#AffirmationMonday – Week 5 – My Younger Brother from another Mother

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let's do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let’s do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone. One thing I realized at a young age was if I surrounded myself with people better than me, it would make me a better person. If I looked up to someone for any reason, I would befriend them. Allow me to introduce you to a dude I constantly look up to and he probably doesn’t even know it. His name is Hunter Schroer.

I first knew of Hunter when he would hang out with my brother and some of my brother’s friends. Then I worked as a summer intern at the church in Missouri both of our families attended. Hunter had just graduated from high school and was very active in the youth group. It wasn’t till working in the sun and heat of the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains that we truly bonded together. After a week of working hard in the heat, our minds started to go. Seriously. We very much entered the slap-happy stage.

1) Hunter the Laugh. Hunter’s laugh is contagious. If you know Hunter, you know this. It makes you want to hear that laugh more, and in my case that means do more stupid stuff that I think will get him to laugh. But there is way more to Hunter’s laugh than just the sound. Hunter is excited about life and always has a positive outlook. I admire and respect Hunter’s ability to find the humor in life and specific situations. People are drawn to that attitude. Hunter is also one of the nicest guys I know. His charm and humor make him extremely fun to be around.

2) Hunter the Genius. Hunter is an intelligent dude. I am amazed by and attracted to smart people. Hunter is one of those people. He has a brain that sees the world, situations and problems in ways mine could never. He very much has that engineer brain but also has an artistic and creative side. I (like many others) have benefited from both. Whether it be jamming out or building our own hammocks, what we do when together is usually a product of Hunter’s brain.

3) Hunter the Friend. Hunter is one of the best friends I have. The thing is, he is that friend to all of his friends. He has an amazing capability and gift to build quality and deep relationships. He is not afraid to be vulnerable and truly open up to people. Hunter has already come to visit me in Steamboat. He is already planning a return trip. He is a friend. He is there for me. He listens. He loves. He shares. He is a friend.

4) Hunter the Heart. Probably the best thing about Hunter and what I admire the most is his heart. He has a huge heart for people. He is so mature. He loves people a ton. When I moved to Colorado in August, I wanted to stay in close communication with him (even though he was spending a semester in London) and grow our relationship and have someone to really open up with. Hunter and I had a helluva email chain going. We got to know a little too much about each other. But, I got to see Hunter’s heart. And it is beautiful. Many people have a good brain. Or a good heart. Hunter has an amazing heart and brain. And he wants to use both of them to help people.

God has huge plans in store for Hunter. Truly. I cannot wait to see what they are. But, I know they are going to happen. Because Hunter and God are besties. They hang out with each other. They listen to each other. They love each other. I have been blessed by having Hunter as my friend. He has made me a better person.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

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What I Have Learned From Running with a Blind Dog

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She doesn’t answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am house sitting for my supervisor this week. Since last Friday, I have been enjoying the company of Zazu (bird), Simba (male kitten), Shadow (17-year-old male cat) and Ella (old, blind dog). And by enjoying, I mean I could think of about 3,275 other things I would rather do. Regardless, it has been a good learning experience. I have learned if you let Zazu walk around on the counter, he will poop and Simba will try his hardest to kill him. I have learned no matter how much you talk to an Aspen tree, it just doesn’t reciprocate. Also, the male kitten is one of the most annoying species on the face of the earth.

But, I have learned the most from Ella. Ella might be the sweetest old dog on the planet. She is fat, furry and full of love. My supervisor warned me before I left she would try to run with me. Ella loves to run. However, my supervisor told me to try to sneak out so she doesn’t go with me. Ella is used to running short distances with my supervisor.

The first time I went for a run, I waited till she looked asleep and the opened the door and stepped out quietly. A few minutes into my run, I hear something behind me. Here comes Ella charging. I had already made some turns and I am guessing she was either tracking my scent or listening to my footsteps. Regardless, she was charging at top-end speeds. I turned around in time to watch her sprint full force into a snow bank. She somersaulted and gracefully kept running. Although it did look painful. I admit, I laughed. Pretty hard. Like I had to stop running because I couldn’t breathe.

