Monday, March 23, 2020

It could be worse...

Funny that the last book I read before the coronavirus craziness started in the US was about survival. "In the Heart of the Sea," by Nathaniel Philbrick tells an amazing, horrifying story of humans surviving in the worst of conditions. In 1820, the whaleship Essex was rammed by a large sperm whale and sank. For about three months afterward, its crew of 20 survived in three very small whaling boats on the open ocean. By the time they were rescued, there were 8 survivors, who were starving and severely dehydrated. the survivors had eventually "…resorted to eating the bodies of the crewmen who had died. When that proved insufficient, members of the crew drew lots to determine whom they would sacrifice so that the others could live." ( I can't begin to describe the horror and suffering written about in this book…it's a good read, though not too uplifting!

Thank God our present suffering includes running low on TP, eating food that we may not love, and social distancing. Granted, I don't want to downplay the fact that people are sick, losing their jobs, and losing sources of income. Don't get me wrong, things are not good now, however, look at all the things we still have to be thankful for. It may get much worse than it is now…I don't know, and I certainly hope not…but stories of perseverance and survival in the face of circumstances 1,000 times worse than this can actually be encouraging. There is always someone in worse shape than you are.

Here are some actions we can take, today, to make this whole thing better:

  1. Hope, not hoarding. Stick together. I know, we're distancing…but ask your friends, neighbors, and relatives if you can help them. Hoarding TP will not make things better…sharing what you have will.
  2. Peace, not panic. Be kind to a stranger. If you are in line at HEB or Walmart, let the other person go first. Who knows, it may just be the only nice gesture they experience today…kindness is contagious.
  3. Faith, not fear. God did not promise the believer an easy life, but He did say he would never forsake us. He is in control. He is good. He cares for you. Take heart in these unchanging facts. If you don't believe in God, or are wondering why He'd let this happen, well, I wish I had all the answers. The bible tells us God allows trials and He loves us.
  4. God, not greed. Share what you have and trust God to take care of your needs.
  5. Christ, not chaos. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Please reach out to a friend, neighbor, or family member today. Ask if they need anything. If you're the one in need…physically, emotionally, or spiritually, reach out to someone else. We are a community! The church is not a building.

I'd love to hear how you are dealing with this. Comment below…



Monday, May 26, 2014

Race Report: Mud, Guts, and Glory May 24, 2014

Let me start off by saying I don't write up a report for every single race I run...I usually write when there is something particularly noteworthy about a race. Such is the case with Mud, Guts, and Glory.

The venue.
This is a permanent obstacle course located in the lush green hills of Oregonia, Ohio. Saturday's race covered about 5 miles through the woods and hills of King's Domain - a privately owned youth camp. The location is beautiful. Parking was about 5-10 minutes by a shuttle bus (which was running about every 5 minutes). The check-in was quick and painless. It was well organized and efficient. I think there were around 400 participants.

The course.
Hills, hills, and more hills. Although I am only a recreational OCR-er, I have run a few different Spartan courses and a number of local trail races. This was by far the most challenging course I have ever done in terms of terrain. I haven't done the Spartan courses in Vermont, but I'd guess (from what I've read) this may be similar in terms of hilliness.

The obstacles really made this race stand out as well. There were some unique variations of OCR staples: For example...a mud crawl under electrified tape instead of barbed wire (I got zapped once - it was enough to make me stay loooow for the rest of the crawl); a huge set of monkey bars that descended and then ascended quite a ways; a military style weaver obstacle, a high up and over structure climb (20' - 30'), a high vertical wall (9' or 10' - not sure, but it certainly seemed like 10' at the time); and an obstacle called the sternum checker - a jump from one horizontal log to another (several feet) higher horizontal log where the object was to get over the top of the second log - this one left me with more than memories, especially the left side of my rib cage. Some of the hills were so steep that a rope assist was needed - I'd guess a couple of them were at an angle of 60 degrees or greater. Pinnacle hill, the last big climb of the course, was about 100-200 feet of rope-assisted near-vertical climb - a grueling whole-body challenge after almost 5 miles of punishing course and obstacles. The final "obstacle" was a water slide - a little fun to finish the race. There were plenty of other challenging natural and man made obstacles placed nicely throughout the course.

The course was designed in 5 stages - with the option to "finish" at the end of any one of the stages - making it scalable for any fitness level. There were water stations at the end of each stage as well. There was also an open family course, which I ran twice with my younger 7 year-old son...a beautiful way to "cool down" after the race.

