Monday, October 28, 2013

Obstruction!!!

I'm not sure how many of you are aware of what took place in the World Series game between the Saint Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox professional fast pitch baseball teams on Saturday night.  The game ended in a very unusual way, because one player was ruled obstructed on his path to home plate.  Because he was ruled obstructed, even though he was thrown out, he was called safe, and his team won the game as a result.  It all happened very quickly, and it left many people confused and not sure what had just happened.  Even some of the players on each team weren't completely sure.  

OBSTRUCTION is the act of making it difficult for something to happen or move forward.

If you were watching the game, and you have some thoughts on the call, I'd love to hear them. But this blog is not about baseball, or a game.  It's about asking ourselves a question in a crucial time. That question -  "Are my actions obstructing someone from getting to heaven?"  
1 Corinthians 8 talks about how eating food sacrificed for idols can cause our brothers and sisters to stumble.  The bottom line is, we need to be very conscious and aware of how our actions may impact others, even when we think it's something small.  Because when we do something that causes someone else to stumble, it's the same as sinning against Christ.  Pretty intense, stuff, huh?  
I often think of this in terms of how I act around my son.  At three years old, he is very impressionable and watches everything I say and do very closely.  Sometimes I'll do or say something that is not so wonderful.  I know this is really hard to believe, but it's true!!!!  The impact that it has on him from that point forward changes who he is and what he believes, even if only to the smallest of degrees.  So I try really hard to make sure that I am acting the way I would want him to act, and treating others the way I would want him to treat others, etc.  I want him to grow up to have respect for others, and to be a person with integrity and morals.  But it's more than just that.  We are commanded by God to watch how our actions impact others.  It's very crucial in our walk.  The other side of this coin is when someone does something that might cause you to stumble.  
Because we are called by God to make sure this doesn't happen, I am trying to come up with ways to be more aware of the things I can do to make others stumble, so that I no longer do those things.  I would love to hear any stories, comments, or ideas you have on ways you are doing the same.  
Have a blessed day!  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Are We Praying Right?

Nothing Ever Could Separate Us - Citizen Way

The link above is to a youtube video for a song called 'Nothing Ever Could Separate Us' by a band named Citizen Way.  It's cool.  Watch it.  

So prayer has been on my mind a great deal lately.  

(Sidebar - I'm not using 'a lot' because I can never remember if it's 'alot' or 'a lot'.  But that's a topic for another day).

But back to the topic at hand, prayer.  You may or may not believe in it, and that is okay with me.  But it just so happens that I do believe in its power.  One definition that I found describes prayer as a personal communication or petition addressed to a deity, especially in the form of supplication, adoration, praise, contrition or thanksgiving.   Upon taking a closer look, we learn that:

  • Supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.
  • Adoration is to respect, revere, or have a strong admiration or devotion to;  to give homage or worship to someone or something.
  • Praise is to express warm approval or admiration of.
  • Contrition is the state of feeling remorseful or penitent.
  • Thanksgiving is gratitude.  

On my Facebook page, and in my daily life, I often hear people express concerns for situations in their life.  In response, someone will almost always say 'I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.' or 'prayers going up.'  Something along those lines.  It's a response that has good intentions behind it.  But I often wonder if it's followed up by action.  I will even confess to you that sometimes I will do that very thing, say I will pray for something, and then simply not do it.  I have been working on that lately and challenging myself to make prayer a part of my every day life.  I've seen the impact that it has on me and on others around me.  

The thing that has really been on my mind, though, is are we going about it the right way?  Often times we view prayer as a laundry list of items we want God to take care of for us.  "Get me this job." or "Heal this sick person."  These are very real prayers, and I'm not trying to say that they aren't.  But is that all there is to prayer?  I sure hope not.  

I believe that sometimes prayer is as simple as finding a quiet place and listening to what God has to say.  First and foremost, it is about spending time with God.  Not simply telling Him what we want and what we need, which is our natural tendency.  Also, shouldn't we be praying at all times, not just when something is wrong or something isn't going the way we would like it to?  We should praise God in the good times and the bad times.  Ultimate surrender is recognizing that no matter what is going on in our lives, God's got this.  The battle has already been won.  

One of the toughest things I've ever had to do was keep praising God when going through struggles.  Sometimes I haven't done so well with it.  But with the help of family and friends, and a TON of prayer from so many people, my faith in God was constant.  He did not fail me.  He loves me more than I deserve (grace).  He sent His son to DIE for me, and to put my sin on HIS shoulders.  Slate wiped clean.  Eternal life.  Isn't that enough to  want to praise Him and talk to Him any chance I get, no matter the circumstances in my life?  

What are your thoughts on prayer?  

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Are You Doing?

