Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recap: February 2013 Running

I agree with the sentiment of February being the longest but shortest month of the year. It sure has felt like a long one. Miles were on the low side this month just north of 136 miles, down from about 160 in January. January had a 50K and February had no race and 3-4 day gaps with no running at all. When I did run, though, it was seldom under 6 miles and whenever I could, I grabbed my favorite 10 miler and knocked it out. Undoubtedly, that's become my favorite "around home" distance. If I have about 80min to spare, I'll take it. Not too sure I want to get up before 3am, though. If I were to make that a normal routine, I'd have to break that barrier and that's a line I'm not too fond of crossing. 3:10am is early enough, right?!

For races, I signed up for my "big" race of 2013, a 40-miler in the mountains of West Virginia. It's Father's Day weekend in June and has a reputation of being a bit steamy. What sold me were a few things: 1) It's an easy drive...not too far away but close enough to feel like a mini-vacation, 2) The headquarters for the race is a ski lodge and is perfect for my family to hang out at the pool, take a hike, or whatever while I'm galavanting through the mountains, and 3) I like going to races where I'm anonymous. Just me and the trail. Don't get me wrong...I like local races and seeing everyone but it's nice to get away, too. Plus, with the turn of several local races to a new structure, I won't be running some any longer so time to find some new races out there.

To compliment my running, my wife finished her 40 days of clean eating and pushed through the 40th day and is continuing on. I made sure to plead with her to continue on as I LOVE the recipes she's been coming up with. She steers clear of meat, sugar and processed foods. It's the perfect compliment to a Spring where I'll have increasing mileage and will help me keep running strong and injury-free. Just last night, she hit a grand slam. She named it pierogi pizza. It was her homemade wheat crust with mashed potatoes, corn, sautéed onions, and a few bacon pieces sprinkled on top. (ok, we cheated there a bit) So, so good. I grew up eating Mrs. T's pierogis from the skillet with butter and sautéed onions and just the smell of them drives me nuts.

To wrap up the month and since it was my scheduled day off, I headed on out to the trails today for the first time in a long time. Low 30s and an atmosphere that couldn't decide on snow, sleet, or nothing. No wind, though, and the candy coating of snow overnight made the trails gorgeous. The drenching, though, that we got yesterday made it a mud pit. Multiple stream crossings with water half way up my calf....COLD!!!! By the end, I had wrapped up a satisfying 14 miles and nice capstone to February. Here are some photos from today on the Buckeye Trail.  Enjoy and have a SUPER March! Spring is coming!
Pine Lane on the Buckeye Trail

Pine Lane on the Buckeye Trail

Blue Hen Falls

Perfect print in the snow of the Brooks Cascadia 7 trail shoes

Old Barn at the Boston Store trailhead

Buckeye Trail

Buckeye Trail

Several water crossings today...all ice cold...but refreshing

Downed tree becomes new runners' tunnel (Buckeye Trail)

Report: WalkWorthy 2013

Pardon the brief interruption, friends. The last week has been a whirlwind and having the ability to squeeze in the time to write has been gone. While we did go to our first ballroom dancing lessons last night (oh yes, plenty to write about), I want to share my experience over last weekend. Not running...actually very little running the past 7 days, but a day I spent with over 1600 men. Yep. 1600+ men.

The event is called "WalkWorthy." It's held about this time every year in one of our areas mega-churches yet holds no affiliation to that church, that church being Parkside Church. Some of you may have heard of Pastor Alistair Begg...that's his church. He wasn't present (ironic considering a massive gathering of men was taking place under his roof) but plenty of men were.

The Parkside stage/setting for WalkWorthy
WalkWorthy is organized by the Moody Bible Institute out of Chicago, Illinois. MBI essentially works with the local folks to get the space, organize the speakers and get the word out. I had never been to one but looking back now nearly a week later, I am extremely thankful for the day. It started at 7am when I met to carpool up with about 10 other men and by 8:30am, the day kicked off. By 3:30pm, it would end but sandwiched there in the middle was four speakers, lots of worship in between and a lunch provided by the Macedonia Chick-Fil-A. First up was the 9th president of the Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Paul Nyquist. He has a young 20-something son who is a pastor of a church and part of the Millennial generation which is leaving the church in masses because of what it has become. He co-authored a book with him about the post-church Christian and by day's end, had sold out of it and signed every copy. It was a really good hour to spend with the president and hear from his heart AND be challenged...not just as a man but as a father of a few members of the next generation.

Mark Jobe
Following Dr. Nyquist was Pastor Mark Jobe, a pastor out of Chicago who now is over 19 campuses throughout the city. His "campuses" aren't a bunch of sprawling mega-churches in the suburbs but instead sprinkled through the inner-city of Chi-town. He pastors a kaleidoscope of ethnicities, is an author, is on the radio and is internationally known. I had heard of him but never knew more than a name. He talked about stepping out of our "man caves". The man of "today" has become so spineless and redefined that so many hide in the shadows of their homes, careers and families and do not lead. His talk was a megaphone-sized call to step out...courageously. Great talk! Lunch followed for 1600+ men which took the next 90min and during which, Pastor Jobe had a long line of men waiting to speak to him and pray with him. The next session is all that ended that line or I bet it would've gone on for hours.

After lunch was Pastor Kevin James out of Cleveland. I gotta say...that man has a serious amount of energy! I don't think he ever breathed between sentences! He spoke on the "Sons of Abraham" but truth be told, I had a hard time following him and took nearly no notes at all. It was good but not memorable. Time sure did fly, though. Once he finished and the day was nearly over, the final speaker was on deck. The professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute is Dr. Winfred Neely. I'll never forget the stark contrast between him and the Kevin James who preceded him on stage. Polar opposite! Dr. Neely was introduced and he walked slowly, deliberately, and tall to the stage. Speaking slow and with a deep voice, he began as if in the classroom. "Men, turn your Bibles to Two Samuel...." It was like jumping off a rollercoaster and in to a graduate level classroom. Slam on the brakes! The best was yet to come, though.

Dr. Neely
Many have heard the story of King David who committed adultery with one of his men's wives, named Bathsheba. Enticed by seeing her bathing, he made a life-changing choice to take another man's wife. King David was considered one of the most, if not the most, Godly men in his time. Yet...he fell. Dr. Neely told the story slowly, powerfully, and in a way with so much detail that I was seriously impacted. In my mind, I was like "Oh, to be his students! His students are richly blessed to have him at the helm of their careers and walk." The story was one of redemption, forgiveness, but ended with a warning from Dr. Neely...to be on guard! I'll not forget him telling us how the enemy lives within every one of us and the second that evil presents itself to us, we MUST extinguish it immediately and without hesitation. If one of the most Godly men that ever lived in the Old Testament could fall, who are we to think we cannot? I wrote Dr. Neely a message simply to thank him for his message. I downloaded the audio yesterday and couldn't believe it was 57 minutes long. If felt like 15. What a way to end the day!

