It’s 2:30 in the morning and I am struggling. My headlamp has gone out, and I’m slipping and sliding in ankle deep mud, cutting my hands on rocks and exposed branches as I fumble in the pitch dark. This was not part of the plan. My legs are tired, I’m cold and wet, and I know I’ve still got 6 hours to go…
Welcome to Toughest Mudder Texas.
An 8-hour, multi-lap, obstacle course race that lives up to it’s name as one of the “Toughest” OCR races out there.
I’d arrived in Smithville, Texas a few hours before at 10pm and joined the throngs of other excited and nervous racers who were all getting their kit and nutrition set up in the Athlete’s Pit Area tent. While laying out on my 1m x 1m patch of table all the gear and food that I thought I would need over the next 8 hours, I immediately struck up a conversation with the guys getting ready around me, and the strategising began…
“What are you going to wear?”
“How cold do you think it will be?”
“What’s the best way to approach Kong, or Blockness Monster?”
“What distance are you aiming for?”
Everyone had their own game-plane, everyone had their own target – but we were all united in our pursuit to BEAT OUR BEST. That’s really why I had signed up. I wanted to know – needed to know – what would happen to my mind and body when pushed beyond my limits.
I would soon find out.
The race started on the stroke of midnight, and with adrenaline pulsing through my veins, and the cheer of the crowd in my ears, I and five hundred other Mudders bolted out into the dark. The first lap was pretty fast, and only a handful of obstacles were open, so it passed quickly and in a bit of a blur. One thing was clear though right from the start – this was going to be one hell of a race! Because of the enormous amount of rain the area had seen in the days leading up to it, much of the course had turned into thick, leg-sapping, strength-draining mud.
So much mud.
Mud for miles.
The first lap took 47min and I opted not to pit and continued back out into the night for lap two. Now more obstacles began to open and the second realisation dawned. This course had a lot of water… Most of the obstacles – like Arctic Enema and Cage Crawl – included getting wet, and somewhere in the middle of the course was also a 500m section of creek that we had to wade waist deep through. Temperature regulation was going to be key.
Having opted to wear my Frogskin Wetsuit 1mm top, I definitely overheated a bit on lap 1, but by lap 2, and as the temperatures continued to plummet through the night, I was so glad to have it.
The obstacles themselves were fantastic. Having never done a Tough Mudder before, many of them – like Kong and Funky Monkey, (that tested grip strength, especially being wet and covered in mud) – were completely new from me, but ones I had seen or heard about. Personally I love the obstacles, and having the majority of them packed into the second half of the lap, meant that that section of the course always went by faster for me. There was something else to focus on other than running through mud in the dark.
Also, as is Tough Mudder’s tradition – many of the obstacles like Blockness Monster (basically a large rotating block suspended in water that you have to scale over twice) require help and assistance from other racers. I loved this aspect of camaraderie and teamwork, and usually, after clearing an obstacle, I would take a moment to turn around and help whoever it was that was coming up behind me. This really creates a sense of community out on the route, and is part of the secret sauce of Tough Mudder’s success.
Back to the race…
At the end of lap two (53min split) I felt pretty good and was in high spirits. I took a quick pit-stop to grab some food and drink, and headed back out.
Then lap 3 happened.
I had been making mental notes of certain checkpoints along the route and monitoring my time at those points. So, when I arrived at checkpoint one (a long barb-wire-crawl called Kiss of Mud 2.0) a full 5min behind my previous lap time, I realised how much I had slowed down. Combine that with my headlamp giving up on me in the middle of the forest’s most technical trail section, and things started to get real.
I dug deep, pressed on, and made it back to the start in 1h07min – a full 14min slower than the previous lap! At this stage (3am and 24km in) I had also started to get pretty cold and my legs had started to really stiffen up. Also, my shoes had taken in a lot of mud and debris in the creek, and small stones were cutting my feet and causing blisters on my heels. I tried to clear the stones but couldn’t, so after changing out my headlamp – limped out again into the fray, somewhat dejected and a little overwhelmed that this was still a LONG way from over.
