Every Day

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Every day there is a quiz

Physically

Emotionally

Spiritually

These daily quizzes prepare you

For the test

Exam

Comprehensive

All that you know will be challenged

How strong are you?

How prepared are you?

If you’ve paid attention during the quizzes

You’ll be ready

Even when you don’t think you are…

14 Things I’ve Learned @ Crossfit

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I know some of you aren’t fans of Crossfit, and that’s ok. I wasn’t for a long time. Most Crossfit folks I knew were a little or a lot over the top and much too “stoked” for me. But I found an incredible group of people who just love to have fun, get fit, get sweaty, and support one another.

Here are 14 things I’ve learned after 14 months of Crossfit:

  1. Eat more and eat right. I haven’t gotten this down yet. I’ve had a couple of experiences in workouts that maxed out what my body was able to do and I had to cut them short. I simply ran out of fuel for my muscles and they wouldn’t perform.
  2. Drink more water. This should be a given, but we all know it’s not. Whatever you are currently consuming in water, up it.
  3. Sometimes a block is mental. Sometimes a block is physical. The physical blocks are usually easier to overcome than the mental. The hard part is knowing the difference.
  4. Humility will find you. Expect to be humbled.
  5. Sometimes, pain is good. Sometimes, pain is bad. If I’m experiencing pain in the midst of a workout it usually means that I’m doing something wrong and I need to stop and change tactics or I will get injured. If I’m experiencing pain a couple of days after a workout, usually that means I did something right and I should go back for more.
  6. You can turn anything into a competition, but that doesn’t mean you should turn everything into a competition.
  7. If you want it to be just about you, go do something else. We need each other for support, encouragement, and help in general.
  8. You may end up hearing old recordings of the voices from your past. Sometimes this can be upsetting. You might need to deal with them in a way that is different than working out. Don’t be afraid to seek extra help.
  9. If you always take the easy way out, you won’t benefit as much from the work.
  10. Know your limits and when to push past them and when to heed them.
  11. You can always do one more, usually. One more push up, burpee, lift, lap, or drink of water.
  12. Rest is vital, though most of us will have to fight the “I should be” monster.
  13. Scalin’ ain’t failin’. Just because the fittest in the room is maxing out on everything all the time doesn’t mean you should. When you scale back on reps or weight, it doesn’t make your fitness less important or less meaningful.
  14. There is always more to learn.

Trust Your Feelings?

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So often in this life, we are told to listen to our feelings. Trust your feelings. Trust your instincts. Other ways that this sentiment is expressed is to trust your heart or intuition. But I think that system is a bit broken. Obi-Wan Kenobi told young Luke Skywalker, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” Sorry, old Ben, I trust my eyes before I trust my feelings.

To be quite open and honest, if I had listened to my feelings at certain points of my life, I would not be here to type this short story. My feelings have ranged from bliss to rage and from ecstasy to despair. Which of those feelings should I trust? How am I supposed to know when my feelings are lying to me or when they might lead me to do something I regret?

Some of you may know that I have struggled with depression for the majority of my life. I never really knew it when I was younger, but looking back that’s what it was. It’s not that I wasn’t a happy child. My parents provided everything we needed and most of what we wanted even when the circumstances were bleak. I didn’t realize it and that’s a good thing. But depression isn’t dependent on circumstance. For me, it was and is a chemical thing. And that’s why I can’t trust my feelings or heart or whatever you may call it.

Even for those who may not deal with depression or anxiety, feelings can’t be trusted. They are so fleeting and change with the shifting breeze. One moment you are on top of the world and the next you might come crashing to the valley floor. Feelings are not trustworthy or stable creatures.

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Trust is better placed in someone who is trustworthy.

“I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus” by Frances Havergal- I am trusting thee to guide me; thou alone shalt lead, every day and hour supplying all my need.

Trust is better placed in someone who can be trusted.

 

A Metaphor Might Help

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I have just returned from my first Oregon Pastors Conference in Cannon Beach, Oregon. After 11 years of such retreats in Alaska, where the number of pastors was far fewer, I really didn’t know what to expect. It was good to catch up with friends, some from Seminary, some from ministry. I also met a number of people who were new to me and that was wonderful. The guest speaker offered some good insight into the text of St. John and the early work of the Church Fathers. In these things, the conference was beneficial but not challenging.

