In the Ditch

This week I toured a new residency for a nonprofit whose mission is to provide homeless women and men with mental health challenges a hope for the future. Second Heart Homes is the name of this Sarasota-based nonprofit.

The facility my colleague and I toured-the first residence in their program designed for women-just opened in December. At the moment, three clients are in the program; the facility will eventually be prepared to house 12 women.

My first visit in one of Second Heart’s Homes was in the fall of 2020. I revisit that first tour every time I enter a new residence. Each visit in each residence breathes new life into everyone in the room. Why? Because their is love and hope in each heart and smiles on each face.

Yet, the reality remains that behind that smile is a heart and mind with wounds waiting to be healed. Steps have been taken to start the healing, but the journey has just begun.

This hit home as I heard a simple illustration about one of the new clients in the women’s facility. Although she’s been there for several weeks…although she was friends with one of the other women before moving in…although she no longer has to rely on the Salvation Army for shelter each night, she has to have lights on and her purse is under her pillow while she sleeps.

Take a moment. Imagine what’s behind these necessities.

The image of a purse under a pillow stuck with me. Many thoughts went through my mind, so many to chew on. The one that I most appreciated was this: Thank God someone got in the ditch for this lady.

True empathy cares about not just providing a pillow but what it might be used to protect. True empathy gets in the ditch.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

First 2022 Reads

If my first two reads of 2022 are any indication, I’m in for an education.

Book #1

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about the start of Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). It’s quite a story. In this memoir, you learn just how passionate founder Cameron Townsend was and how that passion laid the foundation for one of the largest mission organizations. His vision and commitment led many world leaders to join forces to transform communities. He used what he had and relied on God for what he didn’t have.

Book #2

If James Cone only wrote this book for me, it would have been worth his time. I’m thankful for the direction I received to read it. I had no idea what I was going to learn and experience. I learned many things. Much of what I learned gave voice to my mind’s whys I didn’t know I needed to voice and answered my soul’s questions I didn’t know I needed to know. As a white, 53-year-old son of a Baptist preacher, my heart ached and my eyes teared through much of this book. So many what if’s and why not’s simultaneously producing shame and empathy, anger and compassion. My view of American history has changed. My appreciation for suffering has deepened. My belief in Jesus’ sacrifice has solidified.

These two books exemplify why it’s important to read. What are you reading? What education will you give yourself in 2022?

Race Day is Coming…Ready?

Yesterday my run was a 6-mile route I created last Summer. It mostly runs east and west, as you can see here:

At the mile 1 turnaround, I noticed something. I had been running with the wind to my back, which meant for the next three miles it was now in my face. Made me stop (I didn’t actually stop running) and think…and this is where my mind went the next three miles.

Some windy days are worse than others. On those worse days, like this past Sunday when gusts were 20+MPH, I run as much as possible in the crosswind. Of course, you always have the choice to say, “No thanks. I’m not even lacing up.”

Ultimately, you need to run into the wind. Why? Because Race Day is Coming!

All the training weeks before race day you can do whatever you want in choosing to deal with the elements. But come race day, it’s out of your hands. There’s no opting out. The course is already laid out, and the elements are not in any human’s hands. Race Day is here. You have to deal with it.

Runner or not, we all have race days.

  • Newly engaged…race day is coming
  • Newly pregnant…race day is coming
  • Final child about to graduate…race day is coming
  • Mid-life career change approaching…race day is coming
  • Anticipating retirement…race day is coming

These race days, if you’re living life well, you see coming and can do your best to make the right training choices. There are some race days you don’t see coming. Like 100MPH wind race days. If you are a “This Is Us” fan, this week you saw Beth and Randall have to deal with a major Race Day with their 17-year-old. All race days, known and unknown, come, and you don’t have a choice but to deal with the elements.

So what do we do? Sure, most training days and race days are mild. Enjoy them to the fullest. On those “unmild” days, recognize you have choices. If you want to be ready for race day, you’ve got to be willing to run into the wind occasionally. When that’s not your best option, it’s okay to slow the pace or claim it as rest day.

Be wise. Race day is coming.

You Have Options

Three Saturdays ago I was sleeping the day away, pretty sure I had COVID. Test came back the next day affirming my suspicion.

I test my health often by running. Can I? How did it go? Do I need a nap soon after? Yadda yadda.

Thankfully my case was mild. I “ran a test” with a decent 5k the following Wednesday, but not every run since has been an indicator that all is well.

Earlier this week I set a plan to run each day this weekend-a progressive schedule of six miles on Friday, seven on Saturday, and eight on Sunday. Nothing new. This was a routine schedule this past Fall.

Not sure what it is, but Friday runs since the Summer have occasionally been rough. Yesterday was one of them. I cut it short, ending up with 4.15 miles. I haven’t let my mind look at Fridays any differently…well, until yesterday.

