Search

Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

Category

Trials

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

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.

———————-

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.

——————————

Matthew 5:4

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

 

Scar Tissue

“Don’t pick that scab!” my mother yelled at me for the umpteenth time. Like any young boy I slowly lowered my hand until she looked away and then scratched at the scab above my eye once again. “Timothy! Don’t scratch that, it will scar!”

Yep, 30 years later I still have a small scar above my eye. Although hardly noticeable to the untrained eye, the scar serves as a reminder that my mom knew what she was talking about. She predicted this very fate and I will have this blemish for the rest of my life.

The older I get, the more signs of imperfection show up. I still have gravel in my hand from a bike crash six years ago. I have scars on my elbows from sledding accidents gone wrong. I have a white line in my finger where the knife sunk into the flesh as I played Iron Chef in the kitchen.

Scars.

The reminders of pain and recovery. A tattoo of life’s lessons and experiences that prove that we are mortal.

While the scars on my flesh all have a story, the internal scars are more difficult to recognize. The hurtful words that someone said in a moment of passion. The rejection from the world or stories of regret plagues our minds. Each situation leaves it mark on us, and how we bounce back develops our character as people.

While I have faced a few challenges recently, I have determined that my reaction to these situations will drive my recovery. Will my internal scar be a story I can look back on with strength or will it be an injury that causes my demise?

I was at the market this last week and I started chatting with the clerk about an upset customer that just stormed out of the store in a rush.

“More people should slow it down and count their blessings” I told him

“For every bad thing that happens to me, I sit down and verbally say three good things that have happened to me today. It helps me keep it in perspective.” He said.

How true.

I don’t want to be the sort of person that lets the scar tissue develop into bitterness. I want to be the sort of person that remembers my scars and grows from the experience. God wants to heal us, but we need to let him. In order to do that we must stay focused on what matters and what is good. Let the scabs heal.

—————————————–

Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The Twister

I recently read a blog from a friend of mine that took his son to the amusement park. His son was finally tall enough to ride on the roller coasters, and he could not wait to show his son the ‘roller coaster’ ropes. His anticipation as a father to watch his son’s reaction to the terrifying drops, fast twists and turns, and the thrill of the ride brought to life the memories of his own first roller coaster experience. Hopping on the first ride, his son gripped the cross-bar extra tight and clinched up in unknown expectations.

Click-click-click…they ascended their first climb.

The post made me think back to my own experience as a child on my first roller coaster. The wooden coaster in Denver called The Twister was the one that initiated me into the roller coaster world. Hopping into the cart I scooted next to my father and braced myself for action. Click-click-click…..

I think I may have peed my pants that day. My dad was next to me laughing and yelling with both his hands in the air, and I was clinching the metal bar in front of me crying for dear life.  I was pretty sure this would be the one ride where the cart flew from the track and I’d be done for.

The cart twisted through tunnels, climbed to new heights, and meandered on the wooden tracks like a red rider wagon going downhill without brakes. We came around a bend and suddenly in front of us was the staging platform and the train came to a stop.

With a smile on his face, I was positive that my father had officially lost his marbles, along with the other 200 people waiting in line to ride this thing. After I peeled my hands from the metal railing, I stumbled toward the exit, more terrified than I had been to start with. These people were crazy.

Well, after some time, I grew to love roller coasters. I realized that sometimes to experience great things in life, you have to let go of your natural control mechanisms and have faith that we will survive the ordeal.

The last several weeks of my life have literally been a roller coaster. I have had the biggest ups and downs of my life so far and have questioned God’s purpose in taking me on the coaster to begin with. Just like I was as a kid on my first coaster ride, I have been terrified of the next bend but hopeful that everything will be OK and we will reach the staging platform in one piece.

My friend’s blog was so timely as I thought about my current situation. I am once again the child, and God is taking me down the track. I must have faith that the track is there, and that the experience will be one that I look back on and say ‘knowing what I know now, I’d do it again in a second’. I guess that’s the meaning of faith, and sometimes you just gotta throw up your hands and scream.
—————————
Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Take off your shoes

Although I love to read, I don’t have the opportunity to read as many books as I would like. That probably leads to the excitement and enthusiasm I get every time I actually have the opportunity to sit down and read a book. For a good month or so after reading a new book, I am all excited to carry out ideas or things that I have learned or been inspired by.

