MAY 31, 2017 Devotional: “Authentic Gratitude”

One day last week, I was able to break away from my office in the South Park area of Charlotte, and head home to grab a bite to eat.  Besides being fortunate to live less than 10 minutes away from my work, it’s generally more cost effective to eat some leftovers at home, rather than to eat out around the South Park Mall.

But that particular day, I had another reason to go home.  It was a fairly steady rainstorm and I was a little concerned for our three, one-month old baby chicks who we had recently introduced to life as “free-ranging chickens” on the family compound.  I was worried they might not have figured out how to get back to the covered area of the chicken coop since they had been exploring the entire backyard.  Sure enough, with limited visibility in the storm, they we somewhere lost.  I walked around the yard with an umbrella and finally found them, all three huddled beneath a bush, wet, probably cold, and somewhat scared by this previously unknown “thing” called “rain”.

I put down the umbrella, quickly scooped up two of the three, while the third chick got the idea to follow me since I had her sisters.  They actually seemed a little bit grateful when they quickly remembered and realized their dry “home” back at the chicken coop.

At some point, I’m sure I’ll be less worried about the baby chicks as I am lately.  For now, I still need to guide them and make a lot of their decisions for them.

If you’ve got kids, then maybe you’ve experienced the same kind of decisions and actions.

As I drove back to the my office, the rain had subsided (finally), but my mind was still racing.  I was hung up on that word…..grateful.  Sure they were only one-month old chickens, but they showed what I would consider to be “authentic gratitude”.  We can learn a lot from animals.

But for us humans, what’s the real lesson here?

I found an interesting article written in the Huffington Post later that day that talked about how we can teach our children to be grateful.  But before we can talk about the “how”, we need to understand the “why” as it relates to “gratitude”.

Studies have shown that cultivating an attitude of gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25 percent.  (Dr. Robert A. Emmons, University of California – Davis)  That same study revealed that gratitude leads to happier lives, greater satisfaction in our lives, and increased levels of self-esteem, hope and optimism.

Pretty good stuff, right?

As adults, I think we “get that”…and hopefully, with practice showing gratitude.

But what about our kids?  It’s probably a harder pill for them to swallow.

I’m constantly torn between wanting to give my boys everything in the world, to other days where I want them to realize how grateful they should be.  Most parents I know, say the same thing.  And it’s not as easy as dropping our kids off into an impoverished area of the city, have them observe activities for the day, and then assume they’ll come home afterwards feeling “grateful”.

Nope…not that easy.

That same Huffington Post article listed out 11 ways that parents can teach their children to show authentic gratitude.  I won’t list out all eleven.  However, three are worth mentioning.

First, look for teachable moments.  It’s one thing to lecture our children about “being grateful”.  It’s another to call out real-life examples that illustrate the point.  Keep your eyes open for these unique teachable moments.

Next, keep thank-you notes on hand.  My mom will love this one.  So will my sister.  Sadly, the art of sending a well thought out, hand-written letter of “thanks” has become a dying skill.  I, too, have written fewer and fewer hand written notes over the years.  Most families that do have their kids send hand-written notes, focus on birthdays and Christmas.  That’s fine.  But there are other opportunities to relate genuine gratitude to coaches, teachers, and other people who are helping our kids out.  Recently, I wrapped up leading a group of 8 boys where I had been their Cub Scout den leader for the past 4 years.  At the annual “Blue and Gold” banquet, where the 8 boys were graduating from Cub Scouts, one parent presented me with a nice card signed by all the boys that said “thank you”.  There was a $100 Starbucks gift card that I surely liked as well!  But one boy, came up to me a few minutes later, when no one else was around, and gave me a hand-drawn, hand-written card that simply said “thanks”.  The first card was valued at $100….the second one was priceless.

Finally, we should show our kids that gratitude is linked to a Higher Power.  To the extent possible, our children should see the bond between “prayer” in the spiritual sense, and gratitude.  Church services can provide a sense of community and the old standard of “counting our blessings”….literally.

Now, why am I saying all this and what does it have to do with a weekly devotional?

Two weeks ago, my wife and I attended the Charlotte Habitat for Humanity charity benefit called the “Blue Jean Bash”.  We’ve all been to many charity events and for the most part, they’re all the same.  Watch a video, bid on silent auction items, listen to some speeches, and (hopefully) make a donation.

Sound familiar?

