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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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Relationship

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.

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.
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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.

Brotherly Love

Many people don’t know that I have a brother. Living out in California, I am a long way from Colorado where I grew up and I am not surrounded with family. I feel that Julie and I live on our own little island at times full of palm trees, sand and surf. Our semi-annual trips back to the homeland are our only chances to interact in person with some of the people we love the most. The rest of the time, we send an occasional e-mail, talk on the phone, or use social media as our platform for feeling more connected to each other.

My brother falls in the category of immediate but distant family. He is younger than I am and lives back in Colorado where we grew up. We typically got along as children although we were very different as people. Our interests outside of watching the Star Wars Trilogy over and over again were almost never the same. Although we never really connected on the same level, I rarely remember fighting as children. I think in some ways, we distanced ourselves in an effort to define our own unique identities as brothers often do.

Time has passed and now that we have grown older, I feel a deep regret for not strengthening that relationship with by brother. We had a disagreement over e-mail recently that made me realize that the divide was much bigger than I ever knew. I realized for the first time that he did not respect me as an older brother. He had been hurt by things I had said in the past that I had long forgotten. He was bitter for a number of justified reasons and none of them were reasons I could reconcile. Here I was upset at a current situation, and I was in no position to give advice no matter how valid the concern.

Could I be so surprised? In 32 years of his life, I had not invested the time that it takes to build a true relationship. I had been a pacifist in both friendship and in accountability.

How many times to we do the same thing in our spiritual lives? We go through the motions but never really connect. We go to church on Sunday, and then expect God to be our best friend when we get in some sort of situation. We never really took the time to build the relationship, but we assumed that we were still pals with God.

I’ve been thinking this past week about my host of regret. What I should and should not have done growing up. I realize that every seed we plant in life eventually grows into something. Even sometimes the lack of seeds we plant. Words of encouragement grow into strength, while neglect and insult lead to death. This applies to every relationship on Earth as well as heaven.

While I can’t go back and change the past, I can look towards the future with this perspective. While I know I’m not going to get along with everyone, I do know that I can offer a word of encouragement to each person I come in contact with. It doesn’t always just ‘start’ with the little things, sometimes it ‘is’ the little things.

As I continue to grow older, my family and friends are all I have, and I need to make sure the people around me know this is what I value the most. I hope that someday, I will earn the respect of my brother, but for now I will settle knowing that I have learned a valuable lesson in life about planting the right seeds. Planting those seeds takes effort.

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1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

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.

Paying Attention

I hate being sick. If catching the seasonal head cold isn’t bad enough, having to stay at home all day curled up drinking green tea and watching daytime TV is enough to make anyone go mad. One thing for sure, I have plenty of motivation to get back to work after channel surfing for 18 hours.

Posting my self-loathing sickness status update on Facebook, I had a number of friends write comments back to me ranging from ‘get well soon’ to ‘hey, don’t forget Oprah comes on at 4’. Gotta love my friends.

Sitting there bored with nothing better to do, I thought I’d flip the channel to Oprah, take a photo with my phone of the TV and text it to my buddy to let him know his girlfriend was on. Everything went according to plan, except my plans to flip the channel back to the other less-than-engaging show I was watching. Oprah had me roped in.

Now I have never in my life watched an episode of Oprah all the way through, but there are firsts for everything. Oprah had a show on vegan diets, where our meat comes from, and the health benefits of eating vegan. It was fascinating to see the process that our food goes through before it gets to your table. Humans consume over 9 billion animals a year and seldom do we ask the questions where our food comes from or what we are putting in our bodies.

Now I was not shocked by the process of butchering cattle, nor was it inhumane enough for me to swear it off as evil, but it was eye-opening to observe it on camera. Cattle are raised like crops, harvested like crops and eventually they get to your table.

