Archive for the ‘Psalm’ Category

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“LOW VALUE PROBLEM SOLVING” – Feb. 3

February 3, 2017

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

The following is a devotion I was allowed to share with students at a recent NCFCA National Open tournament in Spokane, WA.  I hope you find it encouraging.


Iintel have been reading a book by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, called “High Output Management”.  It is not a Christian book and I don’t know if Andy Grove was a Christian.  This is, as the title suggests, a book on management.

I read a statement in his book regarding the manufacturing process that I found profound enough to post it on Instagram (@blom.jd), which is the true measurement of a quote.  I believe this singular sentence encapsulates a truth that goes beyond the production of widgets or the motivation of employees.  He stated:

 A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible.

Obviously, the context of his statement is manufacturing.  Simply, it is better to remedy a problem as close to the raw materials of a manufacturing process as possible.  It really is a common-sense statement.  It is always better to discover a problem before you make continued investments of time, money, intellect, and a myriad of resources.

However, there is a universality of this simple principle that goes beyond business.  Simply change the words, production process, and you may see a much wider application.

A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix a problem in our relationships, friendships, school studies, debate case, speeches, at the lowest-value stage possible.  Doesn’t that make sense?

When is the best time to dump a problematic debate case or a cluttered speech?

At the last tournament, after you have invested much time and effort or
before the season even begins?

Obviously, it will be far better to address the problem before the season starts,
at the lowest-value stage.

It makes sense.

This morning I look out and see a crowd of individuals who are at a very low-value stage.  Now, don’t be offended; “he called me low-value”.  I did not.  I am observing that most of you are at the beginning of your potential.  You are at the starting line of a myriad of different paths.  Soon, you will be making massive investments in the subsequent steps on your individual paths that we call life.

Therefore, is it not sensible to try to detect and
fix any problems at this early stage in your life?

I can tell you as a middle-aged man who has had to address problems later in life, at “higher value” stages of life, that it gets much more difficult and messy the longer you wait to address a problem.  Therefore, my first advice to you this morning is to live by the simple principle:

It is far better to detect and fix problems when they are small and manageable,
before they become difficult and messy problems.

The Jonathan Edwards Collection 20 Classic Works Kindle EditionMy next advice is associated with how to detect and fix these small problems in our lives, which leads me to another book I am reading, the Complete works of Jonathan Edwards.  The other day I posted this quote from my readings to Instagram.

Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in, a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent and self-righteous disposition.

I look out upon you all this morning, and I see the sovereign hand of God.  I see a generation being raised in the power of the Holy Spirit for the challenges of a time yet to come.  I see excellence elicited, skills sharpened, intellect ignited for what, I do not know but I do know that it is for a purpose.

This is all for a purpose.

Therefore, I implore you this morning hear Jonathan Edwards’ advice because I know of few problems that have a greater potential to seep into your life and ruin all of this wonderful potential then problems from the seeds of self-dependence and self-righteousness.  If you do not detect them early then they will manifest themselves later in your life, at higher-value stages, when it will be much more painful and destructive.

  • Take on an attitude of imperfection; continually, daily, seeking out problems before they are difficult and messy problems.
  • Endeavor to obtain and increase in the sensibleness of your complete dependence on God; it truly is sensible – learn what that means and increase in that understanding.
  • Start a practice of setting your eyes on Him alone. Learn how to control your mind.
  • Start a practice of mercilessly putting to death an attitude of self-dependence.  You are who you are by the grace of God alone.
  • Prune every bud of self-righteousness, before you and others are forced to taste its bitter fruit.

I earnestly encourage you, today, to live a life that endeavors to set your mind on the things of the Spirit.  Allow the Spirit today, through the grace of God, to increase your dependence on the one who has rescued your soul and be obedient to your calling.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will reveal the roots of self-dependence, the buds of self-righteousness that we are harboring unaware.  Show us how sensible it is to depend upon you.  Empower us in our endeavor to live a life that is killing self-dependence and self-righteousness and glorifies you in all that we do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“PHYSIOGNOMY OF MY CHILDREN” – Feb 24

February 24, 2015

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night.”  Psalm 121:5-6

I hCLF - Olmstead Parksave been reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I came upon a line that caused me to pause:

There are no trivial facts in humanity, nor little leaves in vegetation.  It is the physiognomy of the years that the physiognomy of the century is composed.  (Victor Hugo, Les Miserables page 77)

Physiognomy is a wonderful word that I had to look up; it means the general form or appearance; facial expression, especially when regarded as indicative of character or ethnic. There is a great truth in this quote.  The general character of a century is composed of the character of the years.  It is the small things of life that compose the great; there are no small leaves in vegetation. I pray that my children will grow to be individuals of character.  I want them to walk all their days in the Spirit and know deeply the love of God.  I want the physiognomy of their childhood years to compose the physiognomy of their adult life. Childhood forms much of our adult life.  Just like a giant shade tree on a hot summer day, we hope to shade our children from the hurt and regret of a rebellious world.  My wife and I endeavor to spread  a canopy of love over our children.  A canopy composed of thousands of leaves.

http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/461564763

The grand teachable moments are the parent’s white whales.  We long for those moments when we can speak of great truths and profound lessons.  These giant leaves do happen, but I believe they are much more rare than we want to admit.  The more abundant and therefore the greatest composition of a parent’s canopy of love are the small leaves. The small leaves demonstrating the reality of the transforming work of the Spirit in a child of God:

How we speak to our spouse; The control of our anger; The kindness we show to strangers; Daily love of scripture; Devotion to prayer; Generosity to the ungenerous; Speaking truth even when it costs; Obedience to speed limits even when late; All those words of encouragement spoken in love.

445Each of these acts flourishes like thousands of small leaves shading the childhood of our children while they are under our care.  There are no little leaves in the life of a Christian.  Every fruit of the Spirit harvested from my life and the life of my wife contributes to the canopy over our lives together in Christ.  That canopy shades our children’s hearts from being hardened by a parching world.  It is a great work of the Spirit. Doubtless, there are grand leaves of teachable moments in our canopy but they certainly are outnumbered by all the little evidences of a man and woman in love with their Savior. I know that the salvation of my children is not within my hands. Yet, I have faith that nothing is too hard for God; even the conversion of my children.  We live and pray expectantly.  The Lord our keeper shades the life of my wife and I.  We have faith that His shade upon our lives will create the perfect environment for Him to draw our children to Himself. There are no little acts in the life of a Christian.  There are always little eyes watching.

It is the trivial acts of daily life that composes the physiognomy of my life.

It is the physiognomy of an individual life that the physiognomy of a family is composed.

It is the physiognomy of a family that the physiognomy of a church is composed.

It is the physiognomy of the church that the physiognomy of a generation is composed.

There are no trivial acts in a Christian’s life, nor little leaves of the Spirit’s fruit.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you from my children.  Father, I pray that you will draw them to yourself.  Open their eyes to the magnificence of who you are.  Give them ears to hear the call of their Shepherd.  Create in them a clean heart that comes only from being a new creation in Christ, your Son and the redeemer of their souls.  Help me be the parent that they need.  Help me to show them what it means to walk in the Spirit.  Let the shade of your grace keep me; may that same grace flow through my life to shade them as they grow in you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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AM I SICK – Dec 29

December 29, 2014

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

After a month of eluding, it has happened.

An occasional dry cough has mined down into my bronchi to produce the rattling notes of illness. My sinus passages refuse to work in unison. They are contented to take turns passing air while the other throbs with the pressure of an impassable clog.

I am sick.

I had successfully managed to avoid this cold as it passed through our household. Germs have filled the confined atmosphere of a house sealed against the frigid winter weather. These germs have systematically progressed through my family – son to daughter to wife… and now to me.

I thought I had successfully eluded the buggers since wellness prevailed through our home for more than a week. Yet, there were signs that all was not well for a few days.

Sleep has been restless;
Sinus pressure has built;
And a tickle has been maturing in the back of my throat.

My wife asked me how I felt this morning and made an observation as to why my immune system may have now succumbed when it had been able to fend illness off for so long. “We haven’t been eating well lately,” is what she said.

It is true. We came off of our diet cleanse (SOUL CLEANSE) through the Christmas festivities. We have not been eating horribly but it surely hasn’t been as well as before.  Our diet might not be the sole reason for my illness, but I surmise that it was a significant contributor.

I came across a survey at Ligonier Ministries recently. The survey purported to take the temperature of America’s theological health.