The competition.
Some of the top OCR competitors in the world were at Saturday's Race. Most notably the male and female winners, Junyong Pak and Amelia Boone. The elite and competitive heats were full of serious racers, but as usual, the OCR culture of helping other racers through the course was alive and well with this group. The race itself was a qualifier for the OCR World Championships, which will be held at the same venue on a modified, longer version of the same course in October 2014. There is another Mud Guts and Glory race scheduled for August 16, 2014 - a final opportunity to run the course before the world championships.

Overall impression.
The volunteers and staff were great. The grounds and festival area was spacious and clean. The facilities were close to the action. The spectator area was close to some of the action, but like many OCRs, much of the course was in the woods not accessible to spectators. If this race explodes in terms of participants, they will need to expand and streamline the administration and support very quickly. It was exceptionally well-designed for 500 or fewer, but not for thousands.

This was the most fun I've had out of the half dozen or so OCRs I've done (I think I can speak for my son on this as well). Apart from the usual huge blessing of being able to line up and run with my son, it was also the most challenging and prettiest course we've run to date. If you're looking for something challenging and a little different in terms of an OCR, this is it. There are even on-site accommodations and camping. I highly recommend adding this race to your calendar.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

On Tolerance

Tolerance is being used as an argument for the gay rights movement, among other things. The general idea is that if someone is in disagreement with gays' right to marry then he or she is intolerant...and that is a very bad thing.

First, let's get the definition of tolerance on the table, because I think too many just assume they know what it means. Tolerance: willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own. That's just one definition, but I think it sums up what the word means in this context.

When used as an argument for gay rights, i.e. "anyone who does not support gay marriage is intolerant and/or bigoted...", it takes on a negative connotation and a slightly different meaning. When used in this context, tolerant can be taken to mean the same as agreement. Why is this so? If I merely say I disagree with the gay lifestyle and gay marriage, but go on living my life as if it makes no difference to me, then my words are hollow and my tolerance is not so much acceptance of differences as it is agreement or condoning. Simply saying "I disagree but you have the right to do whatever you want" is the same as agreeing, especially when the action/lifestyle in question starts to affect cultural norms, laws, and the definition of core institutions like marriage and family. This is different than simply accepting that people have different feelings, habits or beliefs than I do. Simply accepting others' beliefs and habits becomes irrelevant when I have to change my own beliefs and habits in order to peacefully coexist in society without being labeled a bigot.

Second, acceptance of all beliefs as equally "right" is not what we should be striving for. If everyone accepted everyone else's beliefs as equal to their own, we would live in a state of anarchy. We would also live in a state where there was no absolute right or wrong (a topic for another discourse). If acceptance was truly what the gay rights movement was aiming for, then those vocal in its advocacy would be content to just live under the laws, norms, education system, benefits structures, etc. that have been in place for years (that would be, after all, exemplifying the spirit of acceptance being used as the face of the movement). Those so passionate about acceptance would be content to live with the Biblical definition of marriage and no more. Instead, this agenda is persistent in pushing its boundaries and beliefs and spreading its influence into the legal, political, educational, and social structures which codify and define our values as a society. Sorry, that is not a pursuit of tolerance/acceptance - it is a cultural coup d'├ętat, a societal shift, a reapportionment of power. There will always be the haves and have-nots in terms of which value system is woven into a a society's fabric. The issue is not tolerance, but which "vocal majority" will have control of our formal national value system.

Finally, to my gay friends, I don't hate you. I disagree with your lifestyle...that's all. On the other side of that same coin, loving you as an individual is a totally separate matter than passively allowing the gay rights agenda to overtake our culture (btw, my "activism" may amount to nothing more than voting and speaking honestly - but that I'll do with conviction).  It is a question of what is right and wrong and a struggle for which values are written into law. I do not want to condemn you personally, lest I forget Jesus' words: "he who is without sin...cast the first stone."

So, I will make no bones about it...I mean not to cower under the threat of being called "intolerant." I am intolerant of things I believe will bring harm...isn't everyone? Please stop buying into the false plea for tolerance and acceptance. The gay rights movement is not about tolerance or acceptance, but gaining the power to promote one set of values over another. If I truly believe my values are "right", shouldn't I fight for this power? It is illogical or cowardly to act otherwise. So as peacefully as is possible, I implore all of you to discard the idea of tolerance as being the goal of any agenda which deals with defining the elemental structures of our society. Honestly evaluate what is being said and done in the name of tolerance, continue to treat one another with love and respect, and choose your side boldly in the name of what you believe...but please stop mislabeling intolerance and disagreement as hatred or bigotry.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why are You a Christian?

