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Weekly Thoughts

The intersection of work, life, sport and spirituality.

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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This is life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pain of OK

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

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

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

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

So I pray.

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

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

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

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Matthew 5:4

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

 

Roots

This morning I left the gym in Golden to catch yet another breath-stopping sunrise to the east. The Colorado sky seems to light up like a campfire of brilliant color each morning here. I feel like an ant in the middle of a field so expansive I can’t help but get lost. On the ridgeline of South Table Mountain I saw a backlit grove of trees standing tall like soldiers. Alone and proud, they guard the mountain that sits in our backyard.

My mind drifted to the soldiers stories. Once part of a large forest, they departed home to grow roots on this mountain. Their youthful seeds of life carried by the wind to their new home. Settling down in this new land they only had each other. Alone in the new land they clung to each other and hoped that it would all work out.

Their roots grew as their branches reached towards the sky above. Looking across the valley, they knew that they would have visitors. New friends would come and become like family. It would take time.

Then one day they had an old friend come visit. The wise old owl from their old forest came and sat on their branches.

“Hello old friends” he said. “I never told you this, but I am responsible for bringing you here.”

“We were wondering how we ended up here”, the soldiers responded

“I carried you here,” the wise owl said. “I planted you here. While the comforts of your old home were lush, now you have a perspective on the world that you never dreamt imaginable. You see every sunrise and sunset, you have a view that only the birds can see, and you have a purpose.”

“What’s our purpose?” The soldiers asked.

“To raise your branches towards heaven and worship. People will see you and notice your praise. They will then look inside and thank God they are alive.”

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Jeremiah 17:8 (NIV)
“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Puzzle

I was in the airport today waiting for a flight. As I stood there watching the eclectic group of travelers, my gaze was drawn to a wall of color. The art display of giant puzzle pieces on the wall in front of me formed a collage of world landmarks and travel locations. Looking closer, I examined each piece. Each piece was so irregular but somehow fit together to paint a picture of beauty and cohesiveness.

2012 has been a year of puzzle pieces coming together for Julie and I. For the first couple of decades of life, Julie worked on one half of the puzzle as I worked on the other. Separately, we built out the edges one piece at a time. Those individual experiences/pieces that didn’t seem to make sense slowly came together as time progressed. When we met, the landscape of our lives developed into a further piece of art as the puzzle joined together. Together we have enjoyed 11 years of marriage and life experiences. While some pieces just seemed to fit, other times we wondered when we would find that missing piece or when that odd shaped piece would finally make sense and find a home.

This year, God has revealed to us more about the puzzle. The birth of our son this past march has filled in a huge missing section of the painting. Questions I have had about my career have culminated into a job that was custom scripted for me. Our experiences in Southern California have given us an active life that has led to a fulfilling world of adventure and travel.

The next big section of the puzzle awaits. The Lord has called us back to our home state of Colorado. Moving on to the next area of the mural of our lives we are stepping out in faith. While we have a whole table in front of us full of colorful odd-shaped pieces, we know that they fit together somehow. We must appreciate each piece and know that God has a plan – even though seemingly huge areas of white space still exist. All I need to do is look back on what has been created so far to appreciate the masterpiece of God’s plan.

Lord, may your blessings continue to fall as the pieces some together. Let me see the beauty in the pieces that lay before me, and may I trust your hand in my ultimate life painting.

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Why the Tears?

Julie and I are fortunate to have a pretty calm baby. Micah is generally a happy little guy smiling most of the time, sleeping through the night and hitting his milestones with grace. When he does let out a cry, he typically needs fed, needs a change of scenery or needs a good nap. Every now and then however, he will cry for what seems like no reason at all, leaving Julie and I wondering and guessing what he really wants or needs. Sometimes you just scratch your head and wonder how this cute little thing could possibly be miserable.

Let’s take a moment to consider a baby’s life:

  • You get to sleep as much and whenever you want.
  • You get to eat on demand.
  • There is no shortage of attention, and all people want to do is hold you and smile.

When I look at a baby’s life, I wonder how any little tyke could find anything to shed a tear over.

Watching a short-lived cry-attack from my son this last weekend, I couldn’t help but smile. We aren’t so different as adults. We are finding things to complain about left and right that have no significance on life. We complain and whine about the weather, finances, other people, our jobs and our surroundings. We cry out in anger at the driver that just cut us off on the freeway, and we spread the tears to those we talk to on the phone. We tear up the beautifully landscaped path in front of us and focus in on the dirt.

Wasn’t it Christ that told us that we need to quit crying all the time? Just like we do as parents with our children, He has already taken care of all of our needs.

Matthew 6-25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Hold your arms up like a child and God will smile back. The sooner we understand the depth of His love, and trust in His goodness, the more full our lives will become. My son does not have the perspective to look at his life in such a way to recognize the full extent of his blessings—but you and I do.