A couple of months ago, I went through a book titled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It was a great book about a tribe of Indians living in the Copper Canyons of Mexico whose entire culture was built around running. For thousands of years they had run, sometimes ultra long 100-mile journeys between villages to socialize with other tribes. Christopher went down to the Copper Canyons to discover their secrets of running, and learn more about their culture. It was a fascinating book and one that I really enjoyed.

One component of the book discussed the mystery of how tribal members would run well into their 80’s with no major injuries to speak of. They would run across rough terrain in nothing but sandals or barefoot, and not suffer the typical knee and hip injuries that American runners face regularly. To make a long story short, Christopher makes a thesis that the majority of our running injuries are due to the running shoes we wear, and how they have promoted poor running form. He goes into considerable scientific research on how the cushioned shoes we wear have made our feet lazy, and casted our feet to hit the ground poorly.

Once again, I read a book and I was inspired. My wife listened to me and rolled her eyes as I told her I wanted to run an ultra 100-mile endurance run in barefeet through the Copper Canyons. 

Due to a heavy bike racing season, I had not run in over 8-months, and I was itching to get back out there and go for a run. I was the perfect test subject for this barefoot running thing. I didn’t have any running races to train for, I had no intention of pushing my pace, and I had the patience it would take to retrain my body to run barefoot. I went out and bought a pair of shoes that would do nothing more than protect my barefeet from glass on the road. I dusted off the running gear and decided to hit the road like the Copper Canyon Indians.

I went on a ‘short’ 4 mile run to try the new technique. “Just a short four miles,” I thought.

As I limped home, my calves felt a sore burn that would last for a week. Running barefoot taxes your calves as they act as your natural shock absorbers against the road. My shock absorbers were spent. This new running thing was going to take a lot more time than I thought.

I dialed back my enthusiasm, did some more research, and started to run shorter distances until my legs built up the strength. Surprisingly enough, the typical running pain that I was used to in terms of sore knees, hips, groin and upper body was non-existent. My legs were getting stronger with every run. I loved how liberating it was to be more connected to the ground and the surface I was running on. Even the actual movement of running felt easier than before. I can’t say that I am a crazy disciple of the barefoot running movement yet, but through some trial, effort, and education, I am really enjoying the new element to my athletic life.

I was reflecting on this the other day, and thought how similar barefoot running is to our spiritual journey. God designed us a certain way. He designed us to love Him, to be connected to other believers, to love others and to live a disciplined life. We have done everything we can as people to ‘cushion’ our lives. We hide behind money, behind hobbies and activities, and come up with every excuse we can to avoid responsibility. “I don’t need to go to church because…, I don’t have time for the homeless because…, I am a good enough person and that’s enough because…” We put shoes on and go for our run through life and pray that it won’t hurt too much. In the process, we are often masking our inefficiency and weakness, and actually bringing pain to other areas of our lives.

What we really need is a little disciplined form work to strengthen our spirits, minds and bodies. Form work that requires us to step back, get back to the basics and spend the time to start doing it right. Sometimes the high road takes a little more effort and pain, but at the end of the day you will be much stronger, suffer less injury, and be much more connected to the world we are in. Take off your shoes…

———————————————————-
John 15:1-4
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

Playing it Safe

Bike racing season is finally in full swing. I am finally healthy. Not up to racing form yet, but healthy which is a start. I spent the past few weeks recovering from my second cold of the season and instead of pushing it really hard on the weekends, I just made sure to keep my mileage up without taxing my system.

There is a fine balance in getting ready for race season. Push it too hard, and you get injured or sick. Take it too easy, and you get popped out the back of the peloton like exhaust from a tailpipe. You have to find a happy medium that allows your body to get strong, but also builds in recovery periods.

This past weekend, my team was in Tucson for a three-day stage race. Three days of racing is always a challenge. Especially when you have had to hit the ‘reset’ button a couple of times in training due to illness and colds. It’s like starting all over with your training, and being put to the test about a month too soon. I knew the races were going to hurt, and after the challenges I have hit the first part of this season, I was worried I would not be able to finish strong on my limited training base.

