Thursday, March 3, 2011
How to prevent the deceptive heart from leading us down a path of overtraining, undertraining or just bad attitude? A traditional coaching path is to adopt some kind of sports psychology training. It's behavioural adaption using a number of tricks. I attended a class once that taught how to identify your mental trigger to be used during training or races. This has some success however it can be only temporal and has side effects.
The thing is if your heart is deceptive, as we examined in the last post, then adopting the mindset of the trickster can hardly be an unhealthy approach. Deception + deception = greater deception. This is a spiral of thought that could lead, and often does, to selfishness. Everythings fine so long as we're all playing according to my tune, my training needs and suppporting my goals. Woe betide the loving wife or girlfriend who routinely supports or even shares in her man's passion for sport who decides she wants to do something different with him.
My submission is that we want to be athletes, not just with healthy and efficient hearts, but also athletes with good hearts. Do you know what makes a heart good? Generosity, compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice makes for a big heart. Every club I have belonged to thrives on the people with big hearts. Those willing to direct their time, talents and energies to supporting others. If you really want a good coach look at the way he treats his wife or she treats her husband. If you see respect, tenderness, gratitude, honour and dignity then you probably have a person worth listening too. If you set you own plan then it's self evident that to succeed as an athlete first you have to love well the people in your life.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
You'll have heard ideas, even shared them, about whether people tend to let their heart lead their head or vis-a-versa. You will have heard of the idea that there are creative types and more technically minded. These are vain attempts to stereotype you and in many cases, provide you allibis when your performance fails to meet your aspirations. The road to hell is paved in good intentions or perhaps the road to the salad bar is hindered by diversions to the hamburger stall!
Whether you be a champion or a beginnner, before you go any further in your athletics career I want us to examine our hearts. Think about it. If the rational mind was the answer to delivering the best performance in training and competition then we would all be champs. There would have to be a line of podiums for all the winners! We would follow the coaching rule book, line up our goals, you know the type: be fitter and healthier, look like the guy in the picture or get the guy in the picture, be a better person, enjoy the community of my sporting friends, get a sub 10 hr IM etc and success would follow. The deceptive heart would be of no consequence because the rational mind with its access to reason, experience and a plan would overide the obstacles.
We know this isn't the case so our starting point is going to be to explore why. CS Lewis said that, "if a man is dying of thirst in the desert, it doesn't matter which path he chooses if it doesn't lead to the only well". So we need to set out on the right path if we are to reach our destination. The point is that if you are on the wrong path no matter how hard you try you'll never get where you are going, it makes more sense to turn around, head back to the beginning and start out again.
Monday, February 28, 2011
Most are athletes in some way. The young mum who is taking a walk to keep fit an healthy, the old man taking a walk to collect his paper or the working father heading out for a hard day, it's all exercising the body, the whole body, which includes the heart and soul. Our attitude of mind will help our progress as athletes seeking to get best performance from these fragile frames. Even the strongest and best receive regular reminders of their bodies mortalilty in injury, fatigue or lack of motivation. So the question I want to address in a series during March is how do we make the most of these bodies in such a way that we can be healthy, improve our performance and most importantly, achieve a level of satisfaction with our experiences that whatever obstacles, struggles and difficulties come our way we have the strength to deal with them.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
I understand your confusion. You've been taught be all you can be, fulfill your potential, have strong self esteem and awareness. You have the liberty to choose so why on earth should you accept one particular nonsensical truth claim that your rational mind knows is fable and myth? Besides, there's nothing to attract you.
On the one hand you have the likes of the retired General Richard Dannett. Respectable, suited and writing tiring prose in the old Daily Telegraph about the military covenant. He's reportedly a Christian, meaning that against all sensible thought, believes that a man who was dead, was then alive, walked through walls and spoke to hundreds, mmmm...? If he does believe that then the depth of his faith can't be that stong if despite his public platform he singularly misses many opportunities to share this belief in Jesus's deity.
Then you have Mr Bob Geldoff. Having read a profile/interview with him in the same newspaper I would rather hang out with Geldof, who seems altogether better company. He's not afraid to tell you his worldview, what he thinks is the truth, that humanity's got the answers and how to get through the life's devastating events. He waxes lyrically about love, laughs and swears a great deal. The interviewer shares in the laughter and evens cries a bit, which is kinda touching. If you were going to empathise with anyone's worldview surely Bob Geldoff offers far more than Dannett?