And at the “Blue Jean Bash” there certainly was some of those activities that took place.

For me, I was moved by the testimonies by two of the Charlotte Habitat board members.  The two men spoke separately, but their stories both recalled growing up in Habitat homes here in Charlotte.  Both men had the cards stacked against them from the start.  Today, both men are extremely successful businessmen, but both trace the roots of their success to the Habitat homes their families earned through the Habitat program.

If you know anything about Habitat for Humanity, then hopefully you realize that homes are not simply given away to homeowners.  Perspective recipients must complete an extensive application, participate in 300 hours of community service, and even work on the construction of their own homes.

While both men’s speeches were moving and emotional….both communicated genuine gratitude and traced everything positive from the result of receiving homes.  It’s the ripple effect of all ripple effects.

In Colossians 2, we read:

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Col. 2:7

Today, my prayer is that we not only teach our youth about being grateful, but in doing so, we remind ourselves of doing the same.



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MAY 31, 2017 WAWA: “North – South Long Run”

This week’s run-focused WAWA takes us “north” of the Cornwell Center, then back “south” before eventually getting back “home”.  The total distance is 4.7 miles.  Easy paced, group run.  We’ll circle past the Duke Mansion about 2.5 miles into the run before heading back south around portions of the Booty Loop.

Total climbing elevation along the route is 198 ft.

Max. elevation is 764 ft.

Weather forecast is 20% chance of rain; temps in upper 60’s.

Route is attached here:  WAWA run route 05312017

Meet outside the Cornwell Center at 5:40 am ready to go!  We’ll be done before 6:30 am!



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MAY 24, 2017 WAWA: “Leaping Tall Buildings”

This week’s run-focused WAWA has us looking at hill repeats at a new location.

Total planned distance running is 5.0 miles.

Weather might be damp from the evening rain, but otherwise no new precipitation expected.

The elevation change on the hill repeats is approximately 50 feet….or the equivalent of 5 stories of a standard building!  We’ll do 4 sets of repeats…so you’ll be leaping up 20 stories!


Here’s the workout:

Warm-up outside the Cornwell Center starting at 5:40 am.

Run Portion, Part 1:

Easy jog around to Queens Road East, then Roswell Road, then Colony Road.  We’ll stop at the bottom of Colony were Briar Creek flows beneath the road.  This is the starting point for the hill repeats.  At this point, we will have run approximately 1.5 miles.

Hill Repeats:

-One quarter mile up; one quarter mile down.

-Run from the Briar Creek / Colony intersection up towards Myers Park High School.  Run all the way to the traffic circle near the school main office.  Then easy jog around the circle and back to the starting point.

-Repeat 3 more times!

-Total distance for repeats + recovery is 2.0 miles.

Run Portion, Part 2:

Return back to the Cornwell Center along the same route covered in Part 1.  Finish outside the Cornwell Center main entrance.  Part 2 of the run is again 1.5 miles, easy pace.

TOTAL Run Distance:  5.0 miles



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May 17, 2017 Devotional: Gettin’ in the Dirt

Maybe you’ve heard this funny little story I’m about to share.

Two people are having a conversation.

Person A says to Person B:  “I’m a Ninja

Person B replies.  “No, you’re not“.

Person A says:  “Did you see me do that….?”

Do what..?” asks Person B.

Exactly…..” replies Person A while grinning from ear to ear.

Everyone has a handful of hidden talents but there’s one or two that bubble to the top as the best ones.

What’s yours?

Balancing a spoon on the tip of your nose?

Running a mile in under 4 minutes?

Or maybe doing that crazy thing where you curl your tongue up?  Know what I’m talking about?

My hidden talent is my ability to find things in complete darkness, walking around like a ninja, barely making any sounds.

My wife would probably agree to this notion as well.

I work in the software industry.  Software testing, to be more specific.  And in that field, I often have to go into the Uptown Charlotte office in the middle of the night.  Usually, I will sort out my laptop bag, clothes and anything else I might want before going to bed.  Then, when it’s time for me to wake up and head into my office, my goal is always to not wake anyone else up in the house.

Most of the time, I’m successful in my efforts.  Heck, I even manage to take a quick shower before heading out in the middle of the night.  No one stirs one bit!  Truthfully, I’m a little bit at an advantage because the boys and my wife all sleep with sound machines on their night stands, each with the soothing sounds of white noise.

