Sunday, May 12, 2013

Processing the Marathon

 It's been 6 days since my 1st marathon and it has been a busy week with finals,but the next week will be much better! I am sitting in the airport waiting to fly to Orlando for a week with the family and looking forward to some down time with the people I love. I have spent the last few days thinking about my marathon experience and want to do some reflecting this week while I am on vacation.

The thing that has been steadily about my thoughts this week has been the unique element of community that I experienced on many levels. I got to the marathon spot a little late Sunday morning but knowing how much much later I would start I wasn't concerned. I don't actually stretch or warm up ( I know that sounds crazy but I never have and can claim no injuries yet) so I found the bathroom and then headed to find my pacer. I met the 5:30 pacer (that means trying to complete the race in 5 hours 30 minutes, not a 5:30/mile pace as was misunderstood earlier this week) and then some of the other runners who attempting to run the same pace.

I wish I could describe the energy I feel in that moment of waiting at the starting line! There are 10,000 people ready to run and most of them has worked very hard to prepare for the moment. It is a powerful feeling to realize that you are about to attempt something that you once believed was impossible and that you know few people believed you would ever do. I was amazed how different that I felt this year at the starting line as opposed to last year. I was much more nervous then and didn't feel like I really belonged, like a fish out of water. This year I knew I was one of only roughly 20% who were attempting the full and after all my training I felt like I belonged.

The closeness that I enjoyed with the other runners in my pace group was developed during the race. This pace team intentionally starts out slow so we were pretty comfortable and there was a lot of talking amongst the maybe 8-10 of us. A camaraderie quickly developed and I really am disappointed that I didn't get to connect with them afterwards. Our finishing times were a little spread out and I left the stadium quickly to connect with my family.

One thing running has taught me is the importance of having people with like minded goals around you to push you. My training run for the 20 miles was right about 4:30 and I felt horrible when I did it. At the marathon we got there 20 minutes faster and I was feeling fine. I have realized over time that it is very difficult to push yourself to your fullest potential when you are going at it alone. There are so many applications for this principle and I would encourage you to think about this principle in whatever you endeavor. Part of this is having people to encourage you but another part is having those who are wiser guide you. My pacer had so much good advice along the way about refueling, painkillers, attitude, and even about how much I should talk to other runners.

I have thought a lot about the team that I have around me and what they have been in my life. My family has helped me through some very difficult times and they were there to celebrate with me as I accomplished something that I am proud of. When I think back to the last 15 years of my life I realize that I would never be where I am without my them. I am writing this from Florida and while I am having a great time, it really isn't about Florida. There is nothing on this earth that I value more or have thanked God more often for.

We are down in Florida on trip planned by my Mom. She has taken care of everything and given us the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing week away. In many ways this trip represents a lot of my life; my mother working selflessly in the background so the rest of her family can enjoy themselves. So thankful for this woman and that God has made her my mom! Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Was talking with a friend when they said something that I also felt but never actually expressed "Maybe this year I actually won't vote." I know that seems crazy/unpatriotic but I have never felt less excited about an election or believed less in the political system....these are my thoughts about it.
  • I have had FB friends post things that accuse Obama of being pretty shady and dishonest. I think he has been and I have strong disagreements with him on social issues! But others have posted things on Romney and I don't have much confidence in him. I also think that voting for the lesser of two evils (as opposed to someone I have confidence in) is ironic in light of all the talk about American Exceptionalism.
  • I believe that most people pay more attention to politics when the other party is in control; reading for details in order to justify their anger and outrage. Let me be honest here and acknowledge that this is how I operate, but I don't believe I am alone. When Bush was in office I didn't pay too much attention to daily operations like I do now. This is partly because I believed I had already done my job for him (I had voted,but am not saying this is right!), this is partly because I didn't think he was doing a great job and it frankly depressed me. I believe most people fail to hold the leaders of their own party because what are they going to do, vote for the other party?
  • The truth is I'm actually angrier at the Republican Party,than I am the Democratic one. I know this seems foolish but let me explain. Overall the leaders of the Democratic do not believe in Jesus, the Bible, or even just the concept of absolute truth. So why would I be angry when they fail to value human life, deny marriage as an instituted by God, or just act in ways that I believe are unethical and immoral. This is what you should expect from people who do not know,trust, or seek God! But the Republican party has an underlying belief that they are doing God's work, that they are his hand on this country, and reflect his principles and plans for this country. If this is true then I should  expect the Republican Party to conduct themselves much differently that the Democrats; and I don't believe they do. I agree socially with Republicans on issues like abortion and homosexuality, just not the methods I see used to carry out the agenda.
  • We are not a Christian country. What makes me sad is that people thought we were when a number of our laws(based on traditional biblical principles) went unchallenged by the culture. But did more people know God then? Or was it just easier to believe that  good behavior and obedience to the Christian culture would ultimately save you?
If the country is drifting further from Gods Word, then those who cling to it should stand out even more. What is happening now is that many of our illusions(this is a christian country, people doing good things meant we were more christian) are now just being ripped away. There is only one person who can transform this country and he will not be elected...........

