You: 2018 Edition

So I’m back. First full week in the office in a month. Besides the expected comments and questions, here are two observations that were most likely true: “You look like you’ve lost weight,” and “You are on fire.” Welcome to sabbatical residual. Ran more miles in a month than any other month in four years. And rest equals sharpness.

Around this time of the year we start reflecting. Did I accomplish what I wanted this year? Is it too late? So what about next year? What goals do I need to set?

What if you asked a different question? Rather than figuring out New Year’s resolutions, what about this different angle: What upgrade do I need? From a spiritual perspective, what God-designed updates should be installed in the 2018 edition of me?

Not everyone can take a month off and gain residual, download a personal upgrade. But with some devoted time and thought over the next seven weeks, anyone can identify and engage with God what bugs need to be addressed and improvements could be installed from you, edition 2017.

For instance, considered these ten possibilities:

  • In the 2018 edition of my marriage, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my job, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my parenting, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my walk with God, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my hobbies, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my health, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my finances, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my friendships, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my vacation time, I will…
  • In the 2018 edition of my future planning, I will…

Forget New Year’s resolutions. Work on the upgrade. Allow God to design and install the 2018 edition of you.

50 days to launch!

Sabbatical: The Saturday After

It was a good month. A very good month. Memorable in many ways. I was asked Thursday what was the best highlight. I gave an answer, but I could give you a different answer if you asked me today.

Rather than do highlights, here is the end of my journal entry from 10/30:

The lessons I take away from this month are:

  1. Grace is so needed in this world. I need to give more of it.
  2. People are very lonely in this world. I can offer them hope through my obedience to serve and to give my time, talents, and respect. 
  3. God has what people need in this world. They can find it through various methods-church, community, music, dance, family, books, new friendships, similar connections, and jobs where they can love people. 
  4. There is much to be in awe of in this world. But it shouldn’t replace my awe for the one responsible for all of it. 

For a bonus thought, I’ll share this note from my morning run today. In my first few miles, I wasn’t necessarily feeling it. I thought 7.5 may do it today, although I needed to do more. However, the more I ran the better my legs felt making me think double digit miles were possible after all (I was wearing Alabama socks…gotta be it). I ended up getting just over 10 done and felt good following. It reminded me of Sabbatical race #3 in Dover. 

Here’s the deal: our minds are a tool. They can beat us up or tear us down. Controlling the self talk in our head determines if we’ll finish strong or finish at all. 

Bottom line: Own Your Mind.

Photos to illustrate: 

Following mile 1 in Dover. Thought: “How will these next 12 miles go?”


Finish Line in Dover. Thought: “Thanks, God. We owned those last miles.”

Sabbatical: Race #3

Delaware ✔

Yesterday morning at 7am around 400 runners gathered at the Dover International Speedway to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles. 
2:00:04 later, I’d checked off state 15. 

Last week a non-longdistancerunning friend asked me what I think about while running. So Mark, here’s a rewind as best I remember. 

M1 This is cool, running on the speedway, but not ideal. Stay slow until we leave the track.

M2 10:04 was a little slow. Let’s pick it up. Pass the guy in the Bama hat and say, “Roll Tide.”

M3-5 This is a nice neighborhood. Check out these old houses. Feeling good. Decent pace. Keep it through 5.

M6 Almost half done. Overall pace 9:27. Push to drop that by at least a second every remaining mile. End goal, finish with 9:15 pace. 

M7 There go the full marathoners. Now the mental game really kicks in. We’re not in the city anymore. Don’t let the pace slow because there aren’t as many runners around you. Stay with these two runners; they have a good pace.

M8 They slowed down, admitted they went out too fast. Move on. That millennial that just passed me will be the last person to pass me.

M9-10 Keep slowly picking off each of the group of five ahead. You might have a shot at catching the 2-hour group.

M11 These Alabama compression socks rock. This weather rocks. This course rocks. I can beat last weekend’s times. What is going on?

M12 Where is that 2-hour pacer? Oh, there he is. PUSH!

M13 No one told me the steepest hill was at the end. Get over it. Fly down the other side. You have done a negative split. I NEED ICE CREAM!

(There you have it. Below is the proof of states 13-15.)

Sabbatical: Race #2

Kentucky ✔

I found the Iron Horse Half Marathon race online. It is slated as a top destination race by Runner’s World. I now know why.

Midway, Kentucky isn’t far from downtown Lexington. Population, less than 2000. They may have as many horses. And this morning, it seemed about half the town was running the race.

The course really was picturesque. If you are a horselover and a runner, you should schedule this race. Be advised, it’s hilly. But you’ll be glad you did it. You feel like you are spending the morning on the horse farm. Very unique setting.