TheStateOfTheology-InfographicThe survey concludes:

  • Answers are reflective of our “made-to-order” god.
  • The majority of Americans perceive “goodness” to be a better description of people then “sinful”.
  • The majority of Americans aren’t convinced of a literal heaven and hell.
  • Pluralism is rampant within our culture.
  • Our culture is anti-theological – we are in a new dark age.

The survey demonstrates that many professing Christians are theologically sick. After writing this blog for a couple of years, these survey conclusions do not surprise me. I regularly get emails and comments from individuals purporting beliefs that are anti-theological.  I wonder if one of the contributing reasons for the theological illness of America is our typical Christian diet.

I read Psalm 63 as part of my daily Bible reading this morning. I was struck by three words.

Earnestly
Thirsts
Faints

We will not earnestly seek after someone we don’t value. We will never wait for our thirst to be quenched by someone we don’t trust. Surely, we will never exert ourselves to the point of passing out for a belief we doubt.  I find these words very convicting because they do not describe me to the degree that I would like.

The passion of the Psalmist is the natural manifestation of a healthy soul. It is the result of someone regularly grounded on a dietary foundation of sound doctrine. It is through sound doctrine that the value of Christ is expounded; the trustworthiness of God is demonstrated; and doubts are answered.

Doctrine is not a bad word.

Doctrine merely means knowing what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it, and how to share it. It is anti-theological to reject doctrine just because it is doctrine.  This attitude resigns us to a life of chronic spiritual aliments.

Let’s embrace a regular diet of theology and the passion that will come from a spiritual healthy life.  If you are interested in my thoughts on how to cure bad theology, check out CURING BAD THEOLOGY.

“People are cutting themselves off from 2,000 years of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the Word of God. We never want to exalt tradition over Scripture, but we still need to recognize that we are par of the historic body of Christ.” ~ Stephen Nichols

PRAYER: Father, thank you for your word.  Thank you for the centuries of ministry by the Holy Spirit to your children.  Lord, I want to be passionate about you.  I want to thirst for you.  I want to seek after you earnestly.  Give me that commitment to follow you and be obedient to you.  Draw me closer to you.  Heal me of my chronic spiritual aliments.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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DISCOVERING THE BIGGEST LOSER – Nov 6

