26 Point Tutu

“Uh oh.”

That’s the thought I had after an all-too-fast 5 mile run on a Thursday…two days before my long 20 miler — the longest training run of the season for the Chicago Marathon.

My pace had been, up until that point, a steady 10:15/10:30 minute-per-mile pace…and I was happy with that.  A 10:18 pace would allow me to cross the finish line on October 8 at around 4 and a half hours.  However, this particular Thursday, I was feeling healthy and light, with a touch of let’s-just-get-this-over-with.  I ended up running the 5 at a 9:05 pace…over a minute faster than I was used to at the time.

It must have been the perfect combination of aggravation for my Achilles, but because of the quick pace, and then the 3.5 hours on my feet for the long run, the 20 miler on Saturday was the last real training run I would do before the Marathon.  Essentially, I took a 3-week break before running 26.2 miles.

I was hopeful on race day because my achilles was feeling good.  I was also hopeful that taking 3 weeks off of running right before a marathon wouldn’t effect me TOO bad.  While the Achilles did well through the race, the 3 weeks off + increased temperatures on race day seemed to be the perfect combo to zap any energy I had stored up.  A hopeful 4:30 marathon turned into a grueling 5:48 finish.

But, with anything in life, there are lessons to be learned.

It’s not about me.

This lesson was, and still is, a tough one.  All 3 of my marathons have been linked to raising funds for Team World Vision.  It’s easy to say on the surface that it’s not about me, my finish time, how well I manage the course, or how I feel during the 26.2 miles.  It’s tougher to live out those things when circumstances arise that jeopardize them.

When issues arose with my achilles, I was super bummed.  However, one thing it allowed me to do is turn my focus a little bit away from running and a shift it to fundraising.  I had more time to brainstorm ways to inspire people to join the cause and donate to clean water.  I remembered my friend Billy rockin’ a Tutu as a way to raise money, so I decided to do the same thing!

 

Was it slightly annoying running for almost 6 hours in a Tutu?  Yep.  But again, it’s not about me.

Around mile 9 or 10 I realized I wasn’t going to run a 4:30 marathon, so again I had to refocus my mind and reshape my expectations.  I was walking every few minutes so I’d use those opportunities to talk to people…most of whom I didn’t know.  One man had a running jersey that was promoting cancer research.  The back of his jersey said, “Running for Dad.”  So I walked beside him for a bit and asked him about his Dad. I learned his Dad had passed away a couple of years ago from Cancer, and since then this man had taken up marathons to raise awareness and money for the cause.

This “it’s not about me” way of running a marathon was inspiring and giving me energy.  It was put to the test, however, around mile 24.  I noticed a guy on the sidewalk bent over in pain.  I walked up to him and asked, “Hey man, you ok?”

“Nah dude, I jacked up my hip.”  (Note: He didn’t say ‘jacked’)

He then asked if he could run to the finish with me…he needed someone to run with that would motivate him and keep him going.  “Sure!” I said.

Because I had gained some energy and experienced a sort of “second wind”, I was secretly hoping to have a strong finish and run in to the finish at a quicker pace.  Running with this guy would prevent me from doing that.  “It’s Ok” I kept telling myself… “It’s not about you.”  Even still, I could feel myself wanting to tell this guy that I was going to run on.

He wanted to be distracted from his hip, so I began asking questions about his life, his family and his work.  I learned about his girlfriend of two years, how he grew up in the city, and how he wasn’t a religious person at all.  Meanwhile, I’m battling my internal desire to find a reason to run on and leave him to finish by himself.  The struggle was real, but I’m glad I chose not to run on.

We crossed the finish line together, got our medals, and then I made sure he got to a first aid tent.

At the end of the day it would have boosted my ego a little bit to have a faster finish time, but who knows where that conversation could go?  Maybe nowhere.  Maybe that conversation was solely intended for me…a God-ordained conversation to teach me that it’s not about me.

 

Make like a Tree and ______

During my work day I am trying to incorporate “White Space.”  If you’re not familiar with this concept, I’d encourage you to head this website.  Juliet Funt gave a spectacular talk at the Global Leadership Summit.  Her premise was that busyness was destroying creativity and productivity…and thus we need more “pause” time, or White Space.

During a 5 minute “White Space” break in my day, I was looking at the trees right outside my window.  This time of year in the Midwest is when leaves begin changing color and falling to the ground.  It’s expected, natural, and quite beautiful.  It’s also effortless.

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Come with me as I personify some inanimate objects for a minute.

The tree doesn’t have to sit the leaf down and have a chat.  “Um..hey.  Yea, it’s been a great summer…really.  But it’s that time of year again…well, umm…where you’re gonna have to fall.”  To which the leaf would respond, “What?!  No way, man.  I’m stickin’ around this time. I fell last year.”

That imaginary conversation would never happen.  Why?  Because I imagine the leaf understands seasons.  The leaves know exactly what season they’re in.  It’s the season where they change into beautiful colors, leap off the tree, and hit the ground softly like a whisper that, if you listen closely, sounds a lot like, “it’s almost winter.”

OK, personification over.  But allow me to make some personal applications.

