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You’ve heard it said, “New year, new you.”

What if I told you that goal is too small? What if you and I were made for so much more than self-glory?

In view of all the reasons I run, and with a goal of getting uncomfortable, in 2015 I’ve made it a goal to take something 1) I personally enjoy, that is 2) a noble pursuit, and 3) make it less about me connecting it to a bigger ambition. Last year, as part of a noble pursuit of health and fitness, I attempted a sprint triathlon, enjoyed the training and was pleased with the results.

Since triathlon—like all other pursuits—can easily morph into a triple event in self-actualization (look at me! 3x), I have to fight against that urge and make it more about true global needs. Instead of asking God to make my dreams come true, I’m learning to let those dreams die to see His dreams come to life. 1

Team World Vision | Triathlon

So, this year I’m swimming-biking-running with Team World Vision to help provide clean water for communities in Africa. The needs are real, but there is something we can do!

$50 = clean water for 1 person

Will you donate to provide clean water for 1, 2, 3, or even more people in Africa?

Clean WaterTogether we can help change lives in Africa across Ghana, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia.

- – -
The Race: On June 21st I’ll swim-bike-run in the Clackamas Cove Triathlon (you’re welcome to join me). 2 Last year was my first attempt at a triathlon; this time I want to not only place first in my age division, but more importantly: reach this goal of providing clean water for 30 people in Africa? Will you join me?

World Vision works with communities in desperate need to help provide things like clean water, nutritious food, education, medical care, and economic opportunity.

Links:

Thanks for your support!
—Jeff

  1. My body ‘needs’ many things, including being daily punished into godly submission to Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27), yet more than that: everyone needs clean water!
  2. An aside: the Clackamas Cove Triathlon is not officially connected to my fundraiser. Their good work in the Oregon City community focuses on local charities.
 

Let’s get uncomfortable!

“Western culture has things a little backwards right now. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”1

That’s a keen insight from long-distance runner Dean Karnazes. His words apply to all “adventure,” really all of life, as running and training can be a good metaphor for the real “endurance” events we call daily life. The ordinary, common, everyday activities are where we need the will to persevere and willingness to get uncomfortable.

In short: We can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch ourselves—become uncomfortable—and grow.

We tend to think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. “Happiness” comes from growth, a deeper joy than temporal circumstances. In comes in part from making commitments and keeping them. We find a measure of joy in making progress, and especially joining others in their development. When we persevere, we grow.

Let's run up those hillsFor me that means hitting the pavement in search of some hills almost every morning. In reality, running is the easy part. It’s the other “endurance” events of life where we must embrace the uncomfortable: relationship tensions, hard decisions, confrontation, adversity, setbacks, each new challenge an opportunity. This is essential if we are to reject apathy.

I wonder if one reason 80%+ of people fail on their New Year’s resolutions is they remain committed to their own comfort. The love of comfort keeps them from a better adventure. People embrace apathy, which is a slow death. And a love of self-comfort keeps them for pursuing health and wholeness for the sake of others. If we are to benefit—and better yet: if others are to develop under our care and leadership—we must get uncomfortable. Seek out a measure of adversity, and train for the real adversity than will inevitably come your way.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity.”2

  1. Dean Karnazes in an interview with Outdoor Magazine, published online December 2006.
  2. Timothy Keller, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.
 

I am an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I need someone to take this power from me.

Newsflash: I’m an adult, and I can eat whatever I want whenever I want, and I wish someone would take this power from me.

Every year during the 100-days-of-holidays1 I eat too much sugar and salt. Salty things are my favorite, as they are for one of my brothers. Probably because salty snacks make me feel worse at a slower rate than sugary things. (Make that high-fructose-corn-syrupy things.) If there is a bowl of pretzels, or nuts, or jerky, out on the counter, it will be consumed faster than it took you to read that last paragraph.

So I run.2

Well, that’s not the only reason why I run 5-6 days a week. I really enjoy running, so there’s that. And other good and somewhat terrible reasons too.

But during the holidays—from Thanksgiving, to Christmas, to parties such as watching football on New Years and the like—I snack too much. Even loved ones get me salty and/or sugary gifts and say things like “I know you like these,” and “you don’t seem to gain weight.”

Wait a second. Yes, I like these, a lot. A lot too much. (And I gain plenty of weight during the holidays, but who’s counting besides me?) The snacks aren’t the problem. The problem is I eat them too fast. Why can’t I restrain myself?3

In any case, I turned to my wife yesterday and said what she was about to say: “How about you hide these from me? Can you hide these from me?” We agreed that I would have an appropriate ration, after I have forgotten about them.

Snack bag

The point is: sometimes we need to give people authority in our lives to help us grow into maturity. Sometimes we don’t have the willpower or motivation or even aptitude to make healthy decisions. This can be in areas of food, relationship, social media, exercise, or even growing spiritually. I’d say especially all of those.

Continue reading

  1. Actually, I count 107 days from 10/31 spanning through 2/14. Those are the sugary holidays.
  2. I exercise about an hour a day. Running stats: In 2014 I bested my year goal of 1,420 miles by more than 200 miles, and was out running for more than 250 hours total, plus another 102 hours on the bike.
  3. John Owen writes, “Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”
 

Beauty: find it everywhere!

