Posts Tagged ‘Character’

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“FALLING INTO OPTIMAL” – Dec. 15

December 15, 2015

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

I finally resolved to get on the trainer and spin.

For thirty minutes, I sat in the comfort of my couch, glancing into the adjoining room at the taunting image of my bike on the trainer.  The passage of time persuaded me that if a workout was going to happen, I had to get started.  So, I grumbled my way upstairs to change into some workout clothes thinking, “I just need to get this over with”.

Work clothes were quickly exchanged for cycling garb, a glass filled with water, and my new Surface Pro tablet tucked under my arm (I have taken to watching Netflix whileI spin; it helps to pass the time).  I began my descent into my personnel pain cave, quickly shuffling down the stairs with my stocking feet.

About two-thirds down the carpeted stairs, my feet suddenly slipped from one stair run, skipped off the next, and in an instant my balance was emptied while my hands remained full.  That would not last long.  Water splashed in my face as my tablet was flung down the remaining steps.  I crashed down on the steps, feet and arms in the air, without any time breaking my fall.  A stair rung bearing deeply into my ribs under the brunt of my falling mass.

I must have rocked the foundation of the house because my wife and kids were at the bottom of the stairs by the time I slid to the landing, wondering what had happened.

I would not be going for a spin on that night.

My fall happened nine days ago.  The carpet burns have healed nicely.  However, my ribs are another matter.  I had hoped that they were just bruised but as the days have passed, I have begun to accept that there might be more damage.  A couple ribs may have been broken; not really broken but just cracked a little bit; probably just bruised deeply.

There are some things that no cyclist can resist, particularly those who live in areas that have real winters – a moderate day in December.  We had just such a day, six days after my fall.  It was perfect weather, no falling moisture, temperatures around forty degrees, winds moderate.  Bruised ribs or not, I could not let this day slip by.

I left work early and soon had my tri-bike out on the rural roads near my home.  I quickly discovered that my ribs were happy only in one position.  Everything was pleasant, as long as I stayed down on my aero-bars.  It was not nearly as pleasant entering and exiting the aero-position.  As a result, I had one of my best rides since I stayed in the most aero-dynamic position for duration of the ride.

Sometimes not being able to assume our preferred position
forces us in the optimal position.

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(That is me on a tri-bike, wet roads, taking a selfie with broken ribs.
I didn’t say it was a good idea, just an irresistible one.)

My ribs got me to thinking about suffering.  I know how I fell down my stairs, but don’t know why.  I don’t know why most bad things happen.   However, the Bible consistently teaches that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, we are told that we should rejoice in our suffering.  I am not very good at rejoicing in my suffering.

Yet, I wonder if suffering is similar to my cycling experience.  Suffering forces us out of our preferences.  Suffering forces out of our strengths.  Suffering forces us out of our self-reliance.

Suffering forces us out of our preferred position and into the optimal position.

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need.
God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

Anyone who has suffered, knows that it will force you down on your knees in reliance upon God and keep you there.  What could be more optimal than that?

That optimal position will produce endurance, character, and hope.  Those are all exceptional results – we just have to stay down to receive them.

“Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will heal my ribs quickly.  Help me to understand suffering.  Help me to accept suffering in my own life and the lives of others.  Father, do your work in us.  Don’t leave us as we are.  Create in us the hope that will not disappoint by the means that you choose.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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PRIZE OF THE IRONMAN – June 5

June 5, 2014

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

 “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
~ Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson explains one of his most famous quotes

Training has been done;
Miles have been logged;
Intervals accumulated;
Laps swum; and
Injuries avoided;

The sugar-plums of my dreams have been replaced by visions of the swim, bike, and run.

All that remains is to race.

Swim race start (ITU ) World short course Tria...

The race for me is the Boise Ironman 70.3  that starts a mere 2 days from now. It would be a lie to pretend that I am not nervous. I have never raced this combination of distances. Therefore, the unknown of race day looms large in my mind.

I would like to have more time for a half-marathon run to be comfortable.
I would like to have done an open water swim this year.
I would like to have stacked a few more bricks.

Français : Photo de Pierre Lavoie à l'entraîne...

Yet, all the things that I would like to have done, would not chase away the apprehension of race day unknowns I now feel. The challenge for a prepared racer is far less physical than it is mental. The body will perform how it has prepared. Muscles will pull and push to the levels they have been stretched. Lungs will exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide at their rate of capacity. Blood will carry all the essentials provided in order to accumulate miles at speed.  An athlete’s body will perform in accordance to the training plan it has developed under.

The mind is the unknown.130608-F-IZ428-500

What happens when you enter the pain locker?

 What happens when the fun stops and adversity begins?

 What happens when you feel like you have been punched in the mouth?

That is the test of the mind.

We all have a plan.
We all have visions of success.

Yet, the mind determines whether those plans will be abandoned in the face of adversity.

I think this may be why I am drawn to endurance events. I want to train my mind not to give up under adversity. I want the confidence that I will continue when the plan really matters. My race on Saturday does not really matter. There are no consequences for not finishing. I have no hope of winning.  I won’t even be competitive.

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The prize I seek from the Boise Ironman 70.3 is the realization that I can take a punch and still finish.

That is a prize that will reward throughout life. Life is full of adversity.

We will fail… be misunderstood… and ridiculed;

We will be disappointed… abandoned… and betrayed;

We will be attacked… face fear… and uncertainty;

We will make mistakes… experience loss…and know heartache;

We will be broken.

