12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Goals for my 45th year

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The day after my birthday, Friday, I spent some time in introspection and came up with a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish in my 45th year on the earth, if God is so gracious to leave me here that long.

I shared one of these goals that had been bouncing around in my head for a while with some friends last week and one of them replied, “It’s good to have goals.”  The unspoken phrase that followed in my mind:  It’s better to actually achieve them.  Or at least attempt to do so.

So here are my goals.

Spiritually

  • Continue to grow in the practice of Spiritual Disciplines.  This is something that has been a point of growth for me over a couple of decades, but I have much farther to go, I feel.
  • Take at least 2 Spiritual Retreats by myself.
  • Explore the Spiritual Discipline of Silence.  I don’t know much about this and I can tell you that my mind is rarely quiet.  I want to study and begin to practice this.

Financially

  • Eliminate (certain $ amount) of spending.
  • Apply above described saved money to debts. For reasons I won’t enumerate, though likely obvious for those of my generation, we took on a lot of debt early in our lives and have been working our way out of it for years.  While we have made significant progress at times, I am frustrated with how slowly it is going.  I want to move faster.
  • Give more to opportunities beyond my normal avenues.

Family

  • 1 Vacation with just us this year. Typically our vacation is spent visiting extended family, which is a good thing.  Still, we need some time with just us together.
  • Read more on marriage.  While I love my marriage and think it’s pretty awesome, everything is capable of being improved and I can do that best by improving me within our marriage.
  • Date Bonnie more.  We’ve been dating quite a bit since our kids got older, but we need to do this more.
  • 1 event (big, not small like an ice cream cone over 45 mins) per month with each child – just me and them.

Physically

  • Eat better, lose weight.  Again.  My weight is like a yo-yo and I struggle with it.  I need to get better control of it.
  • Continue to exercise regularly.  I’ve joined a gym for $10 a month and have been working out there.  Got to keep going.
  • Start running triathlons.  I know.  That sounds crazy, especially for a person struggling with their weight.  But it features running, swimming and cycling and variety keeps me engaged.  Also, I am not running Iron Man level triathlons.  Whenever people hear that word, they think of Hawaii and the Iron Man they do there.  That’s for elite athletes.  They have much smaller events (sprint triathlons) that are manageable for beginners.  Still, this is likely to be the most demanding goal on the board.

I have a few other thoughts about lifestyle issues.  I intend to read more, take more pictures, paint more, write more, etc. but they aren’t goals, so… I’ll just stick them here at the end.

Partnering with the Unholy

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I remember, over 20 years ago, reading Charles M Sheldon’s book, “In His Steps.” In that book, feeling himself challenged by a vagrant who is marginalized by the people of “First Church,” a pastor challenges his congregation to ask themselves the question prior to choosing a behavior, “What Would Jesus Do?”

The book was old when I read it, set, I believe, at the turn of the last century.  Ancient by modern perspectives. Yet, it had proven powerful for many readers and was equally so for me while I muddled through making my faith my own during my college years.

I also remember the time when someone in Christian kitsch put the letters, “WWJD” on a fabric bracelet to symbolize the question, which might have been more appropriately translated, “What would Jesus have me do?” since I’m pretty sure Jesus was capable of more than any of us at any given moment.  I think I wore a WWJD bracelet for all of a couple of months, but then realized that it had become the “in” thing among, well, everyone.

Last month, I caught a modern narrative.  My wife loves all kinds of reality shows, from game shows to documentaries, the latter of which had her attention on this particular evening.  The affair is called, “Intervention.” Aptly named, the series records families in turmoil being coached through confrontation between loved ones in the throes of addiction.

In this episode, two brothers were being challenged for their lifestyle of using and selling drugs, a pattern of life that had invited their parents’ home to be invaded and ransacked.  As one of the two sat, head in hands, the camera focused on his fingers as they wove through his greasy hair only to have the letters, “WWJD” come into focus as they dangled from his wrist.

I looked down at my wrist.

Decades after I tossed WWJD in the drawer, a yellow rubber bracelet adorned my right arm, engraved with the letters, “LIVESTRONG.”

I don’t know what you know about Lance Armstrong.  You probably know that he survived cancer and won the Tour de France.

You may not know that he won 7 times. In a row. That he is the most tested (for performance enhancing drugs) athlete ever.  That he has never failed a drug test.

You may know that he has become a tremendous advocate for cancer research and treatment, setting up the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Livestrong.com.

You may not know that he curses like a sailor, when not on camera.

Not to belabor the point, Lance is not a representation of conservative evangelcalism. Not now. Not ever.

Yet, I wear a bracelet that represents values he promotes while discarding the representation of values promoted by Sheldon, et al.

Why?