WalkWorthy Conference for Men is a wrap for 2013. I am already looking forward to 2014! For 2013, all of the audio is now downloadable here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Snowflakes Unseen

You know how they say that if you do something often enough, it'll become routine? Not too many days ago, I adjusted my alarm from 3:20am to 3:10am in order to give myself a little more "cushion" in my morning so as to not get to work too late and still get in my morning routine to include a solid 6 or 7 miler. Well, my body has certainly figured it out as today, I woke up before the alarm...3am to be exact and ready to rock-n-roll. I've been waking up a few minutes before the alarm over the last few days, too. So no excuse to not run, I'd say. Looking outside, a fresh coating of powder had fallen overnight and it was "falling" vs. being "blown" to the ground....ahhh...a nice, snowy run to be had.
 
It was 19F, a very slight breeze, and I covered up well. I wore my "buff" that I got at the Run for Regis 50K for the first time today...similar to the buffs made popular on CBS' "Survivor" reality show. I loved it. Super thin and it covered more skin on my face than normal yet still let me breathe normally. A few miles in, I did lower it to below my chin since I was plenty warmed up. The run was awesome. Snow plows had not yet plowed nor had any cars/trucks driven over my hilly, country route. There is something very cool and special about laying down the first tracks in the snow after a fresh snowfall. Along with that, I never wear a headlamp and instead let my eyes adjust to the dark and do my best to avoid potholes and roadkill. So throughout the run which was extremely quiet, except for my footfalls, I could feel each flake touch my face..some in my eyes, some sticking to my eyelashes, brows, or flying straight into my mouth. Each one unique, cold, pure, white, and unseen. I kept thinking about if I would illuminate the space in front of me and all around me, how beautiful it would be. I could feel that I was walking through a fairly consistent and thick snowfall yet saw nothing. As with most runs anymore, a parallel quickly presented itself: how often is beauty, peace, and good surrounding us yet we don't see or nor acknowledge it? Instead, we choose to see the defeated enemy and live in that darkness. As I let that sink in...running through absolute majesty yet seeing none of it, I thought about how truly blessed I am to have the Unseen that promises peace, protection, guidance, answers, and strength all around me every day...if only I would choose to "see" it.
 
In the beginning, we were given a choice. We chose selfishly.
 
Just like in the Garden, we choose today...and every day. May we choose to seek righteousness, goodness, and the light to stand in vs. sorrow, defeatedness, and darkness to drown in. Like the snowflakes that were not seen but were all around this morning, so is the Light. Always there, always shining, always waiting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Get 24 Hours

When I tell my wife, especially after a run: "I was thinking....", she knows something is coming. Well, I was thinking this morning on my 1F windchill, 7 miler...

Our schedule and how we live each day speaks loud and clear about what is truly important to us and where our priorities are, much like a close examination of our checkbook does. To think about: what does your schedule say about you? What does mine say about me? I didn't say what would others say, but if your schedule could speak (which is does, in fact), what would it say?

Morning devotions vs. Facebook feed overnight catch-up
Running widow at home vs. running schedule that doesn't sacrifice family
Family game time vs. each doing their own thing at night
Out with the guys/girls vs. at home with your significant other
Working tons of overtime vs. making adjustments in your lifestyle/spending
Blessing others with your time vs. selfish pursuits
Staying up late to watch TV vs. going to bed with your spouse
Encouraging others vs. gossiping about others
Loving your kids vs. loving your job
Traveling excessively vs. being home and present
Texting and artificial communication vs. face-to-face genuine communication
Sitcoms and reality shows vs. enriching family movie time
Video games vs. reading a good book
Praying with your kids at night vs. saying goodnight as they walk to bed
Putting the iPhone/iPod/iPad down vs. being an iZombie family
Holding hands and looking at each other vs. sitting and walking in silence
Sports, sports, sports vs. everything in moderation

We all get 24 hours in a day. How are you spending yours and what is yours saying about you without you saying a word? Live for today and for others. We have no assurance that tomorrow will ever come.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

President's Day Weekend Recap

Another great President's Day weekend in the books! Like last year, it ended with a trip to Amish Country and booked 2014 already. But first, it started in a way not-too-common at all. Read on...and consider if you have young, impressionable children.

I don't recall a birds-and-the-bees conversation growing up nor much of a guide-map to girls, etc. I am pretty sure I just found out whatever I found out with no compass or direction whatsoever. Hardly ever missing a Sunday in the pew, I had good morals, knew right from wrong and ended up today as a pretty good guy, I think. Today, though, technology and "information" is lightning-fast accessible by nearly all ages and it's boys AND girls that are chasing each other and not just the boys. With two of those aforementioned, impressionable children, we are doing our best not to screw this one up. We came across some material dubbed "Passport 2 Purity." (P2P) The idea is simple and it only takes a little bit of planning. You (the parent) take a Friday afternoon, for example, and plan a getaway with your youngster. You plan on returning home the following evening. In that short timeframe, you escape to a hotel, camping, or whatever it is that he or she loves. It needs to be an adventure. Pick somewhere that's more than 5min down the road, too. Kids love this so be creative. From the point you hop in the car and start driving, the P2P kit has several CDs and a project kit. On the CDs (that also contain MP3 versions to put on your smartphone) you begin with session 1. From then until the return home, you will go on a journey with your son or daughter that'll touch on every topic leaving no stone unturned. It's done very professionally, too...not cheesy in the slightest. They'll work through an included journal, work on a few teaching projects with you, ask questions, and you'll be with them all along the way. It's not just bird and the bees...it's peer pressure, it's pornography, and it's dating. It goes all the way and educates them with a foundation which sadly, is counter-cultural today. Returning home on Saturday night, my wife and oldest daughter raved about the time together...both in their individual ways, of course, and no regrets from either. In fact, we're eager to share it with close friends. There's no cookie-cutter answer to age-appropriateness but we agree that boys in the 5th grade and girls in the 6th grade are pretty perfect ages. Later is possible but I'm sure you'll be doing some catch-up as our culture is hard at work at destroying purity as early as possible. Here's the link if you're interested in learning more.