As for my “performance,” this was a test. How would I do running two halves back to back? How prepared was I? Would I manage myself well before, during, and after both races? 

I give myself a 90%. Surprisingly my thighs are worse off than my calves. I’ll take these two results happily and move on to State #15, possibly this next Saturday. Stay tuned

Sabbatical: Race #1

Indiana✔

Almost 1,600 of us converged on the streets of Evansville, Indiana, at 7amCST to run 13.1 miles. I finished in 2:03:31. Pleased with that.

EVENT REVIEW:

Everything about this race was done very well. 

  • Packet pickup was easy to find and speedy. (We got buckets along with our goodie bags…still not sure why)
  • Race parking was a breeze-plenty of it, and I unknowingly parked one block from the start line. Unheard of. 
  • The course was mostly flat-perfect for Floridians. It weaved nicely through neighborhoods and parks. 
  • The community presence was great. Very few areas weren’t covered with spectators, volunteers, first aid, or policemen.
  • Plenty of encouragement and refreshments at the finish line. Shout out to the announcer for calling out “John Gregory from Bradenton, Florida” repeatedly until the crowd cheered.

PERFORMANCE REVIEW: 

  • If I weren’t running again in the morning, I probably could have pushed to get under 2 hours. Good to know.
  • My pace stayed pretty steady through 10M. 57-degree start had a lot to do with that.
  • I surprised myself being able to pick up the pace the last half mile. Assimilating that on the treadmill pays off.
  • Shout out to Holly and another young lady who unknowingly paced me from miles 9-11. Strong job, Ladies.
  • State 13 done. On to 14 tomorrow. (Bucket list item: run a race in every state)

Sabbatical: Week 2 Project

This morning I headed out from TN where I’ve spent the week in Nashville. The weekend will take me to Indiana and Kentucky to run two races, and I’ll end up in Ohio to visit a friend for a few days before heading to NY on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago I posted a video teaser about my sabbatical activities. You were probably smart enough to figure out that the video footage was from a recording studio. If not, here’s the scoop. 

Over the years, people have encouraged me to do a recording. I’ve always dismissed the idea for lots of reasons, the main one being time. So when I was given the opportunity to take a month’s sabbatical, that excuse was no longer valid. Back in the spring, I connected with a producer, and we’ve been working on this project since then with the target of being prepared to do the recording this week. Target met.

I could write a lot about this process, but for now I’ll just relay what we did this week.

  • Monday was a full day at The Library Studio in Joelton where 18 string and brass players added their talents to seven of the songs. In the picture above is Dave Bechtel, producer, and Robert Nugent, arranger and pianist.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday the woodwinds were added, and we got vocals for nine of the songs recorded.
  • So yesterday was the final day, getting the last song recorded and some final tweaking.

The project is by no means complete. But you are now “in the know.” I’ll share more as we move along.

Sabbatical: Week 1 Roadtrip

Last week was a step back in time. My mom and sister Debra joined me on a roadtrip to Illinois. Final stop, Beecher City, population 500. This was a delayed 80th birthday trip for my mom to visit her twin sister and brother-in-law. 

Last time I was in Beecher City was probably before I started kindergarten. What would I know, but it appears not much has changed. For instance, to our surprise at the gas station, we received full service. I can’t remember ever receiving that. Anywhere.

We enjoyed the disconnect from the rest of the world for a few days. My mom and aunt enjoyed seeing the home they grew up in (cover photo above) and their high school and even catching up with classmates from their elementary one-room school classmates. A taste of yesterday. In this place. A meaningful week to start a sabbatical month.

Sabbaticals: Not So Unnormal

I’ve had interesting dialogue with people about going on sabbatical this month. For the large part, it seems people have an idea what a sabbatical is for, but it appears foreign because they’ve never been on one themselves. 

This is my first legit one. I say that because two seasons in the past I pretty much gave myself a sabbatical by choosing to leave jobs without transitioning immediately into another one. No regrets. Both ended up being about six months long. (I should have lobbied for more than a month this time. JK)

If you just Google various angles inquiring about sabbaticals, you find this is more normal than not. And it should be. How it’s defined is going to vary, yet the value will remain. To read one recipient’s review, follow this link.

So as I post throughout this month, I encourage you to ponder what a sabbatical might look like and mean for you, your family, your company. Become more normal.

Sabbatical Teaser

If you attend First Baptist Bradenton, you are most likely aware my month’s sabbatical is fast approaching. What you may not know is what my month will entail or why a sabbatical is even taken. More about those questions later, but this video is a teaser to an answer. 

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