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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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Life

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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Killing the Cardboard Jacket

Do you ever sit back and wonder when life became so complicated? Like when you start to analyze the web that has become our lives and start to pull apart the strands only to realize that there are knots you can’t untie? Our jobs, our time, our spirituality, physical activity and our diets feel like a complicated mess that roll us up and weigh us down.

Life was so much simpler when we were younger. My 4 ½ year old can easily find “solutions” to the biggest messes. It was cold out, and he told my wife that they should just cut up some cardboard boxes and wear them as jackets to stay warm. “We have coats,” she replied. “I know mommy, but it would just be WAY easier for us to cut up some boxes.

The simplicity of streamlining ideas migrates into our early careers. Solving problems is as easy as taking that textbook answer on process we learned in college and applying it overnight in the company we just started working for. “What do you mean there are 5 decision makers I need to sell this idea on to change the current process? Can’t you see how good my idea is?!

2016 was another hard year on me. God spent a lot of time showing me how my simple ideas and youthful thinking didn’t always translate into reality. This applied to my relationships, my work, and my overall thoughts on life. My pride was put in check on a continuous basis as I tried things that had always worked in the past and I was greeted with failure.

I am learning to trust His path but it’s not all that simple. While life is incredibly complex, this year I am choosing to make an effort to let God’s will be done, AND stay content in that plan. Hopefully every now and then He’ll just smile when I want to cut up a cardboard box and put it on as a jacket.


Romans 6:1-4
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life

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.

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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.  

This is life

I’ve had three months to reflect since my last Ironman. This one was particularly special to me. Training was super difficult due to my full-time job, Micah at home and the need to fit eating and sleeping in the mix. We moved to Colorado, so I really did not have anyone to train with. When I wanted to go for a ride or run with a new acquaintance the conversation would stop short when I mentioned the distance of the workout. Finding running partners for 16-18 mile Sunday runs was impossible, so I spent long hours each week training alone.

When you are alone for 15-20 hours a week, you have a lot of time to think. While I love the terrain in Colorado and being close to family, I miss my friends in San Diego tremendously. I spend time flipping back and forth between thoughts about how much I love my new home, and how much I miss my old one. In some ways, the chaos of training for my Ironman took my mind off the emotion that comes with trying to rebuild your life somewhere new.

After the race, I went into a small depressive state. In some ways, I am still there. After you cross a finish line that big and experience the release of hearing your name called on the PA system, it is easy to get lost. There is no point to your workouts any more. You step on the scale to a bigger number each morning. You have an extra beer at night to escape but the reality of finding purpose is hard to come to terms with.

I have spent time asking what is next. Is another big event the answer? Is this all there is to life? Go to a job during the day, watch my son play around for a couple of hours at night put him to bed and then fall asleep watching The Voice just to repeat it all the next day? I felt so alive when I was training and now I feel so numb.

I understand what it means to fight depression. It runs in my family and unless you have battled it personally, it is tough to comprehend. Even talking to family about it is tough. “Why would you ever be depressed? You have a wonderful job, an even more amazing family, and a son that fills your heart with so much joy you want to explode.” And yet some days I don’t feel like getting out of bed. I have just recently come to terms with the fact that I have fought this disease most of my life. I can remember times in High School when I did not feel like getting out of bed and facing the day. Even thinking back further in my past, I have struggled to stay happy and connected to every moment.

Two things have been tremendous in fighting the battle. My faith gives me confidence that there is a greater purpose here. I look at each day as an opportunity to serve, and love others. I try to die to myself and let God lead. The second thing that helps me is sport. While I’m not the best athlete in the world, cycling and running provide me an outlet to fight my demons head on. The longer and more challenging the workout, the better. Make it hurt. I have never felt so alive as I do after a workout so long and hard all I can do is lay on the floor in exhaustion. The drug of crossing the finish line at Ironman is one that will keep me coming back for more. However, sometimes I wonder if this is really an outlet, or if I am simply running away from my fears and reality.

I’m writing about my battle for the first time in hopes that this will be my first step in overcoming the disease. If I am ever left without sport as an option, I need to face the reality of life and quit running from it. I need to look at my beautiful family, thank God for the air He gives me to breathe and know that is enough. As we rebuild our lives here in Colorado, I know there will be the usual ups and downs. We will meet new friends, build new memories, run new races, and see the sun rise many times. This is life.

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The Pain of OK

It was a little over a year ago when I saw my first bald eagle. It soared high above our car in Ohio as we drove to the hospital for Micah’s birth. I don’t know why I am so enamored with those birds, but they are one of the most amazing things to gaze at. Powerful and beautiful birds.

After that sighting I called my parents to tell them how cool it was to see such an amazing bird. My mom then told me a story about her own bald eagle sighting, and how she felt it was God telling her everything in her life at that moment would be OK. See the blog here: http://wp.me/pNxG9-4T

This week has been a tough week for many people very close to me. I had a friend call me on Monday to tell me his daughter had passed away. My mother emailed me on Tuesday to let me know that the doctors would have to do more cancer testing and her blood work was alarming. On Wednesday I got news that a company I had previously worked  hard to build  was rashly sold and was falling apart at the seams. To top it all off, another friend of mine called Wednesday to let me know he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and he asked me to pray.

My heart is breaking in two for the pain and suffering that is infecting those close to me.

So I pray.

photoOn a ride today at lunch I cruised towards the foothills that surround my office. With heaviness on my heart for the pain that I can’t take away I rolled up on a bald eagle. Standing stoically next to a lake the large bird just looked at me. “Somehow it will all be OK”

I don’t know how it will be OK. I don’t know if it will be in this life or the next, but it will be OK. That’s the promise God has given us. The one thing I have learned through this life is that being OK is not absent of pain. That’s a hard truth to come to terms with, but through the painful moments we appreciate the joyful moments that much more.

To all my friends in this life, whether you are in an easy or difficult place, know that God is there to support you. While he sometimes soars above us looking out, sometimes he lands next to the lake at our level to show us he cares and is still there. He is our bald eagle.

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Matthew 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

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