But then I started to think about the situation. And how she kept following me. And because I live my life in fantasies and am very much an idealist and romantic, I probably thought too much about what I had just witnessed and what I continued to witness. But, the blind (I know, sorry) faith of that dog is amazing. She also might love running more than me.

So, what I have learned:

  • Ella is fearless. She runs full speed. She goes for it. She trusts herself.
  • Failures do not stop Ella. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have watched this dog hit her head on something. Or run into a door. Or fall over her face while running. But she keeps going. With an amazing attitude. Her memory is so short to failures. And it is beautiful.
  • Ella absolutely loves adventures. I imagine almost every day is an adventure if you are a blind dog. But she also seeks it out. She is always outside exploring her surroundings.
  • Ella adores people a lot. Pretty much without any reserve or self-consciousness. She is not afraid to love. She is not afraid to show her adoration. She shows her adoration by running out to greet me every day when I get to her home. It doesn’t matter if it is 6 p.m. or midnight. She also wags her tail so hard it shakes her butt. And she makes these annoying, whiney noises when she first notices your presence (I had to retype to change that statement from “when she sees you”).
  • Ella truly loves and enjoys life. She cannot see life, but she seems to enjoy her existence in this world to the fullest capacity.

I started wondering what my life would look like if I lived life Ella-style. At first I thought I would probably do a lot more stupid stuff. And get myself in a lot more awkward, uncomfortable and probably dangerous situations. Those types of things would probably happen. But, think of the stories. I bet if Ella could talk to me (she doesn’t, believe me, I tried) she would have a ton of interesting stories to tell me about her day.

How would our lives changed if we became fearless? Or didn’t allow our failures to discourage our dreams and pursuits? Or loved and sought out adventures on a daily basis? Or truly adored people? Or absolutely loved and enjoyed life? How would our lives change if we tried to focus on one of those things for a week or weekend?

My Ode to Steamboat – Why No One Should Move Here (and by no one, I mean everyone)

This is an image of Steamboat's amazing Mountain after a recent event in Steamboat. This is one of the many reasons I love Steamboat. Never a dull moment. NEVER.

This is an image of Steamboat’s amazing Mountain after a recent event in Steamboat. This is one of the many reasons I love Steamboat. Never a dull moment. NEVER.

Steamboat will have its own #AffirmationMonday post. As will pretty much all of my friends here. But, lately I have been feeling super blessed to live in this gorgeous town and area and would like to share why. Enter the top nine reasons I love Steamboat (Ski Town, USA and Bike Town, USA).

9) The mountains. In Colorado you expect mountains. I have to admit, when I first arrived, I was somewhat let down. After driving through high, craggy peaks, Steamboat’s peaks seemed mellow and somewhat boring. But they grow on you. The Aspen change into piercing yellow in the autumn. Trails cover them. Running across the gentle inclines and descents allow me to get lost in the forest, the moment and myself. The mountains are gorgeous in their own unique way. Just like us.

8) The active culture. Steamboat is a bubble. A bubble of fit and active people. People come to Steamboat to play on its trails, in its mountains and on its rivers. They climb, hike, backpack, fish, ski, run, bike, unicycle and truly enjoy God’s playground.

7) The skiing. I think it is telling of Steamboat that the main reason I came here is this far up the list. Not telling of the skiing (it is world class), telling of the other items on the list. One of my goals before moving here was to not become a snow snob. I wanted to enjoy every day. And ski every day like I wouldn’t have another. That lasted until my first powder day here. It is trademarked Champagne Powder for a reason. Skiing through knee-deep fluff in an Aspen glade will change your life forever. You will NEVER be the same. And now I am a snow snob. Thanks, Steamboat.

6) The sunsets. I am a sucker for a good sunset. The sunsets here are resplendent. In the autumn, the rays splash through the changing Aspen. They illuminate the forest in oranges, yellows and reds and then pinks, deep purples and dark blues. In the winter, the intensity mellows some, but alpenglows combined with sunsets inundate and engulf you in piercing and soft colors. Everyday creates a unique but equally stunning descent of the sun behind the foreseeable earth.

