found it very difficult to find my shoes.

Reasons to go naked:

1. Ease – I like that I don’t have to put my shoes on. I do make up for this with the work of scanning a few paces ahead for pointy debris, but was doing that already more or less.

2. Cheap – So far I’ve saved money by ditching my shoes and not buying more. I have made my own huaraches, which worked a bit and I continue to look into recyclable ways to go minimally shod in the winter. Overall, I am saving.

3. Green – Less shoe buying means less stuff to throw away.

4. Minimal – I have a passion for clearing out the unnecessary in order to truly appreciate what’s important to me.

5. Healthy – Going barefoot is meant to strengthen foot muscles and help running form. I also find that being connected so closely to the ground has meaning, which makes me happy – another health booster. The niggle in my knee is much better when running without shoes, too.

6. Counter-cultural – Helping others to think about life outside the box is rewarding, even if I am the brunt of criticism, jokes or really funny looks…! I enjoy doing things differently, even if just for a time.

People worry about the cons to running barefoot (cuts, less arch support, etc) but I haven’t found these to be a problem. Granted, I am a pretty careful person and not prone to accident, so perhaps this helps. Most other barefoot runners I’ve listened to say that the cons are far less of an issue than we might make them out to be in our minds.

In short, running on my feet feels extraordinarily natural. And it’s fun, too.