However, here's your dilema because you know that lies and liars are attractive. Dannett has been married, loyal and faithful to the same woman for 33 years, he's been dilligent, respected authority, and been a servant. Bob Geldoff's Wiki entry says he was committing adultery with Claire King when his first daughter was born and subsequently his wife left him for the arms of Michael Hutchenson. Now, I am open to persuasion but you'll have to have a strong argument to convince me that Paula Yates would have left him had he been loving her well. You can pour millions into charity work, be a successful multi millionaire businessman come rock star but if you drive your wife into the arms of a another man, who ends up committing suicide, then you are an abuser. The fact that Paula later died of a drugs overdose reinforces my belief that Geldof is no man - yet. And this is why I want time with Bob Geldof not Richard Dannett.
It breaks my heart that he has daughters. This man is a cultural icon, people listen to him, he helps form opinions and until a few years ago I would have been a fan. He represented living a full life, challenging convention, shedding a few tears and doing good work for charity along the way, a worldview that so many seem to respect. The suffering he leaves in his wake must be just an unfortunate by product of the kind of man he is. Do not be confused. These are the people, successful, wealthy, popular, charming and convincing that are peddling a lies to the point of destruction.
Real liberation come through truth found through genuine humility and submission. You want to be radically counter cultural, a rebel for the new age? Then be submissive to authority, get a job, love one woman and make her your wife. have a few kids and provide for them. Admit to your friends that you have been believing lies, that there is Truth and that you are going to give up your ideas and philosophies that you have seen cause so much hearache and destruction in your life and others. Get to the know the character and nature of that truth. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Here's the Big Issue for a friend who is an atheist. For him his team are the only sane ones on the planet. Humanity's only hope is to denounce their religions and embrace science which is truth. Atheism offers objective reality.
The only problem with this worldview is that it could be wrong. There have been too many articulate, well read, thoughtful and humble people that believe differently to dismiss God at the testimony of a man who reads and loves all the Richard Dawkins has written. He has yet to read any CS Lewis, Tim Keller, John Piper or George MacDonald.
Just supppose there was a God who was above time, the universe and everything. Just suppose he did speak the world into existence, don't worry about the how, remember He works beyond anything you know. How would he best communicate. A book would seem a sure way of getting the record straight. Now there's always the appear before your people option, but then if you are a God of Love who has created people to reflect your Love with all their heart, soul and strenth, then bullying or bribing them really wouldn't be love, would it?
Have you ever gone into a popular bar in town, approached someone you really like the look of and being stronger, and with the element of surprise on your side, taken the person outside, forced them into your car and taken them back to your place? Have you then taken them into your home and invited them to share in the domestic duties, spent time in conversation, watched your favourite movie together and then got naked and made mad passionate love? Did they stay the night, wake up with you the next morning, share your breakfast then kiss you goodbye, told you that they loved you and promised to have a bath run and a candlelit dinner ready for you when you got home from a hard day in the office? Do you honestly think that love was sincere?
If that seems to you far fetched consider, that's just what my atheist friend wants from God. Not satisified with the wealth of evidence presented in creation, not impressed by the historical, circumstantial and annecdotal evidence of Jesus Christ's life and the personal witness of those first Christians and millions since, he want God to personally pay him a visit drag him from his metaphorical popular bar, then he'll believe in him. Belief is not enough, God wants a relationship, he's a father (Abba), he loves his children.
However, there's the paradox because if your don't know the source of love you cannot, it's just not possible, to truly Love. You think you love, but that's a construct of love from your mind developed through the prism of what the world has taught you. You can sense and see love, have an idea of what it is but to actually know love, to be motivated by true love takes a miracle, a miracle you have to ask for. Adam is being offered a miracle but he can't really be bothered. God is relentlessly pursuing him, just as he is relentlessly pursuing you but you want more evidence, God doesn't quite fit your view of what you want so for now........
Friday, February 18, 2011
I replied to a question from a friend on FB, thought I'd record it on here.
