JUNE 28, 2017 Devotional: “Just Showing Up”

Last week, I had the honor to attend the assumption of command ceremony for my classmate, Brigadier General Steve Gilland, as the 77th Commandant of Cadets at West Point.  In this role, Steve is responsible for the training and discipline for nearly 4,500 cadets, who are the future leaders of our Army and this great nation.  I always love going back to West Point for any occasion.  Ironically enough, I couldn’t wait to leave the Academy when I was a cadet.  I struggled academically for several semesters even though I was one of the top students in my high school graduating class.  So, I didn’t always have the fondest of memories “in the moment”…but now, things are a different story.

Truth be told, Steve Gilland and I were more or less acquaintances at school.  Most cadets know other classmates by name, but you’re more close to the 120 or so other students within your immediate cadet company.  But Steve and I, as well as his wife, Betsy, another classmate, became closer acquaintances through social media years after graduation.

About 5 years ago, I was doing some volunteer work for the US Olympic Committee to put on a paratriathlon training camp for wounded veterans in San Antonio, Texas.  This three day event would teach veterans with a host of battlefield injuries, the pillars of triathlon:  swimming, cycling and running.  I knew Steve and Betsy were stationed just north of San Antonio at Fort Hood, so I reached out to them a few weeks in advance to see if they could help me organize some volunteers from Fort Hood who might be willing to travel a couple hours south to the camp and help out.  Not only did the Gillands help rally some interest, but they also personally came to San Antonio to assist.  It was meaningful to both of them, which is typically the case for volunteers at these kinds of event.

It meant the world to me.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when it was announced that Steve would be the next Commandant of Cadets at West Point.  I knew I would be there for the assumption of command event.  That ceremony took place last Friday atop the cadet library in the glorious Alexander Haig Room, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the famous parade field of the Academy.  Nearly 30 classmates had made the trip to West Point for the ceremony.  When it came Steve’s time to take the podium and give some brief remarks, he began by thanking his new boss, the Superintendent of West Point, a 3-star general.  Next he thanked his immediate and extended family.  Both of those comments of gratitude came across very stoically from the battle-tested general.

Then Steve turned to say thanks to his “brothers and sisters” …. his classmates who had traveled many miles, collectively, from across the nation to attend the ceremony.  And for a brief moment, Steve’s voice cracked and we could tell he was getting choked up.  And just as quickly, Steve recaptured his composure saying “I appreciate my brothers and sisters for showing up today”.

Woody Allen was quoted once as saying “80 percent of success in life is showing up.”

That quote has been butchered over the years.  Some have translated the quote anywhere from 90 percent to 50 percent.  Others have removed the “success” portion and shortened the quote simply as:  80 percent of life is just showing up.

There are probably just as many definitions of the quote as there are variations of the quote itself.  To me, the quote simply means a majority of the impact of doing something comes from being there to make sure it happens.  Certainly for Steve’s ceremony, the “being there” was a big part of the appreciation many of us wanted to share.

Steve pulled me aside later that day during the reception at their home and said, “Mike, I’m just so honored you made the trip.  How can I ever repay you?”

“Steve”, I said.  “You don’t need to repay me anything.  You showed up for me years ago in San Antonio.  And today I showed up for you.”

“Showing up” can be seemingly so insignificant.  But in reality, it’s very powerful.

You know who else shows up….100% of the time?  God.  He is always present.  Always there.  Always available and always forgiving.  We don’t ever have to wait for Him to “show up”.  In fact, it’s the other way around.  He’s usually waiting for us to arrive.

In the Old Testament, God shows up in the form of a burning bush, in a whisper to Elijah, and even shows up later out of a whirlwind.  Still later, in the New Testament, God shows up in the form of a servant, in the eye of a terrible storm, and most importantly, in the Resurrection story.

Time and time again, God shows up for mankind.

What’s holding you back from “showing up” from your Heavenly Father?  My prayer this week is that we find the courage and commitment to show up for God.  Make the relationship you have with Him a routine “thing” that you do “routinely”.  In other words, make it a point to show up not 50 percent, 80 percent, or event 90 percent.  Make it a 100 percent thing you do.