While they were away, my youngest daughter and I spent it together. We spent Friday night just hanging out on the couch and watched two movies on NetFlix. We all have "love languages" and hers is most definitely "quality time." Just hanging out is her cup-o-tea. NetFlix has a plethora of family-rich movies and our favorite from the night was "Broken Hill." If you remember "Mr. Holland's Opus," I highly recommend it. It starts out a bit slow but ultimately is a fantastic movie and one with lots of great messages...especially if you love music. We played the final scene three times, I think...while gobbling popcorn. Saturday, we ran some errands, hit up her favorite "5 Below" store, shared some Starbucks, had some authentic Mexican for lunch and bowled for a few hours. I love bowling with her and laughing a ton. One lane for me and one bumpers-up one for her...side-by-side. FANTASTIC day and night prior. We all rejoined back up on Saturday night to debrief our times to each other and prepare for Phase 2 of President's Day weekend...Amish Country.

After Sunday morning services at our new church home, we packed up again and headed south into Amish Country. Like last year, we planned it with best friends and their kids. Tucked away among rolling hills about 90min south of us, the place is called Carlisle Inn in Sugarcreek (link). Some may call it a hotel, but it's a retreat...a beautiful one we love to go to. Whether alone in the middle of summer with our favorite wineries nearby or in the middle of winter as a family with the indoor heated pool and jacuzzi, we love it. The architecture reminds me of the Founder's Inn in Virginia Beach, which is located on the campus of my alma mater where I got my MBA 7 years ago...Regent University. Very "Williamsburg-ish" style and every room in the Inn feels custom-made, perfect, warm, quite, dark-rich colors, and a balcony overlooking the Amish hillside. Along with the pool, lots of lots of open spaces on the 2nd floor for reading by the fireplace, playing the grand piano, or playing board games. Fun times were had by all, including our traditional pizza from Park Place Pizza on Sunday night...probably the ONLY place open since nearly all businesses never open on Sundays. Wrapping up late Monday morning, reservations were already made for 2014.

My kind of poster on the wall at VR-Wooster!! :-)
On the way home, we took the scenic route and drove through Wooster. Wooster is home to a new Vertical Runner, based out of Hudson. Vertical Runner is my choice of specialty running store in the area and I had not yet made it to the new location in Wooster. I never thought of Wooster as being an ideal location for a running store but I was very wrong! With many schools (and no one else locally to serve them) and a running community itching for more "community," they are doing fantastic. Before they even opened, they had huge group runs. From my first step in the door, it "felt" in every way like the Vertical Runner I know. I wasn't really in need of anything so I left with only a photo and a little "run" sticker for my back window but I did enjoy the conversation with Tammy (co-owner) and seeing the new place. Thanks to her, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch in downtown Wooster at Broken Rocks, just around the corner. I had never been to Wooster and it was a great first trip. I especially loved all of the century-plus brick architecture downtown. I must return with my camera someday.

Awesome weekend. Not too much running but that's OK. I did squeeze in a great 10-miler early Sunday morning (see last blog post) and planned on running this morning...but, if there is one weather condition I draw the line at, it's happening outside my windows right now. Upper 30s, 20+ mph winds, and pouring rain. That's called a "piercing needles" run, by the way. I'm no fair-weather runner but there is nothing good about running in this. It's misery. So, I will take the unplanned rest day and live to run another day....tomorrow. After all, my mind is set on my Father's Day Weekend 40-miler in the mountains. CAN...NOT...WAIT!

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Musings from today's Sunday 10

Proof of today's run (Pure Flow 2)
15F, 6F windchill, 2 to 3 inches overnight
The world is sleeping, furnaces churning
Awake, I am, craving what waits outside
Espresso is brewed, body is awakened, shoes are tied

Fresh, crystal-like powder
Every footfall a new mark
I was right, no one is awake
Not even a hint of life to be found

I head out into the country
The same route I take every day
The leaf-less trees all around me
Weighted down by pom-poms of snow

15F and birds singing, I was really surprised
Even they know that Spring is coming and are already awake
To greet the day, to eagerly greet the sun beginning to peek
Over the horizon, still gray over the landscape

I couldn't hear my footfalls, I was bundled up under layers
My breathing, no more, but still heard those birds
Past farms, chimneys with smoke
Creeks with flowing water and a church still dark

I have come to love the 10 miler
It's mine and no one ever joins me
If time were no issue, it would be mine every day
So much time, so many decisions to make, so many thoughts to have

For as long as I am able, I will run and keep running
It is mine and no one can take it away
Man was meant to experience the world
For me, it is a raw and untouched way to do so

Treadmills, gyms, I cannot even fathom
Why so many spend hours and hours inside
It's just not for me, I want to breathe the fresh air
To see the landscape, to watch the sun rise, to hear the birds sing

I loved watching the hawk soar overhead near the end of my run
Dark above and snow-white beneath
It soared uninhibited with a view of the earth and snow beneath
Majestic, beautiful, and an example of why I run and the freedom it brings

With each day that presents itself, I am but one man
I'm entrusted to care for those closest to me, but ultimately it's just me
With every step, every word, and every action I take
The future is shaped and lives impacted

So to you, the 10 mile run, I am thankful for you
I long to meet you again, and I wish others could experience this
The world awakening, His majesty shown down upon me
To live, to run, to bask in the greatness of a Sunday morning 10.

My #1 picture spot year round
P.S. To you, Mrs. Smith, waving from your living room still in your nightgown. It was great to wave at you again today and bring you your Sunday paper. You are a reminder of a childhood I have mostly forgotten and a reminder of someone who positively impacted my life as a young boy with little direction. That chance meeting this morning was a blessing to me...so thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is "Love"?

Define "Love." It's Valentine's Day, after all. Well, there are many definitions. Just Google "definition of love" and watch the wide range of opinions...many have to do directly with sex. Yea...sex. So because someone wants to have sex with you or you with them it's love?! I guess prostitution is love then, right? No. That's the line blurred with love. It has NOTHING to do with sex directly. Can it be an outflow from it? Of course but not the other way around...in my opinion. I think it's more about lust...the desire for another's body. That's lust, not love.

So while searching, I found one I can agree with. This is without using the Bible or Christianity as reference (which truly is the essence of and ultimate example of love) but instead making it real and tangible in the now. So do you agree with Sophocles? (underlines mine)

The most spectacular,indescribable, deep euphoric feeling for someone. 

Love is an incredibly powerful word. When you're in love, you always want to be together, and when you're not, you're thinking about being together because you need that person and without them your life is incomplete

This love is unconditional affection with no limits or conditions: completely loving someone. It's when you trust the other with your life and when you would do anything for each other. When you love someone you want nothing more than for them to be truly happy no matter what it takes because that's how much you care about them and because their needs come before your own. You hide nothing of yourself and can tell the other anything because you know they accept you just the way you are and vice versa. 

It's when they're the last thing you think about before you go to sleep and when they're the first thing you think of when you wake up, the feeling that warms your heart and leaves you overcome by a feeling of serenity. Love involves wanting to show your affection and/or devotion to each other. It's the smile on your face you get when you're thinking about them and miss them. 