The piece was challenging the ISAF op in Afghanistan suggesting that there was strategic stalemate. My response is in tune with teh it's about what we are becoming mindset. There really is too much at stake not to take these matters seriously. The lives of our children for starters and not just the ones that we may send out to fight our wars.
The author fails to contextualise military operations within the development of governance and infrastructure piece. The NATO strategy is investment in authentic Afghan capabilities, civil and military, while conducting aggressive forward d...efence. Working the numbers has limited application and misses the long term effect of the Combined Team's efforts, that being the Aghan National Security Forces, ISAF and civil organisations. The population's confidence in the security of the police will not increase until they experience security over the course of several seasons. In Northern Island we defeated Republican and Loyalist armed organisations militarily, socially and politically, it took at least thirty years and you could not yet report that the people of Ulster are living in complete peace and harmony.
It's far from perfect, there is much that can be done to get better. The politics is sectarian, there is so much more to learn from the culture and there are ways in which we can understand Islamic theology better so we can meet people where they are when we communicate. It's a classic VUCA environment that undoubtedly benefits from Paparonian divergent thinking. So keep feeding us officers with the capacity to challenge technical rationality, who have an insatiable appetite for history and are willing to put love for a neighbour ahead of personal gain. If my son comes here to spar with the Devil, hidden in Improvised Explosive Devices, I need him led by men who are careful listeners, thoughtful, merciful, and courageous. See Joshua 1:9.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Here's a song that takes you back to 1995 and what amazing lyrics that blissfully washed over my ignorance. Just read them, what wonderful questions:
If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question
And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets
And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He's trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome
And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
What if god was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome
What do you think, pretty amazing eh? God did become one of us. He set aside his divinity to become a man. He had a young mum, probably only about 14 or 15 years old when she gave birth, a hard working construction worker for a step Dad, from who he would have learned the family trade. He had nothing that would have attracted us to him, he was that stranger on a bus making his way home from church where he studied and grew in wisdom and understanding. And it's right, many catholics do reckon the Pope is somehow closer to God than them with a direct line to heaven, which breaks my heart.
Don't waste your life blogging when you can blog with purpose. How on earth do you get the humlity to admit that you have been believing lies for much of your life? You can't that's the point. I really hope you are reading this and you will at least see the rational. To pursue humility you need humility and because you see the world through the prism of your own prejudice then your humility, if you claim any, is a constuct of your own mind, it's false humility. You are pretending to be humble with comments like, "I really am not all that bright" or "look I may not be that clever but..." or "you are much brighter than me but I have common sense and I can see..." or "I am just a simple worker/LE officer/fireman, but". You say these things but in your heart don't you think you have it worked out, the truth, you have confidence in what you believe? If not that's a good start, if though you think you have humility it's a construct of your mind, you are living a lie in a destructive circle and need help. The trouble is that I or any other man cannot help you, I am just as corrupted, prejudiced and foolish. Even those who have the world's credentials are likely educated beyond their intelligence. Look at the Dali Lama, bright guy, apparently, but believing a lie, bright people believe lies have to be sharing lies, is that loving? You need outside help, the love of a pure father who loves you despite your vanity, ego and arrogance. Sweep away all the world's advice and look to your God who relentlessly pursues you.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
When men are put in positions of modest authority, let's say as a colonel in the US Army, get angry, loud and overbearing it is pathetic. I mean that in a kind way. He is displaying his own vulnerability, weakness and flaws; all that is pathetic about mankind. Believe me I am surrounded by it. You may ask what makes me so special that I can see it? Because I can see it in myself and seek to live, as Martin Luther put it, a life of repentance.
I confess that at yesterday's outburst, directed at a colleague, my first reaction was a mix of apprehension, tension and instinct to fight back. "How will I retort if he dares to speak to me in such patronising terms?". Only on reflection did I realise that this man needs compassion, help and prayers. What a dark place to be, where the thing that gets you most fired is some trivial staffing crisis that with patience can be readily resolved.