Read more "JUNE 28, 2017 Devotional: “Just Showing Up”"

JUNE 28, 2017 WAWA: “Octopus Hills Workout”

Welcome back to WAWA after a well-deserved “rest week”!  This week, we’re doing a great hills workout I’ve titled the “Octopus Hills Workout”.

We’re activating our “summer schedule” starting this week which means we’ll gather at 6 am ET.  Enjoy the extra 20 minutes of sleep!

Did you know an octopus has 6 arms and 2 legs?  I assumed they were all legs…but Google told me otherwise.  For our run workout, we’ll follow the extensions of the octopus.  Our two “leg” routes will take us to-from the Cornwell Center to the starting point for the hills workout.  And I’ve got 6 “arms” (ie. hill routes) for the main set of the workout.

Here’s the planned route:

LEG 1:  Warm up run to Starting Point:

Exit Cornwell Center, turning right onto Selwyn Avenue.  Take left down Radcliff.  Turn right onto Queens Road West.  Then up the Booty Loop hill to the intersection of Queens Road & Hopedale.

Distance:  Approximately 1 mile

6 ARMS:  Main Running Set:

First Arm:  Starting Point up Hopedale (East) and back.

Second Arm:  Starting Point up Granville and back.

Third Arm:  Starting Point up Queens Road West, left down Ardsley, and back.

Fourth Arm:  Starting Point up Queens Road West, left down Coniston and back.

Fifth Arm:  Starting Point down Hopedale (West) and back.

Sixth Arm:  Starting Point down Queens Road West to bottom of hill, then back to Starting Point.

Distance:  Approximately 3.5 miles

LEG 2:  Easy jog from Starting Point back to Cornwell Center:

Starting Point up Hopedale (East), turn right onto Queens/Selwyn, then left into the parking lot for the Cornwell Center.

Distance:  Approximately 1 mile.

TOTAL Distance is approximately 5.5 miles.

Meet outside the Cornwell Center, ready to go at 6 am!




Read more "JUNE 28, 2017 WAWA: “Octopus Hills Workout”"

JUNE 14, 2017 Devotional: “Bibles, Bunkers, and Bogeys”

I was reconnecting with a friend from Atlanta earlier this week.  She was asking what my family and I had been doing in Charlotte these days.  Small talk, of sorts.  My friend and I were connected through the triathlon community for the many years that I lived in Atlanta before moving to Charlotte in 2014.  Triathlon used to be a huge part of my life.  I was single but not really into the bar scene or the Buckhead night life.  No, instead I developed many lasting friendships though my training and competing in swimming, cycling and running events.

My friend asked, “So have you mapped out your triathlon racing calendar for this year yet?”  Now in earlier times, I would have promptly gone over all my races, maybe 7 or 8 in a given season. I would have outlined the different distances including sprints, Olympic distances and perhaps even a half-iron distance. But nowadays, things have changed for me.

“No, actually,” I replied to my friend.  “These days, you can mostly find me on the golf course.  If I’m lucky I get in 9 holes a couple days a week….and even 18 holes in on a weekend.”  My friend chuckled but simply finished the conversation by saying…”Good for you, Mike.  Good for you.”

In preparing for this week’s devotional, I did a little research on how “golf”, my new found passion, might say something about someone from the spiritual perspective as well.  What are the metaphors for walking 18 holes on a golf course and walking many days of Christian life?

The Reverend Billy Graham is a self-professed lover of the game of golf as well.  In one interview, Rev. Graham explained:

“There’s no game which opens a man’s personal life like golf. It illustrates an individual’s honesty, integrity, intelligence, and character. Golf demands control of temper, concentration, and integrity. You can tell a lot about a person by playing a round of golf with him. In golf, you cope with the same troubles as you do in life.”

I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

I’ve got about 2 years of golfing under my belt since moving to Charlotte.  And while my skills are on a slower path to improvement than I might prefer, my awareness and appreciation while playing has opened up my eyes to some rather interesting parallels to my Christian faith.  Here’s a couple lessons I’ve learned from golf, that align closely to that faith.

