Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From Sea Level to 14,508 ft: Part 2- Community

I have heard many people tell me that they have started training and after a week or two fail to follow through with their plans. So before I get into the specifics of my training, I'm going to let you in to my secret to training: Community.

You need friends. You can't do it alone.  You'll make it for a time, but without sharing in it with others you will fail most of the time. We need people, we need each other, we need accountability.

Megan (my wife) and I started P90x together last year about this time. Now I can be a bit of a gym rat, but not her.  She hates the gym.  So Megan really needed something at home, and wanted to do it with someone.  We had heard good things about P90x and she seemed excited about it. We found it from someone locally who bought it and said it "looked hard" so he never tried it.  Score- bought it for half price!

When I knew I needed to prepare for the Mt. Whitney trip I started asking my friends who would be willing to drive out there with me.  I had two friends commit to going (community) on the trip.  One is a firefighter and he started Crossfit. The other one has a desk job and knew he had work to do on the fitness level.  He and his wife started coming over to our house Sunday though Thursday nights at 8:30 for P90x.  This allowed Megan and I to put the kids to bed and then get ready to work out.  The bonus was, they knew we were expecting them. Our bonus was, we were expecting them.  So at least 4 nights of the week we were working out together in our living room (community).

Megan started running last year as well, and signed up for a half-marathon back in March.  Again she inspired me to join her in running (even duping me into running a 12 miler with her).  We ran the half-marathon together with a couple of other friends (community).

Are you getting the picture yet?  I would have been in OK shape doing my 3 days a week in the gym by my self.  But by adding P90x with friends, and running with my wife, it took my fitness to a whole new level.

We need people in our lives. We need close community. You can't do it without them. With whom are you sharing your workouts or runs? Do you realized your need for people in your life?  Who are you sharing life with today or this week?

I'm thankful for those who shared the journey with me!

Monday, April 29, 2013

From Sea Level to 14,508 feet- Part 1

I live in north Houston elevation around 220 ft above sea level.  I have to travel 5-6 hours to hit any kind of "altitude" training, and more like 12 for anything worthy of "climbing".  So I have a lot of people asking me how I prepared for my Mt. Whitney climb, the highest peak in the lower 49 states (outside of Alaska).

Over the next few days I'll give you some of my training and some of my trip...interspersed a bit so you don't get overloaded with training advise or with "boring stories" that no one cares about except me.

Here's your first training segment:
I already had a base line of fitness, I was working out 2-3 times per week.  Simple jog for a warm up and 7-8 strength training and ab exercises. Nothing super vigorous, just maintenance.  So keep that in mind as I explain what I began in January to prepare for this trip.

1) I knew I had around 90 days (closer to 15 weeks) before I left for the adventure. That gave me just the right amount to start a cycle of P90x.  I have modified P90x in order to fit it into a 5 days a week schedule rather than a full 7 days.  I find that I do better if I have a weekend off from it.  We also invited a couple of friends to join us every evening.  That helped keep all of us accountable.  They thought we were expecting them to come over, and we knew they would come knocking on the door, so it kept all of us coming back.

2) I intensified my morning workouts at the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. I know that means some days I was getting two workouts in a day, but lets be honest, a good hiking trip is in the 4-8 hour range.  Just working out for 45 minutes wasn't going to cut it.  In my work out I always start with a run to get my body pumping blood to all of the extremities.  Then I hit the weights for about an hour.  More specifics on this in a later post.

3) Running...not my favorite or most others, but very necessary.  I began with a simple mile run and increased from there.  Early on I could do this along with my workout, but as the miles increased I had to add specific running days.  My goal was to add about 1/2 mile each week, culminating at around 8 miles.  Again I'll give more specifics later but it was an important piece of the training.

Here's a little taste of what I was able to accomplish...through dedication and a discipline.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Love, Comfort, Healing & Hope

Prayers going up for those affected by the Boston & now West, Tx tragedies this week. An appropriate quote from N.T. Wright: 
"Precisely because the greatest Christian virtue is love, modeled on that of the creating and life-giving God, the individual Christian and the church as a whole must develop the settled habits of looking out for what's going on in the surrounding world, rejoicing with its joy, weeping with its grief, and above all eager for opportunities to bring love, comfort, healing, and hope wherever possible." 
May love, comfort, healing and hope shine brighter than fear & hate.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What do you see?