Friday, October 19, 2012

"In Good Standing"

I regularly eat Qdoba with a good friend and our conversations can go anywhere. One time we were sharing frustration about how we too often find ourselves thinking about pleasing the church culture instead of serving God. We created the phrase "In good standing" to represent the trials and struggles that follows with a life that aims to impress others and win their approval. This can mean wondering how other people see you and wanting be thought of as mature and a righteous person. We lamented but acknowledged that at times we had been a part of that culture and contributed to it. These things that I have described do not have to be bad things, it is an issue of motives.

This discussion I had with my friend allowed me to look back at a stage of my life and see it more clearly. For a long time I was not content to be "In good standing: but instead wanted "In highest standing." I wanted people to know that I was very righteous and oh so pure; even though this was not the case. I did not desire sanctification for my heart or mind; I wanted righteousness that I could wear on my sleeve. It should be no surprise that this pursuit brought no joy or satisfaction, no peace or contentment. I was left scratching my head as all the sinners around me were repenting and learning daily about the grace that God offers. These were people that did not seek "In highest standing" and I am not sure they even knew what I was striving for. They were certainly not examining others like I was; for to be a group of people "In good standing" there must be those who are willing to sit in judgment of everyone. I was very willing......

One of the funny things is that this really impacts who you regard spiritually. I always looked up to those who I thought who were pursuing righteousness and shunning evil. Over time I realize that this has changed a lot. Now I am not looking for those who tell me I am no longer "In good standing" when they see me for the sinner that I am. I look to those who I believe say " Wow Josh you really messed up here.....but I still love you and want to help you through this....let me pray with you and then we will talk about setting up accountability or figuring out how you got here...." These people do seek righteousness and are shunning evil, they just are not wearing it on their sleeve.

I have thought about this for months and finally realized that I provided pretty good descriptions for the Pharisees and for Jesus. The Pharisees were "In highest standing", found pride in their righteousness, and were willing to sit in judgment of others. Jesus was able to love those who were hurting while making it clear that he still loved them, but that they needed to change-"Now go and sin no more."

I would like to suggest that much of the joy or frustration in your spiritual life revolves around two  things: which one of these descriptions resemble you and which one reflects the culture of the Christians that you surround yourself with. Don't decide which one you are now because you are probably biased so my question is this......what is your criteria for making decisions?

In Mark 14:53-65 Jesus stands before the Sanhedrin (not exactly the Pharisees but they fit the "In good standing" mentality) and they have a big decision.....what to do with Jesus! But they can't really find one big thing they resort to a new criteria....1. What is the easiest path for me? 2. What can I do so that I come out looking like my hands are clean on this? So that it will look like I had no responsibility for what happened? Then what did they do? They handed Jesus over to be killed! Earlier in the same chapter Jesus is struggling with a difficult decision........what does he do? In Luke 14:32-42 Jesus carves out some personal time for himself, finds those closest to him, and asks them to support him during some hard time in prayer. After a while he comes back and talks to his friends......then he goes and prays again....comes back and talks to his friends....goes and prays again.....when done praying Jesus knows what the Father is calling him to do! So he says "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet no what I will, but what you will." Then he leaves and goes to die on the cross for my sins.......

