The Gang

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Once a year ‘the gang’ gets together. This year they were gathering in Breckenridge and they were coming to my house.  I was looking forward to seeing them and to hosting them.  I wanted the house to be cleaned up and welcoming.  I was wanting them to be impressed…..or at least, I wanted them to think well of me.  It was my turn to facilitate an adventure.  Hopefully we would push our limits and explore the edges of our comfort zone.

There are six of us in ‘the gang’ and once a year we get together for three days.  Our goal is to show up, have fun and be uniquely present in each others lives.  We have committed to being very open and honest with one another. Our hope and our goal is that our transparency and our vulnerability might facilitate our personal growth.  Ultimately, we want to encourage one another to be the men that God is calling us to be.  We want to be vibrantly alive!

How do we do this thing called growth?  It all started a few years ago when we said….in various ways, we want more.  We want more of life and we want our lives to make a difference.  Toward that end, we decided that once a year we would get together and report in.

This reporting in is a very humbling experience.  It feels a bit like an annual physical.  You know the drill…..the doctor asks you all sorts of questions, takes your pulse, your heart rate and ultimately asks you to bend over and cough.  It is all quite humbling but, in the end, very healthy.

We report in on life.  Each guy has 1.5 hours in the ‘hot seat’.  During that time he gives an update on his life, the highs, the lows and the in between. He lets us know how he has been doing on the projects that he said he wanted to work on. Then, we get to ask him questions.

The questions are not easy…..they are challenging/invasive.  They are the kind of questions you would hope that nobody would ever ask.  They are the kind of questions that speak of love and facilitate vulnerability.  The questions tempt me to be dishonest.  The care & concern behind the questions, coupled with my desire to grow, compels me to be honest.  My fear, if you know me…..you won’t like me, is diminished by their love.  The Gang knows me and they still like me.  They still love me! Maybe I can move forward.

At the end of our time in the hot seat, the gang prays for the guy in the hot seat.  There is something quite good and quite humbling about having others pray for me.  Those prayers seem to call out the best in me and for that I am thankful!

It has been said one cannot truly know God without knowing oneself and one cannot truly know oneself without knowing God. (Calvin)  That is very true!  I am convinced that ‘the gang’ helps me to know myself.  I am convinced that they help me to know God as they embody His love for me.  I am thankful for the guys in the gang and the growth they facilitate!

I pray that you might be blessed with a ‘gang’!

Be encouraged! Amp the Joy!

The Run

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Imogene Pass (13,114ft.) is located between the mountain towns of Ouray (7810Ft) and Telluride (8820ft.), in the southwest corner of Colorado.  The gravel road that connects these two towns is a serpentine remnant of the long abandoned mining industry.  Now, tourism is the economic engine that puts paint on old buildings.  The abandoned mining roads see the tire treads of rented jeeps and high tech mountain bikes.

Since 1974, Ouray and Telluride have hosted the Imogene Pass run.  On the first Saturday after Labor Day,  1500 runners come to Ouray, eager to test their legs and their lungs on the rocky road that winds into very thin air as it connects these two towns.

The road from Ouray to the top of Imogene Pass is 10 miles long as it gains 5,310 feet in elevation.  Along the way there are aid stations for the runners to replenish their dwindling resources.  There are also a number of cut off points.  These points are time checks for the slower runners……if you do not keep a minimum pace than you will need to turn around and retrace your steps.  This is for the safety of the runners and the volunteer workers.  Afternoon storms are quite prevalent in the high mountains and it is best to not be in an exposed location.

As I mingled with other runners at the beginning of this run….I experienced more than my usual anxiety.  I was keenly aware that I had never run this much, up hill.  I was not sure my mind and my body were up to the task.  I was also aware that I had never run this much….. downhill!  I was not sure if my joints were ready for this abuse.  I was keenly aware that the cut off guardians might tell me to turn around.  Failure would be clearly defined.

People who have successfully completed this run talk about a concept called IFM.  Incessant Forward Motion is the key to success.  As long as you continue to move forward….you will be successful.  I was convinced that I could keep moving.  It might not be pretty, but I would keep moving.

The other thing that people told me is that when I run down hill, I need to keep my weight ahead of my feet.  If I experience a ‘falling’ sensation, than I will know that I am running in a ‘joint friendly’ manner.  Most of my downhill running has been about my heels striking the ground first and my joints absorbing the shock.  Being a heel striker might work well on a flat surface but it is not ideal for old joints on 7 miles of rocky downhill.

The starting gun sounded and I started to move.  My mind was asking the question….can I make it?  Then I asked….can I make it in style?  What are the style points in such a difficult endeavor…….do not whine!