We often have a warped view of our selves. Dove's new adds help the average person to see this in real life, through the sketches created by a talented artist. 

Relevant Magazine has a great article on the subject. Definitely worth the read:

Mirror Wars

"So God created human beings in his own image.
    In the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them."
Genesis 1:27

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meditating On It Day and Night

What do you think of when I say "meditation"?  Do you think of some esoteric eastern mystical hum-drum? Or do you think of a Hebrew/Christian Discipline that has been practiced for thousands of years? 

Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline explained it this way, "Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. The two ideas are quite different."  I don't know about you but I need my mind renewed (Romans 12:2) daily. I need my mind filled by the Spirit in order that it might push out all that is not of Him. But that's just me...

Meditation is one way that we can do this simple but important act of keeping the main things the main thing.  Though not the earliest record of meditation the book of Psalms is a great place to start while exploring this spiritual discipline.  Psalm 1:1-2 states,
"Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers. 
 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night."

 The Psalmist knew of the importance of meditating on the Law of the Lord, as a way to make sure they were in line with how God wanted them to live.  But here the psalmist takes it a step further in saying that he "delights" in the law.  Wow- there is actually delight and freedom when one is following closely to the path that God has laid out for them.  Easy no. But is there joy and delight there? You bet!

Here are some quotes about Christian Meditation: 
"Meditation is really very simple and there is not much need of elaborate techniques to teach us how to go about it." Thomas Merton

"That is why meditation is so threatening to us. It boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves." Richard Foster

"To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you." Theophan the Recluse

When asked why he practiced meditation Dietrich Bonhoeffer replied, "Because I am a Christian." 

"...a familiar friendship with Jesus." Thomas a Kempis

"True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace." Thomas Merton

"No detachment is not enough, we must move on to attachment." Richard Foster

Psalm 1:2; 19:97,101,102, 148; 63:6, 17:12
Gen 24:63
Joshua 1:8
1 Samuel 3:1-18
1 Kings 19:9-18

Jesus often when out on his own to pray and spend time with God...How are you spending your time with the Lord? Is it renewing your mind? Ar you allowing Him to transform you? May your words and the meditation of your heart be pleasing to Him.

Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth
    and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mt. Whitney & Discipline

I'm currently 7 days away from leaving on my trip to climb Mt. Whitney (14,500 ft.) in CA. There has been much sweat, work, gear, time, and energy put into this trip. Now that the hike is within sight I can begin to look back and evaluate what brought me here.

It all started with an add in Backpacker Magazine and an essay. After being "chosen" (I don't think they denied anyone), I picked the date and put down the deposit. I knew that I had much work to do physically, fund raising, convincing some friends to travel with me, and gear purchasing/collecting.

I have never had to raise $4,000 before.  This may have been the most daunting of the challenges: I hate asking for money!  Be that as it may, God blessed the efforts and money began coming in for me.  I'm not sure if people wanted to sponsor me, donate to a great cause (Big City Mountaineers) or get a tax write off :), but regardless they donated and for that I am thankful.

Next I had to convince a couple of friends to travel out there and back with me.  Yes I could have flown or driven on my own, but if there is one think I have learned; adventures are best experienced with friends.  I am thankful that two great friend decided to embark on this adventure. Their friendship and time together there and back, will make this adventure all the more memorable.

Gear was next on my list...I'm thankful for the grace my wife has shown as I have over spent my budget.  I hope and pray that we will have many adventures with our children in the outdoors and my skills and gear acquired on this trip will make those adventures even more grand.

Last but not least the Physical training...This is what I really want to talk about over the next few posts. Training is tough.  Sometimes it is enjoyable.  Sometimes it isn't.  But like any good discipline, you have to do it when you enjoy it and when you don't.  More on this at a later time, but discipline is the key. 

My friends the Rossers put this in their message as they supported me for this trip: " How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!" Isaiah 52:7

BTW- you can still help teens by donating to the cause: Summit for Someone  

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

7 Attributes of a Disciple

After 8 weeks or so of going through the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5-7, we are left with lingering questions: What is a disciple? What does living that life look like? 

Last fall for one of my graduate courses I read a book by Kathleen A. Cahalan called "Introducing the Practice of Ministry." I really enjoyed her writing style and brevity, as well as some nuggets like these 7 features of discipleship. She defines discipleship like this:  "To be a disciple means learning a way of life that embodies particular dispositions, attitudes, and practices that place the disciple in relationship to, and as a participant in, God's mission to serve and transform the world." 