Not making any disruptive noise is one thing.  But what really makes me a ninja is that I move around without the aid of having to turn on any lights.  Last night, for example, I had a late night conference call at 11 pm.  I realized just before the call that I had left my freshly poured, Arnold Palmer sweet tea glass in the bedroom.  I slowly opened the door so as not to wake up my wife who had just fallen asleep.  Without the aid of any lights, I reached out and found my Yeti tumbler with the beverage.

One attempt.  Success!

Then, slowly I slipped back out the bedroom door without waking my bride.

Ninja….did you see that?

Our hidden talents can be useful in giving us an advantage in whatever situations we might be facing.  Hidden talents separate us from all others in most cases.  If you’re that sub-4 mile track runner, I can guarantee that your hidden talent separates you from the pack…literally!

Have you ever asked yourself about Jesus’ hidden talents?  I bet he had many…thousands perhaps.  The Son of our Creator, you bet there were no stops applied when adding talents to his DNA.

Miracles aside, Jesus, however, rarely used any talents to take advantage of others.  Take, for example, His use of parables to tell a specific lesson or meaning.  Often times, those listening to Jesus’ parables, were left scratching their heads.

Certainly, Jesus had the hidden talent of being direct and could have used that talent to make sure no one was left in the dark when he concluded with a parable.  So why wasn’t He more direct and to the point?

Ah…but listen closely to this next explanation.

In Luke, Chapter 8, verse 10, we read:

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Luke 8:10

Before getting to verse 10, Jesus had told a parable that talks about a seed and it’s ability to grow in four different places.  In the first three scenarios, the seed does not take “hold” and therefore does not grow.  One seed falls on a hard path; another falls onto rocky ground; and the last falls into thorns.  Finally, in the fourth scenario, the seed prospers because it lands on good soil.

If we think of Jesus as not using His talents to be direct to give a lesson, then we have our energy focused in the wrong place.  The “seed” in the parable represents Jesus’ message.  However, the different landing spots for that seed, be it hard ground, rocks, or thorns, represent our willingness to be receptive and listen.

You see, Jesus’ talents were in fact never hidden in the first place.  We, however, are the ones who hide our abilities to grasp the messaging.

Kinda ironic that Jesus uses a parable to explain why he has to talk in parables?

Heavy stuff.

The three seeds that don’t survive are metaphors for some of the challenges we all face.

The seed that doesn’t survive the hard path symbolizes the devil who sweeps away our goodness.

The seed that doesn’t survive the rocky ground symbolizes those who don’t have strong roots in God’s Word, and are therefore blown away over time.

And, lastly, the seed that falls into the thorns, symbolizes those who let life’s many distractions choke them from Jesus’ victory.

My prayer today is that we remain focused on the good soil that allows us a firm foundation yet permits seeds with deeper roots, healthy branches, and fruit to make us thrive.


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MAY 17, 2017 WAWA: Layers of a Parking Deck

This week’s run-focused WAWA is part “hill repeats” and part “track workout”!

Light stretch outside the Cornwell Center then easy jog over to the ground level of the “older” parking deck at Queens University.

We’ll have a total of four sets for this workout.

SET 1:

Sprint/Run from ground level of the parking deck to the first stairwell exit door.  Easy jog or walk back down to the ground floor.  Repeat 2 more times.

After the third jog back to the ground level, exit the parking deck and run three laps around the track/soccer field.

Rest at the ground level back inside the parking deck.

SET 2:

Sprint/Run from ground level of the parking deck to the second stairwell exit door.  Easy jog or walk back down to the ground floor.  Repeat 2 more times.

After the third jog back to the ground level, exit the parking deck and run two laps around the track/soccer field.

Rest at the ground level back inside the parking deck.

SET 3:

Sprint/Run from ground level of the parking deck to the third stairwell exit door.  Easy jog or walk back down to the ground floor.  Repeat 1 more time.

After the second jog back to the ground level, exit the parking deck and run two laps around the track/soccer field.

Rest at the ground level back inside the parking deck.

SET 4:

Sprint/Run from ground level of the parking deck to the roof stairwell exit door.  Easy jog or walk back down to the ground floor.

Exit the parking deck and run one and a half laps around the track/soccer field.  Exit the track/soccer field half way around the second lap onto Wellesley Avenue.  Continue jogging back to the Cornwell Center.

Cool down outside the Cornwell Center.



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