So last night and this morning I debated how far I should run this morning. Not running wasn’t an option I considered. I landed on simply running the same route as yesterday and see how the six went. Around mile two my legs felt pretty much like yesterday, not quite as sluggish. I decided it didn’t matter what pace I had to adjust to, how much walk/running I had to do, six miles was happening today.

A little over three miles I stopped for a quick water break in the park. I didn’t stop long. I didn’t want my body to tell my mind what to do. Somewhere in mile four my legs perked up. I told myself, “Go with it.” I adjusted my course and ran past my next turn taking the next road instead.

I ended up taking four more such turns and completed just under seven miles…with more in the tank.

Here’s my takeaway. We all have days when things don’t go according to plan. We all have to deal with letdowns, apparent failures, missed goals. At the end of those days when we assess the next one, we have options. They range from shutting down to overcompensating. Usually, somewhere in the middle is the best option.

How your next day goes is entirely up to you. You have options.

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

2021 Library

For a fourth year I have followed a self-developed reading strategy with the objective to read broader. The goal: read books falling under nine headings. This strategy is still working for me.

For the curious, here is the library of 21 books (Look at that! 21 in ’21! Totally coincidental…or was it?) listed alphabetically and avenue of reading:

  • The Greatest Motivational Tool by Rod Olson (hard copy)
  • Simplifying Coaching by Claire Pedrick (kindle)…best book on coaching I’ve read in a while
  • The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby (hard copy)…most challenging book in this library
  • Presence by Amy Cuddy (hard copy)…book with best takeaway, “Fake It ‘Til You Become It.”
  • Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn & Chan Hellman (kindle)…favorite book in this library
  • Opening Up by Writing It Down by James Pennebaker & Joshua Smyth (kindle)
  • Now Hope by Paul De Jong (kindle)
  • Into the Silent Land by Martin Laird (kindle)…most surprising book in this library
  • Baca by Valerie Hyer (hard copy)
  • Unfinished Business by Lee Kravitz (audio)
  • When Mama Can’t Kiss It Better by Lori Getz (kindle)
  • The Journey by Lee Ann Martin (hard copy)
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (hard copy)
  • Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt by Jentezen Franklin (kindle)
  • Prepare by J. Paul Nyquist (hard copy)
  • Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson (hard copy)
  • Awe by Paul David Tripp (kindle)…I read this annually
  • Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table by Louie Gigilio (kindle)…favorite Christian living book in this library
  • How the Light Gets In by Pat Schneider (kindle)…second favorite book in this library
  • Heartbreak to Hope by Samuel Wright (hard copy)
  • Another Gospel by Alisa Childers (kindle)

I’m Here To…

Around mile 2 of my run this morning, I passed a runner who was struggling. And I might add, it’s December 31st and 70F at sunrise, so understandable. I feel you.

But what really caught my eye was his shirt. I hadn’t seen one, but maybe you have. Here’s an example:

Gave me a chuckle. And gave me something to think about the rest of my run.

Was that guy actually making a statement about his running? Or was it “just” the first shirt he grabbed?

Was his apparent struggle to be running supported by his shirt? Or was it a declaration a day early of 2022?

Whatever the case, this statement aligns with how we often show up. And it mostly has to do with that second word. That four-letter word says quite a bit. And it often says, much like a familiar bumper sticker, “I’d rather be somewhere else.” So maybe in that runner’s case, “I’d rather be sitting on my lanai, drinking another cup of coffee, watching College Game Day!”

In the spirit of improving how we show up, let me throw out a couple of suggestions.

One, drop the word “just” anytime you’re making a statement about why you’re anywhere. Whatever amount of tongue biting is involved (been there), stay silent until you can state why you’re there without sounding like you don’t want to be.

Second, on a deeper level in the spirit of New Year’s Eve, how about editing this statement to declare how you desire to show up? “I’m here to __________.” How do you fill in the blank this coming Monday at 8AM? What best completes that sentence for your hopes for the first month of 2022? The first quarter? The entire year?

Declare to yourself, to God, and to whoever else that would benefit, “I’m here to __________.”

Here’s to showing up with purpose in 2022!

If You Were a Flower Arrangement…

Today I had a terrific call with a coaching client. As they shared their reflections on the year, an interesting symbol came to my mind. It was somewhat fresh in my mind because I had just received it in a text this morning.

This image seemed appropriate to share because of symbolism we had used in the coaching work when we first began. The imagery was based on the petals of a flower. The exercise was to determine how many petals make up the different elements of one’s life and to create an image based on the importance of those elements – in essence, use the image of a flower to put your life in perspective.

That imagery for this client set the tone for eight months of work. Listening to them describe how they see themselves now and where they are on their journey, this idea came to mind. What if the exercise where expanding from the image of one flower to a bouquet of flowers?