Love can make you do anything and sacrifice for what will be better in the end. Love is intense,and passionate. Everything seems brighter, happier and more wonderful when you're in love. If you find it, don't let it go.

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: 

That word is love. 

-Sophocles

I underlined a few parts in there that jumped out to me. One really, really stood out: "you want nothing more than for them to be truly happy no matter what it takes." Selfless, isn't it? Putting THEM before YOU. Not easy as we are a selfish race by origin...it has to be intentional. A choice.

In my own life, it's a daily pursuit and we look at it differently than we did 2, 5, 10 or 20 years ago. As we journey through our 21st year of marriage, we are truly "in love" more now than ever before. More than at the altar, more than on our honeymoon and more than any other time. We have fun, we travel, we have stopped the "woulda, coulda, shoulda" excuses and we do. We wake up with the pursuit of each other and make every day the best it can be. Before the first foot touches the carpet, a recommittal takes place to distinctly "ground" ourselves in the love we have. I do have to share an example of something coming up...and it makes me laugh out loud and inside every time I think about it. Dancing. Ballroom dancing. I'm sure you've heard of the movie or phrase "white men can't jump." Well, that's me. I stink at just about every sport out there but I can run...a long time. Dancing is something that takes something I just don't have but we're going to give it a shot. Groupon was selling a 6-week package for ballroom dancing for only 35 bucks. So, we booked our weeks yesterday and we're set to "dance" at the end of the month. No doubt...that will be some good blog material!!! Generally speaking, our very best days are when its just us and we don't have any concrete plans and we just set out together. My type-A, minute by minute planning really isn't what works for us and I've taken a step back in that area. Spontaneity really works for us and especially when pleasing the other remains true.

So have a wonderful Valentine's Day and for goodness sake, don't wait for February 14th every year to show the love. Do it 365. By the way, our "species" define love awfully different. What men and women think is love is so different and heck, we're usually wrong about the other one! My wife shared this list with me yesterday that she stole from one of the many blogs she reads. I had to chuckle out loud about picking up the poop in the backyard....yep, that's me!
This is what love is:
  • Doing the dishes each night without being asked 
  • Picking up 7 years worth of dog poop for a dog that’s not even yours 
  • Going to work each day, even when you hate it
  • Taking the time to kiss each other goodbye every single time
  • Bringing home tulips instead of roses because you know she likes those best
  • Taking out the trash, making the bed, sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, cooking dinner, scrubbing the toilet, dusting, vacuuming, windexing, & polishing….even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Getting up with a screaming child in the middle of the night
  • Stopping at Starbucks without complaining, even though it is a waste of money
  • Noticing the one thing that went right even when everything else was all wrong
  • Turning a blind eye to the mess in the corner or closet that drives you nuts
  • Believing she is still as beautiful as the day you met.
  • Watching 50 First Dates over and over again, just because it’s our favorite
  • Not noticing an extra 10 or 15 pounds but always noticing 
  • Celebrating every success
  • Comforting every failure
  • Embracing the quirks that make them who they are
  • Saying please and thank you and I’m sorry and I love you
  • Appreciating the little things
  • Forgiving and forgetting
  • Being present
Us.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The "Baby Bird Syndrome"

One must be very careful when running 10 miles before the sun even comes up...alone...with the stars. That kind of calm, peace, and time to process "life" can bring forth much. Today was one of those days. It was 29F, no snow or slick spots on the road, no wind, and hundreds of stars up above. No moon, either, so it was truly dark. I never wear a headlamp, either, and judge my footfalls by dark spots and light spots on the road. Dark = roadkill or pothole so jump over it and go around! (lessons learned on both counts)
 
So baby birds...frail, weak, and ever-hungry for their next meal. They can't fly yet so they're "trapped" in a way inside of their nest. They could escape, though, but a fall most likely follows along with a broken wing and almost certain death by a dominating species such as a cat, raccoon, or something furry with sharp teeth. So the baby bird screams, flaps their little wing-dings around, and eats whatever mama brings them.
 
A disclaimer before I continue: I don't wake up or come back from a run wondering what I can impart to my readers because I think "they" need to hear what I have to say. Nearly always, it's my own digesting and processing of "stuff" I'm going through in my life right now. Details aren't needed nor are they often provided due to the nature of my work and service to my country. However, the thoughts and musings herein apply universally, regardless of the walk we each lead. With that said, I continue...
 
Ever feel like that "baby bird" in your job or in a social/church/running situation? You feel trapped in a way, you lack control to truly make a difference, and your survival is truly controlled by someone "feeding" you what you need to survive? Eventually a baby bird grows up and learns to fly (providing it's not eaten before that by some prey) and the world multiplies by a gazillion. Until then...what do you do? You could wade around in your sorrow and commit yourself to insanity, complain often, create heartache for those around you, perhaps even strife, and leave your emotions all over your sleeve to rub off on anyone within ear shot of you. Sound familiar? I propose that this is the "normal" way. The way chosen for us unless we choose a different path. After all, it's the selfish approach which is how we're born into our bodies back on our birthday.
 
How about we flip that around and figure out how to thrive in the nest while we grow? How about we find the positives from our vantage point? That baby bird can surely see the puffy white clouds, stars in the sky at night, and stays awfully warm under mama's fat belly. Rest up, prepare, dream, and get strong...all preps to fly one day. Same baby bird, two scenarios...one choice to make.
 
If you have a business education, you most likely had to endure at least one marketing class. If so, you most likely have heard of SWOT Analysis...or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. It's how you look at your yourself and your competition. It's a way to exploit those areas otherwise missed. I like to use it in management and also along my personal walk. Let me challenge you to use it if I'm describing you today and your curious how to turn things around right where you are this moment.
 
First off, draw a vertical line and horizontal line, crossing in the center to create 4 quadrants. From the top left and moving clockwise, write the four categories. Now start: Write down your strengths and be honest. Capitalize on them! Make them known. How about where you're weak? We all have those areas so as you prepare to fly one day, focus on developing those areas and growing...becoming stronger and more competitive. Opportunities? Do you see any? No? Look harder and think at the 30,000 foot level. Think BIG. DREAM big! Don't cut yourself short with "I can't." "I shouldn't." "I'd fail." NO! Seek out opportunities to fly, write them down...pursue them. So how about any threats in your way? For me, I can name names for sure! The thing is this: we can't change people. We can influence them and often through non-verbal ways but we can't just change them. So identify them and learn how to survive in the nest without getting eaten. That doesn't mean you change who you are...but change "how" you live in there while working on the other areas.
 
