Monthly Archives: February 2020

I can’t run today–and the lesson from that

Two weeks ago today, I ran 13 miles. I was proud of that because I had to walk part of the half marathon. Last week, when I ran my fastest 5K ever, my leg hurt a good part of the way, until it finally loosened up.

So I backed off. Skipped Sunday. Ran a decent pace Tuesday–five miles. And then went out for an easy run Wednesday. I’m discovering that easy runs are important. Something about slow-twitch muscle movement. But when I’ve done them, usually the day after a long run, I feel outstanding afterward.

Except Wednesday. I came back Wednesday with a muscle strain in my left calf and a painful left thigh and hip. The left thigh and hip have been with me since the thirteen-miler. The muscle strain was a delightful new thing.

So, finally, I did what a reasonable person would do. I shut it down.

I have two running friends who are taking a running cruise right now. The shore excursions are runs. Except for the fact that it’s hot where they’re running, I’m insanely jealous.

Also, low temperatures have been in the 40s the past two days–my absolute happy zone, running wise.

And yet I’m not running. I have to pull back.

Part of this is age. I can’t just ignore aches and pains like I used to. But a bigger part is the bigger picture. In order to run more later, I need to not run now.

It’s hard, because soon it will be horrible outside every single day. And I’ll pine for the days when I don’t come back soaked to death–the halcyon days when I could carry a quicker pace without crapping out way too soon.

These are those days.

But the whole point of running is to take care of myself–to do something for myself. Kind of like the whole point of working is to provide for myself and my family (well, myself and my wife now).

So running is a tool, then, to be used intelligently. And if I’m getting hurt, I’m not getting better.

And if I’m cranky and mad and stressed about work, then I’m not taking care of myself and my wife.

So my lesson right now, as I wish I were in my eight or nine, is well-received. Keep the bigger things in mind.

I literally have no reason to fear. Maybe it’s time to try living like it.

Note: I already messed this up today, so be kind to yourself.

Today’s message at church was about King Saul–the guy who ran Israel before King David. According to the message, Saul’s failure was predestined because after God told him through Samuel the prophet that he was God’s choice to lead the new kingdom of Israel, he ran away and hid when he should’ve been trusting in God.

Saul was a snappy dresser, but an awful king

His spirit of fear and timidity showed a profound lack of faith and trust in God that culminated when young David stepped into Saul’s leadership void and used a stone and a slingshot to kill a military foe who terrified the King. It’s not a good look for the leader of a nation to be upstaged by a sheep herder with some rocks.

The takeway is that it was all there for Saul to take, except he was too afraid to really trust and obey God.

Flash forward a few millenia. I give outstanding lip service to God, but I have to say I really don’t trust him. If I trusted him, I wouldn’t become a small, Chris-focused child when I’m afraid. I would roll through the big crises that threaten life’s foundations and the little nits that literally drive you to distraction. I’d stop condemning myself for not being…whatever it is my worst thoughts say I should be.

Fear is a dark place to be

Instead of taking shots (in whispered voices) at the people I think use their power incorrectly, I’d be praying for them. And I’d have an incredible attitude because I know how it all ends.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I can only control myself. (And that, not very well.)

So this week, I want to try to find out what it’s like to really, really trust God. To let the stuff go that pisses me off. To not get off my game by the person at work who messed with me just because he could. To not find a minor error to use as a catalyst to condemn myself. To not lose my mind over the thousand indignities that go with being alive in 2020.

I’d stop, take a second, and realize all of this is a distraction from the one thing that really matters–and and if I concentrated on that one thing, the other stuff would fall into place.

Think about the kind of week you’d have if you could pull that off, even some of the time. Think about the kind of week you could help others have.

Maybe it’s time to find out.

Sign confiscation at Astros games is a bad, uhh, sign

At the spring training game between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals yesterday, any fans who brought signs critical of the Astros after the sign-stealing scandal, had those signs confiscated. One of the signs read Houston *s, a clever play on words given the tainted nature of the Astros 2017 World Series victory.

Perhaps the best use of the asterisk in baseball history (ask Roger Maris if you don’t believe me)

That’s hardly over the line. Signs at the ballgame are not to be tolerated.

The anger stems from the fact that the Astros players spawned the scheme and were the only ones not punished for it. Under current employment law, any punishment would’ve resulted in a law suit that Major League Baseball probably would’ve lost. The theory is that the players weren’t adequately notified that they were subject to punishment for their actions.

