Nov 30, 2016 Devotional: From “There I Was” to “Here I Am”

This week’s devotional may have more typos and misspellings than usual.  Many of you know that I’m currently in El Salvador on a mission trip with our church in Charlotte. Internet access is very spotty and mostly only available from our hotel.  Oh, the first world problems we face in a third world community!

Our efforts this week have focused on building the foundation for a new habitat home in the small village of Getsamani, located on the western side of the country. It’s very rural. No power tools and since this is the “foundation” week, the work consists of lots of digging with hand tools in what’s mostly hard clay soil. Every time we think we’ve dug deep enough, the masons serving as supervisors on the job site convey the difficult news of “one more meter deeper”.  So we dig a little more, sweat and ache a little longer, and hope the next measurement will be to the correct standard.

In the evenings, our team has fellowship over a good hot meal back at our hotel. After the meal, we settle in for a time of reflection and devotion. This week’s focus has been on the book of Isaiah, often called the fifth gospel. The main character, Isaiah, is an “establishment guy”, to say the least. He follows the rules and lives a very good life, much like all of us on this trip from Charlotte.  Isaiah has a very rude awakening when the temple shakes one day and he hears the voice of our Creator. Isaiah fears that he is doomed and cries out that he is a sinful man.

God responds and asks, “Whom shall I send as a messenger to this people?  Who shall go for us?”

Talk about putting someone on the spot!  I wonder if Isaiah looks to his left and then to his right and realizes that God was asking a retorical question since it seems like Isaiah  was the only one in the room

Isaiah responds, “Here I am.  Send me.”  Good answer, Isaiah.

This week, I’ve been reminded time and time again of God’s message to us. We are all called in some way or another.  And here’s the other news flash: It’s never just a one time “ask”.  Do you really want to be the person who’s done the one good deed only to be left standing by when all the other opportunities come up?  How would your life be different if you stopped at that first opportunity?  Instead of saying “here I am”, you’ll only be repeating “there I was”.

A great example of this is in a wonderful article I read by former NBA basketball player, David Robinson. The title of the article is called “Letter to My Younger Self“. In the article, Robinson talks about all that might have happened had he quit after failing the freshman swim test at the Naval Academy. David didn’t quit and while he went on the be an Academy graduate, served 5 years as a Naval officer, played a hall of fame career in the NBA, he mentions the “good” that he was able to pursue because he knew there was a bigger plan.  In closing the article (“spoiler alert”), Robinson says in the letter to his 18-year old self:

“And when you get that signing bonus, don’t start thinking about all the things you can do with $1 million. Instead, think about all the things your grandfather did with $100.

When all else fails, trust God.”

My prayer today is that we continue to say “Here I am”.

Peace!

 

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NOV 23, 2016 Devotional: I Want to Be Thoroughly Used Up

Truth statement.  I rarely get sick so when I do two things happen.  First, I get really, really, sick.  The kind that knocks me off my feet, takes the wind out of my sales, and decommissions me for several days.  Second, I’m a terrible patient which means from the initial onslaught of the illness, I’m already scheming a way to get back my normal routines.  Now it doesn’t take a blind person to realize that those two events feed off one another and tend to make the sickness even sicker and the healing much slower.

The last two weeks are testament to those statements.  I valiantly ignored to get a flu shot this year, much as I’ve ignored doing the past three years.  A simple cold became strep throat which eventually became the flu.  My flu condition was further compounded by bronchitis, something I am still feeling the remnants of this week.  And, for the first time in nearly 10 years of teaching group fitness classes, I had to take a full week off from teaching anything as my body was simply too weak to exercise and my bronchial cough would not allow me to complete any full sentences.  My mental faculties were in tact and my frustration fueled many a day of headaches.

Why do I do this to myself year over year over year?  Granted this time was probably the worst case but I still manage to work myself to exhaustion.  Well, the answer is very simple.  It’s all Tim Russert’s fault!

Let me explain.

In June, 2008, longtime journalist, Timothy John “Tim” Russert, passed away at the very young age of 58.  The cause of his death was concluded to be the result of a pre-diagnosed coronary artery disease which led to blockage of one of his major arteries, thus resulting in cardiac arrest.  Admittedly, I was not a huge follower of Russert’s “Meet the Press” show on Sunday mornings.  However, I knew enough about him to say I liked his work, I liked his character, and I liked everything Tim stood for.

