Monday, April 22, 2013


Preface:  For those that are used to following my cycling exploits, I've started a new blog called Wuschreiten to catalog those events separately.  While I'm still posting on this blog, and it will still focus on fitness and personal issues, my write-ups on cycling events and general cycling thoughts are going to be primarly over on the new site.  I invite you to check it out!

This month Brookwood Church is doing a series about lessons from the life of David.  This weeks message was about Giants in our life, going through the story of David and Goliath. I highly suggest that you watch the video once it's up online, as the visuals that Perry uses (and his physical actions during the message) are simple but impressive.

I was reminded that I need to remember that no matter how giant the Adversary is, the Living God is bigger! 

For me, my Adversary has been my own feelings of self worth for much of my life.  I've always clung to the critisism of myself, dwelling in the negative.  They often feel normal to me, and allow me to strengthen my own feelings of not being of value.  Even after losing the weight that I have, and working as hard as I do for the cycling goals that I wouldn't have dreamed possible 2 years ago, I still feel like a whelp, just trying to hang on.   While I have confidence in what I'm capable of, I fear the hubris that comes with it. There are a lot of negative issues that I constantly battle with, and pray over, but I truly believe that they stem from a deep down battle with Pride.  C.S. Lewis called Pride "the greatest sin".  

Now, in the story of David his Adversary is Goliath:  A 9' tall Giant of a man, armed with weapons that most people couldn't manage.  The entire army of Israel cowered in fear of this massive hulk.  David, still under the age of 20, was at the camp to deliver food to his brothers and to the captains of the Army.  Upon hearing of the disdain that Goliath, a Philistine that worshiped a lifeless idol, put towards God, offered to face him.  
45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
I feel like I would have been like Saul, afraid to face the beast because of what I see.  David was not afraid, because he didn't see the massive body in front of him, but the gigantic Living God that was behind him, giving him strength and courage.  When we realize that no Enemy, no Adversary, no power on this Earth is as big as our GOD, we can do the unimaginable and break free of the bonds that enslave us.  

We just need to remember, God is bigger!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lent Day 44 (Saturday)

Exercise:  Cycling 75 miles.  This was the 3rd of the Assault on Mount Mitchell training rides.  I'm still working out why I'm getting so nauseated on these rides, but at least I managed to get through the ride improving on my climbing on almost all segments that I had done before.  


Isaiah 53:3-4
New International Version (NIV)

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.

Thoughts: For people today, the Saturday before Easter is a time of preparation.  Cleaning the house, getting the Easter dinner plans finished up.  For some it means going to church for a Saturday Evening service.  I have to imagine what it meant for the disciples and first followers of Christ.  Jesus was dead, they were being hunted.  They were scared.  They were in hiding.  They had to have felt lost, and be questioning their faith in the words of Christ.  They also could not even go properly mourn, because it was the Sabbath.  Beyond being the Sabbath, it was still Passover.  They had to wait until Sunday to even start to properly mourn the loss of their leader, their friend, their God.  

I can remember plenty of times where I have felt lost.  Not knowing what God's plan for me is, even questioning if I was truly saved or not.  Even throughout all of that, I never had to question if the foundation of my faith was dead.  I had the comfort of knowing that God was alive, and that he wanted a personal relationship with me as much as I deeply desired a personal relationship with Him.  When put into perspective, I haven't had it so bad.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lent Day 43 (Friday)

Exercise: Cycling 25 miles.  Since I missed the ride yesterday, I really felt I needed to get out and ride today, just to keep limber before the big ride tomorrow morning.  I didn't do anything crazy, although I was sorely tempted to do Paris Mountain this evening.  I'll have my fill of climbing by dinnertime tomorrow, I'm sure.


Luke 23:44-49
New International Version (NIV)

The Death of Jesus
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Thoughts: Seldom do I think about just how sorrowful of a day Good Friday really represents.  When you put all of the information together on what transpired, it makes it a humbling experience.  When you realize that the Last Supper ended well after dark (and thus the events in the Garden happened on Friday), it makes it even more tragic.  In the course of a day, Jesus was interrogated multiple times, put on display in front of a mass of people, given a death sentence, scourged, striped naked, and hung out to die on a cross.  

