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Weekly Thoughts

A blog about life, perceptions and thoughts as they relate to a spiritual journey as a Christian

Spin the Black Circle

It’s no secret that I am a music lover. There is not a single category you can pin me down to in terms of my musical tastes. I have an appreciation for it all. As I child, I remember listening to the radio and recording my favorite songs on to cassette tape so I could listen to them over and over. Over the years, I amassed a collection of cassette tapes, CD’s and MP3s.  I saved up each paycheck just to go blow it all at the music store.

We are in a new era of music. With Spotify streaming, the entire world of digital music is at our fingertips and on demand whenever we want it. There are podcasts, music TV channels, streaming radio and live feeds. We can turn it on and off with a click of a button.

While I enjoy being able to access whatever I music want at any time, several months ago, I hooked up my Techniques 1200 turntable and set out to build my vinyl record collection. The resurgence of record collecting is bringing many of us music lovers back to our youth and to a simpler time. There is something about dropping the needle down on a vinyl record and listening to the pure sound as it was originally recorded. Each song was carefully put in order as the artist intended, and after 20 minutes, you have to flip the record over to hear the closing tracks. Listening to vinyl involves all the senses besides taste. It’s a reconnection to pure sound.

As I build my vinyl record collection, I am discovering a new love for older records I have long forgotten or heard many times before. As I listen with intent, my appreciation for the artists, the lyrics and the music is at an all-time high. I close my eyes and picture the artist in the studio 40 years-ago recording that track just to connect with me so many years later.

I started thinking about my love for music as it relates to our spiritual journey. How often do we overcomplicate our faith or have it spoon fed to us as background noise? What if we took more of an effort to dust off that Bible, sit on the couch for 30 minutes and read the text as it was originally written. What new sounds would we hear? Would you see the transcript with new color? Would flipping the pages bring you closer to God?

In the world of Christian radio, energetic sermons, streaming podcasts, and religious TV, there is something to be said for putting all the noise aside, and spending some time reconnecting with God Himself. Like an old Vinyl record, the quality never fades.

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1 Peter 1:24-25

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

Identity

Micah, what do you want to be when you grow up?

My 4-year-old son looked at the tile floor deep in thought. Suddenly, he looked up with his eyes bright with anticipation. “A Jedi daddy. When I get bigger, I’m going to be a Jedi just like Luke Skywalker!”

I love the conversations I have with Micah. It is refreshing to see the world through his unjaded eyes and to get a glimpse into a soul where the whole world is ahead and dreams are alive with vivid color.

Thinking back to my own childhood, I answered that same question several times. A fireman, a doctor, a jet pilot, an architect, and a surfer were just a few of my dream professions. What child would have said ‘a director of business development and marketing’ anyway?

Outside of my lofty career goals, I strived through my youth to latch on to other activities to define who I was as a person. In junior high, most everyone is defined by some sort of activity. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the nerds were just a few groups.  As we all looked to find our place, I locked on to what I thought the coolest people in school were…the skaters. I loved skateboarding from an early age. I was fascinated with surfing as a small kid, and living in Colorado, skateboarding was the next best thing. Skateboarders were counter-culture but still friends with all the other social groups. They did cool tricks and had cool hair. That’s what I wanted to be.

I was a skateboarder through junior high and transitioned to being a snowboarder in high school and college. I moved to California and became a surfer, and then became a triathlete. When being a triathlete wasn’t doing it for me anymore, I became a competitive cyclist, shaved my legs and started racing with 200 other shaved legged adult males. I moved to Colorado and became a runner, no… a trail runner, no…an ultra-runner…well…you get the idea.

Through all my various ‘identities’ I’ve had over the years, one place I have struggled is latching on to what it means to have an identity in Christ. What does it mean to be a ‘Christian’? It seems like such a small thing, but one area that I have struggled with is the stigma of some other Christian people and not wanting to be put in the same bucket as them. From the people holding up “You’re going to Hell” signs at football games to a few encounters with other Christians I have known over the years, I have struggled with embracing the identity.