I was reading the beginning of "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell. He poses a question to challenge all believers: "why am I a Christian?"

Is this something you think about daily? Do you have a ready response? Is your response a canned "church" answer or from the heart? Is is thoughtful, defensive, or simple?

I have been seriously challenged by this question. I mean, I know why I am a Christian...because...well, I know but I just can't seem to articulate it. Maybe I can start with a list

I am a Christian because...

- I believe in God and that the Bible is true
- I think I need redemption and that it only comes from faith in Christ
- I believe God has spoken to me throughout my life by signs, by my conscience, and through His creation
- I've seen miracles in the midst of disaster
- When times get tough, I have a sense of security that does not come from within me
- There's a whole boat load of legal-historical evidence to support the Biblically recorded life of Jesus as well as the resurrection. We, as a society, take much less supported ideas as true.

Well, those are pretty churchy answers. Maybe I'll come up with something more from the heart later. To be continued...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

MOX 12 Hour Run Race Report

Now I understand why ultra-run race reports are often so reflective and philosophical. You get a lot of time to think about life during an ultra.

I ran what I would consider my first "real" ultra on October 5th - the Ohio River Road Runner's Club 12-hour endurance race here in Dayton at the Midwest Outdoor Experience. I "ran" (i.e. moved forward) just over 50 miles in 12 hours. This was the icing on the proverbial cake of my own little 3-weekend trifecta (AF Marathon 21 Sep, Philly Spartan 28 Sep, and this race 5 Oct).

First, the race organization was superb. RD Jeff McPherson put a lot of effort into this race and it showed. I won't even guess how many hours he put into this production. At one point he even moved the cars of racers who had been directed to the wrong parking area before the start only to be told they were illegally parked while the race was in session! Thanks again, Jeff.

The handful of volunteers were outstanding. Most were there from before the race started until well after we finished. They filled water bottles, made sandwiches, counted laps, moved our gear when it rained, and most importantly provided encouragement and humor on every lap.

Now for the nuts and bolts. The race took place from 6AM to 6PM - go as far as you can in 12 hours...simple. It was warm and muggy. Mid 60's at the start warming into the 70s or 80s in the afternoon with a brief rain shower mid-afternoon. There were about 40 runners on a 2.6 mile loop course which wound around the festival area of the Midwest Outdoor Experience. There were lots of people in this area (about a half mile of the course). The rest of the course ran through the woods along Mad River then back through the trails of Eastwood Metropark to the start/finish line in the festival area - mostly pancake-flat. I set a pace of 1 lap every 30 minutes early on, and stuck to it for 9 or 10 laps. This being my first run longer than 6 hours, I was then getting close to uncharted territory, so I slowed down by about 5-10 minutes per lap. After lap 11 or so, I realized the "fast" pace I set in the first 5 hours was going to hurt...and it did. I walked significant portions of the remaining laps (walking a bit more with each passing lap, eventually walking an entire lap). It wasn't that I was feeling horrible, but I didn't know what to expect with several hours to go. At this point, I wanted to keep moving until the finish. I did not want to end up sitting for more than a couple of minutes at the aid station - I wanted to be moving forward. I was able to do this. Finally, I was able to run the last 1.5 miles or so...a rewarding way to finish.

Ok, so if your still reading, this is where the "reflective" stuff feel free to bail with no further obligation.

I thought most about why I had signed up for the race..."why did I think this was a good idea?" inner dialogue stuff. So that led me to think about advice I could give to anyone preparing for an ultra. Prepare. I didn't really train for a 12 hour race. Personally, I like to race not knowing what will come next, but goal-wise, physical preparation would have helped me to set a pace and perform. Also, have a nutrition and hydration strategy. I think nutrition/hydration was ok. I had 20 oz. of water or electrolyte drink every lap (plus about 8 oz. of coke in the afternoon) and I peed almost every other lap. I made sure to keep careful track of my fluid intake and my bathroom breaks to avoid dehydration. I also took an electrolyte capsule (S-cap) every other lap. I never cramped. I wasn't so careful about calorie intake (I thought I could recover from stomach problems easier than dehydration). I ate the food supplied at the aid station (PB&J, Nutella, subway, trail mix, bananas) plus an order of McDonald's hotcakes and syrup plus some grapes and strawberries. I ate regularly throughout the day, although I did not keep track of my exact food intake. I never bonked or puked, so I guess it was ok.