Seasons in nature have always reminded me of seasons in our lives.  It’s one of the reasons I love living in the Midwest — I get 4 drastic reminders every year!  Leaves falling is synonymous with one season ending another one beginning.  It makes me think of the verse in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens…

In life there are seasons.  Growth seasons.  Painful seasons.  Fun seasons.  Hard seasons.  Joyful seasons.  Fill-in-the-blank-Seasons.  God will teach us something in each season if we’ll allow Him.

What season are you in?  What season could you be going into?  Are you holding too tightly to a season that has expired?

 

Caught Scrolling

As a Christian, I’m always interested in being aware of habits that move me either closer to or further away from Jesus.  Both are important, for obvious reasons.  The habits that move me closer to Him are the ones to keep.  The habits that move me further away are the ones to stop.

There’s a habit that I’ve paid attention to for the past few months, and it’s the habit of scrolling. Whether on my phone or laptop, I’ll catch myself simply scrolling. It could be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even the News App.

What am I looking for?  Perhaps the next funny picture?  The next controversial post? The next brilliant quote for me to read, then forget 3 seconds later? Breaking news that no one’s yet heard?

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For the most part, this is a neutral habit. For the most part.

There are two consequences of scrolling that I’ve noticed (so far) in my own life.

  • Scrolling shuts off my mind.  Social Media (and Media, in general) has an addictive nature.  I’m sure there have been studies about this.  For me, it’s proved true.  Certain functions of my brain shut off, and I’m left just mindlessly scrolling, with no real goal in mind.  Just by itself, this fact is scary and has potentially dangerous outcomes for other areas of life.
  • Scrolling wastes time.  I hate to admit this, but I’ve wasted hours staring at my phone. I trick myself into thinking I’ll miss out if I don’t scroll.  And so I keep scrolling.

Don’t hear me say that Social Media is bad.  In my opinion, it’s a tool to be used.  For example, I’m currently using it to raise awareness and funds for clean water projects in some of the most high-need areas of the world. (insert shameless plug here)

To go back to my opening, however, I’ve begun noticing that this habit has the potential to move me further from Jesus.  If left unchecked, scrolling can lead to lots of other detrimental things (comparison, envy, jealousy, etc).

Being aware of this is key.  And because of the awareness, I’ve begun putting boundaries on how often I’m on my phone.  I’m not perfect, but I’m already liking the results.

How do you use Social Media?  Do you have any boundaries on it?

 

Why not me? – eBook Launch!

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, I began to journal my thoughts, feelings and learnings into a page in Evernote.  It was a healthy way of processing for me that allowed me to write down raw emotions and fears, while also writing down hopes, dreams and things I felt God was teaching me.

Ever since that time I’ve had a dream of putting on paper what I went through and how God formed me along the way.

Well, after a couple of weeks of intentional time, some prayer, and some editing by my beautiful wife, I’m launching an eBook today.

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How can you get it?

In about a month or so, I’ll figure out a way to post it on this blog so it’s an easy click-buy process.  But between now and October 8, I’m doing something completely different. Why October 8?  That’s when I run the Chicago Marathon with Team World Vision.

You may have already guessed where this is going.  Any donation to Team World Vision will get you the eBook!

A one-time $50 donation allows a kid to have access to clean water…forever.  Now, I do NOT think what I wrote is worth $50, but I do think clean water is.

You might be able to give $10, or $25.  That’s fantastic.  I’ll send you the eBook all the same. Others of you can afford a $1,000 donation.  For you, I’ll send TWO copies 😉

Joking aside, the way to get the eBook (at least for now) is to make any donation to my page, and then the email you provide when you donate will be the email I send the eBook to.  It’s that simple.

Let’s help some kids get clean water!

 

Running for Them

I began running so that I could eat extra food on Thanksgiving.

While the above sentence might be a slight exaggeration, the first race I did was with my sister and best friend – and it was the Detroit Turkey Trot.  I don’t remember a lot surrounding that race, but I do remember finishing and getting the runners “high”.  And then they handed me a finishers medal?  I was hooked.

(And I did eat extra food that day, as well.  Because…Turkey.)

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Since that race, I’ve run a few half-Marathons, a few more Turkey Trots, some 5K’s, and a couple of Marathons (both Chicago).  I tell people that I enjoy running – but truth be told, I enjoy finishing runs.  The sense of accomplishment is addicting!

Running for a cause, specifically Team World Vision, began in 2012 with my first Chicago Marathon.  This kind of running was different.  Sure, I was running the same miles…but there was an added element of putting myself out there for the sake of someone else.  #Fundraising.

As I’ve grown over the years and learned more about how I’m wired, I’ve learned that I can lean towards finding worth/value in what other people think of me.  This shows itself in my running.  When I post about a run, will people think I’m awesome?  Will people notice my time, or how many miles I ran?  That kind of thinking is not always prevalent, but it’s there more than I’d like to admit.  It’s the ugly side of how I sometimes use social media.

For me, running for a cause turns that type of thinking on its head.  I’m no longer posting so that people think I’m awesome (although battling that mindset still exists).  Now, I’m posting so that people…kids…in Africa don’t have to walk 3 miles one way just to get water (and the water they do get is often dirty).