So yea, you may be that struggling baby bird, but you can survive. I can survive, too. Remember, this is helping me, too or else it wouldn't have presented itself to me in the dark of morning today. The time to start is now, too. Don't wait and stop living in your funk. Get OUT of it and smile. It's contagious and you should seek to infect everyone around you!
 
So get strong, Baby Bird. Your time to fly is coming and you need to be ready.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Setting of Goals

"I just like to run. I don't have any goals." "I'm just going with it. Whatever happens...happens." "I'm happy right where I am. I don't have to have a goal."

Sound familiar? I think I've said all three of them. Funny thing is, though. If you don't set any goals, you'll never reach one. Deep, I know! But true, right? My wife turned 40 this past October. At first, she wasn't dealing well with it. Hitting the 4-0 was hard for her. Truth be told, I really don't understand that as I will be 40 in T-2 months. It's just another day or as I like to say, another age group and 5 more minutes to qualify for the Boston Marathon (should I ever want to strive towards that goal). To combat the dreaded 40 in her life, she set out on the "Year of the 40." She set goals...40 days in length, and put them into practice immediately. The first was 40 days of no Facebook. I honestly don't remember the 2nd one. The 3rd was 40 days of clean eating. Nothing processed, no meat, no sugar. Basically, it needed to grow from the earth to eat it. Let me tell you, it has been AMAZING!!! She just pushed past her 40-day mark and was victorious. Some of the most inventive, creative meals have graced our dinner table (and my lunch box) and I can't tell her enough "Keep going!!! I get to reap the benefits of YOUR goal!" She's happier and feels better, too. Like in running, you have to do something many times before it comes routine and for her, the 40 days in anything does that. Take pop/soda for example. Yes...it's poison. Yes, she has been drinking it for as long as she can remember. That was a biggie to give up. Well, some Diet Pepsi crept in the house after this past weekend's Stepping Up event I hosted and she decided that since she killed her 40 days of clean eating, why not just take a sip? She hated it. It was disgusting to her. What she expected was that feeling of "Yes! Carbonation!!!" Quite the opposite...she had reprogrammed her body to expect what is good and wholesome and when that was re-introduced, the brain said "No way!" It was a great confirmation and a landmark for her to drill down into the ground. Now, she has embarked on a new "40 days" goal: no shopping except for groceries. OK, ladies...you can relate with this challenge, right? If you're anything like MY wife, you like Target, Bath & Body Works, Starbucks, Kohl's, Marshall's, or anything ending in "Mall." This may be harder than the clean eating! Then yesterday, the coveted "30% off" anything coupon shows up in the mail from Kohl's. HA! Go figure! Well, I didn't sign off on 40 days of no shopping and no one said I can't buy her something so we'll see about that one. Talk about a test right out of the gate. Here's the thing and a big takeaway so far...from my vantage point. Her goals seem a bit out of reach...perhaps even impossible. I mean...really, clean eating for 40 days? 40 years of eating like an "American" and all of a sudden, you're essentially a vegetarian overnight? Sounds a bit IMpossible, I thought. She is proving me wrong and proving to me what goals can do...and how much would NOT happen should no goal had ever been set. "I'm proud of you, Babe."


In the workplace, I know so many people who are very content right where they are. That is all well and good but I still think you must set goals professionally. Whether it's continuing education, collateral duties, taking your performance to a new level, or moving into management, etc., you just HAVE to set some kind of goal. For me, I don't have a goal to be "X" within the government agency that employs me. Instead, I pull up the listings every morning as I sip my morning espresso and raw honey to see what's new. If I qualify and it's close enough to commute, I apply. Period. I want challenge, I want variability. I want things fresh and new and new people to interact with me and help me/make me grow professionally and as a human being. I'm in one of those "growing" phases right now. Nothing I can share yet but I should know soon. :-)

In the home and as a father/husband/leader, I am constantly shaping/re-shaping my goals. I must. To grow stagnant in my crucial role swings the door open to the enemy. Whether you believe or don't believe in spiritual warfare, join me for a run sometime and I'll tell you stories that'll make your hair stand on end. The enemy is real and waits for an opening. Like in war, to take out the leader is a goal in order to ensure defeat. When I was in Afghanistan and General Petreaus would visit my compound, you should've seen the guns and armored vehicles surrounding him. No chances taken. The same goes for me and my role as a protector/leader. I must stay vigilant, keep striving to be better, and not grow complacent. Goals such as praying more with my kids, playing games at night, deep/thought-provoking conversation with them about their days, quiet times of great communication with my wife...all goals and ones ever-changing to keep me sharp.

For running, I have grown into an area where I do want to say "Ahhh...I'm just happy running!!!" Honestly, what I have said most recently is this: I just want to stay in the kind of shape where I can wake up on any given day without warning and walk out my front door and run a 50K or marathon. That's it! Well, I've found that this is a worthy goal but a bit generic and un-defined. I have found that I need actual events on the calendar...not many...but something that keeps me accountable and an essential "prize" on the horizon. I guess that's why I just "had" to sign up for that mountain 40-miler last week. :-) (this year's calendar, so far, is on the right)

So set some goals. Set them today! Once you do, don't keep them to yourself. Tell others about them and ask them to keep you accountable. I love the image below...it shows that it's not only you that can help you achieve your goals. Others can help by joining in, encouraging you, and sometimes by setting the same goal themselves and thereby encouraging both of you. It's contagious...and guess what, people are watching! So set some goals, write them down, and get on living! Perhaps another day I'll share some short and long-term ones of my own. I have some work to do in that area so maybe sharing will help better define them for me. For now, it's time to run. Another day beckons.
Run Happy, friends!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stepping Up Report

Over 1,000 events like the one I had yesterday were held throughout the country on Super Saturday, the day before the Super Bowl just over a week ago. For me, I spent Super Bowl Weekend in uniform so couldn't host Stepping Up on the intended weekend. From a few men in homes to several hundred in churches, anyone or organization could host it. I have a real heart and passion for families and with the degrading of men in this country, I had to support this and host one. Stepping Up is about returning to the root of what men are intended to do...to lead courageously. Courage. Ah heck...what is courage?!

My own personal day began with an early 10 miler around home. With men starting to show up around 8am and still some final preps needing done, I hit the road early and was back home in time to shower and get ready. Fortunately for all 10 men, my wife prepared homemade pulled chicken BBQ in the crock pot along with a nice spread of snacks and always-brewed coffee. The men who responded to the invitation of spending the morning and early afternoon in my home were from the running community, my new church family, and connections to a fellow runner and a few of his friends. All sorts of backgrounds were represented as well along with all kinds of varying beliefs and experiences. I had prayed a lot about this day and that men would be reached and encouraged to step up for their families and LEAD.