I have seen this contrast in decision making in my own life and I am going to step on some toes now....lets talk about church shopping! Lets examine the Scriptures to see how the Pharisees and Jesus interacted with other followers of God. The Pharisees were willing to provide leadership and council to anyone who asked for it but they were not willing to serve anybody! In addition to this it was very important to them that everyone  recognized how much they knew about God's Word and how righteous they were. They went from temple to temple but really never connected with any one group of people........but they were totally convinced that this did not reflect on them but instead the people around them. Jesus had a different experience.........Jesus was willing to love and serve everyone that he met......he didn't go from to temple to temple as much as had huge crowds follow him begging for him to minister to them and to teach them. He had close friends that did their best to be faithful to helping him with his desire to bring about transformation in the lives of others.Some of them even wanted him to be King and lead a Jewish revolt of the Roman Empire.......Jesus ultimately decided to die on the cross .

 I know a lot people who can't seem to find a church home...they don't like the head pastor/music style/music leader/sanctuary/Christmas program/small groups/people rub them the wrong way/wrong translation/pews vs. chairs/location/time/etc.....Let me make my thoughts abundantly clear on this issue...Get off your Pharisaical ass and be of service to the local church!   I know that seems harsh but let me tell you about my church shopping experiences in Omaha....I have lived here in Omaha for 7 years and am on my 3rd church.......what was  wrong with the first two? Its kind of complicated so I am going to cut/paste something from earlier in this post that I feel is appropriate while changing some's what I thought was wrong with those churches......."I can't really find one big thing I resort to a new criteria....1. What is the easiest path for me? 2. What can I do so that I come out looking like my hands are clean on this? So that it will look like I had no responsibility for what happened?" Would you believe that I didn't really "connect" with a lot of people in these churches? The truth is there was nothing wrong with my first two churches that isn't wrong in my current one! My church is good but its not like we are  reenacting Acts 2 every week and there are some people that kind of annoy me and I don't love some things we do. I just know that I spent a lot of time at my first two churches waiting for the head pastor to call me to fill in the pulpit or some leadership position while simultaneously ignoring everything in the bulletin about opportunities to serve! Would you believe that I didn't really "connect" with a lot of people in these churches? When I got to the third church I decided to to use some gifts of mine to help out. I decided to commit to a small group, that it was going to be a  priority, and that I was going to work harder to get to know other men in the church! Would you believe I have "connected" with some people in my church? I have built some friendships that I really treasure and look forward what is in store for us.The truth is that there is no perfect local church and what you need to do is to try ending some prayers with "Yet not what I will but what you will" and see that how it works out for you. I am stepping off my soapbox now.

One of my favorite things about the bible is that there are certain passages that I connect with certain people in my life. I did not sit under a lot of great bible preaching as a kid so when I got to Bible college I was constantly amazed by my Old Testament Class. I would look at my prof's notes and try to figure out how he found that principle in a passage that I though I had read a number of times. In a similar way I connect the the story of the prodigal son with a blog my sister wrote a few years ago that I am too tired to post but will try to do so one day. But my experience with this story is different as she writes about the loving father who continues to press on his daily work while anxious for his son to return. I tend to identify with the prodigal son in this story and I love the verse that describes his revelation when he gets to his low point......."17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father." I am very stubborn and learned my lesson the hard way also but I eventually learned it and I think about it often. It is what I believe calls the prodigal son home: He realizes that live as a servant of his father is better than anything he can have when he tries to be his own master! I have rambled on way past what I intended to write but I hope that something I have written has challenged you to think about what it means to serve God and to exist in a community that challenges others to do the same thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who is Jim Wallis?

I heard something that stunned me today and though the source was credible I initially refused to believe what I had heard. I went home and did some research (God bless Google) and found out that everything I heard was true. I am presenting this because I feel like there are a lot of people who don't know much about Jim Wallis and need to. Let me paint my perception of Jim Wallis with you so that you can experience my reaction when I came across this information....