It’s possible to find beauty in just about any situation, a glimpse of it everywhere, if only we will look for it.

IMG_0987.JPG

Like at the DMV in Gladstone, waiting for my wife yesterday. Kids and I then waded through that still puddle as well. An even more beautiful scene when interrupted with play.

Note: the puddle was about five-and-a-quarter inches deep, measured by our young scientist in rain boots. The puddle’s contribution to the beauty in this scene was much deeper, the kids’ even deeper still.

 

Courage: hearing and responding eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place.

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Continuing from yesterday

The same could be said for churches and religious organizations. We do not genuinely fulfill what God is calling us to be and do as a community unless we develop the capacity to hear together the voice of Jesus in our midst—His voice of assurance and comfort, but also His voice of call and guidance. It is easy for churches or religious organizations to look elsewhere for models or trends to follow. Some church leaders are easily attracted to attending a conference or reading the most recent how-to book to learn how to help their church or religious organization develop in the same way as some remarkable church on the other side of the continent or the ocean. Others, in contrast, are nostalgic about a tradition, about the way things have always been done in this particular community, and speak of it as “own way.”

Yes, we need to learn from others. And surely we are right to stress the value of the heritage we have within our church communities and organizations. But both our search for new models and our love for our own way of doing things can undermine our capacity to hear the new word that Jesus has for us as a community. We urgently need to develop a corporate capacity to respond to the voice of Jesus and have the courage both to hear the voice and to respond eagerly to the particular way God is calling us at this time and in this place. 1

» This seems to me a vital need among our leaders, for me personally, and in particular for the Renew Church family in the coming year.

 

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17-18. Emphasis added.
 

It’s too easy to live by duty, the expectation of others, the inertia of culture…

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For us as individuals, the danger is that we might never develop an inner life. It is easy to life by duty, the expectation of others, the routines of our work and the inertia of culture and religious traditions. Surely what we long for, though, is an authentic interior life in which we know to the core of our beings that the Spirit of God is present to us and speaking life to us — a life that is personally and dynamically our own. With a well-developed interior life, we live our lives in response to the Spirit. We choose to live that which we are called to live — our life, not someone else’s life. 1

  1. Gordon T. Smith, The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit (IVP Books, 2003), 17. Emphasis added.
 

Some wonderful (& terrible) reasons why I run.

Father & son at the finish line of my first race (Shamrock Run 15K on St. Patrick's Day 2013)

Father & son at the finish line of my first race (Shamrock Run 15K on St. Patrick’s Day 2013)

I was an active kid. If you’re curious at all what I was like as a wee lad, then watch my son for a bit. Yep, I talked to myself, ran around a lot, loved being outdoors, played with bugs and spiders, and could get lost in space between the words and white space of a good book, pictures optional. I’m a brown-and-grey-haired version of #Dutchumentary. He and #Heidirooni are so active, fun and free. As much as depends upon me, I want to be there as they grow up.

It was a sad lack-of-activity-ness coupled with natural curiosity that got me back into running a few years back. This November will be four years since I took a mile jog to see if my left foot could withstand the pounding. That’s the foot I ran over with our Jeep Wrangler before the kids were born. (Yes, you read that correctly. Turns out it is possible to run over your own foot with your own car, provided it has a short wheel base.) Essentially my left heel became the emergency break, and a small metatarsal fracture latter and subsequently minus having a healthy fascia (foot arch) meant I was wincing in pain.

Father & daughter at the finish line of my first 5K race (Freedom 5K in Molalla on 7/4/13)

Father & daughter at the finish line of my first 5K race (Freedom 5K in Molalla on 7/4/13)

So, “I can” is the first reason why I run. It beats sitting all day, which is killing us (and negating the good of exercise). Plus, I’d like to make a runner out of you, since there are so many health benefits from running, even surprising ones.

Ran 7.6 miles in Nov. 2010, then 384 total in 2011, 813 in 2012, and 1,234 miles in 2013. In 2014 I've logged half of this year's goal of 1,420 miles.

Ran 7.6 miles in Nov. 2010, then 384 total in 2011, 813 in 2012, and 1,234 miles in 2013. In 2014 I’ve logged half of this year’s goal of 1,420 miles.

Borrowing the title for this post from the Oatmeal’s comic creator, here are seven-and-a-half more reasons why I run, since that’s my current average per mile training pace.

  1. running = sweating = laundrying

    running = sweating = laundrying

    Running is fun. At first it was anything but fun. I think those first miles returning to running in 2010 were a brisk eleven minutes a mile. Couldn’t tell what was worse: aching legs or burning lungs. What happened to me? Why couldn’t I just get out there and run fast and far? Being thirty-something and sedentary really stung. I vaguely remember the good ol’ days of being young and athletic, and now was neither. But you know what’s fun? Setting small goals and reaching them. And setting some more. And your wife noticing and saying you don’t seem so out-of-shape anymore. Continue reading