There was a lady on the show who had written a book about being a vegan that was the ‘expert’ on the topic. I thought it ironic that she was not a nutritionist, but a proclaimed ‘lover of animals’ wanting to live in harmony with all life forms (except plants of course). Various people on the show took a challenge to eat vegan for a week and most felt better physically after the week was done.

OK I’m a cynic.

As an athlete, I hear about every sort of diet you can imagine and how they are all good for you somehow. All natural, gluten-free, no meat, all meat, vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, high-fat, low sugar, etc. What I don’t think people often realize is that the one thing in common with all diets is that people are PAYING ATTENTION to what they are eating. When you are paying attention, you typically consume less bad stuff and more good stuff. You don’t eat as much and you feel better.

Oprah brought up the needed realization of where our food comes from. As believers, our food that we live on should come from a spiritual source. When we stop paying attention to the source of our food, we start living in the world, worrying with the world, and we get tangled up in the world’s drama. When we are living according to a higher purpose, we are getting our food, our advice, and our power to live from a place that allows us to rise above it all. The key to it all is once again PAYING ATTENTION to what we are eating.

Am I eating too much TV, talking too much gossip, and spending too much time listening to negative people? Or am I eating up the promises and love that God has given us through his word and relationships with others. Am I taking nutrition advice from human sources and not listening to God Himself?

I do know that when I am PAYING ATTENTION I feel better. And man, I love feeling better….

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PSALM 121:1-2
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
   where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
   the Maker of heaven and earth.

Jelly Filled Guts

My father used to ride his bicycle all around town. His commute to work each day was about 20 miles round-trip and he would hop on his bright blue Schwinn bike and head to the office. He had a child seat on the back of the bike that he used to bring me along on his journeys when I was really young. Even at such a young age, I enjoyed the excitement of being on a bicycle, and experiencing the outdoors apart from a vehicle.

One Saturday, he loaded me up in the child seat and we rode over to the doughnut shop to pick up a box of doughnuts to take over to my grandparents house. My father handed me the box and told me to hold on tight as we began the journey to my grandparent’s house. A few blocks down the road we hit a bump, and I dropped the box. Doughnuts graced the roadway intersection, spilling their jelly filled guts out in sugar-coated splendor. I began to cry.

My dad, while I am sure he was frustrated, comforted me and told me it would be OK. We went back to the shop for another box and started the ride again. This time I held on to the box for dear life until we reached our destination. He never yelled at me, but rather just sternly told me to be a bit more careful.

I was thinking about this story last week after I lost my temper in a conversation where I felt cornered in blame. I started thinking about my father and his forgiving/slow to anger attitude. I had to pray for forgiveness.

Many of us go through life and never say the things we want to say to the people we love. Many of the circumstances over the past year have brought me to a place where I have really grown to appreciate the love and support my parents have shown me. I realize what a caring man my Dad really was as he raised me. I am so grateful for this rare gift.

Is it not a reflection of Christ’s love? How many times is God taking us for a journey in life, and we drop the box of Doughnuts? How many times does he take us back to the shop to pick up the pieces, and let us try again? His patience overwhelms me, and we need to show this same trait to people around us.

It is a strange thing growing older and seeing things from a new perspective. I am now the guy riding my bike around town and seeing the world. It is now my reactions/actions that are impacting the world for better or for worse. How am I representing Him as my heavenly father when someone around me drops the box of doughnuts or blames me for hitting the bump in the road?

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James 1:19
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Change of Plans….

I dropped my bag on the bed and stopped to look around. Red and blue carpet painted the floor beneath my flip-flops. White and cream-colored wallpaper provided a backdrop for the wooden table and two double beds arranged neatly in the cabin. The closets were secured tightly with magnetic stops to keep them from slapping unruly passengers in transit. I looked out the port-side window to see the Long Beach harbor go about its daily business. The birds on the pier would have never known (or I doubt would have cared) that 24 hours ago, I did not plan to be here.