What was challenging to me was the state of so many of our churches in the Oregon conference. To say they are on the decline in numbers and effectiveness would be an understatement. If I had to venture a guess, in the next 10 years, a significant percentage of these churches will be extinct. I realize this isn’t news to anyone who has been following Jesus for any length of time. But to have it visibly displayed and openly discussed and admitted was eye-opening.

We are in that boat here in the Eugene/Springfield area of Oregon. There are six churches within 20 minutes of one another and five of those six are either vacant or being served only part time by men who ought to be enjoying true retirement. Only one of those churches is able to sustain a full-time pastor and only by the grace of God, that’s where I am. In the next 10 years, my estimate is that at least three of those six churches will be gone.

The question on everyone’s minds is “What can be done to stop that from happening?” The only real and honest answer is “God only knows.” For certain, there are things that churches around the country have been trying to do with varying degrees of success. Appealing to and bringing in younger families is one such answer. Another would be to change the worship style to better fit a “contemporary” mindset. Perhaps diversifying into the digital realm and using all of the social media platforms to promote the mission of the church would be helpful. Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know.

I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations since moving here from the Far North. In one such encounter, a woman was walking her dog around our property which I always find fun. I try to introduce myself to the people as often as possible. In this particular exchange, the woman asked what sort of building this was. I asked her what she meant by that. She said responded by asking what is this place and what do we do here. I said that it was a church and we worship God and teach about the Bible. Her comment was, “I don’t know what that is, but it’s a nice building.” I invited her to come and find out more and to stop in next time she was walking her dog around. I haven’t seen her yet.

I found myself in a very strange place. I’m sure she isn’t the only one who walks or drives by our building and has no idea what it is. There are now generations of people in this area who are not hostile to church, but who simply have no idea what it is. I’ll be honest. It’s kind of exciting. But I’m not sure how to proceed with this knowledge. Maybe a word picture would help. Let’s use a sea-going metaphor seeing as how I just returned from the beautiful coast.

Picture a fishing boat out at sea. It’s a nice boat, fresh paint, friendly people fishing on the deep blue sea. As they are fishing, a person on a pool float drifts into view. They are a long way from any pool and the captain of the boat isn’t sure how this person got there. The pool floater looks up at the boat and says, “What are you all standing on? I’ve never seen such a thing.” Confused, the fishers look at one another and shout out to the person on the float, “This is a boat. It’s a vehicle used to bring us out to the fishing grounds. It has a motor and steering. Have you never heard of a boat before?” The pool person responds, “Nope. But yours is real nice.” With that, the person on the pool float drifts away as the current and tides move.

I realize metaphors are limited and sometimes absurd. But consider this one. Let it generate questions. Let it generate discussion. Let it move or not move you. It’s a metaphor.

 

Questions in the Garden

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Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

The invasion of sin into the perfection of paradise is such a controversial topic. The timing of the events, the purpose and consequences, the why’s and how’s all serve to blast apart the serene vision of the beginning of all things. I can’t begin to answer all the questions, nor would I try, but there is some healthy discussion to be had here.

Why did God put the tree there in the first place? Because He’s God and that’s how he created things. I know that’s a snappy answer, but it’s true. He wanted to have the trees there and so he put them there. That’s really the only answer that we can give.

Shouldn’t He have known that when He told them not to eat it, they would want to eat it? When we’re told not to do something, a lot of the time we want to do exactly what we’re told not to do. You know what that’s called? Sin. You know what wasn’t in the Garden when God told them not to eat the fruit? Sin. So there was no reason for Him to worry about that.

Why did God allow the serpent to talk to Adam and Eve? Because He’s God and that’s what He allowed to happen. Look, anytime we ask a “why” question of God, our only real answer is “because He’s God.” We can’t venture into the mind of the Almighty and hope to come up with palatable answers for us puny humans. I know we don’t like it that way, but that’s the way it is.

When did sin get in? Martin Luther would say that the sin of Eve wasn’t disobedience in eating the fruit. The sin was the seed of disbelief and distrust of God that entered in as soon as the serpent spoke. The fruit wasn’t a magic apple like every Disney movie or fairy tale. The eating of the fruit was a consequence of the sin of disbelief and distrust and the opening of the eyes was a result of the eating. Sin, then, came in before the disobedience. The word of the serpent became, in Eve’s ears and Adam’s heart, more trustworthy than the Word of God.

