30 June 2009

Be Driven

We've all experienced it before, that moment when something gets in the way of your ambition. You meant to go running, but it was too hot and the couch looked much more inviting. You meant mow the lawn, but it looked like it might rain. You meant to take your dog for a walk, but your favorite sports team was playing.

I'm one of those rare people who can find art and meaning just about anywhere, including the one place most people would never expect to find it: TV. And I found it earlier today when I hit on a new Nike TV commercial featuring Lance Armstrong. The ad campaign is a collaboration between Nike and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

It would be easy to scoff that it's just a way to sell more shoes. And it probably is. But I came away inspired, and I have no desire to buy a pair of Nikes right now (besides, I'm an Asics type of guy.) But as soon as I'm finished writing this, I will get outside and run.

The spot, titled Driven, shows various cancer victims going through treatment and cuts away to shots of Armstrong hammering out big RPMs. He says, "The critics say I'm arrogant. A doper. Washed up. A fraud. That I couldn't let it go. They can say whatever they want. I'm not back on my bike for them."

There's just something about watching video of Armstrong on his bike before going for a ride that all but guarantees a higher cadence while running the streets. I think the reason for this is that it opens a door for you to see what another human can do, and you can do more, too. It might be as simple as tackling a hill faster than you've ever done it before. Or it might be as important as finding the will to go through another round of chemo. Just ask my father...he's on his twelfth round this week.

The thing is, though, no other athlete in my lifetime—not Jordan, Montana, or Ripken—seems to have been able inspire people to do the little things and the big things in their lives better.

Credit the creators of the ad for the art, and Armstrong for the meaning. What he is tackling with his foundation is inspirational—even if he, himself, is a bit controversial. He helps people turn "I meant to do it" into just do it.

Watch the spot. Then go set a new personal record.

11 February 2009

On Purpose

I have my days where nothing seems to matter, where I try my hardest and it seems to be all in vain. Then there are times when things seem to be running smoothly, everything seems to be going right, and then something happens and it makes me feel insignificant and/or worthless.

I think we all have those times in our lives where we ask that question...what’s it all for? Like, what does it matter if I’m nice or mean? Giving or taking...?

It’s okay to feel like we don't have all the answers. I certainly don't. I cannot begin to even explain why I am going through some of the things I am going through at the moment. But even though we sometimes feel sandwiched in between good and bad times, not knowing the why, we just need to try to remember...every moment of every day, you are living out your purpose. God's purpose for your life.
"..and called us...according to His own purpose.." 2 Timothy 1:9
You are where you are on purpose. You are struggling on purpose. You are achieving on purpose. And you are living on purpose. (Even reading this message, on purpose.)

Did you really think God was going to leave it all up to chance?

09 February 2009

Grandmas Headphone Ban Lifted

Good news for music-loving, gray-hairs everywhere: Grandma's runners can use headphones again.

This story could possibly raise way more questions than it answers. I mean, why were grandmas banned from using headphones while running in the first place? Seems kinda discriminatory, if you ask me. On the other hand, why the sudden reversal? I mean, it was dangerous for grandmothers to run with headphones a month ago, but now it's somehow safe? What changed, exactly? Did a group of angry grandmas lobby for this change? If so, did they wave their canes and walkers in a threatening manner while doing so? Because that could be considered assault. And what do grandma runners listen to anyway? Folk music? Lawerence Welk? (Is that stuff even available on MP3?) It just doesn't make sense.

While you ponder, and possibly either show displeasure or revel in the rule reversal, here's some background music for your run/workout today...

By the way, I've signed up to run Grandmas Marathon again. I think this will be either number 15 or 16 this year. And I doubt I'll be bringing my iPod.

08 February 2009

American Dream

A couple of things that God is beginning to already impress upon my heart from this financial series we're entering into...