November 6, 2014

“God settles the solitary in a home…” Psalm 68:6a

I recently returned from a business trip to the Los Angles, California area. Like many business trips,  I found myself with an afternoon departure time leaving me with a long morning of free time.  Since I was going to be lingering through a day, I decided to do my lounging outside the confines of TSA.  My client had mentioned the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area. Since I collect National Park lapel pins, I decided to take this opportunity to collect another. Therefore, I weaved my way along the Ventura Freeway amongst the morning commuters and a rising California sun to the Park visitor center. This visit was unique to other parks I have visited due to the solitary of the experience. I pulled my rental car under a shade canopy in the visitor center parking lot. Mine was the singular vehicle occupying a space designed for many. I got out of the car and looked for other visitors. There were none. I was the only visitor on this morning. King Gillette Ranch, main residence courtyard,... I perused the exhibits of the visitor center and learned that I was on the King Gillette Ranch. This had been a ranch commissioned by King Camp Gillette, of the Gillette razor fame and fortune, as a “paradise on earth, California style” in the late 1920’s. I meandered from the Visitor Center along a nature trail lined with native plants, intent on working my way to see the Gillette Ranch House. In typical California fashion, the trail did not lead to the Gillette ranch house so I had drive. I found my way to yet another parking lot only this one was filled with cars. While I now parked with other cars, the atmosphere was still unsettling due to the absences of people. I wandered toward the buildings in search of King Gillette’s California styled paradise. Oddly, all of the buildings appeared to be in some sort of administrative use. There were no tourist directions or information kiosks. “Very strange”, I thought as I slowly gazed across the campus from the steps of its largest building, wondering what I should do. Mr. Tumnus That was when I saw a young lady, hustling fawn-like, across the grass expanse disappearing down a trail on the opposite side. I considered returning to my car and heading back to the airport, since I had no idea what lay down the trail she traveled. However, she looked intent so I decided to follow my new “Mrs. Tumnus” and explore this rather drought stricken caricature of paradise. She led me under a grove of oaks and down a slightly descending trail. The tree canopy diffused the intensity of the sun but the appearance of activity ahead was still cloaked behind the glare particular to California. I could make out approximately a dozen people milling about as I strolled closer but that was not what focused my attention. It was the cameras. There were four cameras; two sets each focused on separate points of interest. I quickly stopped because the path  I was on was going to take me directly across their back-sight. biggest loser 2I looped around to another trail that took me further away from the activity but still let me investigate what was going on. I immediately knew what was occurring from the voice that rushed across the woodland. “C’mon, pick up that jump rope. Two minutes; start…now!”, I had to restrain myself from instinctively jumping in-place. Jillian Michaels, the tormentor of my basement workouts, was leading a workout of two hapless fellows. My wife and I had filled our winter mornings doing the Jillian’s Body Revolution.  Therefore, I knew that voice and right there in front of me stood the rather small body of that distinctively large voice. biggest loser 1As I looked closer, there was Bob Harper over in the corner, having an intimate discussion with one of his competitors that did not look as intimate with two cameras peering over their shoulders. I looked around me and saw a beige building with “Biggest Loser” sprawled across its entrance. I had stumbled upon the filming of an episode of the Biggest Loser. This may have been the Gillette Ranch but it is now more famous as the Biggest Loser Ranch. I pulled out my cell phone and started taking pictures, which drew the attention of an official looking individual. He approached me and inquired as to whether I was “with the show”. When he discovered that I lacked the appropriate credentials, he informed me that they could not allow me to be taking pictures. I apologized but when we continued to stare awkwardly at each other, I realized that my presence was not entirely welcome. So, I decided that it probably was time to head back to the airport rather than participating in a game of “catch me if you can” around the Biggest Loser ranch. Once I was back in the secured confines of the Burbank airport, I reflected upon how cool my little adventure had been. The unexpected surprise revealed from following “Mrs. Tumnus” provided an enjoyment, whose memory still engenders a smile within me. I would never have had the fun of discovery if I had not taken the initiative to do something different. You just never know what you might stumble upon when you explore beyond your security zones. A quick inspection of my life reveals a busy mind hard at work constructing a myriad of security zones. However, they are not really for security, but more for comfort. My tendency is toward the comfortable solitary.

My preference has been to read a book at the airport rather than explore the unfamiliar.

I cringe when confronted with social mingling in its various forms.

I would rather have on one real conversation than twenty superficial discussions of the weather.

I have turned from gatherings due to the absence of an insider to make my introduction.

I have curiously watched many a “Mrs. Tumnus” walk over a ridge into the unfamiliar and merely returned to the security zone of a known life.

King Gillette Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains Na...I have written about being an introvert before (Hello, My Name is JD and I’m an Introvert). Yet, I still find it an embarrassing admission that even now with so many gray hairs in my beard, my actions can still be dominated by such a childlike preoccupation with self. My little surprise in the Santa Monica mountains reminded me that while it is fine to be an introvert (I needed my own blog to preach that back to me) there might just be wonderful discoveries just beyond the safe boundaries that we have established for our self-esteem. Maybe, the curious draw of the “Mr. Tumnus” or “Mrs. Tumnus” that we encounter is really the Spirit leading us to an enjoyment that will bring a lasting smiling to our hearts.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me a little surprise in the Santa Monica mountains.  Thank you for for encouraging me to go beyond my comfort zone while reassuring me that there is nothing wrong with me.  Lord, please make this disposition to be with people that you have given me be a blessing to others.  Lord, lead me to the wonderful surprises you have awaiting.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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NONE CARE FOR CHUCK – Oct 21

October 21, 2014

“Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.” Psalm 142:4

DSC_0032Our duck, Chuck, cannot fairly be considered our duck. Chuck lives with us or, more accurately, around us. He was delivered to our home by some friends needing to relocate Chuck. Chuck needed to exist at a new home or he was soon to cease existing.

My wife, who has a soft spot for ducks, agreed to take in Chuck.

Chuck is a Muscovy duck. Muscovians can fly and perch in trees. They are a very hardy duck. Even so, we originally enclosed Chuck in our chicken coop at night. Coyotes roam our vicinity and we have lost several chickens in the night’s darkness to a local pack. We did not want Chuck to become “foie gras” for a coyote, so each night we herded him into the refuge of the coop.