I first heard of Jim Wallis because he is the editor of Sojourners, a magazine whose mission is "to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world." (Taken from their website) He is certainly interested in social justice and while I have never read any of his books, he is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. In his articles he always came across as a believer who was thinking aggressively about some issues where the modern day church was really struggling. I always felt he was a little vague at times but I found it refreshing to know that were believers of influence thinking about some of these issues. But I was also intrigued by his methods and demeanor. He certainly came across less preachy than many baby boomers, something which I noticed immediately.

I should mention that there were some red flags that went up. The first was was his style of writing which I earlier described as vague.....this is to say that more than once I felt he put many words on paper but failed to really say anything of substance. Soft is another word that comes to mind....
My second red flag was this: why is Huffington Post allowing him to write? (I personally believe that in order to best understand our nations politics you need to read news that is biased on both sides. Huffington Post has a liberal slant which nicely offsets the conservative one that is found on Drudge Report, my other main source of news and commentary. Out of curiosity if any of my readers disagree with me about those sites and their slants I would be interested in talking with you about that. Please contact me via this site, facebook, or my cell if you have it.)  Being that Huff Po is liberal it didn't to make much sense  that they would give him such good billing? Like a newspaper, news websites show what or who they deem important by where the story is placed in relation to other articles. Jim Wallis is esteemed by Huff Po and not only do his articles always appear near the top but they often stay there for a few days; though not as long as Arianna's! Trying to answer this question during the 08 election I googled him, found his site, and read about his background....

Jim Wallis was raised in an evangelical family in the Midwest. As a teenager, his questioning of the racial segregation in his church and community led him to the black churches and neighborhoods of inner-city Detroit. He spent his student years involved in the civil rights and antiwar movements. While at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, Jim and several other students started a small magazine and community with a Christian commitment to social justice which has now grown into a national faith-based organization. In 1979, Time magazine named Jim Wallis one of the "50 Faces for America's Future."  Jim lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Joy Carroll, one of the first women ordained in the Church of England and author of Beneath the Cassock: The Real-life Vicar of Dibley, and their young sons, Luke and Jack. He is a Little League baseball coach.

I was initially drawn his questioning of racial segregation in his church, I always wonder what my response would have been in that time because it is difficult for me to to comprehend that time period. As a military kid my neighborhoods and schools were highly integrated, whites might have been the minority in my middle school.  I also noticed that he attended TEDS while doing his graduate work, which I must confess I found to be quite some relief. I know a number of people who have been there and think very highly of most of them. But reading about his wife's ordination I also understood why many liberal theologians felt comfortable around him. I later saw Obama name him to a faith board.....I got to the point where I was trying to decide if he had struck a good balance between faith and politics but I never really reached a conclusion, I just went on with my life.

Tonight I was watching a video called Agenda. There were some parts of it I was uncomfortable with, it was pretty much seeking to link Karl Marx with the founders of many liberal organizations and groups that hold significant influence today as well as that impact on President Obama. Some names were thrown out that did not shock me....John Dewey, Bill Ayers, Jim Wallis???????????????? They said his name and began talking about his fight for social justice, as well as what social justice means. They said a few things about his background and I immediately began googling to find the facts and knew immediately they were true. I stayed pretty silent during the brief discussion because I was processing this and went home to do more research about him...this is what I found.

-His thoughts on what it means to be born again...
The Great Awakening, p.60

-He attended Michigan State where he was president of a group called Students for a Democratic Society. This was a political activist group founded by Bill Ayers, the simplest definition for the group I found was that they were Anti Anti-Communism! This group later disintegrated and its most aggressive leaders formed a group called the weatherman, a terrorist group that claimed “The goal is the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism.”

-Sojourners was not the original name of his magazine, it was actually called Post-American. It stated social justice was achieved through distribution of wealth and government-managed economies.

-In 1983, the organization, “Accuracy in Media” published a lengthy book on the far left policies of Wallis and his organization, documenting 53 political positions of Sojourners on such issues as Israel’s right to exist, terrorism, socialism, capitalism, human rights, etc – and compared their positions on these subjects with those of the Soviet Union. In all 53 position statements, it was found that Sojourners’ views were completely in line with the views of hard line Soviets.

-He was actually born Jim Wallace and later changed his name. Don't know why, just thought it was interesting. At least it isn't Metta World Peace.