My greatest concern is for his wife and any children, especially daughters. How do you love well when your passions, energies and talents are so immersed in work? From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Here is a man who relishes his position as a leader, amusing with entertaining anecdotes, razor wit and valuable experience. Oh pity the wife and daughters of a man of such vanity. Life is more taught than caught. Is it any wonder that girls go in search of similar men offering their bodies for a share of control, seeking the affections of overbearing men? Is it any wonder that wives seek distractions? Is it any wonder that there are so many wrecked lives in my family, my wife's family and beyond? Did you know that the stench of man's vanity lingers even into death. Is that a legacy to proud of or to repent of?
Imagine a British low grade staff officer reflecting on how he is missing the opportunity to brief on a subject that he has researched thoroughly and dedicated time and energies to produce. That officer is keen to have the opportuntiy to show his briefing skills, and the work he has done; he fears another taking his limelight. Is the 'man' here loving the people of the Hindu Kush or loving himself and his career?
I want you to go out there and love people, tell them they are loved, look into their eyes and notice them. Have you tried handing something over with both hands yet? Just start at the checkout. Take the money out, put the wallet in your pocket, take hold of the note with both hands and give it to the 'person'. Look in her or his eyes as you do it. Then take your change, don't look at it or count it but look at them and say, "thank you". The results are amazing when people realise that you have noticed them. We love to be affirmed, we want to matter, we are all hungry for meaning and purpose. Once you have practiced start doing it at work when you hand something over or accept something, do it at home with your family; you'll love the results. Slow down and take time to notice the people who cross your path:
"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13,2
Remember that love is an action and a commitment before it is a feeling.
Let me know how it goes.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
The Chief Nonsense Officer is James and he broadcasts on public radio in the USA. His February Nonsense at Work newsletter includes the following:
Now consider this mantra: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
As more evidence points to Reinhold Niebuhr as the original author, it is worth pondering his original words: “Give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”
Now my rebellious atheistic friends you have yet to persude me that there are no such things as lies. Can we agree that for lies to effective they have to be attractive? That has got to be worrying to imagine you could be approaching your relationships through a prism of lies.
Take the saying above. I have said before that love is an action and commitment before it is a feeling. However, culture tells us to put our feelings foremost, 'if it feels good then it must be right'. This would explain why Niebuhr's original prayer has been altered by subordinating the action aspect to the emotion of 'serenity' to fulfill the cultural mandate. When determining if we have progressed or regressed I would beg you to look around. See the condition of relationships. My close family and Jo's alone have been through the trauma of wrecked marriages and its lifelong effects, lingering even after loved ones have passed away.
What hope do we offer our children? Do we want to set in motion a series of events that leads to strong relationships, and leave a legacy that understands the source of love for grandchildren and beyond? If this idea does not excite you, if you are indifferent to even seriously considering my proposal, then you have to question the sincerity of your love. Is your love a needy love? Does it stem from your need to be affirmed? Because if it is then that is selfish and true love is not selfish. True love is sacrificial, generous, forgiving, does not demand anything in response, it is an outpouring of action, commitment and spirit.
I know many of you cannot know love. If you don't know love how can you fully love your children, or your spouse? It hurts, it's confusing and my words are offensive but I tell you, the wounds of a friend are to be trusted. I push you because I love you, and my the rational is unassailable because it is not a lie it is evidential based historical truth.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
The American people are admirably supportive of their troops and this week we received a stack of free 2011 Hooters callenders. The girls photographed are all admirably fit, curvy and, without doubt, easy on the eye. I gather these women love to model and this recognition of their beauty is a sought after 'career' move! The photos are not overly intimate and the poses could be taken as more suggestive than provocative. Both single and married colleagues have eanestly taken ownership of these callenders and displayed unabashed joy at the content, so you therefore have to ask, where's the harm?
Wrong question, don't ask where's the harm, that's a minimilist approach. The question is, what's the benefit? Is not your life about what you are becoming? Are you not work in progress? I tell you, near naked women are of no benefit to a man living far from his wife, in the predominant company of men, with time on his hands. We are taught in 2 Timothy to treat these young women as sisters, in Genesis that women are shown as the apex of God's creation, created equally in his image deserving of dignity, value and worth. To answer this question you have to start at the Truth or your simply going to follow a lie. "Don't give up on me now, read on!"
