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The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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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.

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Called to be….

I’ve been wrestling with some big concepts over the last couple of months related to life. Obviously working with a new company and going through change makes you evaluate things, but I think there is something bigger at work. The 5280 Fellowship program has helped to challenge some of my thinking when it comes to calling and career. While my thoughts below are a work in progress, I have finally settled in on a few definitions that seem to make sense to me.

  1. Calling. Your calling isn’t what you do, it’s who you are. 
    If you have ever taken an EQI or Myers Briggs test, you understand that all of us are hard-wired with certain strengths and viewpoints. While some people are gifted with analytic capabilities, others are gifted with more social/emotional views and empathy. Others show signs of leadership and big-picture views. Whatever your strengths, these all add up to make you who you are. Calling is simply tapping into these strengths and using them in everyday life.
  2. Profession. You can use your calling in ANY profession. 
    Calling is not synonymous with profession, although profession can support calling. Since your calling is leveraging your strengths, you can use those strengths in ANY organization or profession. Professions many times are just a knowledge base that specify a role or function within an organizational environment.
  3. Platform. This is your position of maximum impact where your calling is leveraged in your profession or life. 
    I met with a colleague several weeks ago and he asked me if I ever considered doing something different or working in another industry. I told him that I have considered it many times in the past. I’ve been interested in sports marketing for a number of years, but while I think I’d love that industry, it would require starting over again from the bottom and building up that professional knowledge base. Given that I’ve been working in the AEC environment for 21 years now, my professional network and industry understanding allow me to operate with efficiency and provide greater value to the organizations I work for. Committing to the field I am in now allows me the ability to have a high platform to use my calling in my profession. For this reason, I am going to stay in my current field and work to be a knowledge expert as my calling comes to fruit.
  4. God’s will. God’s will has more to do with restoration and the fruits we all know as holy, than it has to do with a linear ‘perfect path’ of decisions and profession.
    About 10-or-so years ago, I had lunch with an architect friend and mentor of mine. He had been practicing architecture his whole life and owned his own firm. He was also a leader in a small little church I went to and I wanted to pick his brain about my career. I went on to tell him how unhappy I was with my current situation at work and asked him where he thought God wanted to lead me. I told him that I had two other job offers on the table and I needed discernment on where God wanted me.

    “It doesn’t matter. You can’t make a bad decision either way. They are just different options”

    I admit that I was a little frustrated with his response as I was looking for some discernment as to what he felt God’s will was for my decision. What I’ve come to realize as I’ve matured in my profession is that he was really saying, “God has given you the FREEDOM to choose.” If my calling is truly separate from my profession, I can use my calling in ANY job.

Career decisions are tough and I understand that we must continue to pray and ask for guidance as we move about our world. What can be truly freeing however is realizing that our true calling can be used in any area of life and in any career. At the same time, I believe that we should work towards professions and jobs that give us the biggest platform to impact our world. That is where our calling can be most effective.

What about you? Are you leveraging your calling? Comments and observations welcome in the comments!

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.

———–
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.

————————–

2 Corinthians 5:17

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

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.

Seconds…

The second-hand on the clock ticks by moment by moment. Sometimes those seconds seem to slowly count down my earthly existence. Other times I find myself wishing that the second-hand would move faster and bring that amazing moment to my door that I have so eagerly been anticipating. And yet other times the second-hand seems to sit still. Frozen in time like a polar bear gazing through a thick block of ice.

Tick…tick…tick….

I know the time is near and the hours are getting short. Life is about to change. The world is about to open its arms to show us what is behind the veil. Am I ready?

I feel ready. I am ready for the unknown future that awaits. I am ready for the new memories that will be etched upon my brain. I’m ready for the sleepless nights and the riches that come through seeing the world through a new set of eyes. I am ready Lord.

I pray that You bring me strength and continue to bless each second. Bless the fast ones, the slow ones and all the ones in between. And most of all, bless the time that we have all been gifted with, so we can show the love You give to others and not waste it all on ourselves. This is my prayer.

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.

 ————–

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.

 

5 Minutes

Like many people I begin each year with a bit of soul searching. I look back on the previous year and take a mental snapshot of the progress I have made since the same time 12 months ago. I have to admit that the older I get, the more lack of progress I notice. I find myself using ‘old guy’ phrases like “Where did the last twelve months go?” and “It seems like last January was only a few weeks ago.” When I see my little nieces back home in Colorado each December I have to work hard to refrain myself from using the cliché statements like “Wow, you have gotten so big!” or “I remember when you were just a baby.” I hated that stuff when I was a kid, and it scares me a little to think that I have gotten old enough to understand why adults say such stupid things.

I hate how fast time seems to go by, and how I have resolved myself to a life that picks up speed exponentially each year. I have a calendar on my wall at work right now with scheduled activities that go clear through 2011. I have no doubts that I will look back in a year and wonder what the heck happened to the last 12 months. How can I slow it all down?

My prayer for 2011 is to open my heart and surrender each day to the Lord to use as he wishes. To take 5 minutes each morning and surrender my will and live out God’s plan. They say that life is what happens when you are making other plans. What if we were able to live in the moments that God has given us, and let the plans work themselves out according to His will?

I know it sounds simple. 5 minutes each morning to meditate on the gift we have been given. 5 minutes to breathe in the grace of salvation. 5 minutes to give it all up and admit our imperfections. I’m praying that investment of time will slow down the year and help me appreciate the small things that paint our lives with color.

“Thank you Lord for the gift of life and another year. I pray that my messed up human self will be covered by your grace, and that I can bring glory to your vision.”
————————–

Isaiah 40:31
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

The Century Challenge

“Who came up with this dumb idea?” I asked my wife after completing my daily set of exercises. “Do I even have to answer that?” she answered back in sarcasm.

We are on day number 68 of my latest invention “The Century Challenge” where we progressively increase reps of pushups, situps, and dips by one until we reach 100. The whole thing sounded like a good idea about 50 days ago. Now it is just getting silly.

It started when I woke up one morning and decided my pencil thin arms needed some help. What better way than to create a crazy workout challenge that no personal trainer would ever recommend, allow no days off for muscle recovery, and pretty much break every rule of proper training?

A funny thing happens when you gradually pile on the workload with no time for rest. You break. I have found myself skipping more and more days as the challenge progresses. Instead of knocking out 30 reps, I am faced with a number that I just don’t feel like I have time to complete so I skip the workouts altogether. The Century Challenge sounded like a good idea, but looking back on it, I would have been much more consistent dedicating 100 days to the same number of reps each day.

How much does this apply to our Christian walk? Do we progressively walk in His ways just to get to the point where we feel overwhelmed and shut down all systems? It is easier just not to read our Bibles and pray daily then it is to feel like we are charged with the task of being Super Christians?

I feel like my life this year has been full of confusion, misdirection, and inconsistency. My writings here have been inconsistent, and my spiritual life has fallen flat. Could it be that I just tried to pile it all on?

They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. I am in the process of hitting the reset button, taking a look at my Christian life and seeking out one habit to build. Instead of focusing on everything, I am spending time focused on one good habit at a time. What habit do you want to build? What habit do you want to break? Take this week to Calendar 21 days to build the foundations that matter.

As I am mentally preparing to tackle Day 68 of the Century Challenge, I am more focused on doing something than doing nothing if the goal looks too big. Consistency is more important that volume sometimes.

——————–

Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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