1. That financial bondage is the state of being captivated or overwhelmed by money matters, including mental or spiritual concerns (Proverbs 22:7)

2. That money and possessions cannot provide...
  • satisfaction (Ecclesiates 5:10)
  • significance (Luke 12:15)
  • security (Proverbs 23:5)
  • As much as we'd like to think, we CAN'T take it all with us. What we store up for us here on earth, will stay here on earth. But what we store up in heaven, will be waiting for us in heaven.

    What are you pouring your life and resources into?

    07 February 2009

    Journey to Financial Freedom

    My wife and I just returned from a day long seminar at church on following God's plan for our lives and our finances. It was really quite insightful, and hit home for us in many so ways.

    One of the biggest reminders of the day was that He is Lord, and He is sovereign over all things, including: our future, our failures, our money, even our ability to make wealth...everything.

    Colossians 1:16 says, "All things have been created by Him and for Him."
    God also wants us to have financial peace. And He call us to be good stewards of the money He gives us.

    So why do we squander what God of all Creation gave to us? Why do we constantly thrust ourselves deeper into debt, increasing the materialistic tendencies in our lives? Look all around you...we live in a rich nation. We are so blessed by God. Many nations in this world do not have as much as us. And yet do we, in turn, bless others around us?

    I ask you pray for me as I introduce this lesson series to my small group tomorrow. I'll be first to admit it won't be an easy topic to hear, especially in an economic climate such as now, but we think this is a perfect time to teach.

    How Old?

    Sometimes, the realization of just how quickly this world wants to throw us into the middle of it becomes a closer reality.

    When I woke my daughter yesterday morning, she sat up and uncharacteristically launched into this serious conversation with me. Now we don't have these types of conversations too often -- yet, that is. Thankfully. Normally, the dilemmas of her age involve typically simpler things, like "Do I HAVE to wear my snow boots to school?", or "But I don't LIKE broccoli!", or more recently "Dad, I can't give you a kiss when you drop me off at school...all my friends are WATCHING!" Sigh.

    So, I asked her what was up. She begins to get all teary-eyed and immediately blurts out, "I want to tell you something, but I know you probably won't be happy." I calmed her down and reassured her that I loved her, promising that I would always listen. I also encouraged her to tell the truth, something we try always to remind them of.

    She sniffled a bit, took this deep breath, then said, "You know that boy, Elijah, from my class at school? He asked if he could be my boyfriend." She bit her lip and looked at me with worried eyes.

    Whoa, what was that? My mind reeled for a moment, my brain apparently not fully awake itself. I quickly wanted to say, "Who asked you what?? Doesn't he know you cannot even think of those things until you're 30?!", but I didn't. Instead I took a deep breath myself, slowly began stroking her hair to calm her down, and asked, "So what did you say?"

    "I didn't say anything, Dad. We just kept chasing our friends around the playground."

    Whew, was that ever a relief…apparently she wasn't interested in having a boyfriend. She obviously had been all worried since yesterday that she had done something wrong. That somehow she had either made Elijah feel bad for asking or had wronged her parents for even engaging in a conversation of the like. Wow, score one for 'Praying your child experiences a somewhat normalized childhood in this day and age'!

    Holding her hand, I commended her for not just joining in on the boyfriend/girlfriend scene just yet. I then explained to her that God had a plan for her life and that she didn't need to worry about those other types of things right now. "Just be his friend, hon", I said and gave her a kiss on the head.

    Her eyes went back to that familiar sparkle I know, and out of bed she bounded to get ready for school.

    . . . .

    Okay you think the story is funny. But I can plainly understand. I mean, what's the big deal anyway. All kids go through this at some time, right? Well, the thing is this...she's only six years old.

    Now before some of you think I am going diving into the deeper end of the pool, let me explain.