5) Partners in Routt County. Partners is the nonprofit I work for. And is the other big reason I moved to Steamboat. I had some options but I chose Partners because I wanted to spend a year being a voice for an underserved and represented population (poor and at-risk youth and their families). It has exceeded my expectations. Mainly because of the people I work with. They are passionate about helping youth. They work hard and play hard. They don’t just allow me to go for runs in the middle of the day, they tell me to have fun when I leave and ask how it was or how my training is going when I return. They are great people and it is a great organization.

4) The Nest. The Nest is the name for the home where I live. It is welcoming. It has positive energies and vibes. It is made up of caring and loving people. It has absolutely been a perfect living situation that I am probably taking for granted. It is a home.

3) Running. There are trails. Lots of trails. Through forests. Across creeks. Up mountains. Down mountains. From my front door, I am within two miles of about four different trail systems. All in national forests. In the past two weeks, I have seen a family of elk, a family of moose (meese?) and a family of bears all running within a two mile radius of my front door. On a weekly basis, someone walking, running or biking by will give words of encouragement.

2) The people. I have never met a more beautiful, intelligent, caring, compassionate, active, aware, like-minded and healthy population of people. They are welcoming. They share meals. They go into deep conversations quickly. They encourage. They show concern. They are supportive. They are unique. They love life, outdoors and others.

1) Euzoa Bible Church. When I got to Steamboat, I knew no one. I mean, I had talked to my roommate via phone and email, but I didn’t really know anyone. Euzoa’s community took me in immediately. They have shown me love. They have bought me meals and coffee. They have included me. They have been with me. They have been what the church should be. Unfortunately, that does not happen a lot with the Western church. Euzoa is the exception.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 4 – The Woman, The Myth, The MEL!

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” – Bob Goff

As I begin my week of house sitting in God’s Country, Colorado, I feel it fitting to affirm my favorite introvert and good friend, Melissa Hatfield. In all actuality, this post has been planned for a while. It just happened to end up coinciding. And as I struggled over the past couple of weeks trying to find the words, I realized while Mel will appreciate these words, and the world must know how rad of a person she is, she is a selfless person (HUGE understatement) and will not get hung up on these words. That is my problem. Once again, I will attempt to put these affirmations into three categories.

1) Mel the Mentor. Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to many. She has had a huge influence on this blog. She has encouraged. She has prayed. She has given me new things to ponder. She has made me ponder old things in new ways. She created the graphic for #AffirmationMonday posts. She introduced me to Don Miller and Brennan Manning.

Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to me since the beginning of high school. And while there was a time when we had little communication, she was ready to pick up right where we left off when I reached out to her again. The largest thing Mel has done for me (and others) is allow me to form my own beliefs. She gives immense love, support and encouragement. But when it comes down to forming beliefs, she left that up to me. And it has made my beliefs stronger. Because they are my own.

2) Mel the Introvert who Loves and Seeks Discomfort. My first real interaction with Mel came at a church lock-in at the local YMCA. She had graciously (and definitely with a good heart and lots of naivety) asked the band I was playing in to play at the lock-in. She took an enormous risk. And on the surface it failed. I mean, we were freshmen in high school. And we were idiots. Some of the athletes decided it would be funny to throw flour over all of our amps and instruments while we were not with them. In retaliation, we found the flour next to their letter jackets and dumped it on them. Mel should have been furious. But she showed us nothing but love. That changed everything for me. I started paying attention to spiritual things. Because she showed us love, grace and forgiveness.

Last summer on a flight back from Africa, Mel shared with me her heart was feeling pulled outside of Jefferson City, Mo. Her home is Jefferson City. But if you know Mel, you know while her heart is very much with Refuge Student Ministries and the Jefferson City community, she has left pieces of her heart all over the nation and world. That is how she operates. She leaves her heart with people and cultures. And, lets be honest, Jefferson City isn’t the most glamorous place. She could do amazing things for God all over the world. But she decided to stay in Jefferson City. Not because it was the comfortable thing to do. Because she loves people and she loves God. And that is where God has called her.

3) Mel, Abba’s Child. Mel would want this post to be all about God. That is how she lives her life. But, Mel, this post is about you. And how you are Abba’s child. Mel teaches me on a daily basis how to be Abba’s child. She knows her inner-Pharisee. She is open about her inner-Pharisee. She loves to be with God. She loves spending time with her Abba. And her Abba has unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild, unfathomable Love. Mel reflects that love on all she comes in contact with.