We know, given that the majority of people still choose marriage, that these callender models have a husband, they may not have met him yet, but he's out there. Do we value mums who are dignified? Do we appreciate women who care, nurture, cherish, are generous and modest? Do these callenders help or hinder men acknowledging women's privileged role as Mums, respected parents of sons and daughters?
Consider one of these girls as a sister and reflect on the sad fact that it is likely she is a victim of abuse. Perhaps from a predatory male, who has persuaded her to give her body away cheaply, away from the safety and love of a marital covenant. Perhaps her father neglected or abandoned her mother at a vulnerable time when she was growing up. Perhaps a trusted male in her life exploited her trust and she now holds her body in low regard open for exploitation by the highest bidder, be it a boyfriend or Hooters. Imagine that as she grew people have passed judgement on her standard of beauty, sizing her up like a cow in a show, encouraging her vanity, self image, surface beauty, not showing her true love, treating her as precious, unique, with real purpose, worth and soul deep beauty. Young children carry truth into adulthood and abuse comes in many disguises! Men - your wife is your standard of beauty not a girl who is giving her body up for public display!
Am I a prude? Ask my wife, I promise she'll tell you no. The more I love her the lovlier she gets, the stronger our affection becomes and the better it gets. When I was younger I wondered how it could get better, now I know, and photos of girls dressed for the beach do not help. Does it breaks my heart to see these girls and know they are prisoners to a world that sees them as objects? yes. Do I have grave concerns for men unable to love their wives as Christ loved the church, sacrificially, continuously pouring out his love? absolutely.
This is an unexpected way for God to answer the prayers for purity I have offered since being in the Hindu Kush? It's tough maintaining a covenant with my eyes with a pleasing smile and deep curves in the line of sight. However, what the Devil may see as opportunity for sport I see as a gift to talk about Jesus: His love and respect for women, his healthy, pure and counter cultural relationship with women, his creation of women as helpers of beauty and wisdom and ultimately his death as sufficient for the forgiveness of all: Hooters models, adulterous men with lustful minds, sinful men like me.
Please pray that these pictures provide a chance to tell people about Jesus. About his plan for their marriage as a model of His Gospel. About His love for wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. These pictures embroider the Devil's playground where his captives think they roam free; but beware, "don't believe everything you think", you are fenced in. Even writing this blog evokes unwelcome memories of a time when I considered porn to be a legitimate art form, instilled when I was about twelve. Do not be fooled! given the size of the industry, $10billion in the US alone, there will be porn addicts reading this blog. Do away with the triggers that tempt you to escape, for in doing so you are being drawn into a darker, lonelier place, the enemies terrain, which is loveless, abusive and ultimately empty.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It's all cultural. Our effectiveness will only change if we recognise our selfish motives. People openly talk about how their present performance is going to serve their career progress. The reason for the overwhelming majority of people turning up to work in the Death Star to help orchestrate the dispositions and activity of the Star Fleet is for their personal gain. I do not believe for one moment that the inhabitants of this solar system don't detect it. Now, as it happens, they follow a culture that is all about earning their salvation through strict prayer, fasting, honour codes, valour and sacrifice. They empathise with us, to a degree, though find it hard to understand why we would pay such a price as the blood of our sons and daughters for so paltry a return. They do not see what many on the Death Star also fail to see that within the weave of our culture still exists the will to love. It's scattered but one day will be gathered in a harvest. Just imagine when that harvest comes, are you going to be wheat of chaff? Don't so readily accept your destiny as chaff because there is a gift, it's called grace and it's available no matter how bitter and twisted your character, life and history. It's called light and life and lights a path to new passions, desires and appetites. Oh how easily to ignore such profound evidence in favour of what culture teaches you. How readily your pride prevents you from the humility required to repent. You helpless sinner, thank you goodness you are being pursued relentlessly with love, just turn and accept the hand of friendship, compassion, kindness, and generosity. It's not available through ideas, religions and philosophies. There can only be one truth and beyond the love of Jesus, ignoring his battered, torn and beaten body hanging on a cross for you, yes you personally, are lies, deceptions and nonsense. Think it through with fear and trembling and just imagine for a moement, what if it really is true.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The bleakness of the weather and the landscape stripped of foliage makes winter the most impressive season. Things that are hidden through the summer are revealed. In the fallow season the ground recovers. For the athlete it's the same. You build your base and the depth of commitment is revealed, as you either cower in the shelter of your garage on a turbo or brave the strong winds, rain and slippery roads. The weather has dramatic destructive quality I enjoy.