-In July 2010 Marvin Olasky wrote in World Magazine that in 2004 Sojourners had received   $200,000 from billionaire George Soros, a financier of left-wing groups that push for abortion, atheism, bigger government, and other causes. Wallis denied it saying  “It’s not hyperbole or overstatement to say that Glenn Beck lies for a living. I’m sad to see Marvin Olasky doing the same thing. No, we don’t receive money from Soros.” He then insisted  “We don’t receive money from George Soros. Our books are totally open, always have been. Our money comes from Christians who support us and who read Sojourners. That’s where it comes from.”

When Olasky wrote that he already had a PDF copy of the gift which he acquired from the  website of the Open Society Institute, of which Soros is the founder, funder, and chairman. In addition there were gifts of $25,000 in 2006 and $100,000 in 2007. Also interesting were the reasons given for the donation as listed on the OSI website. In 2004 they listed  "To support the Messaging and Mobilization Project: Engaging Christians on the Importance of Civic Involvement." In 2007 it was  “to support the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign.”

So how did Wallis respond when confronted with the truth? "Sojourners communications manager Tim King has now acknowledged that Sojourners received funding from George Soros. King released a statement from Jim Wallis in which Jim says he “should have declined to comment” until he had checked the facts. Now that Jim has, he sees there were grants “from the Open Society Institute that made up the tiniest fraction of Sojourners’ funding during that decade—so small that I hadn’t remembered them.”

But........Olasky said that, according to documents World obtained, Sojourners had a $275,000 deficit in 2002 and a $57,000 deficit in 2003. In the audit, it says that Sojourners had "incurred a significant amount of net losses" and had "adopted a strategy to generate additional sources of revenue and to reduce expenditures."
"It looks like that grant came at a critical time in 2003–2004 and that seemed to be an economic turning point," Olasky told CT. "If you're in the red and someone comes up with $200,000, especially a billionaire, you tend not to forget that."

-I don't understand this obvious cover up because no crime was committed. I think Wallis understands that the target audience of his magazine would be uncomfortable when hearing that news. It is also interesting to note that those records disappeared from the OSI website very quickly.

Conclusions? Many people will be concerned and research his background and shady friends but I am more concerned about the present than the past. This is a man of significant spiritual influence in our modern culture and the question I have is: should this be? I am especially concerned because I believe he appeals most to younger believers interested in this concept of social justice yet who may be lacking in discernment. I would enjoy it immensely if this blog led to some dialogue about Wallis or Sojourners.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Governors and Unions

I find in many discussions that many people watch some news but never really understand what is happening or even why. Too many of us get our news from headlines and don't ever see the big picture. By now you have heard about what is going on in Wisconsin between the Governor and unions. I will focus a little on this battle but then look at what is going on behind the scenes. Let me give you an order of events.

1. Scott Walker was elected Governor in 2010 with the benefit of having a GOP controlled congress in Wisconsin. Less then two months into his term he put out an audacious bill which has a few parts. State workers must increase contributions to their pensions to 5.8 percent of salary, and double contributions to their health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent. This would result in a cut in take-home pay of about 8 percent.It would also limit collective bargaining to the issue of wages, and cap increases to the rate of inflation as well as prohibit employer collection of dues. There would also be a voter referendum for any future salary increase. It should be noted that the average teacher salary in Milwaukee Public Schools is $56,000 and total compensation is over $100,000. Police and Firemen are exempt from the collective bargaining changes. There would also be no more union dues....

2. A vote in the House requires that 20 people be there there in order for the vote to take place. Currently there are 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats, so to postpone the vote Democrats fled  to a hotel in Illinois and show no willingness to return for a vote.

3. Protests began in Madison outside the Capitol and have gotten bigger every day. Schools have been shut down as teachers have joined in the protests. In Madison, schools were cancelled Friday morning because 600 of the 5400 teachers called in sick, roughly 11%. I have seen estimates between 25 to 50 thousand at the protests and they have attracted national attention. All politicians have spoke out about the matter in no uncertain terms and I suspect many prominent Dems to be there this weekend.

