The impact of Sunday School on air travel

As I prepared to leave for Nepal to run the Annapurna100 Ultra-marathon, I was excited to have negotiated an entire row of 4 seats, all to myself, for the flight.  I knew that hang 4 adjacent seats would make it easy to sleep as we crossed both the Atlantic and Europe, en route to the Middle East.  There is no amount of training or nutrition that can substitute for rest, and there is no chance that I will do well on an Ultra-marathon, at altitude, in a land known for the Earth’s largest mountain range, without good rest leading up the event.

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4 seats, all to myself…so I thought.

Three hours after lift off, I found that the combination of movie watching and eating had made me sleepy.  I stood up and headed to the bathroom before settling into my row of seats to get what I thought would be 8 hours of sleep.  I was grateful that Etihad Airlines had agreed to allocate an entire row of seats for me with no one else sitting in them, and I was quick to share on Facebook using the hashtag #iloveetihad.  It felt like I was flying first class.

The map showed that we were about to leave Canadian airspace and would be over Greenland within a hour.  I visualized that I would wake up somewhere over Russia.  I was so excited to be travelling to the land of world tallest mountains to run an epic race.

Unexpectedly, I woman in Middle Eastern garb approached me and started a conversation that mandated I come to terms with some malformed opinions from my past.  This woman was a Syrian Refugee who was flying to the Middle East for back surgery.  She was having difficulty walking, let alone sleeping, and she asked if she could have my 4 seats so she could rest and offered me her one seat up at the front of the cabin.

It would have been culturally easy to tell her, “no.”  After all, had just negotiated for all those seats and had paid the price of the ticket.  In that moment, I felt righteous in claiming that those seats were mine, and I had the full-support of Etihad, company that owned the transportation service.  Instead, I found myself agreeing with the contents of a recent blog that all but connected the dots that to be a Christian is to be pro-Refugee.

“Yes, Ma’am, you can have my row of seats.”  I picked up my headphones and water bottle and headed to my new single seat up front.  I was feeling upset and self-righteous that my faith was mandating that I suffer, without any joy, when I did nothing wrong.  For sure, this outcome wasn’t anywhere close to my expectations when i negotiated that row of seats just a few hours earlier.

“Thank you, kind sir!”  I only sleep few hours, then I come find you and you sleep some hours.  Is that item OK?”  I knew she was translating from her native tongue into English, and she was expressing a plan that she thought was equitable.

“It must be OK,” I said with a giggle, knowing darn well that God uses moments like these to change people’s hearts.

I have had multiple bad experiences working with the local refugee community in Charlotte. I have found them to be more demanding than newborns  In addition, they are unequaled in their inability to share gratitude with those who are trying to help.  Lastly, they have demonstrated insensitivity to adjust to meet the demands of Charlotte’s culture.  They have shown to me that they are OK not fitting in nor taking steps to improve their lot, no matter how much it hurts them to resist the change.  To be succinct, I found it a waste of time to help them.

In Sunday school, we are discussing pro-life.  Sure, it is nearly always associated with abortion rights, but leaving it only in that context is like saying food shopping is about buying desserts.  The Pro-life position includes a stance with regard to special needs children, the incarcerated, the handicapped and even includes conversations on racism. God loves all life and has never shown any one group greater or lesser favor based on who they are.

In that moment, I didn’t want to give up my seats to a refugee.  I didn’t know her circumstance or anything about the choices that she made that got her to the place where she needed back surgery.  I made me question how the Good Samaritan felt when he, too, stopped and spent both time and money helping someone who had no ability to return the favor.  I wonder if the Samaritan “wanted” to stop and help the guy who lay dying  in the ditch that day.

She kept her word and came to trade back with me a few hours later.  I slept for a few hours before we traded again.  When we arrived in Abu Dhabi, neither of us were rested, but we were both better off than if we had regular seats on the flight.  I knew that the only want to overcome any sense of resentment for the moment was to talk to her and get to know her a bit.  I learned that she had one family member on the plane (sister, maybe), but she had “no more husband,” and based on her body language, it meant he was no longer living.