Baking up Some Competition

I think sometime in history a group of men got together and created a plan to celebrate their élite status in society. They figured out a way to keep the plan secret to outsiders but still appoint a date on the calendar where everyone knew about their plan. Their plan was to create a day called “Father’s Day” where all the men with children would be treated like royalty and have free reign of the planet.

As a new father welcomed to the secret order this year, cards started arriving in the mail early in the week. On Sunday I woke up to gifts, text messages, and phone calls, as the other daddies welcomed me to the club. It was like waking up one morning to another birthday.

“What would you like to do today honey?” my wife asks me. “Where would you like to go to dinner and celebrate?” Brilliant!

With the blessing of being a father and the showering of awesomeness comes the next best reason for me to celebrate Father’s Day. The annual Newbreak Community Church Father’s Day Cake Contest. This annual cook-off between the men of our church, brings out the serious battle axes as there is no greater honor than taking home the Golden Spatula for Best-in-Show.

I inherited some good creative cake skills from my mother, and I work in the design/construction industry so the combination is lethal. Every year the bar gets raised as we try to think of bigger and better things to create.

There is some strategy that goes into winning this competition. Do you try to cater to the kids and get their votes or do you go for the adult votes? Do you bake for taste or for shock value? How far can you push the boundaries of what is edible? (Sorry Mike, you can’t eat an aluminum boat, better luck next year)

Watching the winners each year, there is a combination of both shock value and craftsmanship that wins the day. Trying to come up with ideas to tie these together can take the next 11 months to figure out.

While I was teamed up with another guy from our church putting together this year’s cake, I started really wondering why God wired me the way he did. I am almost overly competitive when it comes to things. I was the top male student in my high school class in academics. I want to be successful at work and win every project that hits the streets. I want to win the bike races I enter, and if I don’t feel fast enough, I don’t even want to show up and race. I race people on the freeway, just to find out we’re heading to different locations.

I went over and over in my mind about the healthiness of being this competitive. God showed me how, although I am competitive, I get just as much joy out of helping others be successful. I can usually see a path to success in most situations, and this gift is one that I can use for my own benefit as well as others. I need to be careful not to let pride get in the way of being humble enough to help other people.

As I work through my own competitive issues, I will do it yet again with the Golden Spatula hanging up in my kitchen. I can crack a smile and know that God also has a Golden Spatula hanging in his house for creating each one of us in His own image. Our Father.

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Philippians 2:2-4
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Learning to Smile

As all the veteran parents of the world crack a smile, I am finally writing again after a three-month break from the action. I can’t say there have been any breaks from the action however, as each waking moment of the day is a special gift that I treasure with my heart. My new little son Micah is the apple of my eye and has brought a joy to my life that I couldn’t have dreamed of. He is three-months-old now, and each day is better than the day before. He smiles and interacts in baby babble when he sees his daddy and discovers the world around him. It is the beginning of a beautiful journey.

Sitting on this side of parenthood, I finally understand how this little breathing life in front of you reorganizes everything. Like an Etch-a-Sketch shaken up after on old drawing, the sands of your own life settle down and new priorities craft a new piece of art. The things I thought would bug me about losing aspects of my own freedom do not bother me at all. Sure, flexibility and selfish spontaneity are great, but there is something that is pretty amazing about putting it aside to take care of your child. I get that now.

There are a million different things that being a parent has shown me even in such a short period. One of the best things is seeing the world through a fresh set of eyes. I think sometimes children see the world as it should be. A world of colors, smiles and appreciation for just being alive. It is a simple world. As a new parent I am seeing the simple world again. It makes me smile.

God has made each of us unique, and taking the time to celebrate that unique character is what makes life so beautiful.  Does the clutter that makes up our adult existence really corrupt those smiles that used to come so easily when we were young? If the answer is yes, then perhaps we need to dump the clutter.

I am so blessed by this new little life. I am so happy to have lost myself in the journey. I am smiling more now than I have in years.

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2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

The Bald Eagle

I called and spoke to my mom this morning. I told her that on the drive into town two days ago we saw a bald eagle fly over our car. It was the first time I had ever seen a bald eagle in the wild and it was one of the coolest things to see on the drive in. She went on to tell me a story about this last fall when she also saw a bald eagle fly over her house one afternoon. She has been battling Leukemia for a while now and she was having a really bad day when the eagle flew over.

God brought the following verse to her mind:

Isaiah 40:31
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

She told me that she knew at that point she knew it would all be OK.

My eagle sighting gave my mom chills, her story gave me chills, and God’s way of talking to us brings us all chills. God was telling us it would all be OK. We need to continue to have faith that this will all work out.

Micah Lee Barr was born on March 2nd. God answered our lifelong prayer this last week. Not always the way you think God would answer a prayer, but looking back I see His plan.

It will all be OK. I thank each of my readers for your prayers.

Tim

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For full journal head to: http://TimBarr.blogspot.com

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