First, you can still make a decent score on a Par 5 hole, even if your tee shot from the beginning is awful.  Most of the holes on a golf course are a Par 4, meaning the hole is designed to be completed in four strokes.  In a given 18-hole course, you might find four Par 3 holes and four Par 5 holes, as well.  The Par 5 holes are much longer and I am constantly having to remind myself to focus on using the 5 strokes “planned” for that hole.  If I have a bad tee short that hooks or slices on the Par 5, I can still make up for it with a decent second and third shots on the same hole.  Likewise, God doesn’t throw us out the door if our beginnings in life are errant, slicing or hooking away to either side of the desired path.  Like golf, if we collect ourselves, and keep our head in the game, then end results can be magically put back in the proper place.

Next, walking around a beautiful golf course can remind us of God’s gifts all around us.  This past week, I witnessed hawks flying, meticulously manicured grass fairways & greens, and gentle breezes on an otherwise hot afternoon.  The breeze especially, made me wonder later if God was providing nature’s air-conditioning so I’d appreciate the beauty of the course even longer.  Author Ken Garfield writes in his biography of Rev. Billy Graham, Billy Graham: A Life in Pictures,…

“Somebody once asked me, ‘Will there be golf courses in heaven?’  I said, ‘If they’re necessary for our happiness, they’ll be there.”

Rev. Graham seems to describe the perfect blend of nature’s beauty and love of sport….through golf.  Why wouldn’t this also be in heaven?

Still another parallel is the process of “lining up a putt”.  Have you ever seen professional golfers pick up their ball from the green once they’ve marked the spot?  You might then notice the golfer bend over and slowly line up the ball with the intended hole several yards or feet across the green.  The next time you pick up a golf ball, spin the ball around and you’ll generally fine a straight line or arrow on the ball.  Golfers use that line as the aiming point to the hole.  Golf coaches say if you keep your head down, and if the ball is correctly lined up to the hole, then you have a better chance of hitting the mark, so to speak.

The path to the hole across the green is very narrow.  Any deviations from the correct path and the ball won’t fall into the cup.  I’m reminded of a verse from Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the way to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  MT 7:13-14

Just as in golf, our Christian walk is only successful if we take the correct and narrow path.

Finally, when it comes to golfing role models for their sports performance, my thoughts tend to gravitate to some of the game’s greats like Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, and Michelson.  But far off the greens and fairways, when it comes to golfers I admire, one name stands out from all others to me:  Jordan Spieth.  He’s a great golfer; still, in my opinion, he’s an even better Christian.  One author wrote of Spieth:

Spieth’s actions reflect his Faith. His very life is a testimony. He doesn’t brag. He loves God. He goes to Bible study. He honors his family. He lives humbly. He encourages and supports those around him.

Despite the thousands of adoring fans, Spieth knows who alone is worthy of adoration — his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While listening to Jordan Spieth’s inspiring story, I just couldn’t help but think of James 4:10, which reads,

“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”  JAMES 4:10

I may have one or two triathlons left in the tank in the next year or two.  Then again, maybe not.  I do know that golfing will take more and more of my focus.  And while my skills will (hopefully) get better over time, I know my focus on this new passion will likewise keep me grounded on Christianity.  Paying attention to the game and the arena it entails, are continuous reminders to me of what matters most.

My prayer today is for the golfer in all of us…whether you claim to be one or not….that your fairways remain wide, your greens remain flat, and that every club swing puts you nearer to the cup.  In God’s eyes, I believe he doesn’t keep score on your swings.  But he loves it when you have some measurement of keeping on par with your Christian faith.



Read more "JUNE 14, 2017 Devotional: “Bibles, Bunkers, and Bogeys”"

JUNE 14, 2017: Beating the Dog Days of Summer!

This week’s run-focused WAWA has us returning to a “newer” hill repeats location that we tackled last month.

Total planned distance running is 5.5 miles.

Weather should be around 70 degrees and dry at the start.  Dress accordingly!  Sunrise is just after 6 am.

Last time we did this workout, we stopped at 4 “repeats”.  Adding one more this time….for a total of 5 hill repeats!


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 4 more times!

-Total distance for repeats + recovery is 2.5 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:  5.5 miles

Don’t let the dog days of summer get you down!  Could run with us in the morning!



Read more "JUNE 14, 2017: Beating the Dog Days of Summer!"