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Syrian Refugee and me, flying to the MIddle East
As we left the plane to go our separate ways, I lifted her up and prayer and thanked God for using that moment to change my heart, even if only a little.  It wasn’t an accident that I read that NY Times article and had a real world refugee experience in the same month.

As I prepared to board the plane for my final leg of the trip from Abu Dhabi to Kathmandu (another 5 hour flight), I was met by a representative from the airlines who took my boarding pass from me and replaced it with a first class service, saying, “Thank you for your advertising.”

It is very tempting and certainly easy to think that this was coincidence based on worldly events.  I know better.  I walked down the Jetway crying like a boy saying, “good bye” to his mother as he left for military boot camp.  I was just used by God…and I got to see it in near real-time.  I got a moment in time when I made the world a better place, and it altered my heart, in the process.

I slept like a baby in a big seat that I didn’t have to share with anyone else on the final flight, and I arrived in Kathmandu, refreshed.  My boys greeted me at the airport with flowers and hugs as we headed into town.  We talked and joked until it was time for bed.

I am nowhere close to pro-refugee, but God is.  And I see that now.

I am running the race of my life in three days.  It is the high point and my “A” race of my athletic year. Yet, I am already sure that the greatest growth moment of this trip has already passed.

Loyalty, Athletic Training, and the American disconnect

As the year comes to an end, I find value in looking back at Trainingpeaks.com record of my activities.  I like to compare what I did against what I planned on doing.  Was I loyal to my workout commitments?  Or did I make up an excuse that equated to saying, “I wasn’t loyal to myself.”  Was I loyal to my race commitments?  What races did I plan as my A races, and did I treat them as such?  It is a valuable endeavor that I recommend we all do, in our work lives and with our personal goals.

Then, I got a real world opportunity outside of athletic training to apply what experience has taught me about loyalty.  Last week, I lead out scout troop on a discussion of the application of loyalty, in modern America.  The 100+ year old vision of loyalty predates anyone currently living, and when Baden Powell and his successors wrote down what it means.  They said,

“A scout is loyal to family, leaders, friends, school and nation.”  Lots of kind words here, but some examples to clarify seem appropriate.

Loyalty is when the older brother helps the younger brother with homework, because Mom and Dad forgot how to do it.

Loyalty is when a fireman goes into a burning building to save someone’s life.  It isn’t the paycheck that he is being loyal to.  It is humanity.

Loyalty is when you visit someone in a nursing home when you would rather being doing something else.

Above all, loyalty is what causes young men to give their lives, in battle, both on domestic soil (police) and on foreign soil (military).

Loyalty is the center piece of an endless cycle of giving and getting that in scouting has repeated itself for decades, as men have continually helped boys to become better men.

Stand for the flag

And, at the center of the symbol of this loyalty is our country’s flag.  Since before written language, there have been flags that represent a people group.  To disrespect the flag in some countries (China, for example) is deemed a crime with mandatory jail time.  Same goes for the national anthem.

Currently, the US media has created a spotlight directed at those demonstrating disloyalty to the flag.  They are using these events to seek attention for their cause.  It parallels both in action and intent when a toddler starts breaking things as part of a temper tantrum as he tries to get his way.  Those who do choose this specific attention seeking path are a route to tear down a universal value.

At the core of the value of any flag is the desire to have something that represents all of us when words can’t do that.  In central North Carolina, there is nothing going on to warrant the attention that the media is putting on the current confusion that a handful of people are experiencing, Most Americans still get the contents of the picture above without the need for an explanation.

The flag represents the country we call our current home.  It doesn’t reflect your opinion of your your home, nor does it reflect anything that you have earned or are entitled to.  Others earned the right for this to be your flag, and some of them paid the highest price for you to be able to have that flag.  If you live here, it is your flag.  The only way to change that fact is to move.  For the record, I suggest that you stay.