In seeking to be Abba’s child, Mel seeks to be with people. And she is an introvert. She is with people. She laughs with others when they laugh. She weeps when they weep (she is really good at weeping). She bears other’s burdens. Mel knows she is not perfect but also knows her Abba is.

Over the past year, Mel has transformed from strictly a spiritual and life mentor to that and a best friend. I have watched as she has displayed unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild and unfathomable Love to me and countless others. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nakupenda, Mel.

*Editor’s note: If you know Mel, tell her how much you love her today. Tell her your favorite thing about her. My favorite thing is she loves big. And she loves everyone. And she is selfless.

*Editors (second) note: Mel loves God, loves others and does stuff. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, she would encourage you to love others and do stuff. Looking for something to do? Mentor. Seriously. I have seen firsthand the benefits in my own life and others. It might not feel like it has an impact, but it absolutely does. Google “mentoring” and the community you live in for some resources.

Embracing our inner Cynicism and Sarcasm and Nervousness and Anxiousness and Fear

There is some serious longing deep within me for some warmth, green and soft running trails. When all of this snow melts in July or August, I will get to experience it. There I go again embracing my inner sarcasm and cynicism.

There is some serious longing deep within me for some warmth, green and soft running trails. When all of this snow melts in July or August, I will get to experience it. There I go again embracing my inner sarcasm and cynicism.

“In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning

One thing that continually amazes me and I think gets overlooked often is the initial faith of Jesus’s first followers. I get criticism for doubting things later, but come on. Would start lose your composure if you were walking on water? Or in a boat that is about to capsize? The Love and acts of Jesus were so radical, it makes complete sense to me they had moments of wavering faith. But the initial faith was robust and childlike. It would have to be to give up everything and follow a random carpenter.

Another thing currently blowing my mind is the vulnerability and openness displayed in the writings of Brennan Manning. One of Brennan’s chapters goes into great depth about living like a child versus living like a Pharisee. The Pharisees were very much the law keepers and “religious people” of the day. They did not really get along with Jesus.

Brennan posits we all have some Pharisee in us. The Pharisee in us gets anxious. It gets fearful. It has prejudices against people different from us. It is paranoid, cynical and nervous. It looks solely for success with complete disregard to others and love. And we all have it in us.

My Pharisee is very cynical. And sarcastic. Lots of times it is cynical towards organized religion. It can grow cynical towards intimate relationships. It can be sarcastic at times of intimacy to avoid deep conversations and connections with friends and family. The Pharisee has to be embraced. It has to be communicated with. When it is ignored, it starts to run rampant.

We also all have a child in us. The child doesn’t close itself off to the world. The child is open. It is vulnerable. It is simple. It is playful. The child looks for spiritual surprises. The child does not turn away from risks that lead to growth. The child is available to new opportunities, others and Abba. The child has trusting dependence on Abba and others. The child knows and welcomes the tenderness and compassion that is God’s Love. It accepts a wild, rambunctious, full, overwhelming Love. And the projects that Love on others. The child is constantly learning, curious and looks at the world as a playground.

Two thoughts from Brennan pertaining to these thoughts:

“The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all.”

“Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.”

Regardless of your faith, even if that faith is solely in yourself, we all have a metaphorical (or literal) Pharisee and Child in us. What is your Child? What is your Pharisee? I really believe in getting to know your Pharisee. I hate mine. But we talk on occasion. It started as a “Twitter relationship” (we communicated in about 140 characters at a time. But it is getting better. Knowing your Pharisee well is the only way to eradicate it. Embrace your Child. Let your Child free.

A Senseless Act and a Baffling Love

I wanted a happy picture to start this blog because of the somewhat depressing topic. This is the first image to come up on my Google search. I like it. We need a lot more happiness.

I wanted a happy picture to start this blog because of the somewhat depressing topic. This is the first image to come up on my Google search. I like it. We need a lot more happiness.

By now, you are probably exasperated by the inundation of commentary, photos and social media surrounding what happened in Boston. As a runner, many have asked my thoughts on this senseless act of hate. After some contemplation and prayer, my thoughts are below.