I pushed it on the first day time trial (TT). This is an individual race against the clock which sets the rankings for the next two days of racing. Do well in the TT, and you have a chance at winning the overall. Don’t do well, and you will be working to make up time the next two days. I wound up doing OK at the end of the day placing in the top third of my category.

The next day was a 60 mile road race. There were a ton of people in my division and the road was packed shoulder to shoulder. Our team captain made a point at the beginning of the race to tell all of our team members to push it and get up to the front where it would be safer and where we would have a chance of winning. “You may have to push it into the wind, but at least there are only a few guys in front of you to contend with, instead of 100.” He said.

Here is the thing with riding up front, you not only have to be aggressive to get up there, you have to ride just a little harder than everyone else in the pack to stay there. You don’t always have a draft, and you run the risk of burning yourself out before the race is over. Given the 60 mile distance of the race, I was a little hesitant to get up to the front in fear that I would not make it to the finish. Combine that with the fact that I am a fairly defensive (not aggressive) rider, I found myself riding about a third of the way back in the pack the majority of the race. My team mates were a few wheels in front of me, and I lacked the courage and faith to get up there with them and work a little harder.

I was OK with my decision to play it safe. Afterall, I was just coming around on my fitness, and I was not at the level yet of my other team members. I would never have survived out there alone.

After the race, we were all talking about the experience, and my team captain called me out on playing it safe. “You need to get up front Tim. You are strong enough to not play the safe card. It is easier up there and you are never going to get stronger riding in the pack”

I was upset for getting called-out on the carpet. I was just coming around fitness wise, I knew what I was doing, and to get called-out for riding what I thought was a good race really pissed me off.

“We don’t all ride the same” I told my wife. “I didn’t have it in me to ride in front today. I needed to just finish the race for my own mental state.”

I took a few breaths, laid on the couch in my hotel room and thought about the whole thing.

Perhaps he knows my potential more than I do.

I talked things over with my team captain a little bit later, and told him that I realize I am not super aggressive in the pack. I was not confident in my fitness yet. I had some things to work on. I apologized for not being a good team-mate.

“It has nothing to do with that Tim” he said, “You are a strong rider. Strong enough to be up front. We all need to push ourselves to be better, to get stronger, and to not play it safe. Anyone can play it safe, but if we are going to win these races, we need to be strong and aggressive. You are a great cyclist, and you need to be confident and ride like you are strong, even if that means getting outside your comfort zone.”

I realized that my friend had just spoken truth into my life. He held me accountable.

I think about things like this from a spiritual perspective. It is really easy for me to play it safe in this world. Most of my friends don’t really buy into the whole ‘Christian’ thing. It is easy for me to just float through life and not really pay much mind. I try to live pure, share my faith and show love to the people I am around, but that is not always enough. I have done an insane amount of research on the legitimacy of what I believe and why I believe it, but is that enough?

Sometimes we need to push outside our comfort zone to grow and get strong. Sometimes we need people to hold us accountable to do so. Just like my captain did in my road race last weekend. It may be hard to swallow, but in the end we can grow from the experience. I have spent a lot of time this year thinking about accountability. My wife does a great job of keeping me focused spiritually, but I also know I need to reach out to other Christian men to speak truth into my life. Otherwise I think I will just be playing it safe in the pack.

The third day of my race, I really put myself out there. I rode aggressively and stayed in the front. I launched attacks and successfully recovered when the group caught me. I showed myself and my teammates that I had it in me to do well. I grew from the experience. Being accountable is not the safe route, but it will make us strong. And I want to be strong. Especially when it comes to my faith.

———————————-

Ephesians 4:14-16
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

8 Mile

This weekend was another dose of the usual. Another bike ride covering way too long of a distance, way too many hills, and way too much work for a Saturday. Another typical ride that left me useless for the rest of the day and unable to get off the couch.

We took the opportunity to do a ride this weekend that covered the unpopulated roads of Southeast San Diego County. The terrain is challenging, but it feels great to get away from the busy city streets and be out in the middle of nature. Rolling hillsides, vast expanses of wilderness, running streambeds, and scenic vistas make the difficult terrain more bearable and enjoyable. The route somewhat resembles the Colorado countryside I grew up in.