We are grateful that this is our flag.  It has survived many wars, intermittent assaults on both is value and its longevity, and it is part of the uniforms that many of us wear, myself included.  I love what it stands for and respect those who have graced me with the ability to call it my flag.

The cross, though, represents perhaps the only symbol that is greater.  The Cross is the way to our original and true home.  Without the cross, no such path to eternity exists.  It is for the cross that we kneel.  Our hand goes over our heart for the flag.  We kneel for the cross.

There is a reasonable chance that some folks just don’t know this.  For you, I hope this serves as some education.  For those that know it, it is your reminder not get to get caught up in momentary justifications or words from people whom you trust that are deceiving you into believing something contrary.   For those that disagree, it is your warning and our plea-don’t tear down that which others have built with their lives.  The Chinese get this.  Most Americans get this. You should, too.

Finally, John Wayne said, “The very word ‘loyalty’ is life itself, for without loyalty, we have no love of person or country.”  Loyalty is inseparable from our identity.  Don’t get lost.  Be loyal, instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balance-not something you find…it is something you make.

This year represented my 4th opportunity to compete in a World Championship level event in Duathlon.  Since there is no Intergalactic Championship to take part in, this year’s race in British Columbia, Canada represented the end of the road for competitive Duathlon in 2017.  Nothing bigger than a World Championship…at least, not yet.

World Championships are always memorable.  The Parade of Nations makes you feel like an Olympian, albeit with only half the number of countries represented.  Putting on the National Team uniform and knowing you represent the USA for all to see is humbling yet empowering to the spirit of adventure that lives in all of us.  The overwhelming sense of funk that all athletes exude when their race is over and they socialize with other athletes is the source of great olfactory assault, yet mildly reaffirming that you just finished something that is difficult and special.

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Running with Mike and Rob

 

The best part of the 2017 World Championship was getting along with other TeamUSA athletes.  Run 1 turned into a fun run with my friends Mike and Rob. We ran side by side for the first 5k, averaging about a 6 ½ minute mile and we all reached the transition point within 10 seconds of one another.  We talked to each other, often, keeping each other encouraged.  Rob said that our banter was the only thing that kept him going during those first 40 minutes of tough running.  The bike was super-fast, as the terrain was flat.  Run 2 was more of run 1, and I hit the finish line, setting a personal best for that distance, despite a few cramps.

 

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3 athletes and the coach from Liberty University

I got to meet some great people and connect with some old friends.  I traded clothing with a Team South Africa athlete, and I got to meet the coach of Liberty University Triathlon and connect him with my youngest son.  Can’t tell you how proud it would make me feel to have both of my sons attend Liberty!  Rob and I attended an essential oils party with a couple of girls on TeamUSA, Melissa and Kerry.  We laughed so hard that it hurt!  Lastly, getting to experience the solar eclipse, minutes after crossing the finish line is an event I don’t ever see replicating.

Each year’s World Championship has had a unique focus in my memory.  Year one, the top of mind item was trying to reconcile my desire to compete with a lack of training due to injury.  Year two, I was overwhelmed by the distance and effort required to complete Powerman Zofingen and was grateful to finish the race.  Year three challenged me in that I was trying to become a better Ultra Marathoner while simultaneously getting stronger on the bike.  This year, I attempted to have a greater balance of training, life and work, with Spirit a part of every task.

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Kerry and Melissa-too much fun.

After all, balance isn’t something you find.  It is something you create.

This year started with a far-fetched goal of competing and finishing the Badwater Cape Fear Ultramarathon in early March.  I hyper-exceeded goals there, coming in near the top in the standings, both for age and for overall.  The end of the year includes 3 Ultra Marathons in a 7-week window, including one in Nepal to raise money for school building and another with our scout troop to help boys develop into men.  Although neither event has happened yet, I am sure that joy will come while running with Nepali natives and with our scout troop.  Both events shall be my “highs” of 2017 with regards to fitness.