DSC_0040However, Chuck is a large, male, bird. This means he eats a lot, without producing any eggs. We noticed a steep increase in the consumption of chicken feed after Chuck took up residence in our coop. The chicken food consumed by Chuck was proving to be expensive amusement of watching him waddle across our lawn. Our friends told us that they had never put Chuck in their chicken coop and he had survived.  So, Chuck has been deprived of the refuge of the coop.

I was awakened at 3 AM last week to the yipping of several coyotes. I groggily remembered that I had forgotten to close the gate to the chicken coop. I pulled myself out of bed, slipped into rubber boots, and headed outside with flashlight in hand. The sounds of the coyotes immediately cease as I closed the door behind me. They were close.

I went into the coop and counted my chickens. They were all silently and safely roosting. I looked for Chuck as I closed the coop gate behind me. He was nowhere to be seen so I headed back to the house. I wished Chuck good luck as I went back to bed.

DSC_0022The following morning, there was Chuck waddling across the lawn. He had made it. “Good for you, Chuck”, I thought as I ate my oatmeal.

We don’t really provide care to Chuck. We give him inexpensive corn and water, but as far as security, Chuck is on his own.  I look for Chuck each morning, half expecting to see a strewn patch of feathers signifying the demise of Chuck the duck. Yet, I am pleased to see him make it through the night…”good for you Chuck”.

winter treeI know that many people feel that God has the same attitude toward them, as I have for Chuck.  I have heard too many times the adage, “God helps those who help themselves”. It is an unspoken belief that God sleeps through our dark nights, coming to our aid only when we have shown enough resilience to survive to the dawn.

Those who are in Christ are not Chucks. We are the precious children of our Heavenly Father, for whom He provides care.

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own knows me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:12-15)

fall treeOur God cares not only enough to get out of bed when He hears the threatening sounds of wolves, He cared enough to send His own Son as the good shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep – you who know His voice.

You are cared for, Beloved of God, even when you feel like you are without refuge. “Good for you, JD” is not the affirmation I receive from God as I emerge from a trial or temptation. He is the good shepherd who watches over me through my long nights. He is our refuge who closes the gate of our soul to the wolves of darkness. He is the one who cares for us as we are silently sleeping in the security of our faith.

Therefore, we need to remember the love of our Father and learn to cry out to Him as the Psalmist when dark thoughts threaten our security:

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being my refuge.  Thank you for caring for me.  Thank you for your Son – who layed down his life for me.  Thank you for sustaining me through every trial and temptation.  Thank you for leading me to the rock that is higher than I.  Thank you for being my strong tower against the enemy even when I am unaware of the danger around me.  Lord, let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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A TALE OF TWO TRI’S – Sept 1

September 1, 2014

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Psalms 149:4

The triathlon season has come to a close for me. I competed in only two events this summer, the Boise Ironman 70.3 and the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon. I am confrontDSC_0085ed by very different emotions as I reminisce over the two events.

The Boise Ironman was an event that I trained specifically for. I blogged several times regarding my apprehensions associated with this new and longer distance. I had specific goals for each leg of the race.

I hoped to swim the 1.2 mile distance between 40 to 45 minutes.
I wanted to do the 56 mile bike in less than 3 hours.
All I wanted to do was survive the ½ marathon; my goal was a time of 2 hours 30 minutes.

swim-massThe swim was cold – frigid cold.  So cold, I wanted to quit when my head broke the surface for the first time. However, the race start filled me with enough adrenaline and coursing blood that cold water concerns quickly evaporated. I swam my typical serpentine route as I struggled to stay on course. Other than getting a little motion sickness from swimming through a couple wakes and drinking a couple waves, the swim went very well. I came out of the water right at 40 minutes. I was thrilled.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 40:05, 2:04/100 average.

DSC_0108My plan on the bike was to ride within myself and stick to my nutrition and hydration schedule. I tried to maintain a speed of over 20 mph on the flat sections of the course, knowing that my average speed would suffer on the hills. Surprisingly, I was averaging just over 20 mph as I descended back into the City of Boise. However, my stomach threatened to revolt. I had been regularly drinking the Gatorade that I was packing and consuming a gel packet on the ½ hour. By mile 45, the thought of eating another gel pack made me want to vomit and I acquiesced to the will of my stomach when it sent up a warning “erp”. I slowly watched my average speed fall as I tried to manage the fatigue that was creeping into my legs. However, I still held onto my goal of finishing the ride in less than 3 hours. I chuckled when the timer beep signaled the end of my ride with only seconds to spare.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:29:53, 18.68 mph average.