Hate. Where does this hate come from? It was interesting, the same day of the bombing, I was called a derogatory, hateful word for someone identifying as queer, while running. Unfortunately, this was a fairly regular occurrence in the Midwest (especially from dudes driving overly large Dodge trucks). However, this was the first time it has happened to me in Steamboat. And, was a huge shock. This community loves, supports, respects and admires endurance athletes. As does Boston.

Where does hate originate? Obviously, there are many answers. Answers involving traumatic childhood experiences, or psychological problems or neurological abnormalities are all plausible and probably do play some role. Many of those answers go way beyond my intellectual capabilities, but I do have a few thoughts and opinions. I know, of course I do.

First, a good friend made a pertinent point. This type of stuff happens a lot in other countries. It absolutely does not make it right or justifiable, but Americans might want to use this as an opportunity to educate themselves about hate being expressed through terrorism all around the world. One of the questions many Christ followers and those who do not identify as a Christ follower is, “How could a loving God let bad things happen?” My simple (and perhaps copout) answer is, I do not know. If we believe in a Devine Being, then it is impossible for us to understand or comprehend that Devine Being. And, so, I don’t know. I don’t know why bad things happen. I don’t know why an eight-year-old enjoying life has to die at a marathon.

I do know my God is no stranger to losing a child. He lost His only Son. I also know His Son, Jesus weeps with us. My Jesus was the human embodiment of my God. And He cried. Probably man-sobs. (Son of Man-sobs, perhaps? Sorry.) He also loved recklessly and relentlessly.

A very influential person who shared intimate levels of experiencing that reckless and relentless love and continually dismissing it passed away last Friday. Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, is the idea behind the name of this blog.

Brennan spent the latter years of his life communicating God’s Baffling Love. From my humble perspective, tragic things happen when our God’s Baffling Love is not present. When it is absent from our thoughts and actions. It is a Love of wisdom, tenderness and compassion. It is a Love that creates beauty out of tragedy. It is a relentless Love. It is an extravagant Love. It is a Love that weeps when we weep. It is also a Love that forgives. A Love that cannot be earned or taken away – because it is given to all of us. And it is given to each of us at the same velocity. The God Brennan and I know has the same amount of Baffling Love for you and me as every terrorist. And politicians. And murderers. And pastors. And Americans. And Canadians. You get the point.

And if all of that Baffling Love is given to each of us, it dwells in all of us. Somewhere. We all have the opportunity to radiate that Wisdom, Compassion and Tenderness.

At some point, every terrorist and murderer weeps. As our ragamuffin friend, Brennan said in his book, Abba’s Child, “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”

*Editor’s note: Don Miller (of course) has some great insights about this event. Check out his blog here. Short read and seriously worth the time. My good friend, Melissa, also has a different and inspiring take on one of the many special stories coming from this tragedy. Check out her blog post here.

*Editor’s (second) note: I have a lot of friends who are runners. Many of them are amped up and want to train hard to run a marathon, qualify for Boston next year or something else to honor victims or whatever. I get it. It is the runner mindset. If you came here looking for something similar, you just are not going to get it from me. I think it is healthy to grieve a little first. We don’t have to have this knee-jerk fighter instinct to go out and prove our strength and resiliency. I understand and will support all of my friends training. But just like a marathon, an impact is not made in the first mile. Or the second. Or third. Or fourth. An impact is made over a long time of work, endurance, strength and dedication. Not knee-jerk reactions.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 3 – Daniel Loren Allen

Week 3!

Week 3!

As Ragamuffin Stories ages, the affirmations are beginning to pile up. The initial two #AffirmationMonday posts were about my parents and a Coach who was like another parent. This week the affirmations flow for a brother and (perhaps more importantly) loyal and sacrificial friend – Daniel Loren Allen.

The reason why it is pertinent to point out the friendship is more important is because he always has been and always will be my brother. No matter what. And we have always gotten along, but somewhere in the past few years we have become best friends. A few different things have led to this beautiful occurrence.