After all, seeking fitness for fitness sake is selfish.  Using fitness to build the Temple of God while helping others hits at the core value of the human experience.

It is my heart’s desire that each of your reading this, regardless of where you are in your fitness journey take a few moments to answer the question, “how can I use my fitness achievements to help others?”  No matter how many medals I hang on my wall, none of them are worth as much to me as the smile I see when I help another athlete achieve something new.

That is the balance that I want all of us to create.  That is the selfish application of fitness that can make you happy.  Give it away, and you will have more wealth in your heart than you can imagine.

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Before the Start of the Badwater.  Seems so long ago!

My bike now sits in the basement, with only a day or so a week of riding happening between now and the winter.  My running shoes are now my weapon of choice, and the finish line now has images of people I am running for, not of places to see and things to accumulate.  Follow the story on http://thenepalproject.org for ongoing updates of the impact of the Annapurna100 on the people of Nepal.

Rednecks and Cherries…they have a lot in common!

During my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I lived in a remote village in the Kingdom of Nepal.  Sure, the scenery of the surrounding Himalaya was great, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable as the people whom I lived with for 2 years.  I remember how some villagers would put fresh manure in their wounds, claiming that it helped to stop the spread of pain.  Two weeks later, when they still had festering wounds and were confronted (by me!) about how stupid that cow-shit-on-a-cut idea really was, they said that it was part of the process called life.  It was a rite of passage to be able to live through the cut and the corresponding recovery.  Lastly, they just got used to it.

Sure, they didn’t know any differently, as science was not a mainstream idea used in decision making, as it is in the West.  That said, it pointed out some fundamental flaws that all of us have when it comes to enduring something that hurts us.  It is called Redneck Thinking (with Capital Letters).

  • We believe that the way we have been doing things is an effective way. It may or may not be the best way, but it is a safe way, because we survived it.
  • When confronted with better ways, we will occasionally change. Most of the time, though, we don’t.
  • When our ways cause us to suffer, we look to make sense of it all, saying that it is good for us…we say that it builds character and toughness.
  • Here is the real kicker. The older we get, the more we fall victim to the “old ways work, why change it?” sort of thinking.
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Redneck dogs even have fewer teeth that regular ones…

No place does this happen more that during conversations with people who are interesting and show leadership.  I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “this is a great recipe.  You ought to try it!”  I agree with them, both in heart and in mind.  The conversation ends, often with a recipe in my inbox, only to sit there until I delete the idea.  I redneck it.

I KNOW that if I had just cooked it and tried it, there is a good chance that the dish would have likely to make it to our dinner table repeatedly.  I KNOW that I would be better off for trying something new.  But, more often than not, I don’t.

Truth is, we are all rednecks.  We generally do what we did the last time, even if it wasn’t that great of an idea.  What really seals the deal with our hard-earned title of redneck is how we view our poor results as “part of life.”

As an athlete, this is measurably true!  Often, I reject good ideas backed with good science.  Yet, this last weekend, I went out on a limb and tried a new idea to address an anticipated pain from an upcoming event.

Last weekend’s event was a 103-mile bike ride up Mt. Mitchell, NC.  The ride is much like a day in the Pyrenees in France, with a bit more climbing.  Like most bike rides that include both more volume and more intensity that I am used to, the expectation was that I would be both tired before I was done and I would HURT the day (or two) following the event.

Science has a name for this hurt phenomena-Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS.  You know what it is-that feeling you get the first time you play basketball as the start of a new season that makes you think that in the two days afterwards it would have been more pleasant to have been hit by a truck.

Part of the dread of DOMS is knowing that it is coming.  Knowing that you will be hurting the next day.  It is not just a physical phenomenon; it is also mental.  Knowing that what you are about to do is going to hurt will prevent people from trying.