The events I have listed above are well documented and if you pay attention to the news you have heard them. But there is a much bigger issue here that must be understood: the true ramifications of this bill do not involve a balanced state budget but a transformation in the political landscape.  Take a look at the big picture here............

Leading Union Political Campaign Contributors
American Fed. of State, County, & Municipal Employees$40,281,900$547,700
Intel Brotherhood of Electrical Workers29,705,600679,000
National Education Association27,679,3002,005,200
Service Employees International Union26,368,47098,700
Communication Workers of America26,305,500125,300
Service Employees International Union26,252,0001,086,200
Laborers Union25,734,0002,138,000
American Federation of Teachers25,682,800200,000
United Auto Workers25,082,200182,700
Teamsters Union24,926,4001,822,000
Carpenters and Joiners Union24,094,1002,658,000
Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union23,875,600226,300
United Food and Commercial Workers Union23,182,000334,200
Sheet Metal Workers Union16,347,200342,800
Plumbers & Pipefitters Union14,790,000818,500
Operating Engineers Union13,840,0002,309,500
Airline Pilots Association12,806,6002,398,300
International Association of Firefighters12,421,7002,685,400
United Transportation Workers11,807,0001,459,300
Ironworkers Union11,638,900936,000
American Postal Workers Union11,633,100544,300
Nat'l Active & Retired Fed. Employees Association8,135,4002,294,600
Seafarers International Union6,726,8001,281,300
Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Washington, D.C.

The numbers add up to roughly 486 million for Democrats and 29 million for the Republicans. But it is important to understand that unions do much more than raise money for candidates. They represent large numbers who will be voting regularly. Historically they have been very active during election cycles when it comes to assisting the local party. Politics is often about money and power, unions give both.This is the heart of the issue and it is why the debate is so heated. The who are protesting are really not concerned about that 8% pay decrease but rather the future role of unions in politics.  Governor Walker is attempting to balance the budget while scoring a large political victory. If politics were like boxing, Walker is going for the knockout in the first round. In addition many other states are watching to see what happens and would seek to make these same changes.

Personal Thoughts
It's hard to know if he will be successful but I think he could. National Republican leadership will not want him to back down because all they are risking is one Governor's seat while I cannot put into words their upside. In addition see how his opponents have operated since Wednesday. The House left the State and have not been seen. Teachers are in calling sick so they can go protest under union advisory while schools are cancelled. How long will these actions go on before the citizens of Wisconsin revolt? Will these actions or those of Governor Walker draw more scorn?

On the other hand every good negotiator starts by asking for more and then "negotiating down." If you don't believe me watch Pawn Shop and you will see negotiating in action! Is Walker just going to pass on the collective bargaining and ask for greater salary cuts? It will be interesting to see how Obama responds throughout the debate because this is a major part of his constituency that is still frustrated from when a pro-union bill failed to get through the Senate when Democrats had control. There is no point speculating in detail about how defeat in Wisconsin would affect him in 2012 but it could not be good.

I struggle sometimes to think about unions as good or bad. The truth is they are not wholly one or the other.There have been times in American history when they were needed and they played a role. For a nation born through unprecedented  change we certainly don't adapt very well. The struggle is to evaluate the role and place of unions in modern America. But that being said these teachers who march have a job which they know they cannot be fired from, assuming they are somewhat competent. That is not true for most Americans.In addition see this scary website....

I also believe that unions played a huge role in the financial meltdown of GM, due to what are known as legacy costs-the costs of providing health care and pensions to scores of retired workers. For every GM worker, there are about 10 dependants, which are defined as retired workers and their families. From every car GM sells, $2,000 goes to legacy costs-paying people who don't work for you anymore. That two grand must be built into the sticker price of any new GM car and truck. And that's money on top of developing, producing and marketing a car--costs that Honda, Toyota and others don't have.  GM's per-hour labor rate for car assembly is about $75 per hour, compared to $40 to $45 for other car companies. While this was a private union, the principle can still apply when understanding the idea of legacy costs.

This will be fascinating to see how it plays out. If anyone has some thoughts about anything I have said please post them. I would enjoy it greatly if this site was a place where thoughts could be expressed openly and respectfully regardless of what those thoughts actually are. Have a good weekend....