But God is showing me something different. Hypocrisy and imperfection are results of the broken human condition. All of us have sinned, and part of my problem was putting too much stock in other people – specifically ‘Christians’- to do it right. I know full-well the extent of my own sin, and thank God for the grace He gives to cover it. Grace I should extend to others as well.

I’m beginning to realize three things:

  1. Having an identity in Christ means that I am a work in progress. I am an imperfect person pursuing a perfect God, and that’s okay.
  2. I have an opportunity to learn from my own past experiences and try and show the grace of Christ where I feel others have fallen short.
  3. Just because another person identifies with the title of ‘Christian’ and preaches hate does not mean I am like that person. It is like someone that calls themselves a runner but sits on the couch all day, eats junk food and does one 5K per year. That person can claim the title, but their actions don’t reflect the identity.

I’m starting to ‘own’ my identity and have more confidence in bearing the image of Christ, and that’s a good thing. I can be defined by what I do by being selfless, showing love, and embracing truth. I’m not perfect by the world’s standards, but thanks to grace, in God’s eyes I am. It’s pretty liberating and I’m humbled to be called a ‘Christian’. I’m an imperfect person pursuing a perfect God who loves us.

So next time someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up my answer is, “I’m a Christian, regardless of what I do professionally or recreationally, that’s all that matters most.” My prayer is that my son can say the same thing someday.

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2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here

Achieving More

I had a business lunch with a gentleman this week that has done multiple endurance races. For this post, I’ll call him “Joe.” Joe calls himself an ‘adventurer’ and is always searching for that next thing to stretch his own level of comfort. He recently started a company to take business executives out on adventures and to teach them about living life to the fullest and reaching new goals that may seem impossible.

Joe talked about very successful business leaders he knows that ‘have it all’. One guy he talked about makes $20M/year and has achieved the peak of his professional dreams. He went on to tell me, “But something is missing. Deep down inside of each of these guys, there is a hole they are trying to fill. Even though they ‘have it all’, they can’t figure out what’s missing. It’s my job to help them find that missing piece through adventures. After they have achieved it all, I help them achieve more.”

More”, I thought to myself. More.

What I found interesting in the conversation is that Joe is starting to associate fulfillment with ‘more’ accomplishments. These accomplishments are physical in nature rather than business related, but it is still in the vain of more accolades. I can’t keep from coming back to the root of his original statement, “Deep down inside of each of these guys, there is a hole they are trying to fill. Even though they ‘have it all’, they can’t figure out what’s missing.

I personally know people that achieved amazing physical feats of endurance. I know people that have completed dozens of Ironman races and ultra-races. What is interesting is that even a lot of these people are wondering what is next. There is a hole they are also trying to fill, and it’s never enough.

Stop for a second and think. What if there is truly a deep longing and desire in us that we are trying to fill? What if we are all trying to fill that desire with MORE? More work, more money, more athletic accomplishments, more charity work, more being better parents, spouses or whatever it is you pour yourself into?

What if that desire and longing was divinely placed in you to connect to God, the creator of the universe? A God who will give you purpose and acceptance no matter what job title you have or how many medals are on the wall? A God who hard wired you for relationship and a perspective that the things of this world don’t matter as much as we think they do?

In the mist of all the things I personally strive for at work and athletically, I am already complete. I love a good challenge, but I don’t need more. I personally don’t have a deep need or longing to find out what’s next in order to feel peace. Sure, I had to die to placing huge importance on the things most of the world values the most, but the freedom I have is unexplainable. God has stamped my heart with grace.

I think Joe is right in saying “Deep down inside of each of these guys, there is a hole they are trying to fill.” Where he has it wrong is in thinking more accomplishments will fill the gap. What fills the gap is feeding the spirit.

When I look at the sunrise, I have joy in my heart and amazement that I know the creator of this beauty.

When I finish a race, I praise God for crafting such an amazing matrix of nerves, blood, muscle and skin that is capable of amazing things.

When I look at the world and politics, I have a peace in knowing that no matter what happens in the world while I am here, I am still in God’s hands and I will live eternally in His presence.

When I look at my bank account, no matter the balance, I know it is enough.

I have a joy that surpasses circumstance and a peace that is indescribable.