His death shook me a little more than other celebrity passings.  I tuned into the biographies about him the ensued the days after his untimely death.  But it wasn’t Tim’s death that relates back to my exhaustive ways.  Tim’s eulogy was delivered by his son, Luke, just 22 years old and had recently graduated college.  In his remarks, the younger Russert talked about his dad in words that many outside of the family’s inner circle may not of known.  Luke described his father as one who avidly followed the philosophies of the great, Yogi Bera, jokingly sharing a quote that Tim would often say:  “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours”, which lightened the mood of those in the audience that day.  On a more serious tone, Luke said his father’s principles answered the following:  “Would our actions today yield respect for our families, been a credit to our faith, and a benefit to our fellow man.”  In a world where many men lead with their egos, Luke described his father as a man who led with his heart, his compassion, and most importantly, his honor.

The eulogy is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man.  Still, the most memorable part of the Luke’s speech for me is a quote he shared from George Bernard Shaw that has served as my rallying point since 2008.  The quote is the following:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw

That’s my life in a nutshell and right or wrong, I believe we’re all here on this earth for a very short amount of time.  Why not make the most of it?

Another friend of mine from Atlanta used to share a quote as well.  She was a recovering volunteer-aholic much like myself!  Her quote was, “You’re either busy living or busy dying.  Which would you rather be?”

For me the answer was back then and remains the same today….I’d rather be busy living.

My message to everyone today is not one to pat myself on the back.  Many of you may never know the areas around the city where I’m doing volunteer efforts, and I prefer that anonymity more often than not.  You see, it’s never about what’s in it for me.  I truly believe that it’s in the no-one knowing part of all this that brings me the most joy.

I told you yesterday that today’s workout was going to relate back to Superman.  I found out recently that the reeving of my engines at a very high RPM for the past several months was not a good thing.  Even the best engines in NASCAR eventually have their breaking points.  Every “superman” has his or her kryptonite.  I’ve shared a little insight as to what’s mine.

At the end of the day, I think God wouldn’t want things any other way.  The activities that forced me to be side-lined for the past two weeks have given me time to rest and relax while my wife and I prepare to journey back to El Salvador next week.  Truth be told, I probably would not have slowed down had it not been for my body being “thoroughly used up”.  And for that reason, I am truly thankful.  I am now ready for what will be a challenging week ahead building homes, health and hearts in a small village in the western countryside in Central America.  Oh the irony!

We all have a splendid torch that we carry through life.  My prayer today is that you decide what your flame is burning for, what are you championing in your own life, and who will you hand off that torch to in the future.

Now….let’s get busy living!

Godspeed!

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NOV 23, 2016 WAWA: Short Week, Super-Suicide Drills!

This week’s WAWA is non-running focused.  Short week for most of us…..so I’m bringing back a workout we did a couple months ago…..you’ll be “thankful” when it’s all done!

This WAWA focuses on upper body and strength.  Don’t worry….you don’t have to be Superman to do this workout…..but being “super” will be the focus of this week’s devotional as we’re cooling down.

I’ll set up four stations as follows:

Station 1:  Suicide Pushup Drills

Station 2:  Kettlebell Strength Drills

Station 3:  Ultimate Burpee Shuttle

Station 4:  Core Salvation Drills

Participants will be divided up on the four stations.  Station 1, the Suicide Push Up drills, is our limiting station.  This means all the other three stations will continue to work out until Station 1 is complete, at which point that individuals yells “rotate”.  Station 1 goes to Station 2; Station 2 goes to Station 3; etc.

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NOV 16, 2016 Devotional: Being Thankful

I know….we’re still a week away from Thanksgiving.  However, being temporarily side-lined today with bronchitis, has given me time to give “thanks”.  Crazy, right?  Who gives thanks while being miserable?

WAWA started over a year ago and came out of a coffee conversation I was having with my pastor, Derek Mcleod.  We were discussing another way to conduct subtle outreach in a non-threatening way.  I suggested a boot camp style, fitness regimen, that was co-ed and open to all ability levels.

“What will you call it”, Derek asked.

“Let me get back to you on that….”, I said.  Thirty minutes later….I sent him a text….”Wednesday AM Workout & Accountability…..WAWA”.

So today I am reflective in thought and thankful for those who have or continue to participate in our weekly Wednesday workouts.

Here’s who and what I’m thankful for….

I’m thankful for Molly Phillips and Leslie Shull, two of the most dedicated attendees.  Though they aren’t there every day, I am thankful they are consistent.