People go through winter seasons. Times of distress, hardship and tension. Just so as you know, telling lies wont help. If someone say, "things can't be all that bad", they may well be, or, "could be worse", nope probably they are as bad as they could get right now, or the best one, "nearly there, we'll soon be over this", nope you have a way to go yet and it'll probably get much more painful. If you are in a dark, lonely and painful place caused by betrayal, abandonment or perhaps illness then you need to know your life may not get any better. The world will offer you all kinds of things to numb the pain but it'll always be there. Pills are usually the first option, accompanied by counseling and a series of self help manuals by luminaries like Oprah Winfrey. These are usually augmented by addictions. Addiction being something or someone that helps mask the pain. In some cases this could be a cause or your work, in others more traditional worldly material like alcohol, gambling, relationships or shopping. Some people choose the most destructive form which is religion. Where else do you suppose suicide bombers come from other than those who can see death as a better option than living.
However, there is a reason for living. Your life does have a genuine purpose beyond the reason you got out of bed this morning. It's not to be a better person, realise your potential or come to terms with your situation. No, it's a cosmic purpose. It's a purpose that can only be seen by looking through the lens of history to a bloody, torn corpse hanging on a tree, the person having died a slow, tortuous, excruciatingly painful death. I want you to imagine the heartache of losing who you care most for, those who are most dear to you abandoning you and someone you trust betraying you. How can you do it? I struggle. However, if you can get there then you will get a glimpse of the agony Jesus Christ faced 2000 years ago.
Are you impressed by athletic endeavour, are you impressed by strong men who overcome terrible odds, are you impressed by valour in the face of formidable odds so others can live? That's where you need to go before you reject Jesus or take him as nothing more than a really good teacher. How little those who rebel against his calling know of him. He once said to the scribes, you memorise the scriptures but you know nothing of them. Wow, this was a guy who really upset the intellectual elite. He said you know the problem with you guys is you are educated beyond your intelligence. You diligently read your Bible, quote verses to impress family and friends but you can't see that they are all about me!
For all the triathletes out there I have good news. Jesus became a phenomenally fit, lean and healthy athlete. He walked hundreds of miles, many miles up mountains where his followers could keep up with him. He lived by the sea and I like to think would have been an excellent swimmer, ( history only records him walking on water once so I imagine he swam for recreation). He was also a construction worker while growing up in obscurity and probably through much of his twenties. And here's what the nemonic triathlon really stands for:
T - Truth - If you pursue triathlon, at any level, and consistent, it will compliment a healthy lifestyle. You see there is truth and there are lies, nonsense and fabrications. You must consider the truth claim that has an amazingly dramatic impact on the whole of human history. Jesus claimed to be God, no other prophet, of any credibility, has claimed that.
R - Revelation - Nobody comes to triathlon having said that I am going to be great at this. People have a go first because they are aware of their ignorance. When it is revealed to them that it is attainable and rewarding that develop an appetite for further exploration. Faith in Jesus similarly comes through revelation. He reveals himself to us through personal experience not through some intellectual exercise. You really need to know that you are up against the omnipotent creator of the universe. The good news though is that he is relentlessly pursuing you in love and when you turn to him and take the hand that is offered the world changes. P.S. This seems like a load of cock and bull to your average atheistic Joe :-)
I - Intelligent - As with triathlon you've gotta think about it. Jesus will meet you wherever you are, be you a doctor of philosophy or someone who struggles day to day to deal with the ordinary things of life. Each has a unique purpose that takes thought, consideration and planning. If you care well for what you have been given you will be productive and be sure more will be offered. Training for success in triathlon is incremental, you need to accumulate the talents for them to become a skill. Our habits develop our character. Thoughts words and deeds that are focused on Jesus will carry the athlete to achievements that today seem implausible.