The call came in about 6PM on Thursday evening. A friend of mine had a free ticket for a 3-day cruise to Mexico and he wanted to see if I would be interested in going. The cruise was set up several months prior to celebrate the engagement of my good friends. Julie and I had decided not to go in an effort to save a little money and to spare her the sea-sickness that always comes from the ocean. I had resolved myself to a weekend of training in its place, registering for a local century ride with plenty of climbing.

Being the “A” type person that I am, I rarely change plans or spontaneously switch my schedule. I guess I just love the illusion of being in control of my life, and the comfort my weekend routine provides. My training for the upcoming triathlon season has been severely suffering, and this was my weekend to get back on track….

…or not

“Alright Dude. Count me in!” I told my buddy after running things by my wife. The decision to go, while it may have come easy for some, was a huge step outside my comfort zone. I would be further behind in my training, and my weekend plans would have to be scrapped.

John Lennon once said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I may rework that quote to say “Life happens when you are flexible enough to change your plans”

The older I get, I am learning more and more about the true value in the relationships I have built over the years. It is through these relationships that the story of my life has evolved. The world is a more beautiful place when it is experienced with great friends. Somehow over the past year, I have become so focused on my physical training and routine that I have sacrificed some of the joy that comes in just laughing and hanging out with close friends.

I think God wanted me to focus on my relationships for a weekend. I came to the realization that in the end, it will make no difference how many triathlons I completed or how many miles I have ridden. What will matter are the relationships I have made, the stories I have shared with others, and the joy that comes in being flexible enough to change some plans.

At the beginning of this year, I set out determined to write more stories as I live out life. I can’t do that by being so controlling of my schedule that I forget to invest in the people that create those stories. I now have a weekend of stories that I will be reliving for many years to come… When’s the next adventure?

Something Spiritual

A good friend of mine and his fiancé called me a month ago and asked me if I would be willing to officiate their wedding ceremony. This is only the second request I have had to do a wedding, but I was honored they would ask me to be a part of such a huge day in their lives.

This is not a role I take lightly as I realize the importance of marriage, and what the act means in terms of commitment. The act of marriage reflects something very beautiful when it is blessed by God.

When I asked my friends why they requested that I do the ceremony they answered me, “We want a spiritual tone at our wedding Tim, and you are one of the most spiritual people we know. We want a good mix of God & spirituality, but something not overly religious.”

Something spiritual.

Does this allude to an inherent need for God in our lives, but a fear of committing to organized religion? While it is OK to be ‘spiritual’ [or in my definition recognize that there is something outside our humanity that is making all this work], it is not necessarily socially ‘OK’ to be religious or identify with organized religious institutions.

You may be surprised to know that I embrace the idea of spiritual relationship over organized religion.  I think Jesus preached this message while he was on Earth. When I think about the relational experience I have had with Christ in my life, I think of everything but stale religious gospel. Similar to when I think about my relationship with my wife, I think about something beautiful, growing and changing. I don’t think of a laundry list of do’s and don’ts or a contract where I just have to uphold my end of the bargain to stay married. I believe that Christ is the Truth, but I don’t think that religion always brings you closer to that Truth anymore that signing a piece of paper leads to a healthy marriage.

We serve a God that wants to commune with us on a spiritual level. He wants our hearts and our souls, not necessarily our pocketbooks and hail mary’s. A recent article headline I read this week said:  Survey: 72% of Millennials ‘more spiritual than religious’ . If 72% of Millennials truly searched for spiritual truth, they would find it.  God promises this. [Jeremiah 29:13 ] Unfortunately for many, I think the wish to be labeled as ‘spiritual’ is a cop-out to try to fill an empty hole without commitment to believe in Christ.

As I prepare ‘something spiritual’ for my friend’s wedding ceremony, I pray that they will see the hand of God through their special day, and that His blessings will be evident. It will be more than a religious ceremony called marriage, it will be a reflection of Christ’s love and desire for relationship with us. Something spiritual.

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Jeremiah 29:13
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

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