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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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Grace

Comparison and ‘Value’

Comparison.

It drives every aspect of our lives. How do we stack up in the rankings?

In work, do you get your self-worth from the number of sales you have brought in or the initiatives you’ve been able to bring to your business? Do you correlate the amount of your paycheck with your personal and professional value? Do you measure yourself by the house you own or the car you drive?

Often times, we spend our lives comparing ourselves to others in a desperate attempt to derive more self-worth or somehow feel valued.

I spent this past weekend in Leadville pacing at one of the biggest ultrarunning races on the planet, the Leadville 100 Trail Run. Profiled in countless books and media, the Leadville 100 typically boasts a 40-50% finisher rate OR a 50%-60% failure rate depending on how you look at it. Within that finisher pool, if you finish in less than 25 hours you get a big belt buckle. If you finish in less than 30 hours you get a smaller belt buckle. There are awards for top three athletes overall and the top three in each age group category. Walk around the finish of Leadville, and you hear athletes boasting about their accomplishments:

“I got a big buckle.” “I finished before the cutoff.” “I got on the podium.” “I didn’t finish because of….fill in the blank.”

I even stood next to a guy at the finish line that had a 200-mile ultrarunning race finishers t-shirt on (from another race) and it was tucked into the front of his shorts to show off his 200-mile finishers belt buckle as if to say, “Yeah, I’m proud of all you finishers, but I’m way more bad ass than you. I ran TWICE as far

I do think we should be proud of our accomplishments and set goals to pull out our best potential. The danger I find however, is when we derive our importance and self-worth from comparing ourselves to others and placing value on these goals outside the goal itself. Placing improper importance on the goal itself damages the life experience.

What if you still strive to achieve excellence, but you knew your value was not based in how much or how little you have or are able to do? What if your DNF (did not finish) in the last race didn’t matter to you anymore than taking first place in terms of how you see yourself?

One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote a book called “Searching for God Knows What” where he profiles the broken human condition and points out that we are all trying to achieve success based on how we stack up against other people. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul clarifies that our inherent value has nothing to do with what we do or don’t do. (Romans 3:21-30) It has nothing to do with our accomplishments or feats in life. We are all valued as humans in the full and overflowing love that comes from God (whether you believe in Him or not).

What if we all lived our lives knowing that we already had all the intrinsic value we need by just being us? What if we no longer compared ourselves against others because we were all at peace with who we are already?

How would you live your life differently?

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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.

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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.

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.  

Why the Tears?

Julie and I are fortunate to have a pretty calm baby. Micah is generally a happy little guy smiling most of the time, sleeping through the night and hitting his milestones with grace. When he does let out a cry, he typically needs fed, needs a change of scenery or needs a good nap. Every now and then however, he will cry for what seems like no reason at all, leaving Julie and I wondering and guessing what he really wants or needs. Sometimes you just scratch your head and wonder how this cute little thing could possibly be miserable.

Let’s take a moment to consider a baby’s life:

  • You get to sleep as much and whenever you want.
  • You get to eat on demand.
  • There is no shortage of attention, and all people want to do is hold you and smile.

When I look at a baby’s life, I wonder how any little tyke could find anything to shed a tear over.

Watching a short-lived cry-attack from my son this last weekend, I couldn’t help but smile. We aren’t so different as adults. We are finding things to complain about left and right that have no significance on life. We complain and whine about the weather, finances, other people, our jobs and our surroundings. We cry out in anger at the driver that just cut us off on the freeway, and we spread the tears to those we talk to on the phone. We tear up the beautifully landscaped path in front of us and focus in on the dirt.

Wasn’t it Christ that told us that we need to quit crying all the time? Just like we do as parents with our children, He has already taken care of all of our needs.

Matthew 6-25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Hold your arms up like a child and God will smile back. The sooner we understand the depth of His love, and trust in His goodness, the more full our lives will become. My son does not have the perspective to look at his life in such a way to recognize the full extent of his blessings—but you and I do.

The Bald Eagle

I called and spoke to my mom this morning. I told her that on the drive into town two days ago we saw a bald eagle fly over our car. It was the first time I had ever seen a bald eagle in the wild and it was one of the coolest things to see on the drive in. She went on to tell me a story about this last fall when she also saw a bald eagle fly over her house one afternoon. She has been battling Leukemia for a while now and she was having a really bad day when the eagle flew over.