The Stepping Up event is video driven. FamilyLife out of Little Rock, AR made it and it's a variety of theatrical segments, well-known male speakers talking on varying subjects and short periods of answering questions and sharing within the group. Luckily, no teaching was required by me and I could participate just like everyone else. We covered everything from what the culture has turned men into, what men are truly called to do, the roadblocks that exist in our life like porn, sexual immorality, and substance abuse and ways to move ahead and lead our families.

Courage: it's doing the right thing...no matter what, even at great personal cost. Being courageous does not mean being unafraid. Actually, a man who says they're never afraid is a liar. We are human beings and humans are afraid. It's standing up in the face of fear and opposition and doing what has to be done...no matter what. That's courage. I liken it to taking the Oath of Office that I've taken as a Naval Officer more than once and a few times as an enlisted sailor in the 90s. I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States...even to the death. That's courage. In a country that has feminized men over the last several decades, it really is time to return to the family where it all begins and start there. In fact, it is my belief that the many problems we see in politics all stem from the home where it begins. We are breeding, as a whole, weak and passive men...little boys hiding in the shadows of their wives, children, and jobs. I love the one way that I heard the definition of a man in today's culture...the three "B's": Billfold, Ball Field, and Bedroom. How much money you make, your physical self in sports, etc., and how well you perform in the bedroom. Sad, isn't it?

I'm very thankful for the day. I was expecting 3-5 men and ended up with 10...which is all my living room could handle. I invited 8 times that many but most men simply ignored it. I do hope that the men that responded take home what they heard and learned and apply it to their lives...starting now. I'm really sick and tired of sitting on the sidelines which is why I hosted it. Men have GOT to step up and be MEN. BRAVE men. COURAGEOUS men. Men who will sacrificially love and protect their wives and children...and lead them. For me, I will remain a work-in-progress for as long as I breathe air. I have a "tool belt" and days like this are but one more tool to keep doing the very best I can.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I "Run Happy"


You may have figured out by now or not that I have a fond liking to Brooks Running. Brooks is one of the leaders in the running footwear category and also makes a plethora of gear from undergarments to jackets for those sub-freezing temperatures. Back 4 years ago, I was picked up...or sponsored for their "Brooks ID" program, or Brooks "Inspire Daily." There are several categories from the elite runners to the race directors to the folks who are more like ambassadors of the sport and the brand...the media sponsorship. Blogging and my deep involvement with Western Reserve Trail Running back then got me in the door. I started the WRTR newsletter with a few hundred subscribers and it ended up with over 3000! Since then, my sponsorship has grown and I was picked up yet again for year #4 in 2013. I can't discuss the details of what sponsorship entails but I can say that I agree to wear the brand in all races and be a true ambassador of the brand. What's REALLY cool about this is that I honestly, truly LOVE Brooks Running. I could rattle off a long list of "likes" but I'll give you just a few highlights.

Brooks Pure Project Pure Flow 2s (casual Friday!)
1. Quality: from short runs around town to 100-mile trail races, I have beat road and trail shoes up alike and it's rare to have a defect. Are they perfect? No. But they do create a quality product. There was a pair of Glycerins (their high end neutral road shoe) that I ordered about a year ago and a thread was protruding up on the upper and I could tell it "could" end up opening up the shoe...not good. I called Brooks, based in Washington state, and an employee immediately picked up. No long hold, no transfer to India...just a fellow Brooks-lover who was ready to help. I described the problem, shot a photo to him, and he replied on e-mail that a new pair was heading out via FedEx immediately. I offered to send the defective shoe back but instead, he suggested I simply run in it or donate it to an organization looking for shoes. Fellow runners have had similar experiences. They don't skimp on quality...either IN their product or serving their customers who wear it.

2. Business: I have my MBA so I've done lots of case studies on businesses, taken classes on economics, studied marketing, etc. I love to watch a business grow and see how they do it. Brooks is on the constant up-tick and this past year had another banner year. Instead of sitting on their tail ends being comfortable, they're reorganizing, thinking more global, re-imagining their business and marketing plans...trying to stay fresh, competitive and always-inventive. I love to see that and love to see them continue to be prosperous.

Brooks "Nightlife" headband vs. Snow Plow
3. Listening: They genuinely listen to the customer. I'm not only a Brooks ID member but also a wear-tester. I've worn about 5 pairs so far. You can apply to be one, too. Basically, you build a profile with them and when they wear-test a product you fit the profile for, they e-mail you and ask if you're still interested and to confirm your profile. A few days later, the "top secret" shoe arrives and you start running! After a few months, a few hundred miles, and a few surveys, it ends. So far, I've been able to keep all of the shoes but one. That one I didn't like at all and guess what, they never released it. They listened! Want to apply to be a wear tester? Click here

They also listen to trends in the running community and even if you don't run, you've probably seen in the news about minimalist running. The craze started with the bestseller, "Born to Run" and was fueled by those Vibram FiveFingers "shoes." Demand increased and now nearly every brand has some kind of minimalist shoe. Brooks' version of this is the Pure Project line. You'd think that someone like me at 200lbs, 6'2" would not do well in a lightweight, minimal shoe. Oh so wrong! I have had HUGE success. Because of the drastically reduced cushioning, especially in the heel, I now run far more efficient as I land more mid-foot (as our bodies were designed to do) and my old injury from the 2009 Oil Creek 100-miler has completely disappeared. The change in my gait has been amazing and I swear I'm faster, too. :-) Just over a month ago, the 2nd generation of the Pure Project line was released and I already have 2 pairs of the Pure Flows. LOVE them!

4. Earth-Friendly: From packaging to their shoes, they are making further strides to reducing their carbon footprint on the Earth. Many of their shoes now are made with BioMoGo which is designed to go away faster in the landfill...more earth-friendly. From the factory to the landfill, they are making strides in doing what's right. Their whole initiative is called "Running Responsibly." You can read more about it here, if you're interested. From environmental to social impact, they care.

I have to tell you how I found Brooks. Until the Akron Marathon came around, I was a hard-core Asics runner. The Nimbus was my shoe of choice and you couldn't get me to try anything different. Well, Brooks jumped onboard with the Akron Marathon from the very beginning and in the early years, ALL finishers of the marathon distance got a FREE pair of shoes. FREE. They simply went to a local running store after the race and got fit for their new pair of Brooks. That was the beginning. I fell in love with them and who knows how many thousands of miles I've run in Brooks since then. From hats, headbands, tech-tees, jackets, underwear, base-layers, socks, pants, shorts and of course, SHOES...I love it all and wear it all. If it was garbage, believe me...I'd find somewhere else to support. Are they perfect? Of course not. Are there other brands out there making quality products? Of course. I'm just proud to lace up everyday in a pair of Brooks and wear their brand in nearly all I do. Heck, tomorrow is casual Friday in my government job and you can bet I'll have my Pure Flows, socks, and new 1/4 zip long-sleeve tech tee on. Maybe I'll even "Run Happy" before work, too. :-)

Here are a few photos as of late that are Brooks-related that I thought I'd share with you. The top one is super cool. It's from just a few days ago. It's my footprint in the snow. The shoe is the 1st generation Pure Connect. I think it would be great on a black Brooks tech tee...don't you?!