Because conservative evangelicalism has come to present itself to the world as shallow, self righteous, disingenuous… meaningless… separatist… a kitsch based lifestyle that is show without substance in the world.

Meanwhile, when you first get diagnosed with cancer and call Livestrong, a counselor will talk to you about all things related to your disease, including treatment, side effects and what is going to happen to your family.  They are raising money and last week at the World Cancer Summit, Lance spoke and elicited commitments from several nations to increase their investment in finding cures for this disease.

They are actually trying to make life better on the world and everyone can see it, no matter what they believe.

Bottom line: It seems to me that when asked “What would You do?” Jesus would most likely answer, “get involved with the healing of the sick, the comforting of the wounded and the betterment of the world, of course.”

And, no.  I don’t think He would want us to stop without sharing the Gospel and calling these people to redemption, but I do think that they are more likely to actually hear that message from a person working alongside them to raise money for cancer research than from a person wearing WWJD apparel and sitting on the sidelines.

I’ll drop you…

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Some of you know that I’ve taken up cycling as a way to exercise without the pounding running puts on the fragile, battle worn hinges I call knees.  This is not to mention the mistreatment suffered by the ankles and lower back or even the hips.

None of these parts of my body like me anymore and for good reason.  I abused them for over a decade, forcing them to labor under brutal conditions by carrying an extra hhhrrrmrmmmggghhh pounds.  Did I mention that this was for over a decade? Yes?  Just didn’t want you to miss that part.

I started with an entry level bike for several months and really took to it even after a painful wreck that further molested my left knee and introduced my right shoulder to the pattern of exploitation.  That sidelined me for about 4 months, but I got back on the bike.  Just like Lance, but slower, fatter and with a much less expensive and not nearly as cool looking bike.  Helmet.  Clothes.

Although it should be noted that, though my clothes are not as cool nor as expensive as Lance’s,  I no longer look like a badly misshapen sausage when wearing the traditional cycling lycra.  Just slightly lumpy, which is a huge improvement.

As these things go, I got better at cycling and wanted, yea, NEEDED more.

So I bought my first road bike, a Trek 1.5, which was on an awesome sale during the Tour de France, and began riding it during the weekends and turned my “old” bike into a commuter bike and ride it to the office and home every day.

Can I just tell you now… that I am good (for a beginner).  (For a novice) I am awesome.

I routinely blow by old men and most women.  Teenagers on BMX bikes stand no chance.

And you.

Unless you are a cyclist and do this regularly, I’ll drop you.  (That’s cyclist lingo for when you leave somebody and they can’t keep up.)

But, if you are a real live cyclist, I’m fodder for stories when you get home:  “Did you see that guy with the new bike rolling past those senior adults like he knew what he was doing, and then we blew him out!  What an amateur!”

That’s me.  I’m that guy.

Well, it’s going pretty well and I’m working my way up to riding a century (that’s cyclist lingo for 100 miles all in one ride).  Right now, 4 weeks after getting the road bike, I ride 35 miles at a time without collapsing, which I think is pretty awesome.

I was thinking it would be Spring before I could do my first century, but there is a big ride coming at the end of September that is – guess what? – a century.

I might try it.  I mean, the real cyclists need somebody to beat, right?  That could be me.

Besides, there might be an old man who wants to ride it and I could run away from him…

Hey, it could happen.

Or you could come out.

Then, I’ll drop you.

Standard Riverwalk/Creek Trail 12.4 Mile Ride

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This is the overview of my daily ride.

Click on the picture to go to the interactive map at LiveStrong.com.

12.4 mile loop

My best time was 53:30 until I started knocking it down this week.  I took two minutes off of that on Monday morning to lower it to 51:30 and then another 15 seconds Tuesday afternoon to lower it to 51:15.

I really think I could have even done a lot better, too, but there was so much congestion on the trail in the afternoon that I was slowed several times.  I also look forward to riding this with a real road bike.  Right now I am riding the low end hybrid from Trek – the 7000 – which is a good and affordable bike, but it is basically a mountain bike with road wheels and a little better gear set.

Still, I love it and I’m grateful for it.  I will train on it until I can make the move to something better and then I will probably use it to commute to work.

In the meantime, I’ve lost about 50 lbs. and a lot of that is due to the exercise I’m getting on the bike.  It’s no impact cardio – until you wreck and then it’s high impact.  I wrecked in the spring and was out for about 4 mos. recovering and gaining back about 10 lbs.  I was able to shed that in the two weeks back on the bike.  It’s that dramatic a difference.

Oh, by the way…  I came up on this guy the other day:

hard core cyclist

As Jason Kearney is fond of saying, “You’re excuse for not riding a bike is now officially lame.”

Let me just add that this guy was moving. I can not even imagine what he would have been capable of with two human legs.

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