Oh, and to top it off, it was at this stage that Ryan Atkins, undoubtedly the world’s best endurance OCR racer, came flying past me – lapping me and adding insult to injury!
Nevertheless, I counted it a blessing to be racing with such incredible athletes like Ryan and tried to pick up the pace a bit into lap 4.
To be honest I don’t remember much of lap 4 or 5. It was a case of one foot in front of the other, one obstacle at a time, managing the pain…
I do remember putting on my hoodie to stave off the cold.
I do remember wondering what the hell I was doing.
I do remember thinking how far away from home I was and how much I missed my family.
I do remember praying.
And I also remember seeing the first signs of light as dawn approached. And I remember stopping and looking around in the creek at how incredibly beautiful this place was.
It’s amazing how just that light can bring with it such a sense of hope.
And then almost suddenly it was morning. A glorious morning, and I had completed lap 6.
Total time 7 hrs. Total distance 51km
Now I faced a tough choice: Stop, rest, get warm – as most of the racers were doing – or push myself for one more final round. I knew I had been running the last two laps around the 1h18min mark, and that I only had 1h27min left before the clock ran out. That meant I was going to have to push it to make it.
All the excuses I could muster came marching through my mind in defiant procession.
I’m so so tired.
My feet are sore.
I’ve done well – why do more?
No one will care whether you do 6 or 7 laps.
This is just stupid.
Don’t do it.
It was at this point I thought of my coach, Trish. And I knew exactly what she would be saying to me:
Tom, you’ve got this.
You’ve done the prep work.
You’re stronger than you think you are.
C’mon – dig deep.
Just one more lap!
Thankfully I listened to Trish and not myself and decided to give it one last push! I ripped off my socks and shoes in the pit area, put on a new pair of both, and with a renewed sense of determination and grit, headed on out one last time.
In the end my last lap was one of my fastest, and once I realised I was gonna make it with time to spare, I relaxed into it, enjoying the last few obstacles, and crossing the finish line with an exhausted body, a full heart, and all of the feels.
Total time: 8h19min. Total distance: 59km
A huge thank you to my incredible coaches Claude & Trish who have walked with me through the ups and downs of the daily training grind. To my beautiful wife, Jess, who loves me unconditionally – even though I want to do these crazy things. To my boys, who I thought of so much during that long night, and who inspire me daily to be the best version of myself. To my AOT family who messaged and cheered me on all the way from South Africa. To my mom and dad – for everything, really. And of course to my sponsors: Salomon, Keto Nutrition, AOT, Supamama – without whom I would not be able to do what I love.
T.S. Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.
That night I found out how far I can go, and came out realising I can – we can, all of us, go a lot farther than we give ourselves credit for. So whatever your dream – go out and get it! Because you’re a lot TOUGHER than you think you are!
That’s what TOUGHEST MUDDER taught me.
I recently read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. I couldn’t put it down. It tells the true-life story of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific theatre, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war in three brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. The story is pretty harrowing, yet through all the torture and torment Louie remained “unbroken”. His positivity, resilience, and fortitude to survive were nothing short of inspiring. And it got me thinking…
“What will it take for me to remain unbroken in 2017?”
Because one thing we know – the waves and the storms and the challenges are coming. While a new year brings a fresh start and a new hope, the unfortunate reality is that in 2017 politicians will continue to lie, wars will continue to wage, economies will continue to rise and fall, and #fees may or may not fall! And if we are going to allow ourselves to be cast up and down – like Zamperini’s little life raft on the Pacific Ocean – by the waves of external circumstances, then we are in for a rough ride. Yet if we, like Louie, can rise above these challenges and remain steadfast, hopeful – then we will begin to touch greatness. Because great people do great things not in easy times, but in tough times.
So here are three ideas I gleaned from Louie’s story that can inspire us to live well in 2017, whatever comes our way:
1. Be Present
The ancient prophet Isaiah says, “Do not dwell on the past”, and the Rabbi Jesus encourages us not to “worry about tomorrow, because each day has enough trouble of it’s own”. Which is interesting… because if we shouldn’t dwell on the past and we shouldn’t worry about the future, what does that leave us with?