    Firstly, I guess I am just expressing what every parent tends to think of when they hit that "boyfriend/girlfriend" stage in their children's lives. And if you have a son or daughter this age (or somewhere in that gradeschool timeline), I guessing you will eventually run into this sometime soon yourself. But more importantly, I already understand this world has this way of creeping up on us. Even more surprising is how it affects our children and tries to make them grow up much faster than they should. And every day, it creeps closer and closer. Sometimes you can see it coming from a mile away; other times it is very subtle. Reality check? Things I remember not experiencing until high school are now occuring with kids as early as middleschool. And sometimes, even gradeschool. That's an eye-opener.

    Though I certainly believe 'Elijah's' intentions for my kindergarten-aged daughter were non-egregious, and I don't believe my daughter would have run off and gotten married to this boy resulting from these playground actions anytime soon, it does go to show how quickly our kids are forced to engage a world that pits kids against older-aged situations every day. Honestly, I'm not ready for her to begin thinking of what a 'boyfriend' is, nor why she needs one. Let alone what a 'girlfriend' is supposed to do! Being six years old is supposed to mean living an innocent existence, isn't it? At least, I thought it used to be.

    Be it as it may, I cannot keep my daughter as a six year old forever. And I also cannot be there when she eventually faces every situation as she grows up. But I do believe God has intended a plan for our kids to live with simple innocence as long as we can allow as parents.

    Of course, there will come a time when those things change and they are thrust into the complexities this world contains. We cannot shield them forever, obviously, but we can help them along the way. Help them understand God's love and plan for our lives. The Bible outlines that plan for each of us, be it as adolescents or adults. And knowing and applying that plan can hopefully help us not become so caught up in this world.

    My desire for my daughter is that she understands God has a plan for her life. That growing up will come in time, and that playing on the playground can be and should be as simple and innocent as God intended it to be for her.

    Honestly, I don’t mind dealing with those simpler dilemmas where my daughter yells, "My (little) brother is in my room dancing in his underwear, and he won't get OUT!" Sigh. I enjoy those days. And I know, some day, those days will end.

    05 February 2009

    From the Inside Out

    Recently, I was reading in Romans and a verse just stuck out at me. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Now I have heard that verse many times over throughout my life, but I'll plainly admit it: this was the first time I had really focused on it and allowed it to take hold of me the way it should have long ago.

    Okay, that was God's first nudge. And you oughta know, He never stops there.

    This past weekend, a group of us leaders took 39 middle schoolers from our youth group to Winter Blast retreat. It's sort of a mini-camp in winter where kids from all around the area can come together and conversationalize, play indoor/outdoor games, pray and learn, and allow us leaders to just love on them. In short, it rocked. Our teaching series centered on the theme of connections; about how we connect with God and others. It was also about how easy it is for us to focus on the stuff of this world, and lose focus on what's most important...connecting with a God who really truly loves and cares for us.

    Now I am wondering if I might have gotten more out of it than the kids did. Okay, I'm not saying they didn't soak it up or feel God's conviction in their lives, because so many of them obviously did. But it was amazing just how much the theme really hit it for me, more than I realized it would.

    God began convicting me of my own connections. Like what was most important to me, what really stood out to others about me, and where He stood in all of it. And it was sobering.

    Just how often do I try to cram myself into the mold this world has to offer—to be someone I'm not, or to have something I obviously do not need—only to realize that no matter how hard I try, it still leaves me feeling wanting, or worse, unwanted. By filling myself, my mind, with all the things that shouldn't be important, all I'm doing is conforming to this world. And I am pushing away God.

    Basically, I've come to realize that everything I am shows to those 6th grade guys I lead. I mean co'mon, it's hard to hide who you are when you're teaching this stuff. But can a leader effectively lead if they're not fully connecting the way they should be themselves? That by conforming to the world around us, don't we know that we slowly degrade ourselves, and bring down those around us who might actually look up to us? How can we stand before God knowing we aren't really in the game?

    Reality check. These guys look up to us (me) for...a comforting shoulder to lean on when things get them down, a positive word of encouragement when everything or everyone seems to fail them, answers they don't or won't have to the questions about God and life.

