James Hayes is a buddy of mine from college. And he writes a college football blog. It’s called Twelve Saturdays and a Bowl. And it’s probably the best college football blog that exists on the internet webs. And I don’t often throw around compliments like that — lightly or otherwise. Especially not to guys who are anti-SEC and pro-Ohio State. [Of course if I lived in Tennessee and had only Vanderbilt and UT (stalwarts of the SEC as they were) to choose from, I might be anti-SEC as well....] Continue reading
Category Archives: sports
It’s hot here in Tennessee. Really hot. Hotter than I remember it having been ever before.
And I live in Africa… without air conditioning.
But it’s not so much the heat that I’ve realized this week I’ve missed all this time. It’s the humidity. Continue reading
Living in Tanzania, I’ve really missed being able to run races and compete in triathlons. So I’ve crammed as many races as I can into our furlough plans this year. I’m not in just amazing shape, but I have been running and biking a little. I think I ought to be able to set personal records in every race distance that I didn’t race before the age of 21. [I was much faster back then -- possibly due to being 40-60 pounds lighter.] And thanks to some really nice friends, I have a loaner bike to ride, and my registration costs are even being subsidized.
Here’s a list of the races I’m entering. If you’re nearby and looking for some friendly competition, feel free to join me. Continue reading
image courtesy of jeremy berg
I read this yesterday in an April 2007 issue of Reader’s Digest (yes, this is what missionaries read in their spare time):
Moses and Jesus are playing golf. Moses selects a five iron and tees off. His ball lands in the lake.
It’s Jesus’ turn. ”Tiger Woods would use this,” he says, grabbing a five iron.
“But my shot ended up in the lake!” Moses protests. ”You should use a four iron.”
“Nope. Tiger would use a five.”
So Jesus swings hard — and hits the ball into the lake. He’s walking on the water looking for it when a man approaches.
“Who does he think he is, Jesus Christ?” the man asks.
“No,” Moses explains. ”He is Jesus. He thinks he’s Tiger Woods.”
image courtesy of God Answers Prayers
image courtesy of heavenawaits
I was reading this morning, and the first words of Colossians 4:2 stood out to me:
“Devote yourselves to prayer…”
προσκαρτερεω (proskartereo) =
to be devoted or constant; to be steadfastly attentive to
I looked up a few other passages where this word (devote / proskartereo) appears in the New Testament:
- Acts 1:14 – Believers, with one mind, were continually devoting themselves to prayer.
- Acts 2:42 – Believers devoted themselves to several things, among them prayer.
- Acts 6:4 – Apostles appointed deacons so they could devote themselves to prayer and ministry.
- Romans 12:12 – Devotion to prayer listed as a key element in church unity and function.
Early every morning I pray alone — usually over a list I keep. Then Christie, Baylor, and I pray together after reading scripture at breakfast. Every run I go on involves at least a little bit of prayer time, and sometimes a lot. Also, Christie and I pray together every night before bed. I can certainly say I’m “devoted” to these four prayer practices. But I’m not sure I can say that I’m devoted to prayer. I want to be. And perhaps I’m on my way there…
Committed to a Game
But I’m forced to think about things to which I’ve been truly devoted in my life. When I coached high school soccer, I spent:
- 12 hours a week practicing with the team
- 5-10 hours a week taking care of the logistics of practices, scheduling, and travel
- 5-10 hours a week coaching in, and traveling to, actual games and tournaments
- 2-4 hours a week scouting other teams
- 2 hours a week painting and caring for the field
That’s over 30 hours a week I spent on soccer (in addition to a full-time job). A game. I was truly devoted to a game. And it paid off. Our team was very successful. But I was devoted to a game.
So if prayer truly is powerful — and if New Testament authors were right to encourage us to be devoted to it — I can only imagine what would result from a deepened level of commitment to prayer in my own life. Or in our families and churches.
Consider how devoted you are to:
- your job
- your children
- your blog
- church attendance
- other churchy opportunities* and activities
- college football teams
I wonder if we even committed to a “least common denominator” approach to prayer — devoting to prayer only the amount of time equal to what we spend on the least frequent of the above activities — what would happen?
I want to challenge you to pray more. I’m not suggesting that you start by attempting to pray for an hour a day. But pray more. I’m convinced we begin to devote ourselves to particular activities by increasingly devoting small increments of time to those activities.
Tomorrow I’m going to post some practical ideas on how we can begin to devote ourselves further to prayer. And I’m not just thinking through these as an exercise for others. I desperately want to learn to pray without ceasing; and I could use your help in getting me there. If you’ve got some practical ideas, feel free to post them below. [I'm not compiling my list until late tonight or early tomorrow morning.]
* Just a little shout out to Nacho.
See also: 3 principles for training our minds.
March Madness is upon us.
I’m not sure how many sports fans read my blog; I know there must be at least a few. But this post is an invitation for all of you — sports fans or not — to play Tournament Challenge on ESPN.com with others who read the blog.
It’s free, and all you have to do is select who you think will win each of the 63 games in the NCAA Tournament.* And by entering you even have a chance to win $10,000 (or the skimpy $5,000 2nd place prize). Plus, you’ll be competing against me and others who read aliens and strangers. You can talk smack if you like.
