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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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Weep Holes

I recently started a remodel project in our master bathroom. Whom ever decided that it was a good idea to lay down carpet in bathrooms should be put on trial. Sure, carpet feels nice on your feet in the morning, but think for a minute about the combination of carpet, water and other bodily discharges that find their way onto a bathroom floor. Like I said…bad idea..

My wife and I moved into our house four years ago and it was an exciting day when I was finally able to rip out the carpet in our bathrooms and replace it with flooring. Tearing out the carpet, I came to the area in front of the shower and low and behold, underneath that comfy carpet, was a mold covered sub-floor. Ugh.

My planned weekend-long project took on a life of its own as I wound up replacing sub-floor and drying out the walls that were affected by years of water moisture buried by carpet.

Finally, with the flooring project complete, I resealed the shower and added the final trim along the baseboard. But we still had a moisture problem!

Water was leaking next to the wall and no matter how much silicone I added inside and out of the shower, water was still finding its way out and onto my new floor. Looking for answers, I consulted the ultimate resource for any problem- Google.

After several hours of researching the problem on-line, I learned of these little things called ‘weep-holes’ that they add to the bottom shower rail and in the shower pan to essentially keep water from building up inside the rail and wall. Attacking the problem with my utility knife, I found five weep-holes in the shower rail buried behind a goop of silicone. Cutting them out one at a time, the water that was previously making its way out of the shower onto my floor drained right back into my shower pan. Problem solved.

All this amateur hour construction work got me thinking a lot about my own life. How much gunk do I cover up with nice carpet without addressing the core issue? Bitterness, pain, addiction and unaddressed personal issues that I literally sweep under the rug and pretend it’s okay. The answer to expressing my deep emotions involve just adding more silicone sealant to keep them in.

The real problem with this approach is that the emotion will make its way out into the world around you. In the end, this will cause more damage than allowing the ‘weep-holes’ of genuine and vulnerable emotion to work every day. Forcing out a good cry every now and then isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m working hard lately on being less prideful and reaching out for help when it makes sense. Pulling back the carpet and replacing the subfloor of my heart is something that I will have to continually work on and be aware of. If I don’t, it’ll turn black with mold and damage the rest of the house.

What are you covering up in your life? Perhaps it’s time to let it breathe.

———-

1 Corinthians 4:5 // Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the hearts

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DNA on the Whiteboard

Call me old school, but I am a huge fan of whiteboards. Brainstorming ideas and content in a myriad of colors is one of the favorite components of my job. If the idea doesn’t make sense, we can simply erase it and start fresh. While I should use an eraser, I often come home at night with different colored fingers and hands from the ink. When my son picks up my phone and looks through my photos, he must scroll through a mix of personal photos and whiteboard brainstorm sessions. Sitting in a room of peers that are talking through solutions and approaches that come to life on a whiteboard is my happy place at work.

I found myself in another brainstorming meeting earlier this week. Taking some photos of the session afterwards, I stopped to look the beauty in what others could see as chaos. Arrows, colors, words, cross-sections and sketches of shapes created a masterpiece of thought.

Driving home that night, I was still thinking about the whiteboard approaches my team came up with for the pursuit that we are working on. What is it about the whiteboard that I love so much? Could it be that in some simple way it captures the DNA of how we are created?

A Longing for Community: One thing I am a huge fan of, is seeing the excitement that comes out of my teammates when we are able to interact and brainstorm in person. In a world, where we fall back on Skype calls, video conferencing, email, and text messages, most will agree that the most meaningful connections happen in person. When we are working together as a team of individuals with different strengths and flaws, the ideas get stronger and more exciting.

Seeking Restoration: Who doesn’t love coming up with ideas to make things better? I believe that we are all hard-wired to develop ideas that will help restore things that are broken. Whether you are a janitor that is cleaning things that are dirty, or a software developer finding a better way to do something, we are all working to help restore our world.

The Drive to Create: The organic nature of creating things is beautiful. While my team is creating ideas on a white board that we bring to life in the field of construction, a chef may be developing a recipe for their next meal. In both instances, the creative process by itself is a source of joy.

Embracing the messy: Just like my whiteboard, life is full of messy. The ideal path to restoration is never linear, but the process to get to the destination is what makes life beautiful. While we can appreciate a perfect end-product, the satisfaction and pride in that product will never be the same as it is for the people that created it.

So as I enter my next whiteboard session, I’ll enter it with a humble respect and joy in knowing the activity itself is a reflection of how we can live out our Calling in the simple things.

Headlamps in the Forest

Exhausted, tired and barely moving, I called again into the blackness of the night, “how much further do we have?

Somewhere in the darkness my pacer’s voice responded, “I don’t know. Another mile or two to the next aid station?

A deep sigh escaped from my mouth, a puff of steam rose into the cold atmosphere, reflecting off my headlamp’s illumination of the forest floor.

I had run for close to 15 hours and the sun had gone down over an hour ago. My legs had already climbed over 13,000 feet over mountain passes and valleys. In addition to the fire which took over where my quads used to be, the mental and physical exhaustion was getting the best of me.

Just get to the next aid station,” became my mantra.

What felt like a year later, we arrived at a small table set up in the middle of nowhere that was set up for a feast. Hot ramen soup, potatoes, watermelon, candy and soda were set out buffet style just for us. We hadn’t seen another runner for at least an hour and I was happy to see some new faces.

What can we get you? You’re doing great!” the aid station volunteers graciously said. “Just keep going, you are almost there!

Grabbing some warm potatoes, my pacer and I were off again with one more aid station between me and the 65-mile finish line.

These moments are the moments that define us.

I find it somewhat ironic that I will go out and punish myself in an ultramarathon or endurance event, but when life gets tough, I feel like quitting or taking an easier road down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. One friend of mine told me that in life we don’t necessarily ‘choose’ to run a tough course the same way we do in a race. The difficulty often comes in the form of other people, a surprise situation, or things outside our control. Nevertheless, the difficulty inevitably comes and we must keep moving forward.

I pushed back a little on this idea that we don’t have any control over life. Just like racing, even though the pain is real, we can respond negatively and quit or we can focus on shorter goals and keep moving. The point here is that we have a choice in how we RESPOND and what we FOCUS ON.

I’m currently in a season of life where I feel like I’m just focused on the next aid station, but I’m embracing that idea. How can I grow through this segment of my life journey? How can I embrace both the beauty and the hardship around me and make some forward progress. While the night sky may be dark, headlamps in the trees create a whole new landscape that many never get to see. Fears can equally give birth to excitement and thrill. We need to decide where to spend our mental energy.

The one thing I’m sure of through all this is that I WILL make a positive impact in my community and give birth to positivity as often as possible. One aid station at a time I’ll move closer to that finish line.

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?

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

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.

————————–

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.

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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