Lent Blog 10

I love to run. And by that, I truly mean that I love the actual act of running. I love the feeling of using my body for the very thing it seems designed to do. I love to trail run the most, though I still log most of my miles on the streets of my town. I usually run not just to run, but also as an unwinding. I am wound up until I get to run, then I am unwound. I process events and ideas and concepts and relationships better during and after a run.

Many runners get into the activity for different reasons, and I likely came to running following a different path. As a young student, a coach I had in elementary school sent home slips of paper each day after PE. I would come home with slips of paper that read “Travis ran ¼ mile today”. After a few weeks, the papers read higher and higher numbers. Inside the classroom, I feel like it settled me down. The more I ran, the less I bounced. And the less I got into trouble. I ran fast enough and far enough each day to get involved on a Junior Olympic track team. This lead me to a near lifelong affair with competitive running. But just like my beginning in running, I have returned to my roots as a person who just runs because it makes me feel good.

Don’t get me wrong, I can still move for an old guy. Now that my kids are moving into school sponsored cross country and track, I have begun to really enjoy running with my own children. My daughter keeps thinking she is faster than Dad. And Dad keeps easing that bar ever higher. I hope one day she can beat me. That will save me a ton of money in college tuition. But what I really, truly want is for my kids to fall in love with running. And not even with like PR’s and awards and trophies and KOM’s and scholarships. But with the act of running.

You see, for me, the act of running is like an act of worship. It’s like my piano concierto or my beautiful painting or my feat of engineering. I can’t hold it in my hand, but I know in my heart that this is the closest I will feel to being a talented, gifted artist. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I am not musically gifted. I am average intelligence. I don’t paint well. But when I run, I feel like I am at one with nature, doing the natural thing that I have done for generations and generations. I like to think of Jesus and his disciples as a band of runners who travelled from town to town spreading the love of God. And they probably did. Running was far more important than we realize in biblical times, and not just as an Olympic sport. Running was a part of the daily lifestyle.

I run for free, I run to be free, and I run because I am free. And freely do I run, and when I do, i feel connected and alive. More than I do any other time. It’s not that I haven’t tried. It’s not that I haven’t left running multiple times, only to come back to it each and every time. I want to connect in other ways the way I do when I run, but I keep getting sent back to the beginning for a new ending. May you find the thing that connects you the way running connects me. Happy running!

Lent Blog 9

A maskil, hopefully, of Travis. Without the musical inclinations or rhymed couplets.

 

I am a slow learner. I have to see, hear, experience, or do things multiple times in order to really learn. Or at least it seems this way. This week, I have been pointed to Psalm 32 on three different occasions. It is a Maskil of David, full of requests to Selah. I was also pointed to Psalm 51, which appears to be the Psalm that Psalm 32 is referencing. That is a lot of exposure to the same lesson. I’m still not sure I totally have it down. In fact, I am almost 100% certain I am not even close. I understand, but I don’t fully do so. I comprehend, yet it is still somewhat like a foreign language.

 

A maskil is a poem of understanding, a teaching song. A song of instruction. A song intended to provide insight into an area of humanness that could really use the insight. This maskil makes reference to a different time, a period before the current one that highlights the lack of understanding the author, David, currently possesses. The items referenced seem to point to Psalm 51.

 

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Psalm 32:3

 

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Psalm 51:8

 

There are others, but you get the gist. There is continuity in scripture. A before and after, a beginning and an end, an alpha and an omega. An omega to the alpha, an end to the beginning. An after to the before. Psalm 51 is written right after Nathan tells David, “You are that man”. Psalm 32 seems to be a time of remembrance when David was inspired to write Psalm 51. Psalm 51 seems to be a worship song, written for the choirmaster. Psalm 32 is a maskil, a song with a lesson built right in.
After the inspiration and realization that he was hopeless without God and the Holy Spirit, David turns around and wants others to learn from his mistakes. More importantly, he wants them to turn toward God. Every time. And I am so thankful for David’s obedience, because without his obedience and talents, I wouldn’t be here thousands of years later learning from his words. His Psalm is my beginning today, I hope it ends well. And I can begin again, anew.