I transitioned to the run and into the unknown. I managed the first couple miles relatively respectfully. However, my heart rate began to rise and fatigue was setting in alarmingly fast. I changed to a run-walk strategy. I ran until my heart rate cliDSC_0110mbed to 160 bpm, when I would walk it back down to 140 bpm. I did this throughout the run and to my surprise it was a reasonably pleasant experience. I was going agonizingly slow as a constant stream of runners continued to pass me, but at this point I did not care.  I just wanted to finish. I shuffled over the finish line just over 2:30.

My official time corresponded well with my experience – 2:30:53, 11.31/mile average.

0727_010853Overall, I finished with a time of 6:17:27. I had hoped to finish at 6:15, but I was very satisfied with my performance. I was 68th out of the 105 athletes in my age group; my typical place in the meat of the bell curve. My experience corresponded well with the official results.

My second race of the season came after a week of business travel, followed by a week of County fair. I went to sleep after 11:30 PM following an evening at the 4-H and FFA livestock sell with the decision not to race the following morning. However, I awoke with plenty of time to make the race that I had pre-registered and paid for. I never have the opportunity for open water swims so I figured I would do the race for the swim and see what happened with everything else.

I had the best swim that I have ever had in a race. I swam a reasonably straight route and did not have any major corrections. For the first time, I did not even get caught up in the melee at the turning buoys. I focused on stretching long and felt like I was going fast; very few swimmers passed me. When I came out of the water, I discovered that I had missed the start button on my watch so I had no time. I came out just behind this young guy and felt very good about the fact that there were not very many athletes in the transition area.

My official time for the swim was 27:20, 1:40/100 average.

This time was only 20 seconds faster than my time last year. I felt so much faster than last year. Also, according to the official time, the guy coming out of the water ahead of me was 41 years old, not the twenty-nothing kid I had remembered. My experience did not correspond this official record.

I had a very good ride. I was feeling strong and did way more passing than being passed. I was averaging between 22-23 mph over most of the route. A young guy passed me on the most significant climb and we exchanged some words of condolence. He became my pace setter as we headed back to the City of Emmett. Some weird cross winds picked up over the last third course so I contented myself with riding between 20-21 mph. The last check of my average speed was 21.75 mph as I came into the City of Emmett.

My official time was 1:10:46, 21.07 mph average.

This time was actually 19 seconds slower than my time last year. That did not make any sense. I know I rode that course faster than last year. According to the official time, the young guy that paced me on the bike was actually the same 41 year old guy who came out of the water 2 seconds ahead of me. My wife videoed me coming into the bike-run transition area and also caught a glimpse of the rider just ahead of me. I found a picture of the athlete who should have been ahead of me according to the official records on Linkedin and checked it against the video. They don’t look like the same guy.

DSC_0309I began my run with the usual trepidation. The day was relatively cool and I was feeling good. The normal flow of runners passing me did not seem as ferocious as usual. I was hoping to run the 10K under 1 hour and after a first lap of just over 28 minutes, I was right on pace. I checked my watch regularly with about two miles to go. It was going to be close. I lengthened my stride and really started to dig deep over that last ½ mile and I was encouraged as I gobbled up several athletes who had passed me earlier. The last check of my watch as I headed down the final stretch put me under 59 minutes, I was going to make it. I crossed the finish line and as they were cutting my timing chip off of my ankle, I stopped my watch – 59:something. I had done it and came in under 1 hour.

My official time was 1:00:08, 9:41/mile average.

That was a 10 second per mile average improvement over last year but it did not correspond at all to my own time. By my reckoning, I should have been about a minute faster.

Overall, I finished with a time of 2:41:10. I was 6th out of the 13 athletes in my age group and exactly 1 minute faster than last year. However, my experience of the race tells me that I should have been knocking on the door of the podium.

I can easily accept the official results of the Boise Ironman because they are confirmed by my experience. I probably will never fully accept the official results of the Emmett Most Excellent Triathlon because they are so counter to what I experienced. However, the official results of both races stand, whether I accept them or not.