The part that we seem to like to gloss over is what would have happened in the scourging.  We hear the words, but we really don't think about how heinous the act really was.  A quick definition of scourging
A scourge (from Latin: excoriare, "to flay", and corium, "skin") is a whip or lash, especially a multi-thong type, used to inflict severe corporal punishment or self-mortification on the back.  (source - Wikipedia)
The fact that the word itself depicts it as a flaying of the skin is gruesome enough to think about.  Now think that after he was scourged he was nailed to a cross.  The raw flesh (what was left of it) would have been up against the rough wood.  The pain had to be immense.  This was not a standard set of punishments in Roman culture, I have to imagine that even a society that came up with the holiday of Saturnalia would have thought this to be extremely cruel.  

When you really stop to think about the suffering and torture that Jesus was put through on this day almost 2,000 years ago, just to be able to take the sting from Death and free a people that had and will continue to reject him until we are fully cleansed, it's astonishing.  To die for a friend (or a loved one) is honorable.  To die for your country is duty.  To die for a stranger is noble.  When I think of this level of death, I think about it in the sense of war.  Covering an explosive;  Stepping in front of a shooter.  There are a number of ways to receive a mortal wound.  I cannot fathom willingly having the flesh torn from my body and then being hung on a cross for another.  I have to believe that the disciples and other followers that stood at a distance couldn't believe what was being done, either.  The feeling of complete hopelessness.  The fear that had to hang in the air.  The sense of complete loss.  The worry that they would be next. 

It was Friday.  The sky was black, the sun didn't shine.  

It was Friday.  All was lost.

How could Sunday hold any hope?

Lent Day 42 (Thursday)

Exercise: Rest.  I actually changed out to go riding, but my wife reminded me that it was spirit night at a local bbq joint, and that I had commited to taking the kids out for dinner. While skipping a ride, especially one I could use before a big ride training ride Saturday, is not high on my list I'd rather skip it than force the kids to wait until after an evening ride to eat.  


Galatians 2:16-21
New King James Version (NKJV)

16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Thoughts: Holy week is always an interesting time to reflect, as it is full of a very rich history that is well preserved over the centuries.  It's not only the time of Christ's passion and death, but it's also the time of Passover.  This year, it's also been marred by the passion over the civil laws in the United States.  What comes to bear is that there are two sets of laws that have to be accounted for:  the laws of man, by which we have our government, and the laws of God, by which we have our faith.  If our faith is in ourselves, then the only law that really "matters" is the law of Man.  By the rights of free will, we are allowed to ignore God's law.  Mayim Bailik wrote about God's law this week in her spot about a 30 minute Seter, and I think speaks volumes, well beyond the rituals of Passover.  She said, "Can you choose to start your Seder before sundown? Of course you can. You can do whatever you gosh darn please. But halacha doesn’t change".  

Since we have free will, I feel that this statement is much more profound than we really allow ourselves to let sink in.  I can do whatever I gosh darn please.  God does not forbid it in so much as to remove my free will.  I can attempt to fly by jumping off a bridge.  Heck, I can blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  I can deny Christ.  I can live whatever lifestyle I gosh darn please.  The law doesn't change.  Just as in physics, for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction.  The reaction to sin is death (or the absence of God).  At the point of judgement, you are subject to the law and will receive the punishments for the transgressions that you have accumulated.

To take the two laws back to similar consequences:  In civil law, I can attempt to go 120mph down Main Street.  More than likely I'll be caught immediately and put before the Judge.  I can state "I don't believe in your Laws" or any subset of that you wish.  The Judge will then read your sentence, and you will pay the penalty.  Whether or not you believe in the law, the law still exists.  There are big differences between Civil Law and God's law.  One difference is that God has allowed us free will that until the time of judgement, when we stand before the throne, we can do as we please.  There is no police officer there to arrest us on the spot.  There are no speed bumps to force us to slow down.  There are no "stop sticks" in place.  