The reality is today is all we really have. And the best gift we can give to tomorrow is to give all we have to today. So be present. Be present in your business meeting. Be present with your kids when you get home. Be present with your spouse.
Put your cell phone down and engage with the people who are sitting in front of you. The science is clear; people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook. Nothing wrong with social media, but too much screen time is definitely a problem. If you’re at dinner with friends, and you’re texting someone who isn’t there – that’s a problem. If you wake up and check your phone before you say good morning to the person lying next to you – that’s a problem. Make no mistake this can be an addiction. And like all addictions, it’s robbing us. It’s robbing us of those little serendipitous moments of connection and awareness that, in the end, are the very things that make relationships great. So be present.
2. Be patient
We live in a world of instant gratification. Want something? Buy it online. Immediately. Want to watch a movie or a series? Well then what are you waiting for? Hey, you can even binge watch the whole series now! Want to go on a date? – just swipe right. As Simon Sinek says, “Everything we want we can have instantaneously, except strength of relationships, fulfilment, joy and job satisfaction. Because these things are slow meandering, uncomfortable, messy processes.”
So be patient in 2017. The things that really matter most, like love, trust, joy, self-confidence, a healthy marriage, and a great career – all take time.
3. Be powerful
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
Don’t sell yourself, or God, short. There is a power within you you have yet to fully realise. A divine light that wants to shine in the darkness. So let it shine!
For my full Sunday sermon on the subject, watch the video below…
It’s gonna take me a while to get used to that.
It’s no secret I’ve never been a fan of DT. I find his manner, his arrogance, his misogyny, his xenophobia, his racist rants – all offensive.
But regardless of what I think, he will be the next President of the United States of America, and the de-facto leader of the free world. Because make no mistake, when America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.
Now, I am certainly no economist or politician, and this blog is not about whether I think he’s gonna do a good job or not. Only time will tell us that. What I want to know is – How in the world did voting for Trump become “the Christian vote”?
For me the travesty is not that Trump won, the travesty is that 81% of white Christians voted for him, I think because of this?
This is where it gets weird. Because life and faith and belief cannot (and should not) be divided into a red or a blue column. Jesus was a refugee, immigrant, non-white, pro-life, pacifist, who said put down your guns and spent most of his life serving the marginalised minorities. He doesn’t fit into either column. He never has. That’s why they crucified him.
I myself am pro-life, but I am also against a strong funded military and against strong immigration laws (based on what I believe the Bible says about these things). So what does that make me? Certainly not the authority on all things biblical, but why can’t I be a bit of both? Why does it have to be so polarised?
This is the great deception.
Yet we are determined to insist on this false dualism.
We consume media that fits our perspective, interact with people on social media who agree with us – leaving no understanding of the other – all the while fostering a “you’re either for us or against us” mentality that forces people to extremes because it eliminates the middle ground.
Now I get it, people in the States are tired of the political machine. Country folk think their way of life is disappearing. And they’re right. The other side is not dumb, and there is a smugness in American liberalism we could all do without. Voting for Trump was a big F-you to the liberal bourgeois elite and a desperate cry for change. I get it. We vote for change when we’re in pain. And when I watched the election last night, I didn’t see a bunch of idiots voting to be hateful – I saw a bunch of people going through a lot of suffering hoping for something better.
So, for what it’s worth, here is my prediction:
Trump will do a great job.
In the same way that President Snow did a great job of running the CAPITAL.
If you haven’t watched the “Hunger Games” films that statement would have made no sense. And neither will the rest. But it is a helpful metaphor.
Trump will do a great job.
For the CAPITAL.
For the privileged.
For the powerful.
For the grasshoppers.
Not for the ants.
And those of us who live in the Capital (i.e. you earn more than $5 a day and have access to electricity and running water) – we will have much ammunition to throw at the naysayers who said he couldn’t do it.
“Look, Trump has made things better!” we will say. “Things here are great. In the Capital. For us.”
Because in our Western Capitalist system more often than not (almost always) progress in the “Capital” happens on the back of other’s suffering. And here’s my point:
Jesus was a District 13 guy. And His Kingdom belongs to District 13 people.