God gave Adam and Eve free will. Didn’t He know they would choose to eat the fruit? I can’t find any where in the Genesis account where it says that God gave Adam and Eve free will. He created them, one from another, and placed them in the Garden to work it and tend it. He gave them the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. They had no need of free will because everything they needed was given to them. If free will enters into the world at all, it’s after sin, so then free will is connected to sin. Doesn’t sound like a good thing at all to me.

There’s much more to be said about all of this and I’m sure there are myriad questions that follow. But we’ll save that for another time and installment. For now, let’s chew on these for a bit and always keep in mind that hindsight is 20/20 and we can’t place our modern/post modern understandings of human behavior and God’s intentions against the Scriptures and people’s interactions back then.

It’s No Wonder

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I recently attended a church fair at a local Christian college. It was a typical fair set up with tables and each church presenting themselves as opportunities for the students to connect. As was expected, most of the students didn’t pay much attention to the tables as they were getting their lunch and getting ready for class. Each table had swag and stuff to entice the students to check them out. There were give-aways for coffee and stickers and the usual stuff. There was even a table with a cotton candy machine.

Several of the tables were occupied by places that didn’t have “churchy” sounding names. I’m sure, like many of the non-denominational attempts to lure in the pre-churched, they were avoiding anything that might sound like church. In this town, it would be easy to confuse those places with the marijuana distributers because they all try to avoid saying what they really are. And it’s no wonder that students, even at a Christian college, are confused about church. If you are named “Salt” or “the Rock” you could be selling drugs or praising God. We don’t know.

Now, I’m not saying that every church should have a heavy handed name. Not every place can be the Orthodox Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in the Valley of the Shadow of Death and Resurrection. Imagine the size of the sign you would need. But at least that name tells you something. A name like “Summit” doesn’t say much.

I found the same confusion in chapel at the college as well. The worship was right out of the textbook of non-denominational, mega-church worship in 2002. Three songs sung with lilting loveliness and closed eyes followed by a prayer to “Father God, we just…” The pastor was a 50 something guy with a goatee and a tropical print polo, using words like “dude” and “whack” and other words that no one uses anymore. I thought to myself, if this is what we’re passing off as church or as Christianity to these students, it’s no wonder that the faith community is shrinking here in the Northwest.

It’s trite. It’s cute. There’s no need to invest. There’s nothing expected. It’s emotionally pandering and cotton candy.

I don’t have the answer to all the questions about student and campus ministry. I haven’t done much in that arena. Maybe I’m an armchair critic then and you can disregard what I’m saying as someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m fine with that.

What I’m not fine with is selling our students short. Following Jesus comes with a lot of expectations. Being the church has a hard-fought legacy, a violent history, and incredible power. Cotton candy doesn’t cut it. If we want them to be part of what makes the church the church, we have to show them what that means.

Ok, I’ll step down off my soapbox now. Thanks.

What Can Be Said?

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What can be said when you run out of things to say? When an illness once beaten returns with a vengeance and days on this earth grow short, what can you say? When unspeakable tragedy occurs in a split second changing the course of someone’s life forever, what can you say? When devastating disaster wreaks havoc in the lives of innocent people, what can you say?

I’m sure you could find a lot of words to say, but would any of them be right? The right words are elusive but wrong or patronizing words are easy to find. There are things that we could say that wouldn’t help anyone. They might make those who are saying them feel a little better for having at least said something, anything. They would be of no use to the one sitting in the midst of their pain.

The human experience called life is profound in its complexity just as the language of man is complex in its attempt to give words to the experience. Metaphor and analogy take the place of direct description when the human language simply cannot capture the experience. Simile tries to re-frame the ethereal into palatable or tangible bits, easier to digest. But words and language have limitations. What happens when the limits of language have been reached?

Perhaps this becomes a time when the adage “actions speak louder than words” comes into focus. The actions, the deeds, the works display what words cannot convey. These don’t have to be deeds of grand achievement or profound meaning. In fact, simple works speak volumes. A kind gesture of support and presence is a powerful thing. Sitting with someone and holding their hand can have an effect that a thousand words wouldn’t. Paying attention and listening to someone tell their story is infinitely more helpful than spouting platitudes of pithy sayings, even from the most well-meaning of hearts.

What can be said when you run out of things to say? Nothing can be said. It’s then when something needs to be done.