Smart players would take that victory, shut their mouths, and weather the storm. Instead, Carlos Correa launched into a profanity-laced tirade against Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger after an interview in which Bellinger called out additional perceived cheating.

Photo credit: USA Today

Instead, new Astros manager Dusty Baker is already complaining about the possibility of his players getting issued some on-field justice in the form of other teams’ pitchers hitting Astros players.

To be clear, some of the abuse the Astros players taken on social media has been over the line. That’s the world we live in today. Social media warriors pronounce death sentences on a regular basis. That doesn’t make it right. But it doesn’t make the Astros right, either.

If a fan’s sign is abusive or offensive, it should be confiscated. It it bruises Carlos Correa’s already hurt feelings, too bad. The Astros are not the primary victims in any universe outside their own.

If the Astros keep chirping, there will be fastballs to the ribs. That’s the way baseball takes care of itself.

Intelligent leadership would let the process happen, making sure word gets out that you don’t throw at someone’s head. Intelligent leadership would allow the signs, assuming they aren’t offensive in nature. Intelligent leadership would allow the Astros players to live through a little hell to take the place of discipline Major League Baseball didn’t impose.

But this is 2020 in America and victimhood is power.

No league-wide directive has been issued saying Astros players are not to be touched by on-field justice. But the fact that Houston Asterisks isn’t acceptable at a spring training game isn’t a good sign.

In a world where the criminal justice system is increasingly focused on criminals as victims, if baseball decides the Astros must be protected at all costs, that wouldn’t be a surprise.

A new personal record

Today, I ran a 5K.

Last Saturday, I ran 13 miles. Because a 5K is only 3.1 miles, you’d think today’s run wouldn’t be a big deal then. Thirteen miles is a lot more than three miles.

But today, I ran fast–or what passes for fast when you live in my body.

Normally, depending on length and weather, I run anywhere between a 10:30 pace and a 12-minute pace. Last weekend’s thirteen-mile run came out around 11:40 a mile.

But there was a cost. My legs haven’t felt right since, and my goals for the week–8 miles Tuesday and 5 miles Thursday were cut back to three miles Tuesday and nothing Thursday. In all, today had all the makings of well…

They seed you in groups, based on your expected pace. I was in the 30-35 minute group, meaning I’d have to run faster than 11:40 per mile. It’s a popular race, so if you don’t keep pace, you clog up the crowded course even more.

As it turns out, I ran 9:52 per mile (9:50 per mile according to RunKeeper on my phone). I’ll periodically run a mile is less than 10 minutes, but I’ve never finished an entire run, even something as short as a 5K with a pace under 10 minutes. I ran the second mile in 9:13, which is like lightning for me–and was probably too fast, as I walked a bit in mile three and had to work a bit at not releasing my breakfast back into nature as I neared the finish line. There are bleachers there, so that would’ve been–not stellar.

But overall, I was happy (can’t you tell?).

My legs feel okay and I have what we in the game call a PR (personal record). You only needed part of a calendar to time me today, instead of the entire thing.

Walter Payton once ran for 275 yards during a game in which he was sick. Michael Jordan buried the Cleveland Cavaliers in an Eastern Finals game he played while he was sick. Baseball has a plethora of stories about dominant pitching performances by guys who felt iffy during warmups.

The point is, you don’t know how things will turn out until you decide to give it a shot. That’s true of a crowded 5K or the next day work looks like it’ll be a…well…

Gratitude #1433. For asshole reformation facilitators

I don’t know how it happened, exactly. I’m told I was a good-natured kid. Somewhere along the line I became governed by fear, anger, and bitterness. I felt an intense pressure to meet every need on the terms they were presented and every failure to deliver was a moral lapse.

Asshole Chris’s inner voice

That’s not a good starting point for building effective relationships. Hence the wellspring of my assholocity. (It’s a real word because I say so.)

It wasn’t that I had a driving desire to make everyone’s life miserable. I just couldn’t get out of my own way in my quest to be better.

There are three kinds of people who deal with folks like me (the former me). There are people who stay away–who have enough drama in their own lives and don’t go looking for other people’s. And there are people who see another’s struggles as a route to their own entertainment–who look for opportunities to push the right button and hammer away at that button with glee.