Actually it belongs to ALL of us. Which means we in the Capital have to make sure our plans for prosperity include ALL the other districts too.
But I could be wrong.
Lord Jesus, let me be wrong.
President Trump. Please prove me wrong.
Almost 60 million people voted for you – and they’re not all crazy, uneducated or hateful. If your first speech is anything to go by, there is hope. It was laced with grace and humility, unlike much of your campaign rhetoric up till now.
Serve the poor. Fight for the marginalised. The widow, the orphan, the foreigner. Instil policies that help the ants, not just the grasshoppers. Come up with plans for prosperity that include EVERYONE.
And because we all know what you do affects us all, don’t just make America great.
Make the world great.
Don’t be President Snow.
Be President Trump.
I’ll be praying for you.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Grace Family Church.
One of my favourite movies is a movie starring Samuel L Jackson & Kevin Spacey called THE NEGOTIATOR. It’s one of those old-school crime thrillers, and in the film Kevin Spacey is this masterful FBI hostage negotiator.
Now the reason I tell you this is because some days – as a parent of two small boys, aged 5 and 3 – it feels like I AM the negotiator dealing with a bunch of terrorists in my own home!
Now… maybe your 9-year old isn’t committing serious acts of violence (except against his sister) and your teenager probably isn’t going to set up a barricade (except maybe in her room with the music on full blast), but what I’ve come to realise – and what science is revealing to us now – is that many of the principles that are effective for dealing with bank robbers and evildoers also actually work with your children!!
In fact, these fundamental principles of communication can actually help you deal with ANYONE.
And really it boils down to one thing. BEING KIND. Simply being kind to ourselves and to our children. Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
I know for me when things get a bit chaotic and out of control, I tend to RAMP UP. In our house we call it – “flipping our lids”. And so when the kids start to whine or act out or play up – I start flipping my lid. And I usually come down hard on them. I forget to be kind.
And it never helps. Never.
So what are these techniques that parenting experts and hostage negotiators can teach us – teach me – that can help make for a more peaceful, happier home?
Well the first one is this:
1. Don’t deny their feelings.
Just imagine the scene…
The FBI has the bank surrounded. But the robbers have taken hostages. It’s a tense standoff and the bad guys are demanding food be sent in. They say they’re hungry. The hostage negotiator lifts the phone and says, “Oh, stop it. You just ate. Stop complaining and cut it out!”
An FBI negotiator would never do that. But parents do it, I do it, with my kids all the time. And the result is often more screaming, more tears, and more hysteria.
So, what’s the problem here? Well, it’s denying their feelings.
Remember all pain is pain, and the pain of not having the toy you want is as painful for a two-year-old’s brain as it is for us when we don’t get the job we want.
Now, as a parent you can’t be overly permissive and give a kid everything they want – of course not! But a hostage negotiator wouldn’t do that either — maybe the bad guys get the food when they ask for it and maybe they don’t. But negotiators wouldn’t say, “You’re not hungry. Cut it out!”
Now as parents we have to deny ACTIONS (“No, Will, you cannot play with that steak knife”) But we often take it a step further and deny what a child is FEELING. And that can be infuriating.
Human beings don’t like this. I don’t like this. You don’t like this. I mean have you ever told an angry person to JUST CALM DOWN. It doesn’t work does it?
SO what do I do? Well I can start by acknowledging their feelings. Then, according the negotiators, I:
2. Check Myself.
That’s the second key. What is going on with me? What am I frustrated about? Is my reaction appropriate to the offence? I don’t know about you, but a lot of the time, if I’m honest the way I treat my kids has a lot more to do with my own internal state of being then anything else. If I’m in a rush and the kids are taking their time getting their school bags ready, then I tend to get agitated with them and speak harshly to them. But if i’m not in a rush, then I usually speak a lot more calmly, more kindly.