I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I believe is true– the only path to true fulfillment is relationship with Christ. With that, you will never need anything more.

—————————————————–
Philippians 4:19
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

It is Finished

I feel more and more like a stranger in this world

A traveler in a foreign land

While everything seems familiar and people speak my language

The buildings are crumbling into sand

Darkness and light fight deep within my soul

While I know that the victor has already been decided

The war rages on in the network of my mind

The eclectic emotions of life have all beautifully collided

I walk down the streets and wish I was in the mountains

Hitting the dirt I long for the familiar footing of home

Am I breathing toxic air through the network of society?

Can unplug from the mania that lights up the screen on my phone?

Like looking through the wrong side of the telescope

The things I thought were so far off are now blinding me

Wrinkles are no longer a stranger in the mirror

But, yet I know deep down that I am free

It is finished. Time to step out and live in that reality

It is finished. Balance love and justice in my soul

It is finished. Take my doubts and spread their ashes

It is finished. Through grace I’ve been made whole

Be an Athlete- Part Two

Last week I posted about the identity we have as people and as Christians. The identity we embrace drives everything from the clothes we wear to the things we think about daily.

Sticking with the same theme I had from last week about being an athlete, I wanted to draw 10 parallels from being an athlete that help describe a successful Christian walk as I see it. I know this stuff sounds pretty basic, but I feel like I always have to go back to the basics.

  1. Know the goal. If you don’t know what you are training for, you are lost. You can’t have a plan. You won’t be able to define success. Do you have written/specified goals in your Christian walk? How do you know you are achieving them?
    [Philippians 3:14: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.]
  2. Be disciplined about training. I know this is a hard one at times. There are days when I don’t feel like going on a run. Sometimes these days bleed into weeks of inactivity and complacent activity. I always tell myself that even a little bit of exercise beats nothing at all. Best cut the time short but still go out. This applies to devotional time, prayer and bible reading. What training have you done today?
    [1 Corinthians 9:25; Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.]
  3. Help others succeed. Even as competitive people, the sooner we realize that this life is not about us, the fuller our lives will become. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching a friend get hooked on a sport and succeed due to a seed I planted and nurtured.
    [1 Thessalonians 5:11; Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing]
  4. Eat. Nutrition is often considered the 4th leg of triathlon. The body needs food and water to keep going. What food and water are you taking in? If it’s been weeks since your last visit to church or in the fellowship of other Christians you are probably dehydrated and will likely bonk.
    [John 6:35; Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.]
  5. Sleep. When my sleep starts suffering, everything suffers. My work performance all the way down to my ability to run. It is great to keep pushing, but there are times we need to rest in Christ and recover. This may be as simple as waiting on the Lord.
    [Psalm 127:2; It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.]
  6. Celebrate the victories. Nothing is more awesome than a success at a race or a new milestone hit in training! Throw a party and testify about the great things God is doing in your life.
    [Psalm 150:1-6; Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!]
  7. Learn from the failures. We all stumble. It’s failure to learn from those mistakes that will destroy our strength. When we fall down and get back up, we will be stronger than we thought possible.
    [2 Corinthians 12:9-10; My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.]
  8. Read. By reading about others successes and failures, we can be stronger athletes and shortcut an otherwise long learning curve. The Bible is full of these stories and guidance for living. How much are you reading?
    [2 Peter 3:18; But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…]
  9. Be humble. I find that the longer I participate in a sport, the more prideful I can become about my knowledge and experience. This can lead to being a person that can’t learn new things. The best athletes admit and work on their weaknesses and understand that they can  learn things– even from new athletes.
    [Psalm 25:9;l He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.]
  10. Don’t quit. Keep moving when the race gets so hard you want to quit. This is the hardest thing to do. There is rarely a race when I don’t feel like throwing up or quitting in the middle. There are highs and lows. This is so much like life. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on the goal line. You will finish, but you must keep moving.  [Hebrews 12:1-2; Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.]

Hoping this brings some good things to your week. Thanks for being my fellow athletes.

Be an Athlete

This past weekend I traveled back up to Leadville for another race. The trail marathon at Leadville takes runners over 26 miles of some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain one can imagine. The old mining town based at 10,000 feet above sea level hosts some of the world’s best athletes each summer for their race series.