God brought the following verse to her mind:

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

She told me that she knew at that point she knew it would all be OK.

My eagle sighting gave my mom chills, her story gave me chills, and God’s way of talking to us brings us all chills. God was telling us it would all be OK. We need to continue to have faith that this will all work out.

Micah Lee Barr was born on March 2nd. God answered our lifelong prayer this last week. Not always the way you think God would answer a prayer, but looking back I see His plan.

It will all be OK. I thank each of my readers for your prayers.

Tim

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For full journal head to: http://TimBarr.blogspot.com

20120306-070956.jpg

Short Sighted

“Schedules slip one day at a time, not a month at a time”

Our operations manager has this written on his whiteboard in his office right above our list of current projects and their respective scheduled completion dates. It is a simple reminder to our staff that each decision we make ultimately affects the project outcome somewhere down the road.

It goes without saying that the decisions we make each day define us as people and set our direction. This is true for both good and bad decisions. When I look back on my life so far, I can easily see how choices I have made through my past have shaped my career, my place of residence, my health, and my spiritual growth. While hindsight is 20-20, I also find myself questioning my future direction and wondering how decisions I make today will shape that future. I try hard not to get so buried in the details that I fail to see the goal which lies ahead…and the schedule slips yet another day.

There are people in the world right now that look at their lives and wonder how they ended up there. While not everything is in our control, I would wager to say that decisions made, both good and bad, have shaped their own current situations.

I think the next step in this equation of thought is the realization that the decisions we make each day shape OTHER people’s direction as well. Are we building people up or tearing them down? Are we breathing light into the dark worked around us, or are we so bitter that we can’t see the light ourselves?

Sometimes it is a word of encouragement or just saying ‘good morning’. Sometimes a random act of kindness is all it will take to change someone else’s future course for eternity.

Taking it back to my operations manager’s whiteboard, I wonder what I can do one day at a time to help shape the World around me into something more beautiful. I’d love to look back at it all someday and see something amazing. I do know that it will take one day and one decision at a time to make that happen.
———————

Titus 3:14
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

Lights Out

Last week I was sitting in the middle of another strategic planning meeting that seemed to be dragging on a little too long. It was one of those meetings where little topics of discussion took center stage and we had to bring conversations back on track. It’s horrible I know, but I am so A-D-D at times that I find myself wondering who the last person was to play me on Words With Friends, or what Twitter had to say about the latest cycling race. Somewhere between saying my five words of wisdom to the table, and checking the day’s stock decline on my iPhone, the lights went out.

The building went dark and the 100 degree heat began to seep in through the precast walls. The heat which was not typical for San Diego was blamed for the loss of power. We all figured that our AC was on too high, or that someone’s poor internet surfing habits in the building had finally done us in.

After another ½ hour of sitting in the dim room, our group decided that we had solved enough problems for the day, and it was time to go home. As I climbed in my car and began to drive to my next engagement, I realized that everyone else in San Diego decided to end their day early as well. Every car parked in any driveway or lot in the County was now in front of me on the road. Gridlock!

Come to find out, the entire County of San Diego was out of power. Some construction worker in Arizona cut the red wire instead of the black wire and shut down all the County. At least that’s what they told the public. Only a handful of radio stations worked and all we could get were bits and pieces of information. All I knew is that there were a ton of people standing between me and my drive home.

I finally made it home where my wife had candles lit up. We sat together, made peanut butter and jelly for dinner, and had a beer. I heard people around the neighborhood laughing and talking, and playing with their children in the front lawns. Julie and I geared up and went for a night bike ride to see the city in blackness. We rode out onto the OB pier and looked back at the city. Waves crashed beneath our feet shaking the wooden structure. We could smell the salty water as we looked up at the star filled sky. I’ve never seen stars that bright in the city. We hugged each other.

Riding back to our house, we saw the same story over and over. People playing in their front lawns. Neighbors meeting neighbors. Laughter and simple beauty.

While the power came back on in the middle of the night that night, I laid in bed thinking how beautiful it all was. No TV, no radio, no distractions. People finally cared about other people. We broke out of our routines just for a small moment in time simply to enjoy the moment. What a beautiful thing.

It is in these moments that God exists.

Turn off the electricity. Feel His Love and share His beauty.
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Exodus 9:29
Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.

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