So I pulled up this image to screen share:

This was an arrangement my mother received just this morning. After I pulled it up, I simply challenged my client to consider this: “How would a flower bouquet of your life eight months ago compare to one today?” As a person of vision and words, that spoke to them.

If that speaks to you, go ahead. Get out a pad. Write, draw, or both. Take an inventory. How would your life look as a flower arrangement? If you’d like it to look different, what are some things to address as you enter 2022? Pick one flower and start beautifying your bouquet.

Here’s to a nicer bouquet!

Tucson Reflection #4

A little travel trivia for you based on an article by Livability (2016):

  • The average American has visited 12 states.
  • The top five visited states are Florida, California, Georgia, New York, and Nevada.
  • California, Florida, and New York residents have visited fewer states than the typical American.
  • 10% of Americans have never been to a state other than the one they live in.
  • Americans take more than four leisure trips per year.

My Thanksgiving trip of 11 days, counting airports, took me to five states. Looking at these trivia points, it would be foolish of me not to see my life as privileged.

At some point on this trip, maybe on a plane or driving around Tucson, a thought occurred to me. The more I travel to new places the smaller I get. I’m pretty sure it was while I was in Tucson. I’m guessing because Tucson was unlike any other city I’ve visited.

Sure, it is American. Sure, it is modern. Sure, it is multicultural. Sure, it is a University town. Sure, it is picturesque. Sure, it is probably just about anything you’d want a city to be where you live or visit.

Something about Tucson, though, expanded my world and reminded me that the world is quite big. Therefore, I am quite small.

Now, someone might read that and the takeaway would be, “That sounds depressing.” Thankfully, with the worldview I have, my response is the opposite. I’m grateful for the reminder.

Too often my world revolves around me. I’m “bigger” than I really am. Is that because I’m American? Single? Male? White? Privileged? Floridian? Alabama fan? Probably. But it’s also because I’m human, in the lineage of Adam. I fall prey to wanting to be like God.

The smaller we children of Adam see ourselves in comparison to God the better our lives are. We allow the fullness of His presence; we give him more space to reveal he’s bigger. Bigger than us. Bigger than our stuff. Bigger than our circumstances. Bigger than our doubts. Bigger than our fears. Bigger.

On behalf of all the children of Adam, thank you, Tucson! You remind us God is Big!

Photo by REVOLT on Unsplash

Tucson Reflection #3

Running in the Holualoa Tucson Half Marathon had more than one first in store for me.

Yes, it was my first, and most likely only, race in Arizona.

One first I didn’t know was going to happen was sitting on a shuttle bus for over an hour to stay warm before waiting another 30 minutes before the start. It would be nice if that didn’t happen again.

The other first that I did know about beforehand was this…the course was mostly downhill. See below:

Sounds easy. Maybe looks easy. Here’s the deal: it messed with my head. I didn’t make an amateur move and start out too fast. It actually felt like I managed my pace pretty well. But it was deceiving. Although it felt okay, turned out my first, and most likely only, largely downhill race may have messed with my head in a totally new way.

You know the boiling frog syndrome metaphor?

Failing to act in a situation increasing in severity until reaching catastrophic proportions.

Well, it didn’t get catastrophic. No paramedics were involved. Nothing like that.

What happened was I thought I was fine and was going to be able to keep the pace I started, but my body didn’t agree with my head. The subtle impact of the course won. It gave me a reminder. Being comfortable, being fine, going downhill has its own challenges. Adjust. Keep learning. The course, the journey always has something to teach you.

On behalf of all us frogs, thank you, Tucson! May we never stop learning!

Tucson Reflection #2

Getting to Tucson was no joke. The trip started by a 5AM EST (3AM in Tucson) alarm in St. Augustine followed by a three-hour stop in Orlando before boarding flight #1 in Tampa. After a four-hour layover in Denver, the final leg of the trip landed me in Tucson; after a short ride to the AirBnB, I got in bed at 12AM. If you’re counting, that’s a 21-hour day. Not necessarily the smartest start to a weekend for running a half marathon.

When you arrive in the middle of the night to a place you’ve never been, you pretty much have no idea, nor do you really care, what that city has to offer. I apologize to you, Tucson, but I had no idea what you had in store for me when I walked out the door to go to lunch a few hours later. You slapped me in the face with this view:

I didn’t mind the surprise. In fact, I couldn’t get enough. For the next 48 hours, I kept shaking my head and saying to myself, and I guess to God, “What? This is spectacular.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in Florida most of my life. Maybe it’s because different is intoxicating. Or maybe it’s because most surprises just aren’t this good.

Regardless of the maybes, here’s what I do know. I will never get over that the Creator of things that slap me in the face also humbled himself to see me, to know me, to rescue me, to offer me hope, to say, “Just wait ’til you see what I’m making for you.”

On behalf of all who visit you, Tucson, thank you! You remind us there’s a matchless surprise to come!