One thing I love about trail racing is the eclectic cast of runners at the races. You will see everything from the Boston-marathon looking runners in short shorts to the bearded Forest Gump-looking barefoot runners. It’s a great mix of people all there for one goal, and that is to hopefully cross the finish line. Close to 6,000 feet of vertical climbing and a trip up the 13,000 foot summit of Mosquito Pass makes it a daunting challenge.

As I was lined up at the start line looking at all the other athletes, I kept coming back to the idea of ‘identity’. All the runners were unique, yet we were all runners.

I had the pleasure of attending a small group bible study last week that a friend of mine hosts at his office. The topic of the week was ‘identity’ and the identity we have in Christ. While we are all unique as believers, we have a new identity in Christ that binds us all together. The key is for us to start living out that identity and believing it.

For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a true athlete even with all the races I did. Even though I trained, studied and put in the work, I didn’t think I was qualified to be called an ‘athlete’ because I was finishing races outside of the top 10, or because I didn’t train as hard as the pros. I was in the car several weeks ago, and I was talking to my wife about how I was more of a ‘hobbiest’ than an ‘athlete’ and she called me out. “You are one heck of an athlete, babe. You are pretty amazing at your sports. Don’t sell yourself short.”

Lining up at the start line in Leadville, I had the realization that I was indeed an athlete.  I also started to think about my identity as a Christian. I am hardly qualified half of the time to take on that identity, and I feel pretty imperfect most of the time. I don’t train as hard as I should, there are others faster and more knowledgeable than me, and I go through seasons of doubt. This is the amazing news though- Grace. It’s not about how hard I work, or how perfect or imperfect I am. All I have to do is just admit the fact that I can’t do it on my own and I need Him.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.“- Ephesians 2:8-9

As believers, we are all athletes in this race together. We all have all prepared for the race a little differently, but we are here to encourage each other, share some training tips and pick each other up when we fall down. Hopefully, we can all finish the race strong. It is time to embrace our identity and start living it.

 

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“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24

Mountain Waves

God is good. Even when things feel bad. It never ceases to amaze me what an ocean this life is. The rising tide feels like it is going to drown us at times and then the season changes and the sunset turns the water into liquid gold, showering us with warmth. My life has felt like a boat on the sea these past two years. I find myself internalizing things a bit more. Falling deep into my meditative void that stops making sense after a while.

The past couple of years have had me questioning God’s plan for us here in Colorado. I miss our life in San Diego. We had tons of friends. Between Julie and I, we made enough money to live comfortably and enjoy life. While God continues to provide for us here, it feels like we are barely scraping together enough to pay the bills at times. Our network of friends is gone and I feel like there are days when I pretend to be happy when inside I am growing increasingly bitter about our situation.

Then the tide changes. I wake up in the morning and see a sky full of fire lit clouds reflect their glory on the expansive mountains. I take a sip of my coffee, breathe in the clean crisp air, and stretch out my arms towards the sky. I look back on my house with 1,000 bikes in the garage and see my son waving goodbye to me so I can head into the office. My wife smiles. At lunch I put on my running shoes and head up into the unpopulated mountain trails for a run. I see a few deer eating grass as a cruise by. I am at peace and blessed.

Why is it so difficult to be happy at times and then wake up the next day totally at rest? God, why is it so hard to trust that You have a plan in all of this?

We recently found a church to attend that is helping me hit the reset button. Another group of messy people just like me. Doubts, imperfection and brokenness all made whole by the grace of Jesus. “We are a church that welcomes home prodigals,” the pastor says. “You are welcome here, and we are a place of love.”

This experience in Colorado has me believing that God does not wants his people to be comfortable. Being comfortable leads to being complacent. I see it in my past life in San Diego. When the weather is always perfect, the days run into months and run into years and it is harder to see the big picture in front of us. Seasons create a state of constant change, and force you to adapt—and move….

Faith.