Lent blog 5

Our family had a great weekend. We spent the weekend either at a scouting event or at a NICA High School mountain bike race at Munny Sokol Park in Tuscaloosa. Both organizations are extremely values conscious and student driven, making them an excellent opportunity for learning and experiencing in a safe, inviting environment. The families involved in each group have similar experiences as ours, loving the chance to make lasting memories and forge friendships. Both organizations are building students for a lifetime of learning and achieving, and these are things I want for my children, and desire to see in all children.

Our scouting event involved spending the day at Auburn University to earn a merit badge in a single day. My son achieved all the necessary steps for an Eagle required Communications merit badge, making him better prepared for the future in scouting and life in general. At 12 years old, he has already earned his Star Scout rank, setting him up for Life Scout at the end of Summer. After life Scout, it is one year until he can earn his Eagle Scout Rank. He is on pace to earn this coveted rank before he is 15 years old.

In NICA’s High School Mountain Biking League, there is a set of core values that drive the organization as they seek to get #morekidsonbikes. The values are formed around no bench warmers, no try-outs, every rider counts, lifelong fitness and health, student first mentality, and to work hard, play fair, and respect others and the community. These are the types of values I wish all sports sought to teach. These are life changing principles and the guiding force behind one of the fastest growing high school sports, with over 7500 riders nationally. I am behind the movement, and the movement is behind me.

I encourage all parents to find organizations that have the best interests of their children at the heart of their mission. It is a difference maker for our family to be involved in NICA and Boy Scouts of America. May you find a niche for your family as well.

Lent blog 6

Walking Away

One of the hardest things to learn in life is when to walk away. Sometimes, it seems, it is hard simply because it is a change. My sweet, shy daughter is facing this life change this afternoon. After contemplation and evaluation, she has determined one of her sports needs to be given up for the betterment of herself and her other endeavors. The prospect of facing the coach and having the uncomfortable conversation has her nerves on high. She fears the conversation because the prior dealings have not been supportive and punishment has been the modus operandi. I am pushing her to have the conversation because it is her life and her decision to make. But more importantly, it is an important life skill to learn. We all do everything in our power to avoid the hard conversations in life. Fear drives us to protect the relationship, no matter if it is a beneficial one or not, so we avoid conversations that change the relationship status.

One of the things I have discovered in my career shift from the corporate world into the realm of special education is that everyone learns differently and everyone has value. Just because you look, behave, act, think, or learn differently does not mean you cannot learn and progress. More importantly, kids on the fringe of the mainstream need adults and other students to go into the weeds with them, helping them to discover their unique gifts and contributions they can make to society at large. As a lifelong coach, I have transitioned from a win at all cost attitude to a student/player first mentality, and it has allowed me to see the strengths in students that others may miss. That is what grieves my spirit with my daughter. Several coaches have discounted her abilities and contributions because she does not squeal and hug and snapchat and instagram and squeal and hug and selfie over and over and over again. Different is not difficult, and different is not bad. Neither is difficult.

My hope and prayer in this moment of time is that my daughter faces her fear with grace and peace, trusting that when you prayerfully  and thoughtfully come to the time to walk away, she will be free to enjoy her other activities and not be burdened by her decision. I want her to know that not only do her her mother and father love her infinitely, but that her father in heaven does as well. Her worth and value do not come from the judgment of coaches or teachers or even parents or friends, but from the price her savior paid for her. I hope she can instantly turn from this and feel the burden lifted from her shoulders, and that her dignity stays intact from the interaction. Life is too short to stay held down in bad situations, particularly when better is sitting right in front of you. I love you and am so proud of you today, and every other day as well. Walk tall sweet girl, Daddy has your back. And so does Abba…

Lent Blog 3

Something has been bugging me. Not a squeaking door or the vibration that comes from the hot water pipe or even the constant beeping sound I attempt to sleep through during the overnight bridge construction near my home. Something deeper. It is one of those things you read that is so true and so real and so revealing that it shakes you. I didn’t even catch it the first time I read it. I had to hear my son read it to hear it. His saying it aloud awoke me from my slumber. “Awake, O Sleeper, and rise from the dead”

So, when I awoke from the dead, I pondered the statement and began to slowly realize the gravity of these words. Jesus never said “Worship me”. But He did say “Follow me”. The writer noted just how easy it is to worship Jesus. It requires little sacrifice and in many ways is a completely fulfilling and enjoyable endeavor. Following Jesus is an entirely different thing.