A few days before the Mt. Mitchell ride, I heard an episode of The People’s Pharmacy, a syndicated radio show where a married couple helps take complicated medical studies and learnings and simplifies the learnings so folks like me can understand them.

This episode currently on the radio as I drove down the road was titled “What is the science behind fabulous foods for health?”  The first segment of the show was about the effects of foods on either delaying or eliminating DOMS.   The researcher being interviewed took a very complicated question and simplified it. He had heard that cherries and cherry juice (but not cherries from concentrate, mind you), could reduce if not eliminate DOMS if eaten in correct volumes, over the right period.  The science sounded solid, and he had enough unanswered questions to convince me that he was still humble enough to do more good science.

cherriesWanting to tackle my Redneck crown and take it off, I decided to try out his idea.  Cherries and cherry juice, 2 days before the event. Cherry juice the day of and 2 days after.  I hit the grocery store and bought both fresh cherries and juice.

The big day came.  103 miles of riding later, no pain.  The next day, no pain.  The following day, 80 minutes of running and still no pain.  I am currently on Day 4 after the event, I haven’t had to miss a workout.  I never felt the slightest bit of pain (although I was tired after expending 8000 calories in about 7 ½ hours). Last year, after this same event, I was fighting to reach down far enough to tie my shoes.  This AM (day 4), I woke up early and did a 10K run as if the event had never happened.

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Climbing all day hurts!

Just this AM, I thought, “what other clever ideas have I rejected that have led to a pain that I just didn’t need to experience?”  What other cherry juice alternatives are out there that could give me power, speed, endurance, flexibility and strength that I have been missing?”

The only thing that has prevented me from learning them is my addiction to redneck thinking.  I suspect that I have already either read or heard many great ideas that could help me perform at higher levels, but I have rejected them in favor of the items that I perceive as my source of comfort.

Getting used to pain is often deemed a rite of passage for an athlete.  Push through the discomfort and you get better is the mantra.  So, so glad to learn that isn’t the truth.

And one day soon, I hope to get this redneck hat off of my head!

Because boys will be men

In society, when a boys fails to be focused, a quick-to-throw-out comment we say is, “boys will be boys.”  The incorrectness of that comment is that it uses future tense (will be) to describe the present.  The truth is that in the future, boys will be men.  As an athlete and parent, I have a role to play in making sure that my boys become men.

The most blatant problem with men who are assisting today’s boys in their path to manhood is that they are quick to tell boys what to do and often are too time stretched to show them how to do it.  To further complicate it, they don’t lead by example.  We tell our kids that schoolwork is important, but we ourselves spend very little time learning new things that are mandated upon us.  We make poor food choices, right before their eyes, then we harp on them for being picky eaters. From my perspective, the reason men aren’t helping boys become men is that they aren’t practicing what they preach.

My youngest son is now 16 years old and is making the migration from boy to man.  If I parallel his path to that of a wildebeest, he is commencing on his first journey across the Serengeti as the monsoons of adolescence creep into his life.  My intentional response is not that of the traditional talkative dad who tells anecdotal stories to his son from his recliner and the dinner table at the end of a work day.  The use of words (or lack of action, whatever you want to call it) are known dysfunctional strategies that I actively discredit. He yearns for an example to emulate.  He needs not just a hero but a hero who is also focused on improving.  He needs another wildebeest.

Lead wildebeest is one of my jobs. As an athlete, I take responsibility over a regimen that makes me competitive.  My workouts, nutrition plan, recovery strategy and use of my downtime are all important to my success on the field of competition and in life. He sees me create and update training plans both for myself and other athletes every week.  He watches and helps me and his mom cook healthy meals for the whole family on Sundays, so we have great leftover/snack choices before we get hungry.

My son is also working with a private running coach and runs for his school teams.  Over the fall and winter, my son logged his miles running both Cross Country and Track. He got better, every month, from those efforts, but his school couldn’t provide enough of the elements that make the difference between good and great.  He and the other kids weren’t getting examples of how to put it all together-nutrition and recovery needed to be taught and on display as much as the workouts/training.