I’m posting so that communities can gain access to a sustainable source of clean water.  Water equals redeemed time.  Water equals education.  Water equals health.

Water Equals Life.

So will you join me?  $50 allows one kid to never have to walk for water again – ever.   My goal is help 200 kids experience that reality.

I’ll run the miles (and not just because it allows me to eat a little more on Thanksgiving).  My hope is that you’ll join in and help bring clean water to those who need it.

Things Unnoticed

“Your car is done, dude.”

Those were the words I heard from the Mechanic on the other end of the phone call.  He wasn’t calling to tell me my car was ready to be picked up, either.  I was going to be on a Mission Trip with Elevate for a week, so I figured I’d drop my car off and let the mechanics work on whatever was urgent.

Well, what I didn’t know was that my car had SO MANY issues that it was going to be the smarter move to not put any more money into fixing it, and begin looking for a newer car.

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It didn’t take too long to find one.  I might have been extra-motivated to replace my car when the Mechanics used phrases like “punctured tire” and “stranded on the side of the road.”  We had our sights on a vehicle we liked, the price was about what we intended to spend, so we went for it.

The car I was replacing was a 2006 Saturn Vue.  The car my wife and I bought was a 2016 Ford Fusion (Sorry Dad, aka the 30 year GM Employee).

One of the first things I noticed was how smooth and quiet the ride was.  Truly.  It was incredible to me.  Now, this post is not intended to be a review of the Fusion.  What I kept thinking was, “I never really knew my old car was so loud!”

Meagan, my wife, had often told me that my car was not as awesome as I made it out to seem.  She would often point out all the flaws and tell me all the things she didn’t like about it.  I would always take my cars side…ya know, stand up for the poor thing…SOMEONE had to like it, and it might as well be the owner!

What I see now is that I would often gloss over all the faults because it was all I had, and it had been “all I had” for over 11 years.  I got used to the noisy cabin.  I was accustomed to the ripped-up seats.  I chuckled when it would make various noises while going down the road.  Eventually all of those things became background noise that went unnoticed.

As I was riding in the newer car, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to how we live our Christian life.

The ripped-up seats and noisy cabins of our lives could be a number of things – certain sins that we’ve accepted for so long that they just fade into the background of our lives, unnoticed.

Daily walking with Jesus means daily doing the work of noticing the things that aren’t aligned with Him, and seeking to correct them.  Maybe it’s an attitude, or maybe an action.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the journaling practice I blogged about a few months back.  Taking inventory of my life on a regular basis means I’m more likely to notice that which would normally go unnoticed.

I’m not batting 1000% on this, and I’m sure I have plenty of unnoticed areas that need attention.  But I will say that creating “noticing habits” – like journaling – has helped me move forward in some areas.

For me, it’s not a matter of IF I have things in my life that go unnoticed, it’s a matter of doing the work to find those out.  I’d guess it’s the same with you.  Here’s to doing the hard work of noticing (and then doing something about it).

We’re Still Climbing

Often times on Wednesday morning I’ll attempt to make a 5:00am spinning class (indoor cycling) at the gym at which my wife and I are members.  I don’t have perfect attendance, but I’m fairly proud to be among the 8-10 crazies that could be called regulars.

The instructor that leads the class is quite intense.  What comes to your mind when you think “Military Drill Sargent”?  Yep.  That’s what comes to my mind too.  And that describes this instructor perfectly.

One thing this instructor LOVES to do is “gradual climbs.”  Basically we ride for 15 minutes or so, and every 20-30 seconds we increase the tension on the bike one-half-turn.  We do this at least twice, sometimes three times if he’s feeling extra generous.

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One Wednesday morning, during one of our gradual climbs, everyone thought we were coming to the end of the climb and so we all looked at the instructor, waiting for the “ease up the tension!” command. But it never came.  He saw our tired eyes staring at him, and so he offered some encouragement.

“Don’t worry, we’re still climbing!”

He had a smirk on his face…as if to say, “Nice try, suckers.”  And so we kept climbing.

But it got me thinking.  That’s how life is, right?  It really doesn’t matter what aspect of life we’re talking about – navigating marriage, parenting kids, launching a new business, building a ministry – there’s an aspect where we will always be climbing.  There will always be a hill in front us.

Sure, some hills may be bigger than others, but rarely in life do we get to just coast.  And come to think of it – would we want to coast if that was an option?  Isn’t climbing hills, taking new ground, changing personally (inside and out), and creating momentum part of the excitement of life?

As image-bearers of the Creator God, part of our wiring is to build, create, move, change, inspire and empower…we were made for climbing life’s hills!  I’m seeking to change my perspective on the hills of life – big and small.  Hills can mean pain and struggle…but they can also be great indicators that it’s not over yet, no matter how we feel.

What if we saw the challenges of life as an opportunity to stretch our God-given muscles to climb?  What if challenges were proof that we were, in fact, still in the game and have something incredible to offer our world?

Maybe you think you’re about tapped out of energy, and you can’t do much more.  I’d offer the same words my instructor offered the class:

Don’t worry, you’re still climbing.