When you truly dig in and study where Jesus walked and how he lived, you realize that long distance hikers live easier, more plush lifestyles than He did. “Foxes have dens and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head”. This is Jesus’s response when one of the scribes said he wanted to drop everything and follow Him. Scribes were wealthy and lived easy existences, likely enjoying all of the worship of God they could muster. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that all of Jesus’s enemies lived easy, worship-filled lives. They would even defend their deeds as saying they were doing these acts out of respect and worship of their religion, as an act of worship toward God.

So why do I whine and cry and complain when following my calling becomes hard? I’ve got a nice, soft place to rest my head…

Lent 2

It’s Friday and I can say that it has been a good Friday. It’s not good, but it is Good. I have been personally dealing with persons in authority over myself or my family. If you are feeling brave and need to be caught up on my authority issues, check out my previous blog post called Freeing the Rebel Within. But recently I have been exposed to a whole new realm. In this new place, those in authority are young, which is a group I supposedly connect with. Perhaps due to my continuous journey towards ancient, I have not been able to appreciably connect with or understand the dealings with these individuals. I have been really unsettled by these issues, as personally I want others to succeed.

I think my real issue is again, me. When I was a new manager, I wouldn’t listen and no one could get me to do anything I didn’t want to do. I placed myself on an island, and I didn’t have a professor, or even a Gilligan, to help me out or keep me company. Not that others didn’t try, I just kicked them off my island. I was young and impetuous. I was a jerk. I thought I was right. But I was so very, very, very wrong. So when I see young people in charge make brash, impetuous, flabbergasting decisions, it reminds me of me. When you see a part of yourself that you hate showing up in others, you want to grab them and make them understand what they are doing to themselves. And others. And me.

I hope that is where my angst comes from. I hope that I want the best for others and find ways to help them avoid the pitfalls and pain I experienced. But that is only a part of what I feel. The other thing I feel is a deep, burning anger. And it hurts me, not them. And it hurts to say it, or type it. All the anger I have ever felt for others has only hurt me. No one else. That’s not true either. It hurts all my relationships. Anger hurts the one that’s angered, and it hurts the relationships they are involved in. We can get so caught up in our righteous anger that it can change us. And put us on an island. You may not even be alone on your island, but on these islands there is no growth except in anger and self-righteousness.

Jesus expressed anger in the days just before the leaders chose to put him on their version of the electric chair. He threw things and turned over tables and expressed truths that the establishment didn’t want to hear. So they killed him. Knowing this story makes Jesus a little harder to understand for some. Jesus revealed their heart issue, and pointed out the ritualistic nature of their daily life. Experiencing authority issues again reminds me that I still haven’t fully developed or arrived, and maybe I need to be stretched in order to grow further. Or maybe it’s time to swallow my fear and pride so I can have a genuine, constructive conversation with someone who needs to hear it. Or maybe express my issues to lessen my personal burden. But I know it is time to tell others they are hurting me and those I care about. When I am selfish and self-righteous, unfair and unjust, I hope someone is brave enough to come to me.

F.E.A.R. is false evidence appearing real. I have to trust that if I prayerfully approach others with only an agenda of hope and reconciliation, they will accept and we can grow from the exchange. But they might not. And there may be consequences. So I have to be brave enough to accept them and grow from them. And maybe even walk away. And you may need to do the same. Godspeed…

Lent

This season of Lent is starting off like many others in the past few years, crazy hectic. With two children participating in four sports and my own voracity for running, while taking Grad school classes, my free time has quickly evaporated. I’ve learned as I’ve transitioned into middle-agedness that life is not as neatly segmented as our minds and schedules would like them to be. It is a mess. Tons of overlapping agendas and schedules and events, the search for quiet moments to collect yourself and gather your thoughts are relegated to your commute and the shower.

This doesn’t mean you cannot have meaningful contact with others or live a connected life, it just means you have succumbed to the madness that is modern society. Searching for these quiet moments actually makes me appreciate them more. The opportunity to have a genuine, heartfelt conversation with someone or just a glimpse of another’s random act of kindness toward a stranger is right there in the madness, if you are willing to search, seek, then see it. I hear people say all the time how evil and awful the world is. I believe your worldview is greatly impacted on what you set your eyes upon, so I choose to see goodness. For the next forty odd days, I am going to genuinely seek to look away from evil and divisiveness, and instead look for and find the good.

