Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crossing the Threshold - Great Floridian Half-Ironman Triathlon

It was about a year-and-a-half ago that I sat in my basement with my dad watching the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii. At the time I was in peak training for a marathon, spent quite a bit of my time thinking about training and endurance. The Ironman is the ultimate endurance sport. You begin by plunging into the water for a 2.4 mile swim. After emerging from the depths, you immediately make your way to the transition area where get you bike and gear, jump on the saddle and head out for a 112 mile spin, only to return to the transition area, put on the running shoes and jolt out for the last leg – a 26.2 mile run. Throughout high school and even college as I competed in cross country, I stood intrigued, curious and in admiration of someone engaging such a grueling day of physical exertion and mental challenge.

As I sat on the floor, that particular Sunday afternoon, I once again had the thought that I had had years earlier – “I would love to do something like that.” This thought was quickly followed by something to the effect, “I’m training for a marathon/26.2 run, but could I do that after all the swimming and cycling…? Further, could I even do the swimming and cycling part to even get to the part I can do, i.e. the running?” The mental conversation soon ended as I probably unconsciously concluded I could never do such a epic exploit.

This spring, once the snow, ice and signs that we were soon coming to the end of another artic Northern Indiana winter, I laced up the shoes and began training for a season of road (running) races that would conclude with a marathon in October. It wasn’t long before my intentions shifted, significantly. A conversation with a friend, some unearthing of old desires, and an emergence of new impetus to push myself beyond the threshold of what I’ve ever physically attempted. Something that would require perhaps a greater amount of intentionality, planning, training and effort than had previously been exerted.

Last Thursday served to finish up 7 months – 30 weeks – three-hundred-and-fifty some hours of training, as my dad and I loaded up and drove from North Carolina to Florida for the Great Floridian Challenge – Half Ironman Triathlon.

The Great Florida Challenge is a1.2 mile swim, followed by a 58 mile bike ride through Sugar Loaf Mountain, followed by a 13.1 mile run. The trek took me 5:28:43.

Something significantly happens when we push ourselves beyond the thresholds of where we’ve been before. This is true whether it’s physically, mentally, relationally or spiritually. What’s more amazing is how each of these areas of our life influence and interact with other areas of our lives – we are one.

I’ve found that something happens to my mental and spiritual outlook during these seasons of intense and intentional physical training. Yet, isn’t it astounding how often we can so easily settle in to the status quo of life with the numbing effects of a mediocre existence?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Whole Story & Five-Minute Devotions...

Finding a good Children's Bible can be very difficult. That is, finding one that actually portrays and walks through the storyline of Scripture, rather than arbitrarily selecting novel bible stories that make for great flannel board display, but are often highlighted in such a way that actually does a disservice to the over arching narrative of Scripture.

Unfortunately, the predominate model(s) used in the average Children's Bible, as well as most Sunday School and Children's Curriculums used on Sundays are often bite sized Bible chunks of individual stories that are disengaged from the larger Scriptural Storyline. As result, we learn niffy "morals," which have a place, about select Bible characters, but fail to make the connection of how that particular character, as well as the aforementioned story contribute to the dealings and pursuit of God with humanity.

Each night for the past couple of years Micah and I read through the Story of Scripture. We take about fifteen minutes each night. There are two particular children's Bibles that we use, one of which actually does a great job tracking through the narrative as a whole without irrelevantly getting stuck on the "popular" stories. We've gone through each of these Bibles at least five times.

Last month, after finishing another round through the Bible, we picked up something new off the bookshelf. A book recently given to us (Naylah actually) by Charissa's parents. It's probably the best children's devotional I've ever read. The author of the Five Minute Devotions for Children: Celebrating God's World As a Family, Pamela Kennedy explores the temperament and make up of various animals. She looks at how the act and interact, as well as other interesting tid-bits of their development process. She then relates that to our walk with God with a few thoughts and several questions. I've found the questions to be simple, yet they've provided a great spring board into deeper conversations with Micah about our walk with God and a host of other things... If you're looking for something to read with your children, this could be well worth the time and money...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wordle Reflections...

Wordle is an online means of "generating 'word clouds.'" It's simple. You provide the text, and it generates the text into a "word cloud."

The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends. Below are two that I created in about three-minutes.


These "word clouds" could be utilized as a means of reflection, contemplation or centering prayer. Simply allow yourself to move in and out of the various words, reflecting, letting the words draw you in and then allowing God to move, draw, invite and speak to you through them...

(Philippians 2:12-13)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Obama and McCain Miss Oppurtunity for Grand-Slam...

By in large, last night's presidential debate was a series of pointing fingers and telling America what the "other-guy" really stands for and plans on doing if elected.

Of course, in between the pointing of the finger and the "you gotta be kidding me" courtesy smiles, there was quite a bit of "When I'm elected I promise to -fill in the blank-..."

For the most part, the questions were all about the economy crisis and war overseas. I suppose we can thank Tom B. for the questions selections...

Personally, it wasn't all that exciting, nor insightful, at least until the last question.

The very last question of the night, in my opinion, was a blank canvas for either of these men to really put something on the table that could set them apart, show them distinct and come real close to at least persuading this voter in their direction.

The question was something to the tune of, "What do you not know, and how do you plan to learn about that...?"

Obama, took this as a springboard for one last jab at President Bush's decision to go to war, along with Senator McCain's backing and then took us down memory lane in an attempt to communicate, "I know what it's like to be poor, etc etc etc..."

McCain, returned the favor, gave a verbal jab and also preceded to take us down memory lane of what it was like to be without a dad around, thus he too could relate to the average bear.

What both of the presidential canidates failed to do was simply answer the question.

"What don't you know....?"
"How do you plan to learn...?"

Perhaps the easiest question of the evening, yet also the hardest.

On the one hand, you have to in humility admit, "I don't know what I don't know..." Which none of us do, at least alone...

But, what was most disappointing for me was, neither of them could (or choose) to tell us how they "learn." How will they as president make well informed decisions? How they plan to bring people to the table with skills that they themselves do not possess. How they as a leader are constantly challenging themselves, what they know and the conclusions they've arrived at to this point. That they know how to resource information and people to discover what they don't know and how it's affecting what they do know...

I simply wish, the would have convinced me they were a life long learner.

This in and of itself would have outweighed all the arm-wrestling, finger-pointing, circle-talking, promising-giving, know-all-the-answers-but-not-saying-anything talking that went on during most of the debate exchange. This, I think was an optimal opportunity for either Obama or McCain to finish the night with a Grand Slam... Instead, two strikes...