When you ask someone how they are doing, what would you say the percentage of positive responses you receive are?  By positive, I mean real positive responses.  Not 'fine', 'good', 'okay', etc.  How often when someone asks us how we are doing are we prone to tell them about the many blessings in our lives?  For yours truly, not very many.  I tend to go with the standard canned responses.  Of course, my mind usually asks the question 'Do you really want to know how I'm doing?' when I'm asked the question.  

Okay, Brian - clearly you are rambling.  What is your point?  Well let me tell you.  The point is, I am challenging myself to go through each day being aware and thankful for the many, many blessings I have in this life.  So often I focus on the negative, the things I don't have or the things that aren't going the way that I would prefer that they go.  But the truth is, there are so many blessings in my life that I cannot possibly list them.  Or can I?  

I present to you, my list of blessings, in no particular order.  

God, His Son Jesus Christ, Grace, Forgiveness of Sins, Eternal life.
God's word - The Bible, and the ability to read it any time I choose to.
Leigh - my beautiful bride.
Will - my amazing son.
Hershey - our cat.  The old man is still kicking, and we are blessed to have him.  We miss Smudgie every day.  
My parents - Mom and Dad, I don't know where I'd be without you.  Even now you are a calming, guiding influence in my life.
Kathleen - my dear sister - I learn more from you and am so very proud of you and all you have accomplished in your life.  You are such a blessing.  
Henry - my nephew - little ball or energy, laughter, and fire ball blasts!!!!  I love you buddy.
Family - aunts, uncles, cousins, distant relations - all are a blessing and I wish I could spend more time with all of you.
My in-laws - Don and Bonnie - God could not have blessed me with a better 'second' family.  Every day I know you warms my heart and makes me thank God for you both.  I consider you  and everyone in your family to be my own family and I am just so thankful that God put you all in my life.  I don't say it often enough, but I love you guys more than I can express.  
Friends - you all know who you are.  Some I know better than others, or have known longer than others.  But I cherish each one of you and the wisdom you bring into my life each day.  My prayer is that we get the chance to grow those friendships even more in the future.  
My church family - too many people to possibly name, but each and every one of you from the current pastor Brad Ferris to the former pastor David Upchurch, to the youth groups current and past, to all of the staff who have been there and the staff who still are - each of you is a branch on my Christian family tree.  I am so thankful and blessed by that.
My health - at 42 years old, I'm still able to 'run' 26.2 miles.  
My job - I don't say it often enough, but it is a real blessing.  I am grateful to have it.  And my work family is another blessing.  I'm trying to remember that everyone I come into contact with brings the potential for another relationship, and that we're all struggling and trying to get through each day.
Our home - I complain sometimes about the various little things wrong with it, but it's our home.  We are making so many memories there.  I pray it's full of good memories for Leigh and Will as much as it is for me.  
Neighbors - we have been blessed to live in a neighborhood full of great neighbors.  And Will has so many kids to play with.  If any of our neighbors are reading this, know that you are a blessing in our lives.
Country - as often as people complain about politics and the President, etc, etc, we are truly blessed and privileged to live in a country with such great freedoms.  God bless America!  And God also bless all of the other great countries around the world and the diversity that we have on this planet.  
Technology - so many things can be accomplished through the wonder of technology these days.  It is an amazing thing and such a blessing when used for the right purpose.  

I feel like I could continue, and should continue, but my fingers hurt from typing so much and I am exhausted.  I would love to hear from you about some of the blessings in your life.  Feel free to share them in the comments of this blog, or on my Facebook page, or shoot me an email and let me know all about them.  I am willing to bet we can come up with more blessings in our lives than bad things.  

Have a GREAT day!!!!!

  





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

6:37:04

Six hours.  Thirty-seven minutes.  Four seconds.  How many things can you do in that amount of time?  I can think of plenty.  But I bet for many of you, running 26.2 miles is not one that is all that high on the list of things that pop into your head.  

I did it.  I finished the 2013 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  It took much longer than I anticipated.  My legs were tight early on and I knew I was in trouble as early as mile 6.  Because I'd run marathons before, many with heavy leg cramps for 6-8 miles, I knew what was happening and remained calm as a result.  I saw my sister and my nephew at mile 15, which was awesome, and the wonderful sign that they made.  As I was talking to my sister during our short visit, I considered calling it a day and going back to the hotel.  It was a brief consideration, but it was a very real one.  Not because I didn't think I was able to do it.  I knew I could.  But because I wasn't sure if I wanted to go another 11 miles with cramps.  It would entail running, walking, stopping and stretching - and I knew it would be brutally slow.  But at some point, I decided to go for it.  I knew I could finish it.  I had to finish it.  So that is what I did.  It was a beautiful day in Chicago, temperatures hovering around 70 for a high, and the sun was shining bright.  I talked to so many different people along the way - fellow runners, volunteers, spectators - it was a real sense of community.  As slow as I was going, there were people roadside cheering for us all the way through.  It was a great boost.  Oh, and my cousin Chris was right around the bend just before mile 26 rooting me on.  He was texting me words of support and encouragement from about mile 20 on.  It was so important to be able to see some familiar faces along the way.  My sister, nephew and cousin provided me with a tremendous boost.  My fellow runners who made the trek to Chicago with me were also a source of encouragement.  Just knowing there are others doing it with you, regardless of the amount of time it took them, was another boost.  