In many ways, the tale of these two triathlons illustrates one of the most significant stumbling blocks to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that every person is a sinner in need of a Savior. It tells us that we are not good. It tells us that we have rebelled against God and have earned the punishment of hell.

The Gospel is good news to those whose experience corresponds to the official record of the Bible. For these, Jesus Christ saves them from what they know they deserve and gives them what they could never earn.

The Gospel is a stumbling block to those whose experience tells them that they are good enough. Their experience has them comparing themselves to other people and concluding that they do not deserve condemnation. Their pride leads them to follow their own understanding and reject the official record of pending judgment.

Just as it is pride that elevates my race experience to equality with an official timekeeper, it is pride that keeps a person from acknowledging his place before God and keeps God from exalting him. It is pride that makes people believe that they deserve the podium.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:10)

At the end of the age, it is only the official record that will stand. It will not matter whether we agree with it or not. All will be humbled before the splendor of His majesty. All pride will crumble and utterly pass away before the Lord.

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
And the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.(Isaiah 2:17)

Don’t wait until that day to let go of your pride for then it will be too late. Today is the day to accept the official record of the Lord God and to receive the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for breaking my pride and enabling me to see past my experience and to the truth of your Word.   Forgive me for reverting back to that old pride and not living daily in the good news of the Gospel.  Lord, enable me to not think of myself.  Help to keep my eyes firmly fixed upon you. Father, break down the stumbling block of pride that is keeping the lost focused upon their personal experience.  Call them to yourself and salvation.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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PATIENT BELIEF – May 7

May 7, 2014

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” Psalm 37:7-9

Everyone has to wait. I don’t know of anyone who seeks to wait. We are forced to wait. We wait for the doctor; we wait in traffic; we wait in the grocery line; we wait for results; we wait for opportunities; everyone is confronted with the necessity to wait. Therefore, we get a lot of practice in how to wait well.

Alone on the train

The advent of Smartphone game apps makes waiting a little more bearable for me. I play solitaire on my Smartphone to pass the waiting moment. I will settle myself into a comfortable waiting chair and occupy my mind with a game of solitaire as I wait.

The particular solitaire app that I play has two game options. One option is a random dealing of digital cards. Cards appear on my screen from a random number generator with no reason or intention. It is  purely a matter of chance as to whether the cards will fall in such an order as to allow you to win the game. The other option is a dealing of a winning set of digital cards. In this case, someone has designed the order and placement of cards so that the hand can be won. It is a matter of stepping through the cards and discovering the design hidden in the stacks.

Patience

I noticed a pattern in my playing the last time I waited for my wife and daughter’s hunt for the elusive prey of fitting jeans. I noticed that I am rather impatient with cards randomly dealt. I am quick to abandon the game and move on to another because I know that chaos rarely allows a win.  A misplaced card will frustratingly block a stack that contains the link to successfully win the game and I will quickly give up.

Alternatively, I will patiently try to find the secrets of a game that I know to be designed. The knowledge that the game is not randomly driven, results in a surprising degree of patience. I will patiently flip through the digital cards long after I would have abandoned a random game with similar apparent barriers, because I know that chaos does not reign.

I realized that this pattern of patience in the simplicity of solitaire might hint at a wider truth. Waiting becomes difficult when we begin to lose hope that all will work out well. We are prone to act rashly when we sense the powerlessness that comes from waiting. The temptation to give up, grows proportionately to our belief that chaos reigns.

We are told to patiently wait for the Lord. There is a belief inherent in that command. Patient waiting only makes sense if there is a design behind the circumstances we find ourselves in. The knowledge that life’s circumstances are not randomly driven should result in enduring patience.

Because God is in control…

…we don’t have to fret about all that has gone wrong.
…we don’t have to fret about those who cheat to get ahead.
…we can refrain from anger.
…we can refrain from revenge.
…we know He will deal with the evil of the world.

Because God is in control, we can wait patiently for Him.

PRAYER: Father, you know that I don’t wait well.  Forgive the unbelief inherent in my impatience.  Lord, teach me your patience.  Teach me to trust you.  Teach me to wait upon you in faith.  Thank you for being in control.  Thank you for giving my life and this world a plan.  Thank you for the design that your hand has made in all things.  Open my eyes to the work of your hand in this world and my life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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