A - Awe - There is an awe attached to every demanding training session that leads to every race. You can't help but acknowledge that the human body is quite phenomenal. There's a kind of out of body experience, "I really achieved that with this body?" Is that body were simply a collection of random chemicals that by some genetic mutation took us on an evolutionary branch away from the apes? Is that spirit, drive and ambition one of a turbo charged chimp? Or is it the fact that we are image bearers of our Father in heaven? Are those companions from the race circuit who you so enjoy to be in community with in fact unique, with equal dignity, value and worth? I look at them, whatever there athletic talents, and see each loved and precious.
T - Trust - Organizers measure courses, brief safety marshals and prepare for the prize giving. We trust organisers who have reputation. We have seen the fruits of their labours and gives us confidence. You will tend not to risk your life, some courses have some nasty hazards, if you mistrust the organizers. Of course the organisers can only ensure the safety of those who are obedient to their signs. If you choose a different path you are on your own, disqualified. Only be coming back and starting another race do you have the opportunity to reach the finish. Jesus said I am the truth, the light and the way, nobody comes to the Father but through me. But how do we know that he is a credible saviour, where's the fruit? Look at the blood stained hands and feet, the torn flesh on his back from a brutal flogging, scars from the thorns and wound in his side. Look at the sacrifices of those who have loved and served him? Don't check out your powers of discernment, this is a saviour who wants you to see how much he loves you.
H - Humility - Don't for one moment think you are humble, for the moment you do then you have fallen into the cardinal sin of pride. However, if you want to join me in pursuit of humility then I will be a willing training partner. There is so much we have to learn each day of our lives; it's exciting, if you only think about it. Consider every conversation, every training ride as a learning experience. How wonderful to share this experience, to have a training buddy to serve, a prayer partner with whom you can make yourself vulnerable. Do you not see how it helps to live your life as an open book? How readily you would reject temptations to lie, cheat or cut corners if you had made a solemn oath to share all your transgressions? And when you do transgress the liberating act of confession, repentance restitution and a change of behaviour. We need accountability partners, training partners, people we know are watching our lives because we have invited them to. Who is yours?
L - Love - Do you know that love is an action and a commitment before it is a feeling. Have you ever gone on a training ride even when you are not feeling like it? Have you had to overcome your emotions to finish a race? That's because love requires foundations, it requires covenant, commitment and action. True love continues despite the child who claims to hate the parent, or the spouse who rejects the offer of affection. The athlete gets out in the foul weather, when all his senses are telling him to stay in to take a rest because he or she is committed. You do not love by giving your body away cheaply as culture encourages us to but by disciplining it. You train your body, take control of it and use it to serve and love people. Not just people today but people of the future. The freedoms we enjoy are a loving gift from all those who have served before and the soldiers who give their lives today are not just loving this generation but loving the next and the one after that. The truth is that God is love but love is not God. God's love is woven in with his justice that ensures there will be peace when those who choose to reject his path breath their last. They will not cross the finish line and be invited into there rest but by disqualified from his KIngdom, and end up in the destination they chose, no medal, t-shirt or cigar in the eternal conscious torments of hell.
O - Obedience - When did you last have a lengthy conversation about obedience? When did your boss last use the word - obey? It's really not a popular word, mmm... I wonder why? Perhaps it's because we are not naturally inclined to obey. Ever heard anyone regret not obeying their training programme? I have seen many athletes reap unparalleled success by simply following a measured, carefully thought through programme. I am confident that had I obeyed the programme my IM personal best of 10:03 would today be considerably better. If that programme is rooted in what's best for the athlete how much more do we stand to gain from being obedient to Jesus whose laws are rooted in love?