Now that he is in his “off” season from school practices, my youngest son is doing workouts that I am designing for him.  We use trainingpeaks.com to create and log all of our efforts, and he is improving quickly.  In our house, my wife and I both eat real food, nearly all the time.  I have a nightly stretching regimen that is combined with core strengthening and stability exercises. He sees us, and he follows our lead.

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Alex, my son

What is different?  To begin, he is sore a lot.  Too many mornings he walks down the hall looking like he has recently been stabbed in the thigh.  Second, he ends his workouts winded for more than a moment or two, as hard days are now really hard.  Third, he is getting more rest days.  During his sports seasons at school, he would end up with no more than one day off a week.  Now, he gets at least two and sometimes three days off a week.

I take him to the weight room with me and show him what a max effort bench press looks like before I tell him to do one on his own.  He sees me do an all-out 2 minute effort on the bike trainer before he is told to do one.

 

He is getting better, faster than he otherwise would at school.

Behind his success is simplicity of watching mom and dad lead by example and doing as matter of factual the stuff that makes us faster.

On to the punch line.  Two weeks ago, there was a local 10 mile race that I signed up for.  He and one of the top runners at his school also decided to sign up.  On race morning, conditions were great for a fast run-cold with no wind in the forecast.  Even though I had only run an organized race at that distance one time before, I was able to set a personal best, even after celebrating my 51st birthday.  It felt good to see that getting faster as I age into my 50s is not just possible but reasonable with a focus on holistic training.

My effort wasn’t nearly as great as seeing my son cross the finish line ahead of me. We ran within 50 feet of each other the entire race.  He pushed hard during his last mile and separated from me.  He can in 68th out of 1133 men.  I got 75th.

During some quiet time after the event, my wife asked me if she thought I could have beaten him if I had tried harder.  Perhaps.  But perhaps not.  I was pleased with how well I did.  I was elated to see how well he did.

 

Where we fail to lead by example, we create a future that isn’t as good as the present. Let’s leave the future better than we find the present and invest in the next generation by doing the right thing, in front of their eyes, first.

Dear Abdomen-Handling weight gain over the holidays.

Dear Abdomen,

I know I put on weight over Thanksgiving but haven’t stepped on the scale yet to put a number to it.  I just know that I did.  My clothing didn’t fit the same today as it did a week or two ago.  And, I don’t feel the same.  I feel bad about all the eating I did over Thanksgiving.  Maybe words like, “depressed” or “empty” are feelings associated with the knowledge that I gained weight.  Yet, I had a good time with family, and I know I  shouldn’t feel bad about spending time with my loved ones.  What can I do?  – Charlene

Dear Charlene,

There is a need to reconcile these extreme feelings.  Gaining weight between late November and early January is common in Western culture.  Although science has no defining study that says, “you gain weight when it is cooler,” there is a school of thought that makes us think that when it gets cold, we don’t sweat as much and we gain weight.  Too bad science doesn’t support this.

The evidence points towards two distinct events that are to blame for weight gain.  To begin, we introduce unstructured change into our diets.  The holiday foods aren’t aligned with what we eat the rest of the year.  After all, we don’t eat stuffing in May, nor do we have pumpkin pie in August.  We don’t know how to judge portions or frequency in which to eat these unknown foods. Secondly, we respond differently to the impact of an emotional disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that causes both depression and increased food consumption from darker, shorter days.   This disorder to so widespread and common that people specialize in the health care aspects of it.  SAD has a greater impact in polar regions, but it can alter eating and sleeping patterns in the continental US as well.  My family experiences a mild depression when we turn back the clocks in the fall, for we knows the days of going outside to work in the garden after dinner are over.

Those two explanations that blame a changing diet and SAD aren’t justifications, though.  Truth be told, a lack of self-control plays a role, as does denial and a lack of preparation for upcoming nutritional assault that you know you will face in the holiday season.