Now this is not an end all list...but I like some of the elements & if you're like me, I need an idea from which to work. I've also attached some scripture to them, but there are many more that support them. 

1. Follower  Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. (Matthew 4:19 NIV), "a person enters into a lifelong process of learning from Jesus, to come to know who and what Jesus is and what Jesus is claiming about God's call to relationship, communion, and mission. (p. 5) ...it entails learning, growing, changing, and converting, as well as turning away, failing, doubting and at times rejecting the summons. It means taking up with a community of friends, brothers and sisters, a new family and household that includes the unclean and sinners."

2. Worshiper "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. (John 4:23, 24 NIV) "Jesus recognizes God as the source of all that is in creation, the source of healing power and authority in his teaching, preaching, and healing ministries. Prayer is an opening of his heart, mind, and soul to this source of divine love and mercy and a willingness to be transformed into the servant that God is calling him to be...Christians are "most fully human when we praise God" and giving Glory to God is not only in prayer and liturgy but also in our whole lives. (with additional quote by Cathrine Mowry LaCugna)

3. Witness "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NIV) "...one who gives voice to the claim that Christ has made on their life. Witness: to give testimony to the truth about what they know. Martyr comes from the same Greek root for "witness" and is for those who's life comes to a violent end because of their testimony but are prepared to suffer gladly "for the name.""

4. Neighbor "The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. Well said, teacher, the man replied. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:31-33 NIV) "In the Old Testament a neighbor is understood to be a person who was a fellow member of the covenant community, similar to a brother or kinsman. Neighbor quite literally refers to those who dwell next to or nearby, people who share land, resources, and traditions." Jesus expands the definition with the parable of The Good Samaritan, and Levi or Matthew parties.

5. Forgiver "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14, 15 NIV)  "Practicing forgiveness and reconciliation bring a disciple face-to-face with their wrongdoings as well as the hurts and wounds born from others' actions, emotional as well as physical. Forgiveness (OT) wiping away, sending away, removing, covering (Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 6:37) Forgiveness also invites a disciple to see the wrongdoer as God sees them, as a child of God who needs healing and forgiveness."

6. Prophet (Luke 4:18-19The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor. (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV) "Prophets are a witness with a keen perception for what harms a neighbor: scorn, hatred, disobedience, hubris, unbelief, greed, and selfishness...Jesus calls people to repentance, invites them into a relationship with a loving and merciful God, and warns them against false religious practices and injustice toward the poor and outcast." Prophecy is proclaiming truth. (Matt. 22:1-4)

7. Steward Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:34-36, 40 NIV) "God creates and is the first steward of creation, extending the responsibility for stewardship to humanity. Jesus uses the image of the steward to demonstrate generosity, wisdom, and prudence, as well as shrewdness. Disciples are also stewards of a vocation, the gifts received for service in the community (1 Peter 4:10)."

If you look at these 7 characteristics or attributes, how does your life stack up? Or maybe like me, you can pick out a couple of them that you do fairly well at on a day to day basis. And then there is the other side, are there some that you do poorly? How does God want you to grow and expand? What does he want you to work on today?  Take these 7 in, chew them up, see how they set.  Then let God transform you as you submit new areas of your life to Him.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Christian or Disciple: whats the difference?

We have had the pleasure of spending each week in the Sermon on the Mount for the last few months. I'm sure we could spend a lot more time, but it was enjoyable to go through it all, bit by bit, piece by piece.

I'm left with a nagging question though. Why don't Christian adhere more closely to the kind of life described by Jesus in what may be the most important sermon ever given? 

Today's Christianity seems like a muddled mess of what Jesus intended it to be when he was here on the earth. Gandhi is famously quoted as saying, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Ouch. That hurts. That should hurt for all who associate themselves with the bride of Christ, his church.

So it leaves me wondering, why do some choose a sort of nominal Christianity, while others choose to become Christ followers or disciples? I suppose it is a matter of ease and comfort. It's not easy to take up your cross daily, or to live as salt & light, or to love your neighbor, much less your enemy.

Perhaps there are no words spoken by Jesus that haunt me more as someone who calls on the name of the Lord.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matthew 7:21-23

Are you religious? A Christian? A Disciple? I pray that he may say to me one day: "I know you, come close to me faithful child." 

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