And then there are people who, for some reason, see beyond the asshole. Somehow they can glimpse the desire to be something better. They see the flailing around not as an attack, but maybe as someone trying not to drown.

Every reformed asshole has to do the work themselves. But you don’t become a former asshole (if there is such a thing) alone. Someone has to show you some degree of humanity.

There are people like that in my reformation process and I will never forget what they’ve done for me. In my belief system, Jesus is the Way to salvation, but other people are the way to the Way.

Every day I’m thankful for all the people who showed me the way to the Way. They weren’t the people I deserved, but they were the the people I needed.

Every single thing I do as a reformed asshole belongs in part to them. They helped me to see the world differently, to see possibility where I had previously seen threats.

The theologian Karl Rahner suggests the concept of anonymous Christians, that is, Christians who don’t hear (or properly hear) the Gospel message, but act as if they have. The people who helped me along also helped me to be closer to the guy God made me to be.

And here I am–a guy who self-identifies as Christian (albeit not a very good one). What’ve I done to help people step out off the mighty fortresses they’ve built around themselves?

To be fair, I’ve done some things. I try to stress the reformed part of being a reformed asshole. But there’s always more. Even Ted Williams probably looked back and said, “I could’ve hit .407 if I…”

It’s a righteous cause, helping assholes reform. It’s a lot easier not being an asshole, so anything I can do to help people down the road is something I want to do. I owe it to the people who helped me.

Empathy starts within

Mornings are hard for me.

I don’t know why, but they’ve always been. If I’m working at home, there’s a period after my wife leaves for work and my work kicks in where my mind is adrift. If I’m working in the office, there’s a quiet drive. And sometimes that’s when the anti-Chris goes to work.

No one knows how to hurt you like you know how to hurt yourself. And if you’re out for blood, you’ll pound that one spot the way Rocky went after Apollo Creed’s ribs.

And then you go out to face the world, already having a bad day because some jerk already treated you like garbage.

The world has become full of people who are absolutely certain, but not absolutely right. You have to wonder how they talk to themselves.

The truth is absolute for them/us and the only reason to deviate is, well, because you’re a deviant. You’re incompetent, immoral, just stupid. A waste of human flesh.

You can’t avoid those judgements of others if you’re as judgemental to yourself.

I used to view that as myself being exacting, demanding the best and expecting nothing less. Starting with myself and extending to all others. Commitment to excellence. Just win, baby.

Except people don’t work that way. You don’t work that way.

To be clear, kindness isn’t complacency. It’s not giving yourself an excuse to crap all over everyone else and pat yourself on back for it.

It’s recognizing your own failings and shortcomings and then identifying with the same in others. Empathy starts within.

By the time the evening comes, you’ll find plenty of people who are rigid and incomplete in their judgement of you. There’s no reason for you to be one of them.

Judgey McJudgerson, that guy in your 3 o’clock meeting

Put aside your internal Gunny Hartman and try a little Fred Rogers.

Chill out a little. If not for yourself, then for someone else.

Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

I know three people who quit their jobs recently without an exit plan. They just left.

One of them has multiple job offers she’s mulling (or was, the last I talked to her). Another has a couple side hussles and enough money saved to carry herself a while. I’m not close enough to the third to know a lot of details.

In my older, dare I say “Boomer,” mind, that’s lunacy. You don’t walk away from a job that pays well and has decent benefits. You suck it up. You do what it takes and do the damn job. You have responsibilities. A family to feed. Tuition to pay for. Retirement. You go for the cash.

It’s a very personal, a very important thing. Hell, it’s a family motto. Show me the money.

I’ve never really questioned that. And maybe that’s too bad.

I’ve written several times recently about being open to what God calls you to do–even when it’s counterintuitive. If God called me to walk away from a good-paying job, would I even hear that?

One of these people is a very good friend. Most of the response to her move has been “Wow. I wish I could do that.”

And to be fair, a lot of consideration went into her move. Finances were studied carefully. Deep discussions were had about plans and goals and the relative value of money.

The President unfailingly talks about the stock market and jobs and the great economy. All of that stuff is important. But as our ability to measure has become more ubiquitous, it’s become easier to equate success and happiness to those numbers, and to discount the intangibles. In the analytics era, if it’s important, you can measure it. If you can’t measure it, it just aren’t important.

Maybe it’s privilege that allows you to mull such considerations. If things are good, you can consider walking away. If you’re working a couple jobs just to keep the bills paid, you do what you have to.