Then I focused on the critical application points.  IFM……keep moving, even if you have to crawl.  Run downhill like you are falling and link your recoveries.

I finished that run in the town of Telluride.  It was fun, beautiful, painful and life giving.  I am more committed than ever to practice IFM and to link my recoveries. I want to do life in style….I will not whine!

To Connect

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This week I purchased an  Amplifier Signal Booster for my cell phone.  It is designed to do one thing, amplify cell phone signals.  In theory, it will allow me to continue conversations even when the signal is low and I am flirting with dropping a call.  Hopefully, it will allow me to maintain a connection even as I am driving through some of the remote areas of Colorado.

One of the joys of my life is that I get to live in the mountains of Colorado.  I see this as a great gift and I try to never take it for granted.  Therefore, when I jump in my pick up truck, I want to be available.  I want to be able to continue conversations just like my urban friends.  More importantly, I want to be able to plan the connections and therefore, the disconnections.  It is frustrating to have a conversation dictated by the location of a cell phone tower.

As I have reflected upon my desire to be connected…..I realize it is driven, in part, by my desire to be disconnected.  There is something very, very good about being ‘off the grid’.  I love being in those places where I cannot access technology.  Yet, I want to be disconnected in a way that allows me to relax.  I have come to realize that I can relax when I have planned to turn off technology.  When technology is interrupted, when it fails and I am not able to meet an obligation, then I am aware of significant internal tension.

In my world, today, there is an implicit expectation that I will be available  24/7.  And, if I am honest, I want to be wanted and therefore, I want to be available.  I fear being marginalized and moving to the sidelines.  So, I stay plugged in, I stay available and ultimately the ubiquity of amorphous expectations takes its toll and I must say no.  I must turn it off.  That is the only way that I can ‘turn it back on’ with a sense of freshness and sanity.

As I reflect upon my issues around connection/rejection, I reflect upon my connection with the Lord of the universe.  I am aware that He desires connection with me.  His desire for connection is beyond my ability to understand and/or appreciate.  I wonder, what is the best way for me to boost & amplify my connection with Him?  

I am convinced that if I am going to amp my connection with Him, I must learn to turn off the technology.  I must learn to quiet my inner cacophony.  I must learn to sit in silence and solitude that I might be positioned to hear His still small voice (1Kings19:12).  I am quite certain that His voice whispers: “I love You!” That message must be amplified with in me so that it overwhelms the noise of my culture.

That message is transformational!!  May we be transformed, Today!

The Season

School

At 9300 hundred feet in the mountains of Colorado, autumn comes early. The growing season is almost non existent. Before too long, the ski areas will start to blow snow onto the slopes.  By Thanksgiving a new ski season will be upon us.  One season…..summer? comes to an end and a new season…..winter begins.  Autumn is quite short.

The calendar year begins January 1.  It often starts with anticipation, celebration and great resolve.  This year, I am going to do something different.  This year I am going to accomplish all those things that have been on my list for so long.  This year will be different.  Yet, by March my life has settled in to its ruts of routine and and I have implicitly embraced mediocrity.  I do not like many parts of the me that I am.  Maybe, part of the problem is that the new year begins in the middle of a season: winter.

Maybe, we would all be more successful in living out the resolutions of our life if our new year started with the school year. In many ways, it seems like the new year really begins with the beginning of the school year.  (The school year should begin with Labor Day.  To start earlier is quite unAmerican.)  The new school year definitely represents a new beginning.  We are in a new grade, we have a new teacher, we have new pencils and we have a new opportunity to write on a clean slate. We even find ourselves buying new ‘school clothes’, with a hope that if we look good we might do good. In a similar way, the football teams start the season with a clean record and a new opportunity to impress.  Autumn is a season of new beginnings!

If we look at the calendar, we would say we are at the end of Q3 and we are moving into Q4.  From a business planning perspective we would say the same because of accounting and tax requirements.  But from a very pragmatic, personal perspective, I would suggest we are at a beginning point.  I find that encouraging and empowering.

Therefore, at the beginning of this new school year, it is appropriate to ask: What are the classes that I need to take?  What are the lessons I need to learn?  Who are the teachers, the best teachers, and how do I get into their class…..even if that class does not contribute to my degree program? Am I listening? Am I taking notes? Am I asking good questions? Am I getting ready for the test that is coming?

But, maybe the biggest questions revolve around one question: Am I committed to being a full time student, for the rest of my life?  Learning and growing are intricately intertwined!  Therefore, how committed am I to my personal growth, to my personal journey, during this new school year?

A new school year is beginning.  Are you ready? Set your alarm clock, you do not want to miss class!