Before we get into this, I have to digress for a moment and share about one of the worst times I have ever felt in my life. When Daniel and I were young, we did what boys do. We were wild, full of energy and wrestled. One time at our grandparent’s house, it got out of control and I tackled Daniel into a kitchen counter. Yeah, I know. He hit the top of his eye on the corner and probably should have gotten stitches. I think the reason that moment still weighs heavy on my mind and heart is I can still remember his face. He looked scared. Scared of the moment. Scared of the blood. Scared of me. I made it a point as probably a 10-year-old or something to never see that look of fear on his face again. I am his older brother.

1) Daniel the comedian. Daniel is funny. When he tries to be and when he doesn’t. Anyone in our family (immediate and extended) will tell you how funny he is and how he makes any family gathering better. Daniel has always done funny things. But, somewhere during his adolescence, he actually ended up being a funny dude. Many times during a week, I find myself laughing out loud while remembering something he did or said.

2) Daniel the younger brother. Daniel has always done the same things as me. It used to be annoying. In that younger brother wanting to do everything the older brother does sort of way. And now, we just enjoy being together and doing the same things. We run. We ski. We kayak. We cook. We fish. We play music. We backpack. We climb. We laugh. And we do it enjoying each other’s company and the experience. This is what began the transformation from strictly brothers to good friends.

3) Daniel the best friend. When I think of a best friend, it is always someone I enjoy being with, can laugh with, share experiences with and someone who cares. Who is loyal. Who loves. In the past few years, Daniel has gone from someone I like to just share experiences with to someone I can count on to be a best friend. It started in January of 2012. While I was allowing my world to fall apart around me, he was there. He didn’t ask questions. He didn’t bug me. He was simply with me. To be a friend. To hang out. To cook. To run. To laugh. To share experiences.

I could go into the details of everything we did together and he did for me. But it will be sufficient to say he was present physically and emotionally when few others were. To do whatever.

4) Daniel the protector. During a kayak trip last spring, Daniel watched me almost drown. Sparing details, he saw that same fear in my face I saw in his when I tackled him into the kitchen counter. It was something he had never saw before and something he never wanted to see again. But, he made sure I got out of the situation. He made sure I was OK. For about an hour, the younger brother became the protective, older brother. And for that, I am forever grateful. And look forward to the next opportunity he has to step up in that way.

Daniel impresses me on a daily basis. His attitude towards life. His energy. His kindness. His zeal for experiences and getting the most out of every day and opportunity. His toughness. His humor. His love and sacrifice for friends and family.

*Editor’s note: My brother is the best.

*Editor’s (second) note: The world lost a wonderful person this weekend in Brennan Manning. He will have his own #AffirmationMonday post, but I am still getting to know his writing. I do suggest reading two blog posts about Brennan Manning and his life – one from my good friend, Melissa (beautiful, amazing post) and another from a very influential author, himself – Don Miller.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.

This is Daniel and me. We are getting ready to leave for a ski adventure. You can tell because we look so AMPED.

The Redemption Run

This is my Facebook profile picture. I was probably smiling during my Redemption Run. In this photo, I am literally in the middle of a half marathon. Less than a mile later I had to pull over into the bushes to relieve some digestive issues. FAIL.

This is my Facebook profile picture. I was probably smiling during my Redemption Run. In this photo, I am literally in the middle of a half marathon. Less than a mile later I had to pull over into the bushes to relieve some digestive issues. FAIL.

A week ago I wrote about a cataclysmic run and promised the next running related post would be about a lovely run. Here it is. The thing is, there is so much to learn from a failed attempt. Life is full of failures. The run in the storm a little over a week ago was a failure in every way. What is the best way to shake a failure? Swing again.

Last Saturday, I swung again. When a couple of friends hopped in my car with me and left Steamboat last Saturday morning, it was cloudy. And foggy. And it looked like a storm was rolling in. Again. Determined for redemption, I asked them to go with me, drop me off and drive my car back to Steamboat.

We ended up about 21 miles outside of Steamboat and the clouds cleared. The next two hours was a blur of rivers, mountains, cows, farms, cyclists, birds, sunshine and quick miles. Despite a serious workout the day before, the miles flew. The heart methodically pumped like a piston. The lungs inflated and deflated like clockwork. And the legs powered up and over hills effortlessly. And the thought of the previous failed run on the very same road exaggerated the peace.