I’m thankful when Mary Cannady shows up, especially on run-focused days.  She’s arguably the fastest runner in our group, and I always know to bring my A-game when she’s there to run.

I’m thankful for the days we have a dozen people showing up.  I’m thankful for the days when it’s just me and one other person…..like the day Donny Harrison and I ran hill-repeats up Queens Road and our conversation took a nice turn about “family”.

I’m thankful that on the morning after receiving some surprising election results, Zoe Brennan and Braden Hamilton ran with me.  Although each had voted for a different candidate, each expressed tremendous optimism in our country.

I’m thankful that Courtney Pender will try just about anything…so long as it’s not a long run!

I’m thankful when Court and Derek show up.

And for Burt Phillips and Blanton Hamilton, I’m thankful they’re “ageless” and inspire me to keep running!

I’m thankful for buckets, backpacks, sand, stairs, colored cones and medicine balls.  I’m thankful for climbing ropes and battle ropes…and even ropes we carry on runs with us.

I’m thankful for kettle bells, dumb bells, and all the different ideas to exercise with them.

I’m thankful for that sign at the Myers Park High School football stadium we saw one day while catching our breath from running stairs that read:  “Tailgating….the only sport where a bald, fat guy is a god!”  #lightenthemood

I’m thankful for the Cornwell Center.

I’m thankful for my feet when they hit the floor at 4:50 am on Wednesday mornings.

I’m thankful that God gives me this platform to do something I love, talk about some things important, and build up our community.

I’m thankful that the grass is not always greener somewhere else.  I’m thankful it’s all green.

Peace!

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NOV 9, 2016 Devotional: The Forgotten Fourth

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Recognize that poem?  Actually, it’s not a piece of poetry.  As a plebe (or “freshman”) at West Point, this stanza from a very familiar song was something my classmates and I were required to memorize.  Nearly thirty years later, I am still able to pull this verse from my memory banks, something my two young boys find amazing.

Okay, I’ll let the cat out of the bag.  This is the fourth verse of our Star Spangled Banner….often referred to as the “forgotten fourth” because rarely are any verses beyond the first ever mentioned, much less sung in public.

I find it relevant to mention it today, as we turn the page from another political season.  As the story goes, Francis Scott Key, the author of our national anthem, was attempting to negotiate the release of a couple Americas who had been taken prisoner by the British.  He witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry in September, 1814, thinking specifically that the flag that stood tall over the fort would be replaced by the British’s Union Jack once the bombardment had ceased in the morning.  Instead, however, Key was surprised to see the American flag still flying in the morning, and was inspired to write the song, which included four verses.

Each of the four verses has specific purpose.  The fourth verse is about pride and patriotism.  Key uses emotional words such as “blest”, “triumph”, “conquer”, and “peace” to convey his emotion.  Key was also a very religious man and the words further reflect his belief that God was on the side of the Americans.  He talks about the country fighting a just cause.  And finally, the words “in God is our trust” combine the concepts of religion and patriotism, which later become the official motto of the United State, “In God we trust”.

So what does all this mean today.  Arguably, our nation remains very much polarized and a divided country.  It’s probably safe to say that half of the country woke up, saw the election results and is upset and angry today.  Patriotism is often rampant during election seasons, and this year was no different.  Patriotism will soon fade and we’re left with fighting about partisan issues.  Our national anthem can, however, serve as somewhat of a guidepost if we focus on two lines from this forgotten verse. First, let us praise the power that has made and preserved us a nation.  We have been through tough times before, but God has seen our blessed country through them.  Praise of this power refers to our past.  Secondly, there’s the line that says “in God is our trust”.  We may not have all the answers, but we can trust that God will protect us.  This second example refers to our future.

Home of the brave.  We’re all in this together

 

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NOV 9, 2016 WAWA: Unity Run

By Wednesday morning, hopefully our long political saga will be over, or at least onward to a different chapter!

To celebrate the changing of the guard for our nation, I have a run-focused workout this week!  A simple, three-mile run route….with some hill repeats to add mileage and variety!  You’ll love it!

Meet outside the Cornwell Center, ready to go at 5:40 am!

Here’s the planned route:

Initial route:

  • Cornwell Center (start)
  • Right down Selwyn Avenue
  • Left onto Radcliff
  • Left up Queens Road West
  • Right onto Princeton
  • Left onto Jameston
  • Right onto Westfield, then briefly pick up the Greenway
  • Left up Hillside and stop at the intersection of Hillside & Chelsea

At this point, we will have run approximately 2 miles.