Mentally, just prepare yourself for a wide range of emotions, strange thoughts, and mental battles over whether to slow down, speed up, eat more, take a break, walk, run, change shoes, etc. Your body will most likely be in revolt for a majority of the race, so be prepared to put down this uprising with your mind.

Next, be humble about your efforts. No doubt, running an ultra is a great accomplishment, but before you start thinking of yourself as some sort of superhero, consider the everyday struggles of others. They say an ultra is like life, with all its ups and downs compressed into a day's time. It may be analogous, but the pain of forcing yourself to run past exhaustion and physical discomfort is still a choice. Many people don't have the luxury of choosing their method of suffering (Think POWs, widows/widowers, wounded warriors, parents who give up their dreams to see their children succeed, you get the point). These are the real heroes. An ultra is just a shadow of real-life at best...learn from it and allow it to strengthen and change you. Use it as a lens for feeling empathy, but don't think you understand all pain and suffering because of it, and certainly don't trick yourself into thinking it is the ultimate feat of endurance - there is no such thing other than life itself.

Finally, I just thought a lot about how thankful I am to be able to run. I thought about my friends, family, neighbors, and brothers in arms who are not able to run. I realized my ability to run, even 1 step, is a gift from God not to be taken for granted. I love it, but it is not guaranteed. So I ran thankfully to my creator who has allowed me this small pleasure. God willing, I have many miles to go.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A few words from Napoleon Bonaparte


"What a conqueror!--a conqueror who controls humanity at will, and wins to himself not only one nation, but the whole human race. What a marvel! He attaches to himself the human soul with all its energies. And how? By a miracle which surpasses all others. He claims the love of men--that is to say, the most difficult thing in the world to obtain; that which the wisest of men cannot force from his truest friend, that which no father can compel from his children, no wife from her husband, no brother from his brother--the heart. He claims it ; he requires it absolutely and undividedly, and he obtains it instantly.

Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, Louis XIV strove in vain to secure this. They conquered the world, yet they had not a single friend, or at all events, they have none any more. Christ speaks, however, and from that moment all generations belong to him; and they are joined to him much more closely than by any ties of blood and by a much more intimate, sacred and powerful communion. He kindles the flame of love which causes one's self-love to die, and triumphs over every other love. Why should we not recognize in this miracle of love the eternal Word which created the world? The other founders of religions had not the least conception of this mystic love which forms the essence of Christianity.

I have filled multitudes with such passionate devotion that they went to death for me. But God forbid that I should compare the enthusiasm of my soldiers with Christian love. They are as unlike as their causes. In my case, my presence was always necessary, the electric effect of my glance, my voice, my words, to kindle fire in their hearts. And I certainly posses personally the secret of that magic power of taking by storm the sentiments of men; but I was not able to communicate that power to anyone. None of my generals ever learned it from me or found it out. Moreover, I myself do not possess the secret of perpetuating my name and a love for me in their hearts for ever, and to work miracles in them without material means.

Now that I languish here at St Helena, chained upon this rock, who fights, who conquers empires for me? Who still even thinks of me? Who interests himself for me in Europe? Who has remained true to me? That is the fate of all great men. It was the fate of Alexander and Caesar, as it is my own. We are forgotten, and the names of the mightiest conquerors and most illustrious emperors are soon only the subject of a schoolboy's task. Our exploits come under the rod of a pedantic schoolmaster, who praises or condemns us as he likes.

What an abyss exists between my profound misery and the eternal reign of Christ, who is preached, loved, and worshiped and live on throughout the entire world. Is this to die? Is it not rather to live eternally? The death of Christ! It is the death of a God."

(Quoted in Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics, vol. 2, pp. 216-17)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why this Christian is voting for a Mormon

It’s the biggest dilemma I've faced in a long time, maybe the biggest one ever.  I'm supposed to choose the "leader of the free world" from a short list of two people.  One promised hope and change - a social healthcare system, government provision, higher taxation, and redistribution of wealth.  The other promises a return to a government that won't unilaterally decide which American businesses should succeed, and an America that won't apologize for the fact we area  strong nation built on hard work, determination, and most of all - protected by the blood of generations of my brothers in arms.