    They are seeking someone, anyone, to connect with. They look for leadership. And not just the friendship that we sometimes tend to give them instead; they desire to be mentored. To be taught that there is a God who cares about them, desires to know them personally, and wants to show us His will. They want to know He is real.

    Now, truthfully, how can I lead effectually if my will is not God's?

    Romans 12:2 simply says to let go of the things this world tends to get us caught up in: Be it gossip, slander, arrogance, selfishness, or possibly your computer, game system, television, cellphone...whatever holds us and our minds down and inhibits us from creating and maintaining that true connection with God.

    And that by letting all of those inhibitors go, only then can we honestly surround ourselves from the inside out with that which God intended...His will for our lives.

    Here is video from a favorite Hillsong United song of mine. Listen to the words to catch a little of what I am saying here:
    A thousand times I've failed
    Still your mercy remains
    And should I stumble again
    Still I'm caught in your grace

    Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
    Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
    My heart and my soul, Lord I give you control
    Consume me from the inside out Lord
    Let justice and praise become my embrace
    To love You from the inside out

    Your will above all else, my purpose remains
    The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

    God, I ask you to renew my mind. Help me not become so caught up in the things of this world, but instead let me lose myself in You. Allow me to lead effectively and faithfully, and not be a distraction from You or Your will. Help me to continue to apply Your will to my life, and in turn, to those lives around me.

    01 December 2008

    Down by the River

    Reading "50/50" by Dean Karnazes today, I ran across this very insightful viewpoint regarding an intriguing contrast of both passion and motivation in regards to running. Here is an excerpt from his book:

    The best way I know to overcome low motivation for running is to get back in touch with the source of my passion to run. Motivation and passion are somewhat different. Passion is an overwhelming love for the experience of a favorite activity. Motivation is a drive to engage in an activity based on some reward the activity offers beyond the simple enjoyment of the experience itself. When you have great passion for running, or anything else, you don't need any extra motivation. But motivation without passion can only take you so far.

    Nonrunners become runners by developing a passion for running. But runners often take their running in directions that distance them from the source of their passion. Trading the simple joy of running for a focus on competition is the classic scenario... That being said, there is no question that setting event goals can be a powerful motivator for runners, and it has had a positive effect on my moral in the past. Looking forward to a specific event goal has a way of making each individual training motivation level high. However, goals only have this effect when they are appropriate, and when they are viewed with the proper perspective. For example, if you set a goal to run a marathon as a way to impress others, it probably won't keep you motivated. Goals have to come from the heart. They must represent achievements that you desire for yourself. And if you place too much importance on any goal, then it won't keep you motivated. If achieving a certain finishing time in your next marathon becomes the only thing about your running that matters to you, then you may not enjoy the process of training for that marathon. Sure, achieving a goal can be rewarding, but it's the journey--not reaching the destination--that brings true fulfillment.

    Okay, I sheepishly admit...I secretly love playing dodgeball with the church youth on Wednesday nights. I'm certainly not an dodgeball expert, because frequently you'll see me being completely owned by those who are younger and, realistically, more expertly-trained than I. But even though I am clearly not the dodgeball professional I aspire to be, I still utterly enjoy it. You could say I have a passion for it. Now, if Jon were to make good on his regular promises of fist-fulls of candy to the winning team, rather than only his "undying love and affection", things might change. However, I am thinking that still wouldn't affect the outcome of the game for me. Though such motivation is obviously good and all, just the act of this favorite pastime, shared with our group of middle-schoolers, is simply more than enough to suffice.