The difference is entirely with me, not them. SO check yourself before you respond. Even that split second of self-awareness can make all the difference. We can only offer to others what we ourselves have, and so if we want our kids to develop self-control – well then we have to model it for them. H Jackson Brown Jr says, “Live so that when your children think of fairness, kindness, and integrity, they think of you.” Then finally, the third tip from our FBI negotiator counterparts is to:
3. Listen with full Attention.
Oh wow – thats hard right!? You’re tired, its been a long day, the kids are literally behaving like terrorists and all you want to do is make it STOP. SHUT IT DOWN. And that’s when we pull out the intimidation techniques or the threats. Sometimes those may be necessary, but they’re not the only tools in the toolbox. Most of the time, if we simply listen with full attention. Hear what it is that is stressing them out, making them angry or whatever, we realise we can actually solve the problem or at least diffuse it.
But full attention takes effort. It takes time and patience. Which brings me to my conclusion…
In my opinion – and this is just my opinion – we cannot do this without God in our lives. Really. If we want to be kind to our kids, if we want to give our kids the full attention and love they deserve, if we want to be in tune with their emotions, well then we need God. Desperately and intimately. Because walking in the spiritual fruit of self-control is – at the end of the day – supernatural.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.” ― Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire.
To friends and family,
Earlier this year I was invited to compete at the OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) World Championships in Canada on October 14/15th. This has been a dream come true for me, but obviously costs a significant amount of money – see Rand-Dollar exchange 🙂
And so I am asking anyone and everyone who would like to contribute if they would.
I’ll be totally honest – this fundraising campaign is in no way a noble, selfless pursuit. There are no third world children or starving puppies who will be benefiting from your generosity.
But it is something that makes me incredibly happy.
I have always been an athlete – from my competitive gymnastics days, to running the Comrades ultra-marathon, to Crossfit, and now my dearest love, OCR – after Jesus, Jess, my kids, and ummm… YOU of course 🙂
Sometimes being a pastor of a church can get pretty hairy, and OCR is in many ways my psychologist, my release, my freedom, and my playground. It undoubtedly makes me a better father, a better husband, a better pastor. My wife will tell you that (me injured or sick is her worst nightmare!)
And so if you can, if you want to, if you’re rich – help me out. No pressure. No guilt. But any contribution would be HUGELY appreciated.
PS: You guys rock, and I will most definitely bring you back some maple syrup! 🙂
I’ve always considered myself a fairly competent person.
At school I did well at sports, and I was always a straight-A student. And I liked being good at things. I liked that there was a right answer – that if I just dedicated myself to it, and worked hard, I would find it. And to be honest, I’ve always known how to get an A, even an A+.
Then I had children.
And suddenly it felt like I was getting nothing right – let alone everything right. Tantrums, fights with my wife, confusion and uncertainty over boundaries and discipline. It all just felt so grey. So messy.
We all want to be A+ parents, and A+ partners, and A+ employees, and A+ daughters, sons, friends. But A+ applies to things that have yes/no, black/white, right/wrong answers. Like multiple choice tests and math.
A+ has no real place in relationships, no place in living.
Because relationships aren’t A+ games, they are C- games.
I read that on a blog once. Let me say it again…
The best grade you are ever going to get in parenting, or relationships in general for that matter, is a C-.
Initially my perfectionism pushed back against this – “No way – that’s just compromising. Settling.” I can do better. But there is actually research to back this up.
In the healthiest parent-child relationships, and even adult-adult relationships, we spend about 30% of our time misreading each others’ cues and disappointing each other.
So, even when we are operating from a place of ease and connection, we only get it ‘Right’ about 70% of the time.
That’s a C- I’m afraid.
But here’s the irony – what I’ve found in my own life and in my own parenting, is that the more you try to get a “better grade” – read exactly what the other person needs all the time, the worse you do, because you are now anxious and operating from your own need to be perfect, rather than being present with your child or the other person.
Someone once said to me – and it really hit home for me – that when it comes to parenting “good enough is good enough”. And that truth has been so freeing for me, and for our family.
Children do better, we do better, all our relationships do better, when we’re OK with a C minus, rather than an A+.
When we accept that we aren’t going to understand our own needs a lot of the time, let alone someone else’s, we relax and increase our compassion for our own mistakes and others’. When we accept that we are human. That only God is the perfect parent. And that’s OK.
