Behind the Scenes

I was in Harrisburg, PA this past weekend seeing the sights – State Capitol (beautiful), Civil War Museum (sobering/informative/surreal), local restaurants (yum!), a run along the Susquehanna River, etc.

In the midst of all the fun stuff it was interesting to see the “dark side” of things too:

– A homeless man sitting on the steps of an immaculate church building,  cursing loudly as people walked by in their Sunday best.

– Reading about what a disappointment the current mayor has been and how the city’s in rough economic shape with pretty low morale.

– Finding out after the “official” Capitol tour that the architect behind its impressive creation was actually imprisoned for a graft scandal. Yikes!

– Learning that the city of Harrisburg was anything but noble and heroic during the Civil War. When the Confederate army threatened to invade, most people fled instead of staying to help the troops, and many of those who remained did so to take advantage of battle-weary Union soldiers by charging them exorbitant prices for basic things such as a cup of water.

It’s natural to want to hide weaknesses, struggles, and failures from others. But learning these things about the city actually made it more real and accessible to me. We can’t relate to perfect things because we’re all imperfect.

I’ve been indifferent, I’ve been demoralized by poor leadership, I’ve lied to come out ahead, I’ve run from difficulty and taken advantage of others.

Its easy to ignore, avoid, or hide the negative. But there can be something healthy about seeing and revealing it at times too.

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Good Form

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When I first began running, I had no idea what I was doing. Frankly, I didn’t think it mattered. I mean, how hard can it be, right? You just grab a pair of shoes and get out there and go, right?

Well, yes and no.

You CAN just get out there and go, but the more you learn about running (or anything for that matter), the more you realize that there are ways to optimize the experience.

You learn about proper posture, different strides and different kinds of footwear, pacing, training plans, proper nutrition, even mental strategies for being your best.

And you know what? After learning all that (still on the journey) I’m better for it. Now when I run, I have a checklist I go through: feet landing underneath my hips, knees not knocking, arms swinging out in front of me, hands and shoulders relaxed, head upright, breathing controlled and rhythmic, etc. It’s made a huge difference in how fast and far I can run. Its also helped to reduced injury.

When I’m running, I don’t think, “Man, this structured running form thing is so restrictive. I should just go back to flailing.” No, the discipline of the form is actually FREEING. I’ve come to enjoy it. I know it’s helping me achieve my goals.

It’s easy to view personal discipline as a drag. It takes effort. It can be hard. It requires time. But like good running form, discipline actually enables us to do the things we’re already doing so much better. It can even help us to begin doing things we’ve always wanted to to do, but have never gotten around to.

I didn’t learn about or implement good running form overnight. It was a process. It’s taken several years. There have been ups and downs. But it’s paid off. That’s how becoming disciplined in something tends to work.

What if we saw personal discipline as a friend – an ally – instead of as some form of guilt-driven self-punishment? What if we realized it was a gift and we gave ourselves lots of grace to take baby steps towards it everyday? What if we viewed it not as something we either have or don’t have, but as something we grow, like a muscle, when we use it?

How have you tended to view discipline? Has your mindset been helping or hurting?

Jesus Loves Me

A few months ago we started singing “Jesus Loves Me” to Leo before bedtime. We sang it the predictable, boring way, and he responded in a predictably bored way. He is an active, adventurous, mischievous toddler after all.

So we started singing it the “boy” way. We toss him the the air, tickle him unexpectedly, grab his little toes at key points in the song, etc. He loves it. Now he asks for “more”.

Leo may be too young to grasp the meaning of the song, but I think that our playful, happy version actually reflects the heart of God in a special way. Not that God can’t be calm and quiet – he can be. But he can also be playful and wild and adventurous.

I want Leo to grow up knowing every aspect of God’s real character – not some stale stereotype our culture has handed down to us.

I could be wrong, but I think Jesus may enjoy the “fun” version more too.