I am no Republican.  Nor am I a Democrat.  I'm an American.  I'm a Christian.  I am an officer.  I have a family that will grow and prosper according to God's plan, regardless of who sits in our nation's highest office.  I will continue to serve my country and protect the constitution against its enemies.  I will continue to respect and pray for my commander in chief, whether I agree with him or not.  As long as my orders are not illegal, immoral, or in opposition to God's word, I will carry them out while I hold my current commission.  I also agree with the direction the current Republican candidate wants to take our nation.  But he's a Mormon.  I don't know everything about the LDS church, but I know enough to say their teachings are not in accordance with God's Word.  For a comparison of Christian and Mormon doctrine, see this link.  On the other hand, I could vote for the incumbent.  But I don't know exactly what his beliefs are.  Is he Christian?  Muslim?  I can't tell, but based on his actions and words, I get the feeling he thinks no belief has to be mutually exclusive.  My God is exclusive.  What!? The God of the Bible who loved us so much that "while we were sinners, Christ died for us" - exclusive?  Yes - exclusive of all untruth.  Exclusive of all evil.  Exclusive of all unrighteousness.  All the things I am or have been - untruthful, evil, and unrighteous - the same things we all are.  I accept that.  I also accept that my exclusive God who demands justice be done, has provided the means for both justice and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
          - Romans 3:23-26

I don't trust the Mormon.  I don't trust the other one either.   They are career politicians whom I believe will say whatever they think it takes to get elected.  So let me boil it down to the issues that have decided my vote, along with a brief explanation of why.

1.       Abortion:  We, as a nation, have chosen to water down this issue to a point where being pro-life is considered the radical right.  Life begins at conception.  I value life.  Being "pro-choice" exists under the guise of protecting a person's right to choose whether or not to carry a child to term.  First, "pro-choice" is a misnomer.  We should call it what it really is, regardless of how unpalatable it sounds - "pro-abortion".  The "choice" being made is the choice to end a life for the sake of our own health, welfare, or in most cases - convenience.  In the best of circumstances, we are taking the life of someone incapable of defending themselves in order to preserve our own life.  In the worst of cases, we are doing it for our own comfort or convenience.  Either way, it shows a love for ourselves that is greater than our love and respect for the life of another - even our own child.  Anyone who uses terms like "reproductive freedom" when referring to the right to have an abortion, clearly does not respect life.  And, yes, I'm going to bring up the slippery slope argument...if we can take the life of an unborn child who cannot speak for themselves, what's to say we can't take the life of a mentally or physically disabled person who can't speak for themselves?  Wouldn't it make it easier on our society and healthcare system - not to mention more convenient for those burdened with the care of those who cannot care for themselves?  Like it or not, that's the pro-choice mentality.  Read Brave New World - it’s a classic.  I will not willfully choose a leader who lives under the veil of our culture's misguided perception of what it means to be "pro-choice".

2.       Government involvement in business:  Although not a stark moral issue like abortion, this also has to do with our freedom.  Capitalism depends on competition.  Competition means there is a reward for working hard and doing well in our business endeavors.  When the government takes away this purely competitive element by redistributing the earnings of those businesses who have triumphed in competition to those who have not, it has just created an incentive to be mediocre.  Those who are already mediocre know they have a safety net.  Those who are excellent may find it more rewarding to become mediocre.  Because of ambiguous terms like "too big to fail", struggling businesses [or industries] have been given the go ahead to continue in the mediocrity and complacency that took them to the point of failure in the first place.  So what happens?  The most appealing location on the topography of business performance becomes mediocrity.  All move in this direction.  Our national competitive landscape begins to fall under the control of the few in government who make the decisions of which businesses receive government assistance.  In essence, business survival is taken out of the hands of the consumer and put under the control of the state.  Hmmm...sounds familiar...something I read about in history, maybe?

Two issues?  That's it?  Narrow?  Maybe.  Look deeper.  These two issues embody freedom and life.   No matter where I live or who rules this nation,  I have freedom because Christ has given it to me.  I have life because of God's grace and love...but if I have the power to choose to live in a nation which is guided by policies which take our nation as a whole closer to freedom and respect of life, that's where my vote will be.

So, I'm not voting for the Mormon or the Christian or the - fill in the blank.  I'm voting on ideals which are manifested in the policies, past actions, and future plans of the candidates.  I'm voting on the hope that my kids will grow up in a country where freedom and respect for life are part of our national identity...and if they are not, I will continue to instill these values in my family.

Dilemma solved?  Not really.  But it’s the best I can do with the evidence at hand.  Do your duty - vote.

Ultimately, I can rest in this…

"...the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.
          -  Daniel 4:25