N - News - The very best I have kept till last. Your coach, triathlon magazine or club mates will have plenty of advice to share. You'll find, especially as a novice, that the advice offered will be relentless, more than you can process and certainly more than you need. Careful filtering, experimentation and some wasted journeys will follow. And of course in the words of my friend and accomplished veteran athlete Dave Butters, you will need to "just get out there". Nothing will be achieved without hard work. The harder you work the richer the rewards. This is where triathlon and the Gospel bear no resemblance for Jesus has finished the race. The hard work, struggle, patience and pain has all been endured and it was done as a substitute for you. This was the one race that no matter how talented an athlete you are you could not endure. You are simply, in case you hadn't noticed imperfect. You are corrupted from living in a fallen world, and despite your efforts you have failed to reach the standard of perfection necessary to live connected to a perfect, all loving and just God. That's the news. This isn't about advice, it's about the news that the stone was rolled away so that we could see inside and know the body was gone and that He was resurrected and returned in the flesh as a victor, a conquerer, the Creator and only person who has ever and will ever have power over death. Let that news weigh heavy on your soul for your soul is eternal and its fate rests upon you using your free will to believe all the world tells you or believe Jesus. Eternity is a long time to be disconnected from love. Jesus came to take the punishment you deserve and connect you to the father of the fatherless who loves you beyond imagination, take the hand that's offered today. Have a blessed triathlon career and love well.
“Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:18,20
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
When I was a younger man I was really good at complimenting people. Do you know why? Because I wanted them to like me. That's not complimenting that's using. Are you sure you have any friends? Are you really sure your spouse loves you? Are you absolutely confident that you are loving your children? Just how deep are your affections for those you say you love, how much do you care? Are you willing to die for them? Oh yeah? Or is It you who you are willing to die for?
Dependency is not love. If you need something you are using it. The selfish use people and things and most commentators agree that love is sacrificial. Love has been tested in the fire, it is refined, strengthened and robust. Even when you don't feel like loving someone, when they are frustrating you, upsetting you or ignoring you, love perseveres. What if they are not feeding you, abandon you, thump you, abuse you, don't want physical intimacy with you and spit on you, does love survive that? We are all desperate to be loved and people have endured some horrendous circumstances in the hope that this felt need will be met: "Yes I know he swears at me, kicks me and when he's drunk forces himself upon me but he tells me he loves me and why else would he want sex with me if he didn't care?"
Here's the point. Do you love those who you care about enough to seek to love them better? Do you want to explore a radical love? That kind of love can only come with truth, weighty truth that demonstrates its power with compassion, mercy, generosity, sacrifice and bewildering grace. Oh, if you would only truly dismiss all the world has taught you. If you would only recognize that disease grips the mind, corruption infects the mind, pride and vanity destroys. A friend is a nettle in the side not an echo. Do the people you spend time with, do those you listen to and whose words you enjoy simply echo much of what you agree with, desire and admire? How often do you welcome someone showing you your weaknesses, foolishness, or ignorance and seek to correct your habits and behaviour through their teaching? Every day? Your habits, after all, are forming your character. So what source of wisdom are you using to shape your habits and form your character?
It grieves me to know so many of those I know, love and meet think as I once did. Accept the ideas, theories and philosophies of the world as I once did. Set up false gods like children, success, intellect and comfort and invest in them their time, treasure, talents and emotions to provide the affections and love they hunger. These are idols that can never fully satisfy, will often fail you and eventually break you if you don't break them first with your disappointment as they fail to fulfill all the hopes you placed in them. Consider this faith you have in the scientific theories the world has presented you through its programmes of education and culture. You solemnly trust Uriah Heap album cover, that the world is a great big onion, that George Harrison and John Lennon are men of consummate truth, love and wisdom. Just teach the world to sing, imagine no more war, wave the karmic wand and we can all believe that something came from nothing? Have you searched the deepest recesses of the Cosmos? Then stop putting such blind faith in clinically depressed men like Charles Darwin, Richard Dawkins and Socrates
"It is true that somehow real satisfaction is missing but surely that's just the way of things, we came from nothing, we're going nowhere and the bit in middle has winners and losers?" "Those who can't take the heat commit suicide, others find addictions but in the order of natural selection, I'm doing fine. I get along okay with people, some get used along the way but I am essentially a good person, I'll do my best and we'll see what comes next."
Oh you ambivalent, complacent and indifferent fool! What if it's true? Just meditate on that as often as you can. What if there is a source of unparalleled, eternal and righteous love? Are you so callous, stubborn and obstinate that you would risk the souls of those you pretend to love? Will you not do all within your mind, soul and strength to investigate this astonishing truth claim? Are you too idle to reach out and grab your young child as he or she runs toward a busy main road? Then you should not be too idle to wake up. My deep desire is that you wake up.