Pure Flow 2
Pure Flow 2 and Spartan Pant II - Tall
Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes
Highly coveted promotional watch! :-)
Want to follow Brooks on Twitter? Click here.

Want to follow ME on Twitter?! Click here!

Run Happy, friends!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Registered: Highlands Sky 40 Mile Trail Run

I was looking over the layout of my blog a few days ago and noticed a big hole in my race calendar over on the right. April 28th to September 28th...nada. There are a few races in there that I'm fully aware of in the trail running hotbed that I live in but I was curious what else was out there. I posted the comment on Facebook and got some great feedback from friends. Ragnar Relay, North Country, Laurel Highlands 70...all great options. The Highland Sky 40 Miler was also mentioned on June 15th in the mountains of West Virginia. The date worked, the location was untouched by me in my life which was appealing, the distance from home was perfect (about 4 1/2 hours), and the lodge in the mountains provided a perfect trip for not only me but a getaway from my whole family...while I traversed through the mountains on a hot, June day. I did my research, asked opinions from those who had done it before, called the lodge with more questions, and made the decision to do it. By the time the work day ended yesterday, I had registered for the race and booked a few nights at the lodge.

Here is the quick-n-dirty race description from the race's webpage: "The course traverses Roaring Plains and Dolly Sods Wilderness through some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in West Virginia. Dolly Sods is an area of high elevation, windswept plains ranging from 2500 to 4700 feet elevation. Trail terrain varies from woodland paths, rock and boulder, to upland bogs, through northern hardwoods at lower elevations, to Red Spruce and heath barrens above 4000 feet. Canaan is the highest large valley east of the Mississippi. The Valley creates the headwaters of the Blackwater River and has a unique environment composed of wetlands and uplands with vegetation characteristic of more northern latitudes." Sounds great, eh?!

So with that, my first race over the 50K (31.2 miles) distance since I ran the Oil Creek 100 Miler in October 2009. The 100-mile bug hasn't bit deeply enough yet so 2013 won't be the year I return to that. I've really been craving something more than a 50K and this fits the bill. I also realized last night how truly appropriate this race is...I turn 40 years old only 2 months prior to the race. 40 miles...40 years...it must be meant to be. :-)

Run Happy, friends!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Another Navy Weekend...and some "deep" thoughts

Just after being home from two weeks on active duty, this past weekend was yet another weekend in my Navy threads. If you're not following along, I am the XO (Executive Officer) of my unit and will be the Acting CO (Commanding Officer) after March's drill weekend as the current one deploys to war. As a relatively junior officer, (O-3...Navy Lieutenant), being the acting CO is a pretty big deal, especially in a unit that is so heavy in mobilizations to Afghanistan. Many many Navy reservists sit in units that don't do a whole lot. We, however, never stop and serve a vital mission on the warfront. For me, though, I will not deploy with this command again as I did back in 2011. The month where my eligibility comes up again is just over a month PAST when I roll out of this unit. Darn! :-) In the meantime, though, we are sending and welcoming home sailors and airmen monthly. Yep...Airmen. I have 6 Air Force Reservists in my command, too.

So this past weekend, we were super busy. I sent off three more sailors to war and welcomed home one. While I don't like that ratio, it's what we've signed up to do. With those departures, there is a lot of paper work and evaluations to do, so we kept very busy with that. We also had the opportunity to present some joint achievement medals to recently returned sailor/airmen warriors so on Sunday afternoon, we got everyone into formation and formally presented them. The photo here is of me reading the citations on the award certificates as the Commanding Officer presented the medals (not shown). Always, always an honor to do this.

Driving home through the snow last night, doing my best to get home for the Super Commercials, I had lots of time to think and evaluate myself. Deep thoughts can always be dangerous so give me some latitude, will ya?! There is such a distinction from what I do IN uniform vs. what I do as a civilian. It's not just the uniform, either. It's the culture. Let me do some compare contrast for you to better explain what I'm aiming at here:

Respect: it's earned but always shown in uniform. Rank matters and there is no wavering from it. Respect the rank always and hopefully respect the one wearing it. In the civilian world, it seems to be a popularity contest and going with the flow. Whether deserved or not, you may or may not get it...regardless of your "rank."

Entitlement: The sense of entitlement in this country is gut-wrenching. The concept of working hard for what you want has been diminishing and being replaced by an empty (or full) outstretched hand. The same exists in the workplace. In uniform, we have basic entitlements like pay, uniform, etc. Beyond that, you'd better work for it. Huh? Yes, work for it. For me, that means an opportunity to lead like never before and EARN the respect of my sailors and airmen. Not too many JOs (junior officers) get the kind of opportunity I have sought out and am doing.

Freedom from what is PC: Ah, political correctness. Name the topic: race, sexuality, party-affiliation. We may have our opinions but they don't cross the line of our service. We wear the uniform...we are equal. No matter if we like boys or girls, we're black/white/whatever, we're a hard core liberal or right wing extremist...in uniform, we are United States military. Period. To wipe the slate clean from all the garbage that "clogs" up our world....well, it's simply refreshing. Freedom to serve uninhibited by my/your opinion and focus on the mission at hand...all while doing it with respect and honor.

Selflessness: "I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." That is the oath I took back on Labor Day 2007 and twice more as I was advanced a few ranks. That oath is the removal of self and in its place, my country...it's citizens...it's Constitution. It is selfless in its very nature. Please tell me how selflessness rules in our civilian population today. It does not. No surprise, though. We are ALL born selfish. We have to make a deliberate choice to not be.

Nearly home last night, the 'ol bladder had reached it's maximum capacity and only 15 minutes from home, I pulled into a Wendy's. After using the bathroom, I felt obliged to purchase something from them. While in line, a young "lady" approached me from the side: "Excuse me, Sir. My name is ______. I'm in the Sea Cadets at my school. I'm a Second Class Petty Officer." She stood tall. She was proud. She was shaking the hand of a Naval Officer and she beamed from ear to ear. I asked her what grade she was in and what school she was going to. Quick answers ending in "Sir" followed and more smiles. After shaking her hand, her mom was calling and off she went. "Dang," I thought. "That was super cool.  There IS hope!"  Let me describe this girl. She is certainly not in the "popular" crowd at school. You know how the "popular" kids look at school and how the "others" do. She, like me, was part of the "others." Yet there she is...a part of the U.S. Navy Sea Cadets, desiring to serve in the 10th Grade. She is the epitome of what we need in this country. A desire to serve while rendering a salute vs. her hand being palm up asking for more. I won't soon forget my little encounter with the 10th Grade Sea Cadet.