We are always going to get it “wrong,” every single day, multiple times per day. You’re going to be firm when your child needed soft, or soft when your child needed firm. You’re going to talk when your partner needs you to listen, or listen when your partner needs you to talk. You cannot do ‘Right’ all the time.
Accepting ‘good enough’ is a gift we give ourselves and others. Accepting ‘good enough’ allows for us to clarify our needs to express them more clearly, to apologise when we misread someone’s needs or hurt them.
Most importantly, accepting ‘good enough’ is crucial to empathy. You will have more empathy for yourself, more empathy for your partner or mother-in-law, more empathy for your wild, clumsy, sensitive child. And your child in turn will develop more empathy, as he or she sees you failing and trying again, being open about your own shortcomings, and loving yourself for your beautiful C-.
The world is divided
And we – you and me – are the ones dividing it.
It’s part of human nature.
We set up barriers, boundaries, divisions – these walls that separate and segregate.
Us vs them, black vs white, rich vs poor, in vs out, gay vs straight.
And we go to great lengths to build these walls. We kill. We bomb. We comment on Facebook. We stay silent.
But the more we do, the greater the gaps between us become. Until eventually they are monstrous crevasses into which we all fall.
What is the solution? I do not know. But my hunch is that it lies somewhere in the heart of love.
“In the end we will only conserve what we love, and we will only love what we understand.” – Baba Dioum, 1968.
We only really love what we understand.
And the only way to understand is to listen.
Because when we sit and listen to someone else’s story. When we feel their pain, when we put ourselves in their shoes – then suddenly it becomes very hard to hate.
And the gap starts to close.
And that person stops becoming a “them” – part of a group we can simply generalise away – and instead they become a person to us. A real human being with a family, with friends, with insecurities, hopes and ambitions…
And the fire of hate that burns on the oxygen of “other” is snuffed out.
There is simply nothing to give it energy anymore.
It is now we.
And we are in this together.
We are in this together.
So scale a wall today, break down a barrier, walk across the room, sit with someone who doesn’t look or think or live like you, and simply listen.
In 1 Cor 9:24 the Apostle Paul writes: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
I remember the year I ran the Comrades Marathon. It was 2010 and I was aiming for a 10-hour finish time. But at 26k’s into the race, my ITB tore, and all hopes of that time – even just finishing – seemed to vanish.
But I persisted – took a few painkillers, told my running partners to go on without me, and hobbled along for the next 40km. By the time I got to Pinetown I was done. The pain was too much to bear, I felt completely alone, and I was on the verge of quitting. But then I heard a familiar voice calling out my name from behind me…
It was my mom.
She was a seasoned runner, far slower than I (not this day apparently!), and tough as nails. She caught me at the bottom of Fields Hill and we embraced each other as mother and son. We both burst into tears (mainly me) and I began to complain, “It’s too far, I’m in too much pain, I’ll never make it, I…” But before I could finish my sentence, my mother grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Tom, we can do this. I’m with you. We are going to finish this fucking race!”
It was the first time I had ever heard my mom swear, and it kind of kicked me back into gear! “Yes Mam!” I said obediently. And pretty much from then on, I followed her lead. She told me when to walk, when to run, and literally took me by the hand all the way to Durban. We crossed the finish line with 17 minutes to spare. We had done it. And I swore that day – never again!
Now the reason I tell you that story, is because perhaps today, you are feeling like I felt at the bottom of Fields Hill.
You’re tired, your worn out, perhaps you’re in pain – physical or emotional, and you’re convinced you’re not gonna make it. Perhaps you’ve been asking God for a breakthrough and you’re just not seeing it. Maybe there are relational tensions you’re dealing with. Perhaps you feel like you’re alone in this race of life.
Well if that’s you, let me encourage you from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says, “When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience.”
In other words, he says, you were running well.
“Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up.”
He says, “Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, for God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
This is a beautiful and powerful promise.
That as a Christ-follower, we have God’s power – His energy – His Spirit – at work within us, not only giving us the desire to finish well, but the power to as well.
Just like my mother was there for me – God, our heavenly Father, is along side you.