I was unable to do all of the training due to balky knees, only doing the long runs.  I didn't even do all of the long runs - only the ones where the distance increased.  I didn't do any cross training or strength training.  To say that I didn't train much would be pretty accurate.  I did what I could to make it to race day.  Clearly, it wasn't enough.  I had it in my head that I could do this marathon in 5:30.  But my body had other ideas.  

It was not stressful.  It wasn't disappointing, really, other than for a fleeting moment.  I was pleased that I was able to complete the race again.  It was a good weekend spent with great people (Steve, Nancy, Trevor, Kathleen, Henry and Chris).  I made it 26.2, no matter how slow.  I ate my way through Chicago, which running that distance affords you the right to do.  

Will I do another marathon?  Never say never.  Stay tuned.  

Thanks for all of the support and encouraging words.  They meant alot.  

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

26.2

A standard marathon is 26.2 miles.  (To read more about the origin of the marathon, look here).  Some people will run ultra marathons (however many miles you can run in an 8 hour period is one example I've heard of), or a 50 mile race (and you think I'M insane for doing 26.2?!?!?!), or others.  

Anyhoo, as many of you know, I am joining approximately 45,000 other people of all shapes and sizes from all over the world to run the Chicago Marathon this Sunday.  I started training in April, doing short runs of 2 and 3 miles whenever I could.  Then in June, I broke out the marathon training schedule I use (Hal Higdon's novice training schedule) and started ramping up the training.  I was feeling good, ready to do this again.  But at the age of 41 (at the time), my knees had other ideas.  They were hurting - not just one of them, but both of them.  I started to panic.  Should I stop training completely?  Am I too old for this?  I was diagnosed with runners' knee in both knees and went to physical therapy once a week for awhile.  The training schedule I typically do requires 4 runs a week - a short run, a medium run, another short run and a long run.  Because of the pain I was in, I resorted to resting up during the week and just doing the long runs each weekend.  Each time I would attempt to run a short or medium run, my knees would hurt so bad I could barely walk for days after I did one.  I decided that if I was going to do this marathon, I was going to have to pick my spots for training and give my knees the rest, ice, ibuprofen and stretching that they needed the rest of the time.  By the time I got to my 18 mile run, I was not feeling it.  My knees were aching, I walked a good portion of it, and I was at a crossroads.  I needed to make a decision as to whether I would continue on or quit.  I was quite down about it, because I felt like maybe I bit off more than I could chew.  So I took the next two weeks off, and decided I would, during that two weeks, mentally prepare myself for the next long training run - 20 miles.  I got up at 5am, put on my running clothes, took some advil, laced up my shoes and took off.  What happened next would determine whether or not I would continue on with my training.

Over four hours later, I had finished the 20 miles.  My knees did not hurt at all.  I was cramping up a little bit (normal cramps for me, not anything unusual) toward the tail end of the run.  I was pleasantly surprised, elated actually, that my knees didn't hurt at all the entire time. I was pretty gassed, but I think that was because of the fact that I only did the long runs while training.  The end result was a good one, though.  I was ready for 26.2.  

This Sunday morning,45,000 runners, myself included, will line up with a common goal.  To cross the finish line.  Some will finish in potential world record times (no, yours truly will not even be in that conversation, or anywhere remotely close) - times just over 2 hours - which is amazing to me.  Others will walk and finish in 7 hours.  My goal is to finish in somewhere between 5 and 6 hours.  I'm not in the best marathon shape I've ever been in.  My goals are realistic.  I know my body and my mind and that this goal is reachable, as I've run marathons previously.  This is marathon number six for me.  

I'm ready.  Ready for the crowd and the energy that they bring - without the crowd support it would be very difficult to do this.  Ready for conversations with other runners from all over the world and new friendships made as we support each other during this endurance test.   From the various bands playing along the marathon course, to the gay cheerleaders, to the high fives from everyone watching and the shouts of support from people I don't even know (which mean the world to every runner out there) - I am stoked.  Jacked.  Jazzed.  Psyched.  This one I am going to enjoy.  Will there be pain?  Almost guaranteed.  Will there be doubt?  Only if I let it creep in, which I am sure I will in some moments during the race.  But the bottom line is I know I can do this.  And I will do this.  Because I can.  Because I need to compete (with the finish line, not with other runners).  Because I love to run.  