And I’m not gonna lie–we’re in a relatively comfortable place right now.

What if there’s more to it than comfort? What if that whisper of unrest in the back of your mind needs to be heard and at least considered?

Maybe that’s the voice of God displacing the voice of the American Capitalist god and asking you to consider something else.

Maybe he doesn’t want you to save the world, but just consider changing your part of it a little

To be clear, I’m not dismissing America or capitalism. I like both of those things. I’m not looking to live in a Marxist utopia. But balance is the key. More and more, it seems we lack that balance and don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe those three people know something the rest of us don’t.

Sometimes pop art moves the bar

Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV solved his first case 40 years ago this year, when he shot the drapper smuggler and murderer LaBulle to death in a bathroom at Honolulu Airport.

Magnum stands over LeBulle, played by Robert Loggia

The show hadn’t found its legs yet. Magnum seemed like a bit of a frat boy. Rick ran a nightclub and thought himself a modern-day Rick Blaine. And Higgins was little more than a truculent jerk who hadn’t yet formed a bond with Magnum.

The music was even different (and totally inappropriate).

Any popular show works because the characters and story give you a reason to keep watching. Selleck’s charm carried the show early, but the other characters became indispensible. A key was softening of Higgins, from blustery idiot to surrogate father helping Magnum back from the brink of what was then referred to as delayed stress syndrome (now PTSD).

Thomas Magnum, over the edge

Tom Selleck never served outside a gig in the Army national guard. But Thomas Magnum was a graduate of the Naval Academy. He served as a Navy SEAL, got married in Vietnam and lost his wife–the one love of his life. He was captured, tortured, and watched multiple buddies die. His dark side, buried under Hawaiian shirt, a rubber chicken, and a constant battle with Higgins, never strayed far.

And after a view of the military dominated by M*A*S*H (in which Colonel Flagg made military intelligence an oxymoron), Magnum’s military was flawed but competent. It inefficient, sometimes uncaring, but worth of respect. For 80s television, it captured the balance between what was right and what was wrong about the military.

From what I read, it made a difference to the people who served, both men and women. One episode dealt with the post-war struggles for a former Army nurse, played by the late Marcia Strassman.

Aside from the fact that this show is way too old (40 years? really?) and still awesome, it illustrates important points, even about throwaway pop-culture “art”.

When Magnum debuted, the military–in particular Vietnam veterans–weren’t held in high esteem. As time passed, the group sins faded, too. And the stories of the people became individual and more nuanced.

Magnum helped clear the way for China Beach, and a slew of movies that showed the more nuanced truth.

If that led veterans to appreciate Magnum for showing them as something other than grotesque or cartoonish, then how can we today deny art that does the same for other populations who feel similarly marginalized?

I’m not saying you need to suddenly champion RuPaul, or cheer for the gay characters in any number of shows and movies. You don’t have to binge watch The L-Word or Ellen this weekend. But it is worthwhile to understand why, even if those characters don’t mean anything to you, they might mean something to others.

Why I’m not sure God’s gonna pick me

Our sermon today at church involved Matthew 25–the part where Jesus said to some of the people, “Come on in. For I was hungry, naked, in prison, or alone and you were good to me.” And those people say, “When did that happen?” Then, Jesus says “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” (All 236 verses, if you had Catechism as a kid, the way I did.)

The opposite is true, too for the goats, who will go outside to the dark where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth for they didn’t do for the least of his people.

How I envision Hell

As I’ve opined recently, I’m kind of an asshole at heart. Sometimes I struggle with the doing unto them and Jesus. I try to be a decent human being. I do my best to treat people decently. I’m not a murderer, rapist, burglar, or robber. I don’t play Nickelback where people can hear it.

Not on my Spotify playlist.

But I have been forgiven much and the burden of turning that forgiveness outward is not something that rests easily on me.

The dichotomist in me says I need to immediately don a Bernie Sanders t-shirt (made from organically grown hemp), throw open my door to the homeless, work to empty the prisons, and work for blanket forgiveness for everyone for everything. Then, and only then, might I have the faintest hope of redemption.

I’m not sure it’s that simple, though. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if Jesus were here today, he might like some parts of a Sanders platform, but he wouldn’t be a Bernie Bro.

So what does that mean to me?

It means Jesus didn’t die to make us comfortable. And, if we really give ourselves over to God, we should be at least a little uncomfortable. The God we’re supposed to worship is infinitely bigger than us. He’s something we can’t conceive of, let alone control.