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Thanksgiving is a flat tire event.  Do you fix the flat or blow out 4 more tires?

We recognize the pattern that arises this time of year.  We even coined the phrase 4 flat tire syndrome.  When your cars gets a flat tire (like blowing your nutritional plan when you overeat at Thanksgiving), the normal person would stop the car and change the flat tire to resume normal operation.  The tendency this time of the year for someone who lacks nutritional maturity is to get out of the car and pop the other three good tires, to really ruin the ability to travel.  Then you sit next to the car wondering what happened!

Don’t let the flat tire of Thanksgiving lead to a string of events that includes three more flat tires of crummy eating that lasts until January 1.  If you think your self-image is damaged now, wait until January 1, when you over-respond with a new gym membership and a diet that you know you won’t sustain.  A Canadian blogger named Michael Freedhoff recommends these strategies to avoid the Holiday/winter weight gain issues:

  • Cook meals from scratch. The processed junk food that somehow just “shows up” on our counter is a part of the problem.  This is like putting more trees and snakes next to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.  Instead, make food prepared from real ingredients and try to eat as many healthy meals as you can.  If it is in a bag or from an unknown source, replace it with something that is good for you, instead.
  • Cook as a family. After all, the people whom you want to see this holiday season are most likely to be near or in the kitchen with you this time of year.  Use that time to make good food together and not just eat it together.
  • If you think you suffer from SAD, fess up and get medical attention. There are treatment strategies that will create a path of hope.  You aren’t weak if you seek medical help. You are acting wisely to seek medical help.

Lastly, some weight gain this time of year is healthy for those of us who are extreme athletes. That all said, I too was impacted by Thanksgiving and put on some weight.  For world class athletes in the endurance sports like marathon and Ironman, winter is a time of weight gain.  Runners from El Doret, Kenya, gain up to 15 pounds each winter/off season, as many of them get to a very low percentage of body fat.  For you, keep up some exercise, despite what you think of the weather and lack of daylight, and adapt to the changing outdoor season.

 

Welcome to Church!

So, I had a food and fitness moment that included me throwing the obese-man-03leadership of a couple of local churches under the bus.  Then, I got my heart broken, for the good.

My church, like most churches in the south, is populated by those whom are fat.  Fat people have fought hard to become accepted as normal, and they have their advocates like any other group of people.  Their presence anywhere in our society, including church, is not a big deal.  Churches are filled with folks of all sorts, all at different places in their walks with God.

However, for those of us who call Christianity our faith, we have a different set of standards than those who live in the world.  Christ tells us in Romans 12:1 that our bodies are “temples.”  He also says that we are to offer them as sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.

Historically, the temple in ancient Jewish culture was the pinnacle of village activity.  People diligently cared for it, making sure that nothing unclean was ever brought into the temple, and the priests who served in the temple were often the most revered members of society.  The temple had an outward appearance that was pleasing, and the community was proud of their church.  Inside the church, there were rules regarding what could be brought inside and who could and could not bring things into the temple.  That mechanism of filters was what defined how the church was to be maintained as “holy.”

“Sacrifice” implies going without for a higher good.  People sacrifice going on a great vacation in order to save for education for their children.  That word “sacrifice” used in this context has the same meaning and connotation as one who goes without in the world today.  God says it is Holy and Pleasing to Him for us to treat our bodies as a living sacrifice (as opposed to a beheading as some ancient religions perceive sacrifice to mean).

Lastly, he says that the act of treating our bodies as “Holy” is our “true and proper” worship.  This is not to say that teaching, preaching and prayer and song are inadequate worship, but they aren’t “true and proper” worship.  True worship comes from treating our body as a temple.

These are not my words, folks.  Yet, they are lost by the leadership at the place that I call my local church.  Our church is led by folks who either disagree with Romans 12:1 or feel it doesn’t apply to them and the people they lead.  For me, it was life-transformational to learn the depth of Romans 12:1, and the impact that it has had on me led to hundreds and in some instances thousands of you reading this blog.