I love being in uniform. Perhaps I should be in it full time. I just don't know. For now, it's my "part time" gig but one I love more than you know. I love to serve my country and I love (selfishly) how it makes me feel inside. I look forward to the next time.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Religion vs. Authenticity

It's been a crazy busy week so I've had to let the blog take a backseat. There has been one post, though, that I've been wanting to write and since I have a few moments tonight, I wanted to share. Warning: it may ruffle some readers' feathers. No apologies intended...just a friendly warning. I hesitate calling it a "religious" post but you may...you'll understand my hesitation in a moment. :-)

You surely have noticed here in 2013 how polarized our country is. Evidence of this lies right there within our government. It's so split and muddied up that they can't agree on anything. Out here in the real world, Facebook is apparently king and many people jump on their soapbox and preach whatever it is they feel strongly about. Common themes today are healthcare, gay marriage, war vs no war, gun control, etc. Everyone is apparently an expert on whatever topic they choose to opine about. When it's all said and done, we all put one leg into a pair of pants followed by the other, we sleep, we eat, we breathe...all commonalities amongst our race of humans. Once that heart inside stops beating, we all end up 6' under, in an urn, or spread on some far off or nearby beach. Our origin is also the same as is our ending. One determined and successful sperm + one egg = us. So somewhere in the middle, we find ourselves living our lives. Some of us "live for today," some of us "live IN yesterday," and many others live to live another day. Most are selfish, some are selfless, and most are plugged in, ready to grab the latest app update just as soon as it's ready to download. Whole entire conversations never have a word spoken. Instead, we see faces down, thumbs texting, and the art of communication dumbed down to a mutated form of "communication"...which is hardly real communication at all. Gotta have it, have it now, and gotta get more of it.

As a Christian, I was raised within the Baptist church. That Baptist church was located within a nearly 100% caucasian neighborhood town. There was one African-American family in town when I was in grade school but they quickly moved away. In that church and while being raised, I learned "religion". A common question was "What religion are you?" I'm Baptist....or, I'm Catholic. Most had an answer. Within these "religions," there were ways of doing things, ways of singing, ways to pray "properly," how much to give monetarily on Sunday, and certain "views" of others who didn't necessarily agree with our views. Today, I define religion as this: "a set of rules developed by man and not by God in order to properly have church and worship as a local body." (my definition and mine alone) I suggest that these rules are set by interpretation of the Scriptures and different versions of Scripture. Depending on the version and who "founded" the particular religion determines the rules. There are so many religions today and even ones that are called nearly the exact same name yet differ drastically from each other in fundamental beliefs, like gay marriage, for example. It's amazing.

So now to where I'm going here: I (hate) religion. I put the word (hate) in parenthesis because it's such a strong word and one I really try not to use too often. I will leave it up to you to insert your own word. Other words like "despise" and "strongly dislike" come to mind. Why? It's simple, actually. I believe more than Jesus Christ being a "good man." I literally believe that He actually died and rose again. I believe He literally took on my sins and yours and washed them away. Whether or not you believe as I do, I hope you will read further. Christ led a perfect life. He didn't live to a set of rules. When some of the most famous Bible stories are told of such things like miracles, nearly always, Christ broke the ethnic and cultural barriers to prove a point. He chose prostitutes, tax collectors, and crooks instead of the well-to-do and culturally acceptable. As I live, I believe that I am to live as much like Christ as possible. He's the shining example of what I should pursue. "Christlikeness" is a common term thrown around but when taken to heart, what does it look like today?

For one, it's a selflessness like none other. It's putting others' needs in front of our own. It's not living according to some religion's set of rules as to who we should/can associate with. It's not praying a certain way because everyone else does.

We MUST come to know the true character of who He is.
"Abba, Father."

Let that soak in just a second. Father. The "ultimate" Father at that. Get this...this is a guy who took nails in a human body because He loves us. He could've ended it at any time but CHOSE not to. Even more, God the Father sent His SON as a living sacrifice. That always blows my mind away. What would I say if I was asked to sacrifice my own child so that another may live? I will admit that I would not be willing in any way to do any such thing! Selfish? Sure it is when you compare it to the cross. Even trying to comprehend how much He loves us is nearly impossible...yet people trash Him so heavily.

So as I walk my daily walk, I do my very best to be transparent. This blog is one way to doing that. I am not someone who is a Bible-thumper and goes out to the local street corner preaching or putting it in others' faces. I wholly believe that is NOT what Christ did. He lived a sinless, perfect life FOR OTHERS TO WITNESS. He walked the walk and was the prime example of what is means to live and live in such a way as to bless others. Back to me: I don't stay away from folks who don't believe as I do. I don't seek them out, either. I simply am who I am and should I cross your path, then I will do my humanly best to treat you authentically and respectfully. Do I always succeed? Nope. I certainly fail. Everyone does. Some people screw up ROYALLY but still, it changes nothing. It's not always pleasant and easy to do this and it's something I need to work on but I'm trying. Instead of gossiping about others, pointing fingers, turning our noses up at them, how about we do like Christ did and treat them with respect, love, and acceptance. That reminds me: acceptance. This is such a sore spot nowadays.

I do not have to accept what you believe in order to accept YOU.

Oh, the horrible litmus test of "If you don't believe as I do, then you're the devil!!!!" Well, that's a "bit" drastic but dead on in many cases. I've lost count as to how many have blasted me for not believing as they do. In today's 21st century world, that's better known as a short spat on Facebook followed by being unfriended. Good grief! What's really sad is that is now resulting in me not participating in races that I love because I am no longer welcome there. The absolute TRUTH is that yea, I may not agree with you...I don't have to, but I don't reject you! I embrace your friendship! Unfortunately, that's all-too-often not the case and off they go...for good.

So in the end, Christ is my example. His footsteps are the ones I want to walk in. I'll never fit into His shoes but I will try for as long as I breathe air. Sacrificial love of my wife and my children, serving others, and living a transparent, Christ-centered life for others to see and thereby accept...or not. Either way, I choose to accept them. Sometimes, it will feel impossible to do so but I'll just keep plugging along, doing my best.

You see...Christ was there for me at the lowest of lows...when I had no further left to fall. That time was not too far in the distant past, either. Yet, He was there and I am breathing at this moment because of Him. I will never, ever forget His grace for me and so there you see, if He can do that for me.....ME....then how can I possibly be bound by any set of rules other than living as close to how He lived and live to honor Him in all I do?  I simply know no other way.