The bigger difference is that no matter what our transgressions, how badly we've broken God's law, we always have access to the best representation.  Unlike lawyers in Civil law, who after the case they walk away, Christ represents us and took on our punishment.  He was tried, beaten and cruxified.  Not for his own sins, or breaking of any law, but for our Sins.  By his offering we are saved from the punishment that we all have earned through the law.  For even though we are saved we will be judged by the law at the time of judgement.  We will stand before the throne, and we will face our punishment.  I'd much rather have Christ as my defender than represent myself.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lent Day 41 (Wednesday)

Exercise: None (Rest/Weather).  Wednesdays are one of the days that this summer I'm expecting that I'll use as personal training time.  Pick a route, go out and work on my form or just get base exercise/miles in.  That said, the weather is still below average right now, and after 3 months of cold enough weather, having to layer up and deal with being cold on the bike isn't making getting on the road very easy.  


Mark 13:3-8
New King James Version (NKJV)

The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked Him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled?”
5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 6 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles.[a] These are the beginnings of sorrows.
Thoughts:  There was a time when I would look at a rant, or a flame war, and believe that I could "win".  That I could somehow be so methodical, so fluent in my thoughts and my wordsmithing, that I would "teach someone" a lesson.  What I've learned, primarly the hard way, is that there are no winners in these contests.  They are a contest of pure will, and much like a peacock presents his plumage to show is dominance publicly, these displays are nothing more than a visual show for the author's own benefit.  In the end all parties involved walk away believing "I showed them, and maybe I opened up their eyes to the 'truth'."  Neither side is actually interested in knowing the real truth, they believe they already know it.  Facts no longer matter, because the views are already established. In the end, the reality is that it's just a train wreck for others to feast upon, set on the stage of public opinion.

I can't say that I don't delve into these issues anymore.  I attempt to know better, and to stay away from them.  They "disturb my calm", to butcher quote a character from the TV Show Firefly.  They do not add any real positive to my day, and they do not help me to be more productive to anyone that I have to interact with on a regular basis.  

This begs the question of "why should I even interact with these people at all?"  This is a sticky question for me, and I do ponder this every so often.  The reality is that I am not called to only be around like minded people.  I am called to bear witness, and to testify to the Truth.  That isn't to say that I'm going to start preaching on the streets of Greenville.  What it means is that there will be times in my life where the situation will be presented to me where I'm expected to use my talents to help another person with their struggles by sharing the Gospel.  It may be received, it may not be.  I cannot force someone to be saved, free will allows them to chose their own path, destructive as it may be.  I am likewise not called to judge them, or to mock them.  If I actively drive them away, not only am I not following my calling, but I may be forcing them to stumble by not being where I'm supposed to be.  

Does this mean I need to be surrounded by people that are actively attacking my belief system in the name of "equality", looking to judge me by my faith?  I don't believe that this is the case.  People will enter and exit my life at God's chosing.  I have to be humble and aware of what His calling is for those interactions, and prepared to do his will at those intersections.   Whether it's in times to be quiet, times to speak out, or times to be there because they are in need.  I just need to remember that when I speak out, I do not just speak out with my own voice, but those that are not saved are hearing me as a representative of Christ.  My words, and my actions, are thereby held to a different standard than someone that is following the laws of Man.  I cannot believe that engaging in any level of flame war furthers the Kingdom of God.  I am called to love that person, and know that Sin is the enemy, not my neighbor.  It's not an easy calling, and I can say with impunity that I am not an expert in walking this path.  But it's a path that I should be focused on following.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lent Day 40 (Tuesday)

Exercise:  Cycling 26 miles.  It was cold out (my feet are still cold now!), but it felt good to be out there.

Joshua 23:9-13New International Version (NIV)9 “The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. 10 One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, 13 then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.

Thoughts:  It felt great to get back on the bike today.  It was cold out (high around 50), and a bit windy, but it wasn't wet.  This is the last Tuesday before the weekly rides start up in earnest, so getting another run in beforehand was nice.  What I enjoyed is that I felt like no matter what group went by us, I could decide to hang on if I wanted to.  We caught up with a few groups, but I would let them go because the pace wasn't what everyone I was with could handle.  Just knowing that the effort I put in during the late fall and winter is paying off felt good.  

During the ride I had another chance to be reminded that I need to be careful and aware of how I act and how that impacts others.  In general I do okay in groups while on the bike, but some of that depends on the others around me.  As we were going through the country loop, this one rather large group of cyclists passed us, and we decided to hop on the back and just ride for a bit, seeing where they went.  It was a pretty fast paced group, and it was rather loosely held together.  We tried to mostly stay in the back, but on some of the rollers folks were falling off the back and generally not staying with the pack very well.  It was also obvious that not everyone in that pack was "with the group" (like we were not).  The country loop is a pretty well established (and marked) route, and most groups that run out there follow the same path for safety and familiarity reasons.  During the non-official rides this can definitely vary.  