On the homestretch of the ride there is an 8-mile decent from a mountain top that is a nice reward for the efforts of the day. Julie and I were descending down the road when a van passed us, an overweight lady leaned half out her window and yelled obscenities at Julie and I for riding in ‘her’ roadway. Julie almost crashed from the scare. We are used to being honked at from time to time, but leaning out of a window and yelling took it to a new level and my male instincts kicked in.

I was justified.

I grew madder and madder the more I descended down the pass. I wished I would have taken down the license plate number of the van or something. Of course I don’t know what that would have done for me, but at least I could have hunted them down later. They were long gone.

We approached the bottom of the hill where there was a dirt parking lot next to a nature preserve and low and behold…there was the van, and the fat chick that leaned out her window was walking across the parking lot.

I was justified.

I rode slower, gave her the one finger salute, called her some names at the top of my lungs and made sure she and the rest of the parking lot residents knew what I thought about her. It was all I could do to just keep riding slow with my finger in the air and not go over and let her know first-hand what a skinny spandex-clad 35-year-old was capable of.

I was justified.

I rode away, somehow feeling better about myself that I had insulted her properly. She would think twice before messing with cyclists again. And then God spoke.

“I was also justified.”

Sometimes it sucks being a Christian, just for the fact that I feel guilty for not taking the high road when I should have. My actions did not accomplish anything more than making me look like another religious hypocrite to the non-believers I was riding with. I had to ask for forgiveness.

I know that this world is never fair. God has instilled in us the power to take the high road and forgive the people that don’t deserve forgiveness. Perhaps the lady in the van will ride a bike herself someday and understand. Perhaps she will never understand. It does not matter really in the end. My wife and I were safe and the incident was over.

Next time I chew on my anger, I will have to pray and give it to the Lord. He had more reason than any of us to bring His wrath on humanity, but He gave grace in its place. That took a pretty amazing man to make that happen.

——————————–
Psalm 37:8-9
Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

 

Focus…

This past weekend marked the sixth year in a row my wife and I have participated in the BikeMS Chairity bike ride. The benefit ride takes place over two days where participants cover 100-150 miles and help raise money to fund MS research.

This year, we elected to do the 150 mile option which consisted of a 107 mile ride on Saturday and a 43 mile ride on Sunday. This is the third time we have completed this particular course, so we somewhat knew what to expect going in to the event. Our training had not been as consistent as we would have liked, but we did feel that our riding base was sufficient enough to tackle the challenge.

Many people ask me what the most important aspects of training are before an event like this. I generally tell them, apart from spending time on your bicycle, the second most important aspect is nutrition/hydration. Without proper fueling at the beginning of the ride, you will most likely hit a wall and be unable to take in the calories you need to catch up later in the ride. Following up on last week’s post about consistency, the principles of eating and drinking regularly apply here as well.

Things were going pretty well for the majority of the ride on day one. Despite the inevitable muscle fatigue, I felt pretty well and was eating/drinking to stay fueled. We had made the turn onto the coast to finish the last several miles and I worked my way towards the front to take a pull and help the pack down the home stretch.

Into a head wind…

My legs started to die. I had no more strength after about 15 minutes on the front of the group and I dropped back in the pack to try and get a draft and recover. This is when I saw another one of our teammates struggling worse than I was. Tears were running out from underneath her sunglasses, a sign that she was in agony, just trying to finish.

My wife looked at me and we both took charge to help our teammate. Julie got in front of her to shelter the wind from the front, and I rode beside her to shelter her from the side wind. We made it our mission to help her finish.

A funny thing happens when you switch your focus from the pain you are feeling to help others that are in pain. While the aches are still there, you tend to not feel them as much. For the last five miles of the ride, I didn’t think about my own struggles but instead I worked hard to support my hurting teammate and help her reach the finish line.

Afterwards my wife and I talked about how much pain we were in before taking on the task of helping out our friend. We both agreed that perhaps the third most important aspect to finishing a ride like that is friendship. Without the support of those around you, the pain may just get the better of you.

What in your life hurts right now? Are you fueling up with God’s Word when the miles seem easy? Are you training your body and mind to be more Christlike? Are you connected to a body of believers that will get you to the finish line? Are you so focused on your own pain that you fail to see the pain in the people around you?

Where is your focus?

———————————

1 Timothy 4:7-13
…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