I recently lost the ability to look at leadership with any real level of respect as they shared their passion for the messages and mysteries that they see in the Bible, while simultaneously leading a life that didn’t include any passion for true and proper worship.  Heck, even the worship leader and his wife are obese!  All the while, there has been a focus on building a children’s area that was full of quality places that would be the “temple” used to attract in new folks.

Trashing the temple is sin.  It isn’t right to ignore God’s teachings about the temple, sacrifice and what God finds Holy and pleasing because you aren’t very good at it.

This doggedness of the truth began affecting me.  The temptation was to quit and move on.   Yet, no one can maturely leave a situation that is troubling without first trying to fix it.  My wife and I responded by creating a course that we call “Faith, Food and Fitness,” the objective of which is to:

-lay out what the Bible has to say about food and fitness topics.

-provide guidance and support for implementing these mandates in the 21st century, in the USA.

-add valuable science to help achieve their goals.

We have opened the doors to our church, employees and friends to take the class.  The class was published in the list of life group classes that church members can participate in.  Despite the hundreds of people who call our church their home church, we have only had a handful of folks take the class.  We have run the class twice.  Both my wife and I are all but done asking this crowd if they want help on the topic.  After all, help isn’t for people who need it.  It is for people who want it.

Over the last few months, we have been attending church infrequently, but truth be told, we haven’t missed it.  Then, the weekend before leaving to travel to the World Championships, I went to church.  My son and wife had an event up the road in Davidson, NC, that prevented them from coming, so I went alone.  At church, there was talk of an upcoming men’s retreat/event weekend.  The lead pastor marketed this unique men’s event by repeatedly sharing with the audience that all the men who attended were going to eat barbecue.  References to what we were going to study?  Nothing that I heard.  What they were going to put into the temple made the hot list of topics and was the only topic that got brought up more than once.

I concluded that I was done with this place.  I was done with the hypocritical leadership who says “follow Christ” but leads others astray by trashing their temples. These guys are making chubby buddies and didn’t see anything wrong with their actions.  The epidemic of obesity in church has grown so much that both Fox News and Christianity Today have published articles on how bad obesity trends in churches are, even when compared the general population. In addition, a friend of mine just took on a high level leadership position at a large church in our area, and I called him out on his failover to perform true and proper worship.  He heard that he needed to go on a diet.  Last I saw him, that strategy wasn’t working.  To complicate things, he used to be a worship pastor.

All these events added up, and I finally concluded that we weren’t changing anyone or anything from our efforts, and I was being “dumb” for sticking around and beating my head against a rock with our church.

So I thought.

On Sunday am, before the start of church, Emily, the Equipping Pastor got my attention and pulled me towards where she sat by showing her big, bright smile.

“Guess what!” she said.

“Tell me,” I responded, not knowing what to expect.  However, I have known her for 10+ years and knew she was going to tell me, regardless of my answer.

“You helped to inspire me.  I am running my first half marathon soon.  I have been training for it, and…”

I didn’t hear anything she said after that.  All I could hear was, “Jeff, you are wrong…dead wrong about not making an impact.”  Just because I couldn’t see results or feel results didn’t mean there weren’t any.  Emily and her sister have both followed some of my goings on, and her sister took half of our class.  But, they have gone radar silent and we haven’t heard from either of them in a year.  I thought they had gone back to their old ways.

Philosophically, I asked, “Is it enough that one person got it?”

Yes.  Through one, many can be saved. How many times did one person, changing one person, start a revolution that impacts a culture.

Had Emily not approached me, I would have concluded that my efforts were wasted at our current church and I would have begun seeking a new place to call church where they were valued.  At our church, we most certainly prioritize fixing cars and having cool stuff for our kids, but not so much regarding “true and proper worship” and “sacrifice” make it into behavior patterns where leadership is leading by example.

I don’t know what is next, but giving up isn’t on the next step list.