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I am restarting a workout program Insanity that I did last summer and am looking forward to it. While I am doing the program I am trying to eat better and drink less soda so I can drink more water. It is a 9 week program, my goal is to drink no soda on Monday-Saturdays and then not go overboard on Sunday. I did this last summer and after a month of no soda I felt so much better. I eventually wrote something about the difference between soda and water which I put on an old blog. Hope you enjoy......

On my diet I am avoiding soda and pretty much drinking water only which is not real easy for me. Drinking soda has become a habit and I thought nothing of stopping at QT or driving through Sonic for a Rt. 44 Vanilla Dr. Pepper. As much as I love that drink I don't crave it anymore. I am on the 12th day of my diet now I am averaging about 5 liters of water a day. I am not educating you when I say water is good and soda is bad because you already know that. The contrast between the two has got me thinking......
-When you are really thirsty soda does nothing for you. It will not meet your needs because it will not hydrate you. When you are thirsty you drink water because it refreshes you and fills you up.
-Sometimes water seems too bland but it tastes so good when you need a drink.
-Most of the time when I drink soda I am eating unhealthy along with it. The waitress rarely refills water glasses after dropping off the cheese fries or onion rings.
-I start a lot of sodas that I never finish. And that is never because it hit the spot. Most of the time I don't want more soda, but oddly enough I am still thirsty.
-Sometimes I get a look ordering water in a restaurant. On the other hand I do say"I'll just have water" like I owe them an apology.
-Drinking water and thinking about it has led me to this...........

John 4:10-11

"Jesus answered and said to her,"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give me a drink', you would have asked Him, and He would have given it to you." She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water?"

I am always tempted to comment how foolish people in the Bible are and how they miss obvious lessons that are being taught. But like these same Bible characters I so often fail to understand immediately what God is trying to tell me or teach even though I have His word right in front of me. Jesus is trying to tell the woman that though she came thirsting for water she can have what she actually needs.

It is such a simple concept to think of Jesus as living water. He is everything we need and to drink of him is to never thirst again. I have studied this many times and I normally finish my study thankful to have found living water and wondering why I don't offer others a drink. But this time as I study I ask a different question:why do I sometimes pass by the living water Christ offers and instead drink the sodas of the world? Remember soda? It fills me up but never nourishes me. It leaves me still thirsty. It does not quench my thirst but instead numbs it. Nothing good or healthy follows it. It can be addictive but when you drink water again you wonder why you loved soda so much. And then you go refill your water.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Grad vs. Undergrad, Politics

It has been an interesting experience for me to attend grad school at the same place I did my undergrad work. I recently had a discussion with a prof about this and heard his experiences; since he teaches both undergrads and graduate students. One the biggest differences is just simply the maturity of the students. Grad students are further along in life, have more experiences, as well as a better appreciation for the money being spent to attend. The other big difference is that of the learning environment in the classroom. While in my third semester as a grad student I have yet to take an old fashioned test. Instead my biggest assignments are projects and papers. My profs are much more worried about my ability to process and interact with material than my ability to memorize and recall it. Concerned about understanding how the issue or topic fits into the big picture of life and faith. We also benefit from smaller classes which allow for better conversation and discussion.I find now that how much I learn or am personally challenged in a class is sometimes determined by my fellow students and their contributions. The two education styles are drastically different and I am enjoying my post grad work immensely.

\While shooting the breeze at a poker table this week the subject of conversation inevitably turned to politics. I rolled my eyes at the predictable statements about Obama from his fans and detractors. I interrupted the conversation and asked some follow up questions to all commentators. What has Obama done that was so great? How about so horrible?  What would you have done differently? Resounding silence.....shuffling of chips.......The subject was changed to the Super Bowl and sports betting, I really didn't think much about the conversation until later that night.  Then something occurred to me that has really stuck with me. When it comes to politics America is a nation of undergrad students. Too focused on memorizing and recalling information than analyzing or processing it. Not able to see the big picture of an issue but instead mindful only of what they are being told. America sits in silence and takes notes instead of engaging their peers in an intelligent conversation.