Hill Repeats portion (approximately 1/8 mile up and 1/8 mile down)

  • Run uphill from Hillside/Chelsea to Hillside/Croydon intersection
  • Easy jog back downhill to Chelsea.
  • Repeat 3 – 5 more times.
  • On final hill climb, continue to the top of the street to Selwyn and wait until the whole group finishes.

Final stretch of run is left down Selwyn, returning to our start point at the Cornwell Center.  Final stretch is approximately 1 mile.

Total distance planned (depending on how many “repeats” you do):  4.0 – 4.5 miles

Workout Leader:  Mike Lenhart

Devotional Leader:  Mike Lenhart

 

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NOV 2, 2016 Devotional: Footsteps in the Garden

Hard to believe it but this time next week, we should have a fairly good idea of who the next President of the United States will be.  After a long, hard-fought, and depressingly ugly campaign by both major political parties’ candidates, we, arguably, will have narrowed the selection down to one individual.  Today’s WAWA devotional is not designed to press one candidate over the other.  Rather, today I’d like to focus on the question:  “Where has God been throughout this ugly political season?

Has God been absent while the mud slinging has occurred?  Has God given up on our beloved nation?  Has America fallen from God’s grace?

Simply put….the answer in “No”.  God’s presence has remained.

How do we know this?  Well, let’s look back in the beginning; in the book of Genesis where the stories of the Creation are explained.  Recall back a few months to an earlier devotional where I explained the two different stories of the beginning of our world.  First, there’s the very methodical and organized version of the Creation story.  On Day 1 God did this; on Day 2 he did this…..and on the seventh day, God rested.  If you’re an engineer, like me, then this is an orderly version.  Task and purpose.  Checklists.  God had a daily agenda.  He did it and then he prepared for the next day.  A project manager’s dream version of the story with no cost overruns, no slippage of dates, and no running over budget.

Then there’s the other version of the story of Creation.  Some might call this the poetic version, where things seems to flow with ease.  It’s like watching your favorite story unfold directly in front of you, without any breaks, pauses, or stumbles.  God creates a beautiful masterpiece; a wonderful garden and breathes breath into Man.  He puts Man to sleep and forms Woman from his flesh.  There are days, where I love this version as well.

Beyond the Creation story, in Genesis, Adam and Eve are stewards of the Garden.  We all know how the drama unfolds.  They eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil.  They literally try to hide from God because they are embarrassed and know that they have offended Him.  In Genesis 3:8-9, we read:

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  GEN 3:8-9 NIV

There’s a lot to unpack in those two verses, but they could shed some insight into the initial question about “Where had God been….?”  First, in the literal sense, some argue whether or not God was physically in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  Was He there or is this a descriptive passage where perhaps the vision of God walking in the cool of the day, refers to God in the wind or a cloud or some other non-human form.  Regardless, we know from this verse that God has a presence in our lives, especially when we try to hide from Him.

Next, in the second verse, God rhetorically asks Adam, “where are you?”.  Do you ever get mad at your kids and you know exactly what they’ve done to get in trouble?  My boys do this all the time!  They are not very good at covering their tracks whether it be cookie crumbs on the kitchen countertop or muddy footprints across the living room hardwood floor.  We know exactly what they’ve done wrong, yet we ask them anyway.  “Where are you….”, God asks, but He knows exactly where they are hiding.  God is too big and, frankly, we are too small to hide from His presence.

So, regardless of your opinion about “why” this political season has been so ugly, the answer to the “where has God been” is rather definitely “He’s been here….”.  Consider that God has been using this challenging political season as another way to prove his glory.  He’s done this before, right?  Does this mean God can use either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for the better good?  Well….I can’t answer that deep question…however, look at Biblical history:

Under their own power:

  • Jacob was a thief.
  • Moses was a stuttering murderer.
  • David was an adulterer.
  • Peter denied Christ.
  • Paul hated Christians.

However, in spite of their shortcomings, God used them in miraculous ways.

With God’s power:

  • Jacob became Israel.
  • Moses delivered God’s people.
  • David became a man after God’s own heart.
  • Peter was the rock that the early church was built upon.
  • Paul introduced Christianity to the world.

Perhaps, this season is just the beginning of something incredible?  My prayer today is that we all recognize God’s presence in the Garden and in our daily lives….and believe, once again, the God has a plan through all of this!

Keep the faith!

 

 

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