And whatever it is you are facing, know that He is there, holding your hand, saying, “C’mon you can do this, no WE can do this!”
Phil 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Isaiah 40:28-31 says, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
And so, my prayer for you today is that you would know you are not alone in this race we call life.
When my mom and I crossed that Comrades finish line hand-in-hand, it was a powerful and profound moment I will never forget.
And so may your strength and your courage be renewed today in Christ. May you know His presence, His power, and His provision.
And may you run, and not grow weary.
So often when preaching on a topic I find myself having to really live it out in the weeks before… This Sunday my wife & I are both preaching on giving thanks in ALL situations, and in the last 10 days the following has happened:
- I have broken my foot, requiring painful surgery.
- I’ve had to cough up over R15 000 ($1000) in unexpected car issues.
- Our cat was hit by a car and badly injured.
- My wife’s laptop was stolen.
- Our whole family got a bad gastro bug (I’ll spare you the details!)
- Plus two fairly devastating work incidents that I can’t mention.
To be honest I am feeling GRATEFUL, because there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. I am thankful for:
- The fact that we have cars.
- That our cat survived.
- Medical Aid that covers most of my surgery.
- Insurance that enables us to replace the laptop.
- Our usually very healthy family.
- My job.
This is what I’m learning:
It’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy.
What is flow?
Imagine for a moment that you are running a race. Your attention is focused on the movements of your body, the power of your muscles, the force of your lungs and the feel of the street beneath your feet. You are living in the moment, utterly absorbed in the present activity. Time seems to fall away. You are tired, but you barely notice.
What you are experiencing is “flow” – also known as “the zone“.
Named by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high), flow is a state of “being completely immersed in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Flow experiences can occur in different ways for different people. For me personally, finding flow happens most easily in three activities: Surfing, preaching, and gymnastics. In all three instances I feel completely alert and in tune with my surroundings. There is a sense in which “time stands still and everything else fades away except the task at hand”.
But it’s not just sports. Others might find flow while painting, drawing, or writing. Even everyday life provides opportunities for flow. If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to a great conversation or gotten so involved in a work project that all else is forgotten, then you’ve tasted “the zone”.
The Benefits of Flow
The flow state has been described as “the ultimate experience”. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energised, and aligned with the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture – producing high levels of gratification, and even lasting contentment after the fact.
Did you get that? Finding flow for just 15min in the day, can make you happier for the rest of it.
In addition to making you happier, researchers have also found that flow can dramatically improve performance and learning across a wide variety of areas.
Nowhere is this more obvious then in the emerging world of action and adventure sports. As Steven Kotler – author of “The Rise of Superman” – writes, “Over the past three decades [these athletes] have pushed human performance farther and faster than at any other point in the 150,000 year history of our species.”
For these guys finding flow is a matter of life or death.
Whether that’s scaling a sheer cliff-face without ropes, riding monstrous waves, or clearing giant gaps on a skateboard – these “impossible” athletic feats are now actually helping scientists to decipher the mysteries of flow, so that we can apply this knowledge across all domains of society.
Where is your flow?
So the challenge to you today is to figure out where you find flow? Where do you find yourself becoming utterly absorbed, where action and awareness merge and all else fades away?
Finding flow is crucial, whether we are parenting, planning, pioneering or parachuting. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how to be their best when it matters most? To be more creative, more contented, more present? To soar and not to sink?
As the deeds of those extreme athletes prove, if we can master flow, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.
Seeing as August is Women’s Month, I thought I’d post this awesome blog written by my amazing wife, Jess Basson. You can check out her blog here.
Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try it’s just Not Good Enough? Although August is about celebrating women, all these stories of incredible overachievers defying the odds can be quite depressing. Oh, you started a non-profit that educates underprivileged girls, teach yoga to the elderly and wrote a best-selling recipe book? That’s nice. Today I made snacks, tidied up, and got the cat down from the tree. I did have a shower, though. As Christopher Reeve says, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” That 3-minute shower was my act of hygienic heroism for the day. You’re welcome, world.