Bob Goff and I agree on a lot. We haven’t actually talked yet, and he doesn’t know it, but we think the same way. One thing we agree on is our God probably leads us into failure. And as Bob would say, it is better than OK. To fail, that is. Why? Because we get another opportunity. And another. And another. And we learn through failures.

“God doesn’t want failure to shut us down. God didn’t make it a three-strikes-and-you’re-out sort of thing. It’s more about how God helps us dust ourselves off so that we can swing for the fences again.” – Bob Goff

The reason why Redemption Runs feel so good is because I remember how bad a failed run felt. When we pick ourselves up and swing for the fences again and actually connect, it is one of the best feelings in the world.

Failure. Take some time to think about the word. And when you have experienced it in your life. And know it is more than OK. It is beautiful. It is growth. It is learning. It is God’s Love.

What are some recent failures you have had? Have you gone on your Redemption Run yet? Will you swing for the fences again? I used to think failing was important, now I know failing is important but the Redemption Run is even more so. 

*Editor’s note: If you dig the Bob Goff quote and the vibe of this post, I HIGHLY recommend checking out his book, Love Does. Fair warning: It will change your life. Seriously. It will make you want to quit the job you have had for 15 years. It will make you want to write letters to friends and loved ones. It will make you seek a different, intentional life. It will mess you up in all the best ways. It will make you want to do stuff.

I Am Too Busy to Spend Time with You or Hang Out or Listen to You or Share a Meal or Do Anything

This is the iconic Steamboat barn. I post this today because I cleaned snow off my car this morning. I have lived in Steamboat for nine months now. Seven of those months I have skied, ran in the snow and cleaned snow off my car. It has now snowed 324 inches this winter. Steamboat takes snow so seriously, they have trademarked their own name for the snow that falls here. Champagne Powder.

This is the iconic Steamboat barn. I post this today because I cleaned snow off my car this morning. I have lived in Steamboat for nine months now. Seven of those months I have skied, ran in the snow and cleaned snow off my car. It has now snowed 324 inches this winter. Steamboat takes snow so seriously, they have trademarked their own name for the snow that falls here. Champagne Powder.

“I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.”  – Bob Goff

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” – Bob Goff

As probably stated before, the subjects of these blog posts (besides #AffirmationMonday posts) are mainly ideas to improve who I am in a person in hopes someone else can relate. Or call me out. This is the same. It is all about the subject of availability.

The definition of available is “present or ready for immediate use.” Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most people lose their sense of availability. Our everyday responsibilities increase, we get busy, we have these “adult” problems like deadlines and meetings and we stop being available. Obviously, this is a generalization, but I do not think it is too far off.

Or, we spread ourselves too thin. We make ourselves too available. We get burnt out. We want to stop dealing with each other’s problems. We fail to bear each other’s burdens. Just since Monday, I have bailed on multiple opportunities to be in community with friends. Because I have spread myself too thin with work and other things going on.

The initial goal of this post was to suggest availability without getting too spiritual. But it just cannot be done. Besides love, I cannot think of a better way to describe Jesus the Nazarene than “present and ready for immediate use.” Seriously. If you have studied His life, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t, trust me, it is so insane. He is with people nearly all of the time. Because His heart longs for others and community.

Regardless of your spirituality, I think the most important thing we can do for one another is simply be present. Be present or ready for immediate use in all situations. I also think it is where the American Christian church fails the most. We are good at raising money or donating, but spending time hanging out with those we are raising money and donations for (in most cases) is nearly non-existent. Because it is easy to write a check or clean out old clothing from a closet, but bearing each other’s burdens is messy. And uncomfortable.

If we (Christ followers) are to be accurate representations of our faith, we absolutely have to get messy. And uncomfortable. And we have to be available. We have to bear each other’s burdens. And those are the easy things to do. Here is the fun part: we have to truly put others before ourselves. BOOM. I know, sucks. But it only sucks thinking about. In practice, it is the best.

Here are some ways people have made themselves available to me in the past week:

  • Two friends drove me around 20 miles outside of town on Saturday morning to drop me off and let me run in.
  • I have a very good friend who continually puts up (listens) with my ramblings and problems.
  • All of my GChat homies continually brightening my day with brilliant discussion.