    Sure, some runners say that running and motivation go hand-in-hand. That by seeking motivation first, the desire to run (and run successfully) will surely follow. I can relate to this. Who wouldn't say that motivation isn't a strong stimulator? I'm certainly not denying the effect that it has on pushing us out of a warm bed at those freakeshly-early morning times, or the response that it develops in us as we inevitably work increasingly harder towards prized goals. That's life. Without motivation, most of us wouldn't tackle the hard stuff. But remember, if all you strive for is a set of results, then that motivation is inevitably going to keep you locked on a one-way path headed towards lack of enthusiasm.

    Dean is obviously onto something here. It seems that some of us have forgotten the basics of how powerful passion can be within our lives, as well within our running.

    Can you remember back to the original enthusiasm that brought you to running in the first place? Maybe it was the liberation from your own self-doubt...you know, those limitations you thought that eternally separated you from the casual runner you'd see time to time running across town, seemingly without a care in the world. Or how about the courage your running developed...the desire to experience or do something you thought previously wasn't possible, and the glorious self-awakening you felt when you did it. The rush of endorphins, and the knowledge that by breaking through those limitations you had found a hidden runner inside yourself.

    I feel that running and passion go hand-in-hand. That, by finding and remembering your passion (and making this a running foundation), your motivation and the success of your running will surely follow. It's all about getting back to those basics. Back to the acceptance that some goals may or may not be reached, a race may or may not be finished, a PR may or may not be set...it's acceptance. It's back to running for and with a passion, and letting the motivation grow from there.

    I like this quote by Jesse Owens -- "I always loved running...it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs." How true this is, that when you break running down to its very core, the single strongest element that encourages and pushes us is the passion from which it was originally developed.

    I'm just like you. I have my days of good running, and some days of bad running. My motivational levels swing up and down, much like the thermometer currently outside. Today was clearly one of those days where the pool of motivation was lower than normal. But then I found an old trail down by the river, and for an hour I simply ran. Through four inches of fresh snow, patches of ice and sharp gusts of wind, I ran. Thoughts from the pressing matters of life dropped away for a few brief moments, and somewhere along the way the passion was found again.

    And in finding this, I kept right on running.

    27 November 2008

    Proclamations of Thanksgiving

    by President Abraham Lincoln, 1863

    It is the duty of the nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

    We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

    We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

    But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. (A. Lincoln, March 1863)

    It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, teverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my Fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. (A. Lincoln, October 1863)

    In these changing times, let us be reminded of the beliefs held by the founding fathers of our nation. Wishing you all a wonderful, and grateful, Thanksgiving holiday!

    26 November 2008

    Adventures in Off-Roading

    I am what you would call a self-described, enthusiastic, part-time trail runner. I'm the type of person who enjoys the quiet, the scenery, and the challenge a trail provides. Indeed, dirt paths are easier on the legs and feet than hard-surfaced roads, and most are away from traffic, but they can also be a true test of strength and stamina. Besides, being out in nature can turn a blasé run into an adventure.

    Trails are also a great way to keep running while you're on vacation visiting state and national parks. However, remember that some trails are easier to negotiate than others.

    Here's a quick guide to different trail types if you're interested in a little off-road running yourself.


    Throughout the United States, thousands of miles of old railway lines have been converted into multiuse trails. They're flat (never more than a three percent grade) and scenic, and some have mile markers-- perfect for most workouts. Surfaces are either dirt, gravel (crushed rock), or paved; a paved trail often has a parallel dirt path alongside it. Find one near you by visiting Rails-to-Trails.


    Packed-dirt paths often travel along rivers or creeks, or around lakes and parks. Their smooth, forgiving surface makes them the best choice for reducing impact without the added hazards of rocks and roots. Some are measured, and some are wide enough for your kids to join you on their bikes.


    These narrow, rugged paths tend to have obstacles like rocks, roots, and stream crossings, which challenge your balance and lateral motion. They make for a great workout but can also lead to sprained ankles, so start with a hike-run. Run the flat sections, then walk the hills and tricky terrain. Hike with friends, tuck a map into your fuel belt, and be prepared for hazards like animals, bugs, or weather changes.