There seems to be this impossible standard of womanhood that constantly leaves us feeling Not Good Enough. From career to kids, from your relationship status to your bra size, we are being bombarded with advice from all directions on how to improve ourselves. Do more. Try harder. Be better.
Work more so you can further your career.
Work less so you can spend time with your family.
Try harder to get fit this winter so you can look good in a bikini.
Try harder to care less about how good you look in a bikini.
Make sure you have time on your own.
Make sure you have time with your friends.
Do something new everyday.
Simplify your life.
Be gentle with your children.
Be strict with your children.
Don’t go on a diet.
Don’t eat carbs.
I heard of a mom who had a chalkboard in her kitchen where she would leave herself notes and lists. After one overwhelming day she just wrote across the whole board, “Be Better At Everything!”
No wonder one feels Not Good Enough. No wonder one gets sucked into a comparison game with other women that leaves you resentful, or depressed, or momentarily smug as you watch another mom negotiating with a screaming toddler until five minutes later when it’s your child having a colossal tantrum in the shopping aisle.
Is there any other way to do this potentially powerful but often intimidating identity called womanhood?
I think there is. It’s called Grace.
I don’t mean grace like someone who is elegant and sophisticated. I don’t mean Grace like the most popular middle name for girls EVER. I mean Grace like love that hasn’t been earned. Grace that is acceptance just as you are. Grace that is an endless supply of forgiveness no matter how many mistakes are made.
Grace isn’t denying that there is a standard. Grace is what makes up the difference for our shortcomings. It’s love that fills the gap when we feel Not Good Enough.
But here’s the secret…
Discovering true contentment in your role as a woman doesn’t start with giving grace. It starts with receiving grace. It’s hard to accept love when we feel like we don’t deserve it. It’s hard to accept forgiveness when we know we’ve let someone down. We even struggle to receive a compliment without saying something negative about ourselves! What do you do when someone pays you a compliment?
“Oh, this shirt? I’m so overweight it’s the only thing that fits me.”
“Thanks, I think it did go well – but I really could have finished the project sooner.”
“Ah you’re sweet, but my hair is so frizzy. I wish I had straight hair like you.”
Many of the women I know have high expectations and can be hard on themselves when they don’t measure up. So receiving grace feels very counterintuitive. We are so used to working hard for everything that it’s tough to accept value that isn’t related to our performance. But grace is being loved, appreciated and worthy because of who we are, not because of what we do. We are loved because of who we are, not because of what we do. That’s how grace saves us from the tyranny of Not Good Enough.
There aren’t a lot of relationships, religions or ways of life that offer grace, but as women we need it so desperately. I know I do.
This Women’s Month, perhaps it’s time to push aside all the fanfare on what’s so amazing about women, and go on a intentional journey to find out what’s so amazing about grace.
“You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others. The first approach is proactive; the second reactive.” – Michael Hyatt
Sure, you can’t plan for everything. Things happen that you can’t anticipate. But it is a whole lot easier to accomplish what matters most when you are proactive and begin with the end in mind.
One of the ways I do this is by creating a template that I call “My Ideal Week”.
The idea is similar to a financial budget. The only difference is that you plan how you will spend your time rather than your money. And like a financial budget, you spend it on paper first.
My Ideal Week — the week I would live if I could control 100% of what happens — looks like this:
Without going into too much detail, here are a couple key ideas for me:
- Family first. Nothing is more important, I promise you.
- Have a morning ritual.
- Schedule your most important work tasks first.
- Fight hard to keep distractions to a minimum.
- Set aside some time at the start of the week to plan your week.
- Schedule meetings, calls, and little things in the afternoon.
- Limit responding to email to specific time slots in the day.
- Date night is a non-negotiable.
- Make sure you move everyday – doesn’t have to be exercise per se, but do something active.
- Set an end-of-the-day deadline, and try stick to it (there will always be more work to do).
Now that you’ve seen mine, I suggest that you map out your own Ideal Week. And once you have created it, you can use it as a basic template for planning each week.
If you are like me, not everything can be shoe-horned into the template, of course. But having this basic blueprint will better enable you to to accomplish those things that matter most.
For a more detailed look into how I formulated my Ideal Week, click here.