How can you be more available to one person the rest of this week and weekend? Let’s start small. It is so easy to burn out by being overly available for everyone. Where have others been available for you? How can you reciprocate and reflect that availability? Let’s go out of our way to be present. And bear burdens of others.

*Editor’s note: There are some gross generalizations in this post. I know a lot of fantastic people who are always available. And willing to get messy and uncomfortable. And bear the burdens of others. Their lives are blessings on all they come in contact with.

*Editor’s (second) note: On a more spiritual level, I think we also have to make ourselves available to God and what He is doing around us. More to come about this later.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 2 – The Man, The Myth, The (Jim) Marshall

This is the new #AffirmationMonday visual. It was created by my good friend, Melissa. She also created my blog header. This photo is particularly pertinent for today. Because today is all about the man who these two runners spent a lot of time with.

This is the new #AffirmationMonday visual. It was created by my good friend, Melissa. She also created my blog header. This photo is particularly pertinent for today. Because today is all about the man who these two runners spent a lot of time with.

“Suffering creates perseverance. Perseverance creates character. Character creates confidence.” – Jim Marshall

Last week was about my parents. This week is all about a man who was like a parent to me and many others – Jim Marshall. Even though it has been almost a decade since I competed for him and I have had many other coaches since graduating high school, when I say “Coach” he is who I am talking about.

Akin to many people featured in #AffirmationMonday posts, I could write a book about the profound influence they have had on my life and how wonderful they are. To try to guide my thoughts, I am going to (attempt) to break this into a few intentional categories. These words will not do justice to the person Coach is. But I suppose many of you reading this already know that.

1) Coach the coach. First and foremost, Coach put everything he had into coaching. I didn’t realize that right away, but eventually, I came to understand and respect it. He taught confidence. As a freshman in high school, I did not expect to be good. When I ended up being decent, he showed immense confidence in me. That confidence inundated my life and created self-confidence in my running and life.

Running and life. Any athlete who spent any time at all with Coach knows how much he emphasizes the parallels of having success in running and life. He taught me success does not come without work. And work does not come without some pain. From a very young age, he taught me I can achieve nearly anything I want in life, but it absolutely will not come without discipline, consistent work, a positive attitude and paying attention to doing all of the little things. He taught persistence. He taught us to persevere and work harder when the race (or life) got tough. He taught us the value of hard work and to never grow content with who we were as runners and people. He did not expect us to be the best athletes in the state (although he had some of the best athletes in the state), but he expected us to be the best athletes and people we could possibly be.  He has been more of a coach to me. He has been an encourager and mentor.

2) Coach the father. I have my own father. I wrote about him last week. But, Coach made it clear from the beginning of our time spent with him he would be like another father to us. He practiced tough love. But his love for his athletes was evident and profound. He wanted the best for his athletes in running and life. I had a stable home-life. But there were many on the team when I was there who did not. He fought for them. He supported them. He did everything he could to be a positive, stable adult figure in their lives.

3) Coach the fighter. Perhaps the greatest lesson Coach has ever taught me and many others is what it is like to persevere, fight and grow amidst a tragedy. Coach is a fighter. And he instilled a fighter attitude in all he coached. When he was dealt a tragedy no one should ever be dealt, he picked himself up and has made a beautiful life and life’s work out of dust. He is tough as hell.

He has never felt sorry for himself. He has never allowed life’s circumstances and set-backs hold him down or squash his fighter spirit. He is a modern day warrior. And he teaches others to be the same. He teaches us the best way possible – through actions. He is the absolute living epitome of his quote at the top of this post. Coach has suffered. Coach has fought and persevered. And Coach has more character than almost everyone I know.

Coach has changed lives of people all around him. He has changed (and continues to change) mine on a daily basis. And for that, I am forever grateful.

After proofing this, I realized my fear has come true. These words are the tip of the iceberg to Coach’s life and impact. If you have some affirming words or stories for Coach, I encourage you to share them. Comment on this post. Facebook message me. Write on my wall or his wall. Whatever. Affirmations are important…

Especially to those who mean a lot to us and have influenced our lives. So, take some time this Monday to let those people know. #AffirmationMondays