We got to a stop sign, and whoever the primary group of riders was decided that they were turning off the established route. This left me, while being almost in the vary back, with a choice:  stay with the main pack, or stay on the established route.  The other person I was riding with, along with several others, split off from the pack, following the established route.  This all of the sudden made the decision not "do I stay with the pack", but rather "how do I leave the pack".  I tried to make sure my path was clear, and stay on the established route.  The problem was that I didn't notice that there were a few folks from the pack still behind me.  Luckily there was space and we didn't get into an incident, but my actions left me in a bad situation.  

  • I had joined up with a mass of cyclists where I didn't know where they were going.
  • I wasn't prepared to be a part of their "hive mind", and they decided to go off the established route at a point where I was not prepared to act.
  • I was not in a position in the group where I could safely leave the pack.
  • I left anyway.

These are not situations I normally get into, because I generally don't get that flustered while in a random pack of cyclists (nor do I find myself in a random pack of cyclists outside of established events).  That said, I need to make sure that the next time I'm in the middle of a group of cyclists I already know what I need to do to act, and make sure that I'm handling myself in a consistent and safe manner. 


Lent Day 39 (Monday)

Exercise:  None (weather).  I could have probably gotten out for a basic ride yesterday, but I just didn't have it in me to push for it.  When the wind is over 20mph, seldom will I jump up and down to go out and ride.  

Philippians 1:27-30New King James Version (NKJV)Striving and Suffering for Christ
27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation,[a] and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Thoughts:  I find that way too often I let myself get into an altered frame of mind which really does not help my overall condition.  It's something that I've thought about a bunch internally, but it's hard to deal with outside of a looking back at it.  Honestly I feel like it's a cycle similar to eating when you are depressed.  You get depressed, then you overeat trying to "feel better", then you are depressed because you ate too much.  I've been actively dealing with the eating cycle this spring, and I can feel the battle inside of me on a regular basis.  What it also does is sets me up for dealing with other emotional issues that are harder to see until after they happen.  I have no idea if this is "normal" or not, but once I get upset it takes a fair amount of calm for me to return to my base state mentally.  It's one of the reasons I attempt to not watch too much news or read too many of those "you should get really angry at.." images on social media.  Yeah, clubbing baby seals makes me upset.  What it shouldn't do is mar my personal interactions with folks that aren't actively attempting to club baby seals every day.  It's an interaction I've seen with my kids, both in me and in them.  Keeping an even keel can take a lot of effort, especially when I'm already attempting to handle extra pressure, be it internal or external.  

The difference from the idea of the emotional eating issue is that with emotional eating the person you hurt the most is yourself, at least initially.  When it's your social interactions, especially in a job that deals directly with your actions to others, the damage is initially external and the ramifications can be long lasting.  Personally I try to refrain from sending out too many emails or instant messages when I know that I'm already not handling things well.  I'm already actively working on managing my social media "self" to not be impulsive, and keep a handle on how I portray myself publicly in those forums.  Techcrunch had an article recently about how what you say online can be devastating  both for yourself and for others.  These are hard lessons to learn, and too often one mis-step can be disastrous for weeks afterwards.  Personally I struggle more with face to face interactions than I do with text interactions.  At least with text I can read what I'm writing and rethink/edit it.  I can type it all the way out and then delete it if I come to my senses in time.  I have time to make sure that I'm representing myself properly, and honoring the other person the way I know I should.  With face to face conversations, my own self betrays me.  My emotions can too easily not be kept in check, and my demeanor and physical reaction tell a tale.  Much of this becomes things you cannot "control" off the cuff, and even my best attempts to stay in front of it can be challenging.  Even going over conversations in my head to make sure I'm mentally prepared is difficult (and yes, if I'm really stressed I'll go over how I think a conversation will go before I have it - it seldom is accurate).  

In the end, the best I can do is be myself and do my best to honor God in all that I do.  That said, emotional bad behavior seldom bears good fruit.  I just have to be aware of it and work on improving daily.