God is working on me there. Looking back on my life, there is no reason to believe that God doesn’t know what He is doing in my life. I need to roll with it like a surfer sitting out past the breaks. I know my divine wave will come and I will paddle hard. I’ll connect with it, stand up and experience pure ecstasy as I ride towards shore –or- I’ll fall down and swallow some water and paddle back out. One thing I do know is that there is a plan, but for now I need to connect with this moment and KNOW that God is with me and have faith that right here and now is where He wants me to be.

God is good.

——-

James 1:6 ; But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Drivers

What are your divers?

Since I work in marketing, I am always working in a strategic mindset trying to determine ways for my firm to position to win more work. My job is to dig pass the issues or the surface level project at hand to uncover the real reason the client wants or needs to move their project forward. In other words, “what are the project drivers?” “Why are they doing what they are doing? The answer could be anything from aging infrastructure they are worried about; to new regulations they have to meet. 100% of the time, there is a REASON they are looking for a consultant to assist them with the project. My job is to find that reason, and help position my firm to be the best team to address that driver.

As I headed into the office this past week, I was thinking about one of these project pursuits and my brain shifted gears to think about my own personal drivers. Why do I do what I do? What drives me to want to work out all the time? What drives me to work long hours at times and sacrifice personal time? What drives me to buy a cup of coffee for the guy behind me in line at Starbucks? What drives me to want to spend quality time with my family?

It is not an easy answer or even a uniform answer for all of my actions, but there is always a driver. Sometimes it is a driver of selfish ambition or a competitive desire to just win, get ahead or climb on top. Other times, I am driven by love and just a pure selfless desire to help, serve and bless those around me. The one thing I recognize is the pure conflict within my soul to want to do good and to fulfill my own desires.

One of my Facebook friends posted this on her page this week:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life: “A fight is going on inside me.” he said. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, and superiority. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, and truth. The same fight is going on inside you – and every other person. ”The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief replied, “The one you feed, Son.”

The apostle Paul in Romans talks of the same struggle: (Romans 7:24)

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

What are your drivers?

I’m not saying it is bad to be competitive or want to get ahead. I am saying however that it is bad if it is ‘driven’ from the wrong place. Are we using those passions to bless others? Are we humble in our ambitions?

As the holiday season is upon us and we reflect on the blessings we have been given, let’s take the time to examine our hearts. What drivers will you feed this season? Why are you doing what you are doing? Step outside yourself for a moment and feed the good wolf. The world will be a better place for it, and God’s love will shine through.

Like little children

The past few months have been some of the best months so far as a father. Watching my son discover the world one item at a time has been entertaining and I probably cry laughing at least once a day. Obviously, we cannot remember what it was like as an almost two-year-old, but nothing can compare to the but the innocent unveiling of the world and its creation to a toddler.

Imagine a world where everything is new. You open the door to a windy day and see a piece of paper carried along by the current and you stop to watch in wonder. The birds in the trees are singing their songs and you listen intently and marvel at their playfulness. The clouds in the sky form little shapes and you imagine the story being written in the heavens. Your interactions with others are sparked out of mystery, trust and joy.

I know God connects to each of us in different ways. He most often connects to me through nature, and I still get giddy inside every time I look up at the mountains or see a sunset. I will never grow tired of the outdoors and the sense of adventure that awaits in God’s creation. For others, it may be personal relationships that God uses the most to connect.  I think He looks down on us like we are toddlers in a new world, and gets just as much joy when we recognize the little things as I do as a father.

The hard part for us adults is slowing down and being aware enough to recognize His blessings. Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” I know many preachers and Christians will interpret this to say “don’t sin” or “don’t conform”, but what if the ‘pattern of this world’ is floating through life and not appreciating the blessings God gives? ‘Renewing your mind’ is critical to seeing the world anew every single second- just like my son.

Matthew 18:3 says “And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Like little children dependent on their parents, loving and trusting of strangers, immersed in the beautiful awe of creation- yet unique? Like little children too innocent to be overcome by fear, failure, rejection and hate? Like little children smiling up at the sky when a bird flies by and sings a song?

Watching my son grow up is such a wonderful thing. It is amazing how such a little person can challenge my own faith so deeply and hopefully help me live more purposeful and committed. I can only hope to become more thankful and see those blessings that I may have overlooked in the past.

Keep it new.  

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