This morning I heard about a college student who is planning on moving to Africa upon graduation and starting a clinic for special needs children. There is so much hope out there to see. Choose to look away from the evil and brokenness, and set your gaze upon goodness, kindness, hope, and genuine love. I know that as I feel, I behave. And I know as I behave, it impacts others and how they behave. So the only solution is to change myself, and the world around me will change. This is not complicated, but it is extremely difficult to accomplish. Join me in this journey of making the world a little brighter by simply looking at the good around you.

Discovery weekend

So, I’m standing in the lobby at Riverchase United Church watching several hundred students stream in. I am always astounded by the energy and passion terms can bring when they are excited to be at an event. I hope their hearts are ready for what’s about to happen. We’ll see soon enough.

Jack Johnson signs a song about losing keys. I have lost two kids in the last two days. Not really lost, just they never showed up. They were supposed to be here, but they were there. Or they, and they were here. Either way, there was a disconnect in where they thought should be and where they were. Unfortunately, I was on the parent end of the equation. Mom’s don’t like to not know where their kids are. Neither do dads. I just hope it stops there.
Another thing was an asthma attack. I was the first adult notified. And I stayed calm. I also calmed them down. Anyone who really knows me would testify to how miraculous this detail is.

Apparently I like stressful situations…

Lenten Journey

For Lent this year, I have committed to writing each day to bring to light my thoughts and feelings and insights as I pass through this Easter season. And if you like, you can join me. As an aside, this is the Second attempt. The first just disappeared. Not even sure what happened…

Ash Wednesday was amazing and eye-opening for me on several levels. First, I heard details about Christ and scripture that I have never heard or realized before. This is a big deal. I love when Christ shakes you from your slumber and opens your eyes to a new and bigger picture of who He is.

I wake up for my early morning Wednesday bible study typically when I remember to ask the Holy Spirit to be my alarm. This is a surprisingly consistent technique. The Spirit moves when you seek guidance. Yesterday, the Spirit worked through my sweet wife since I failed to do my part by setting the alarm through prayer the night before. I made it in time to hear a lesson on the 5th Commandment.

Honor your Father and your Mother, with the first striking point being the defining of the opposite of Honoring, which is trivializing. Trivializing someone and treating them as if they do not matter. WOW. After that sank in, he mentions that Jesus created His parents. And He submitted to their will. In the story where a teenage Jesus is stays behind in the temple while His family journeys home, Mary and Joseph return to search for their missing son.

When they find Jesus, He asks, “Did you not know I would be in my Father’s house?” They did not know. Scripture says they were frantically searching for Him, and did not fully realize who He truly is. WE do the same thing, all the time, from both directions. First, we forget to truly realize who Jesus is. The second, as parents, we fail to fully see who and what our kids are to become. More often than not, we are like Mary and Joseph and demand submission. If we have done our job as parents, then our kids will imitate Christ and submit to our will as He did for his parents. But was this the best thing? I pray I do not override my child’s worship of Him and His Glory with my demand for obedience to me. But I know I have, and likely will again.

And speaking of my kids, they blew me away yesterday. My daughter actually wanted to run with me, which points to her desire to spend time with me more than her desire to run. Then they both jumped on the idea of our family doing a Lent calendar with items we are going to participate in to honor Christ during this season. Both were looking for items that fit one of the pillars of Lent, fasting, service, and prayer then adding them to our calendar. Last night’s activity was a prayer focused on hope. While we were working on the calendar, my sweet son wrote a prayer for each person to read. Both the ladies in my house are shy, so he did this to make the prayer easier for them to do. At ten years old, he recognizes the need to make God more accessible to others.

Lastly, the pastor at my bible study quoted Andrew Murray, a preacher from the late 1700’s. Murray is one of my favorite writers, but it’s been a while since I sought out any of his work. This quote is new to me, but hit hard. “The secret to home rule is self rule, first being ourselves what we want our children to be”. God be with each of us as we attempt to raise Godly children.

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