If your God fits in a box of your own understanding, you might be worshipping an idol.

If I give myself over to him, I need to be okay with whatever He decides, even if I don’t like it in the moment. I need to trust in Him and not my own understanding.

It means God never, ever agrees with me. A mighty, awesome God doesn’t fit in my head. So whether it’s my stance on defense and social spending, capital punishment, gay people, or how to approach that person at work who makes my chest tighten, I have to follow His lead. And faith means sometimes you go along even if you don’t understand.

It means I can’t condemn, whether it’s that person at work, the latest person who’s dressed me down for not seeing it their way, or that guy who does 27 in a 45 while having a text conversation.

Dude, it’s dangerous to other people because you might hit them and to you because I may beat you to death with a spiked baseball bat

While anger is a valid emotion, it means I should test my anger to see if it’s aimed at injustice or just my own inconvenience or view of the world.

And, probably most important, it means I need to be more generous and courageous with my time, talents, treasures, viewpoints, and thought processes. It means I need to be less concerned about might hurt and more concerned about opportunities to ease their pain. And to go the distance in doing so.

To recap, Jesus died so Chris could use Field of Dreams metaphors

God didn’t call me to be Mother Theresa; He already made her. But he called me to be the Chris that positively touches the most people possible. He called me to unguard my calloused little heart, my calendar, and my bank account.

I’m okay at that. And a damn sight better than I’ve ever been before.

But I’m not sure I’m good enough at it. Not to escape the lake of fire that burns but never consumes, but to help people escape their own metaphorical hells right here.

Well all have our own special hell that we custom craft, just for ourselves.

At times, I absolutely suck at that.

Too often, I’m okay with that. Some believers would say my faith is weak–and they’re right. But discomfort isn’t necessarily the sign of weak faith. Sometimes, it’s a sign of a growing heart.

Freedom of expression is awesome if you agree with me

I first noticed it when Tea Party members showed up heavily armed at anti-Obamacare rallies. Since then, that kind of bullying tactic as political dissent has continued and intensified. The most recent instance was in the State of Virginia, where protesters showed up masked and heavily armed, looking more like an occupation force than people unhappy with a political decision.

While there isn’t a puppetmaster pulling strings to orchestrate this approach, there is a man in the White House who seems to applaud such activity when it’s done to support him. After all, it was candidate Donald Trump who suggested that protesters at his rallies be knocked around and offering to pay the legal fees of anyone who did.

A friend of mine was threatened at a Trump rally in 2016 for standing toward the back of the event silently and holding a small anti-Trump sign.

In short, we’ve reached the point in this free country where you’re free to agree with me–and that’s the extent of it. President Trump is, after all, the boss of the country, so loyalty to the country starts and ends with loyalty to Trump.

To be sure, we’ve had similar trends before. While the Civil Rights and anti-war movements were largely peaceful, SDS and the Weathermen weren’t false flag operations. You can go as far back as 1905 (and further), when Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg was assassinated as part of labor war over representation for miners.

Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg. He blowed real good.

No one’s dying over it, but social media is also amplifying the divide. More than once, after saying Bernie Sanders is a socialist (a label he’s embraced since he was mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s) I’ve been “schooled” by Sanders followers, who then proceeded to demand my vote for his candidate.

NOT a socialist, though socialism is moral and awesome and you should absolutely accept it without question

To be clear, there’s a massive difference between a throng of ill-mannered Bernie Bros acting as Twitter warriors and the implied threat of force if the Virginia legislature passes gun control legislation.

But all of this grows from the same stump–freedom of expression and action is fine, as long as you exercise that freedom the way I want you to.

To many Trump supporters, you cannot be a good American who loves this country and oppose President Trump. While there are also assaults the other way, Trump, as seems to be his need, trumped all this by saying there were good people on both sides at the Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended in murder.

Good people from just movements don’t drive their cars into groups of people, trying to kill them.

President Trump seems to be okay with such activities when they’re done on his behalf.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Trump and Sanders oppose each other in the general election. While Sanders’ followers, the Bernie Bros, don’t seem as prone to assault as Trump’s, they’re every bit as demanding that every knee must bend and tongue confess that Bernie Sanders is the messiah.

Either way, in a country that’s supposed to hold the First Amendment sacrosanct, these are worrisome times.