My prayer is that this event is newsworthy for the usual reasons - it's a big event, and one of the fastest marathon courses that exists.  And for the safety of the runners, the spectators, volunteers, and everyone in the city of Chicago.  There is a big part of me that is running this race for the people in Boston and the children and teachers in Connecticut who were taken from us in such terrible tragedies earlier this year.  And of course I'll be thinking of my wife and my son.  

If you'd like to track my progress during the marathon, I am bib number 42882.  There are different ways you can do it, one of which is to register HERE.  It explains how you can get signed up, if you are so inclined.  

Thanks for all of your support during this journey.  I'm looking forward to the end result on Sunday.  

God bless and have a great day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Taming The Beast

This is a serious post.  Please read it as such.

I don't want anyone to be alarmed when they read this.  I'm not constantly yelling and screaming at my family every time I turn around.  I'm not hitting anyone, or physically hurting anyone.  I have never done those things, and don't plan on it anytime soon.  But I have a problem, a very real struggle that I and my family deal with on a daily basis.  It might seem small in comparison to some, but it's very big and very real to me.  And I believe to God.  It's been on my heart for awhile now.  I am sharing it with you.  Here.  Today.  


I am confessing to anyone who reads this blog today that I have an issue that I have been struggling with for quite sometime now.  I am not trying to put some clever spin on it, teach anyone anything from it, or call attention to myself.  I am merely putting this out there to be real with you.  I am human.  I struggle.  More than some of you who know me might realize.  I am a beautiful mess.  

What I've been struggling with lately is my temper.  It is bad.  I don't have the type of temper where I am physically violent towards the people that I love, or towards anyone.  Mine is the sort that may be even worse the way I see it.  It is verbal warfare.  When I reach a certain point, I start to raise my voice.  My patience goes out the window.  I will cut people off while they  are in mid-sentence.  On a handful of occasions I may even physically take my anger out on SOMETHING (a fan, a thermostat, a pair of shoes sitting in my path at the wrong time). 

I do not like this about myself.  I recognize that it is an issue that I have.  I have tried on my own to put it to a stop, to no avail.  I've talked to friends and family about it, and most think it's not a big deal and that everyone struggles with anger of some sort in their daily lives.   Maybe there are those with far worse tempers than mine.  That I do not disagree with.  But what really scares me is when I see the look on the faces of the people that I care about the most in this world when I have one of these episodes.  It tears me up inside.  I never, ever want my wife or my son to be afraid of me.  But it has happened.  I can probably count the number of occasions that it has happened on one hand, but that's too many.  

What I'm asking from all of you is to hold me accountable.  Ask me how I'm doing with it.  Know that this is an issue that I have.  And most important of all, pray for me about this.  I write this with tears in my eyes because it is tearing at me so much inside.  I know I'm a good husband and a good father.  I know I'm a good person.  But that is not what this post is about.  It's about stopping the cycle before it cannot be stopped.  Taming the beast, so to speak.  That's what I want to do.  My family does not deserve to have to hear me lose my cool.  Nor should they have to.  I'm human, yes, but I feel that my temper takes me overboard on occasion and I do not like it.  I've seen the way my son looks at me when this happens.  I've seen and talked to my wife about the way it makes her feel.  The two people I love more than anyone else in this world have been afraid of me on occasion because of the level of my temper, and I cannot have this.  I've been asking God to teach me patience.  To teach me to walk away from situations before I feel myself getting to 'that place'.  I have been asking Him to guide me as a father and a husband in this area.  I have spent time literally on my knees crying out to God to help me with these issues.  I know He will answer my prayers.  In fact, He already has started to.  Just last night, Will did not want to go number two on the potty, as is often the case.  It took 45 minutes of persuading, Will crying and yelling, sitting on the potty for a few, getting off and sitting on my shoulder, and repeating this cycle.  I did not lose my temper once.  I stayed calm.  We worked through it together.  It was hard for him - I don't understand his three-year old thought process at all when it comes to this - but I do know that it was very difficult for him.  I believe God was with me last night when this happened (He's always with me, but I was actually listening this time!).  Will and I were able to celebrate this 'victory' of him going #2 on the potty and me staying calm and collected simultaneously.  It was a good night.  But it was only one night.  

So here I am, an open book before you, acknowledging that this is something I struggle with on a daily basis.  Please keep me in your thoughts or prayers where this is concerned.  People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I finally figured it out about three and a half years ago.  I want to be the best Daddy I can to that little boy.  And the best husband I can be to the woman I promised 14 years ago that I would love until death do us part.  


I appreciate your thoughts and prayers.  Sorry this was so serious.  I'll try to inject a bit of humor into the next one.