Any of these adversities can feel like a punch in the mouth. Suffering and trials can hit us so hard that we are willing to abandon our plan, even our first love, to gain relief. How can you be confident that you will endure all things when it really matters?

This is the prize of suffering.

It is why I will rejoice in the pain that comes from the Boise Ironman 70.3.

It is why I rejoice in all the suffering that I have endured.

I rejoice because I have learned that I can take a punch and won’t give up. Throughout my life, I believe that the Spirit of God has used those punches to produce in me a character of endurance. It is a character, grounded in faith, which gives me a confidence based in experience. It is that character that produces hope. I rejoice in that hope. It is this hope that will never put me to shame because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me.

What about you?

Can you take a punch in the mouth?
Are you confident in your character?
What has your character produced?

I realize that endurance events are not for everyone. However, there are plenty of opportunities in life to train our minds not to give up. It is why sticking with the small things matter. They are all opportunities to train our mind – and that is a prize worth enduring for.

My hope for you is:

When it gets hard, you go deep;
When it hurts, you look beyond;
When it is inconvenient, you continue;
When others run away, you stand;
When you want to give you, you take another step.

My hope for you is that you will rejoice in all the adversities of your life…because they will produce hope.

That hope is a prize worth training for.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for what you have taught me in suffering.  While I do not desire adversity, you have shown me the value it produces.  Thank you for the character that you have developed in me.  Thank you for the hope that will never disappoint.  Lord, train me in those areas were I am prone to give up.  Build within me a mental toughness to take a punch when it really matters and to continue to follow you. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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QUOTE (Joseph Priestley) – Mar. 24

March 24, 2014

Portrait of Joseph Priestley

I must not omit, however, to observe, that the prophets of the Old Testament, and our Saviour and the apostles in the New, do not content themselves with giving instructions, concerning men’s conduct in particular cases and instances, but are more especially careful to inculcate the necessity of cultivating such an inward temper of mind as will form a complete character, which will lead to the observance of every particular duty, and make the constant practice of it easy and delightful.

~ Joseph Priestley

In honor of Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, who was born on this day in 1733.

Resources:
This Day in History for 24th March
The theological and miscellaneous works of Joseph Priestly, Volume 2

 

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“SACRICTY OF CHARACTER” – July 31

July 31, 2013

“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved.  How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you.”  Jeremiah 4:14

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner (Photo credit: maxintosh)

It seems that news stories continue to materialize that are themed upon character and character seems to be scarce.  The character of Anthony Weiner has overshadowed his New York City Mayoral candidacy.  San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has had to answer the questions that revolve around his character.  The main character of Lance Armstrong’s saga is his character.  The bankruptcy of the City of Detroit has been attributed by some to past leaders’ character.

Új fejezetek Oprah-tól: Lance Armtrong - exklu...

The news seems to be a perpetual drip of politicians, entertainers, and athletes who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing.  We have all witnessed the great effusion of apologies and explanations of the famous whose character was tested and found lacking.

John Wooden at a ceremony on Oct. 14, the coac...

I have heard character defined as who you are when no one is looking.  However, I don’t know if that definition goes far enough.

When are we truly alone?  When are we really free from the accountability?  The famous UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, defined character a little better.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. ~ John Wooden

Who I really am is my character. 

My true character is what no one can see. My character resides in a place of solitude beyond the perception of others.  No one can know my true character because no one can know my thoughts.  Occasionally, an unfiltered thought may slip out, but for most of us our self-control plays an effective guardian over what we really are.

However, our true character is:

That curse word that comes out of nowhere.
That appetite for knowing the latest gossip.
That snicker when the proud fall.
That precise accounting of personal sacrifice.
That want for what others have.
That necessity to avoid the indecent.
That falsehood charmed to escape a trap.
That flash of anger from a slight.
That snarky come-back that forms a day late.
That pride in being humbled.
That competition to be better than others.
That warm feeling of praise.
That desire to be made much of.

The fact that these traits rarely materialize into actions does not negate the reality of their existence.  Character is what you really are.  The thoughts of our mind are our true character traits.

Based on this definition, who has character?  There are no people of character when judged upon our thoughts.  Just because you do the right things, even when there is no one around to see, does not mean you are a person of character.  A person of true character will be a righteous person in deeds and thoughts.  We know that there is none righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10)  Therefore, we know that there is no person of character, not even one.

We need to honestly examine our thoughts to know are character.

I would be embarrassed for my thoughts to be known.  The war of my mind betrays who I really am.  The battle to set my mind on the things of the Spirit is a continual reminder of my need for a Savior.  I am not righteous.  Any righteousness that is within me comes from the grace and mercy of my Lord.  Any traits that might be called character are a result of the work of the Spirit.  There is no place for pride of character.  I am a man in need of grace from a merciful God.

My thoughts have convinced me of that.

PRAYER: Lord, I am a sinner.   Thank you for removing the condemnation of my sin.  Thank you for forgiving me and cleansing  me.  Forgive me for being proud of my  character.  Forgive me for taking credit for your work within me.  Lord, please continue that work.  I know that there is a lot of work that remains to be done.  Father, I want all that I do and think to glorify and please you.  Help me to set my mind on the things of the Spirit.  Help me to think upon that which is true, honorable, just, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  Help me to think about these things.  Change my thoughts.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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