If you want to play, go to this page to join our group. [You'll have to have or create a free account on ESPN.] Our group is a private one: its name is “aliens and strangers.” The password is “aliens.”
I’m trying to think of some kind of prize to offer here on the blog. But I really don’t have anything that would be easy to give away from Tanzania (unless you happen to live in Tanzania). I was considering writing a poem for whoever wins — my poetry is pretty excellent — and posting it on the blog. But if you’ve got a better idea, let me know in the comments. I will be more than happy to consider prizes that people might actually enjoy.
* For those of you who know nothing about the NCAA Tournament, everything is listed for you. You just pick a winner in each game. You can pick based on the teams’ records or on their colors. You could make your selections by which mascot would likely win in a real battle or by how close (geographically) each team is to your hometown. You can always pick the team in which the letter ‘e’ appears the most times (and let the letter ‘a’ be the tiebreaker). Seriously, I haven’t watched a single NCAA basketball this season — and I’m still picking.
. I left you guys hanging with only 2 of Janie’s 3 posts in a series on running. [I've been away from my computer and all forms of internet now for about 4 weeks, and I'm just easing back into it. I'll let you know what I've been up to in my next post.]
. I won’t do much to introduce Jane Reneau again; I will however point you to her first two posts in the series — here and here. And, since she’s writing today about getting started in running, I’ll let you in on this little secret… Janie ran her first half-marathon at the age of 16. She placed last. Very last.
. But she still won her age group.
I started running somewhere around the age of 14. My mom had been running for several years by that point and I wanted to give it a try myself. The only way I knew to start was to simply start, to lace up my shoes, throw on my Umbros and a t-shirt, and run down the road. I used mailboxes as my measurement of distance and each day I tried to go one mailbox further than I had the day before. At the very least, I tried to reach the mailbox I’d run to the day before. I did not think about pace or how quickly I should reach the next mailbox, I just ran.
Before long I had a mile and then two. Before the time of GPS watches and Google pedometer, I used Mom’s routes which she measured in her car. I started running 5ks and even the occasional 10k, reaching 10 miles by the age of 16.
Today, there are all sorts of plans and programs to help new or returning runners reach their running goals. Programs such as “Couch to 5k” or “No Boundaries” take inactive and semi-active people and help them train to run a 5k.
My sister and I are approaching our fourth season as coaches for the No Boundaries program, and I really like the plan this program uses. It is a walk/run approach where the runner begins to lengthen the minutes spent running and shorten the minutes spent walking until they are running an entire 3 miles. This approach also allows runners to start where they are athletically. We have some folks who are literally coming straight off the couch and their bodies are not used to any physical exertion whatsoever. We also have those who are regular gym goers and they can usually run longer from the beginning.
For someone who is not very active, the training plan might look something like this:
Walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute – repeat 5 times. Do this 3 times a week.
Walk 2 minutes, run 1.5 minutes – repeat 6 times. Do this 3 times a week.
Walk 2 minutes, run 2 minutes – repeat 7 times. Do this 3 times a week.
Eventually, instead of repeating these sequences a certain amount of times, you would do them until you reached 1 mile, 1.5 miles, and then 2 miles. Also, the walking time would eventually move to 1 minute while the running minutes continued to increase. By the time the program reaches 2.5 miles, those with the goal to run the entire 5k are running most of the training runs.
Plans of this sort also exist for the 10k distance, half-marathons and marathons. So once you get started, the sky is the limit and you can find all the help you need in your local running community, online, or you can always e-mail me and I will be glad to help in any way I can. Or you can just use the mailbox method. There is no magic formula – it is about finding a good starting point that is doable, yet challenging.
As far as what you need to get started, I am not a huge fan of all the things your local running store will try to convince you are necessary to run down the road.
A good pair of shoes? Sure. Try some on and run around the store. Mine are usually a half size bigger than my non-running shoes. For beginners, I’d stay away from extra inserts of any kind unless prescribed by a doctor – and even then my opinion is that any injuries or discomfort are probably caused more by incorrect running form instead of a bad pair of shoes.
Maybe some running attire that makes you feel strong and athletic? Sure! You want something that is comfortable, loose, and you want to feel like you look good in it. Otherwise you won’t want to put it on and go workout. It sounds so silly, but it is true. How you feel about yourself affects how well you run and train. Having the right apparel will also help you run in less than pleasant conditions such as extra humid days or really cold ones.
For informational and motivational articles and such, visit www.runnersworld.com or www.active.com. Two books that I really enjoyed were “My Life on the Run” by Bart Yasso and “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. This last book addresses the issues of shoes and running form as well.
There is so much more, but for now I think that covers the basics. One last thing, however, is do not give up! Not every day is going to be easy or feel great. But there are days that will feel that way and both kinds will be totally worth it. Consistency is the key to getting better and hopefully, to falling in love with the sport. I have and it has enriched my life immensely. I pray it does the same for you!
I introduced Jane Reneau yesterday, so today I’ll add just one tidbit of biographical information. Janie turned 30 on January 5, 2010 — and celebrated by running 30 miles. [She didn't run 31 this year, though.] This got me wondering (about an incredibly unimportant question): At what age are human beings generally in the best position to run in miles the number of years they’ve lived. I know my daughter’s completely unprepared to run 1.1 miles today. And my mom won’t be running 39ish miles on her next birthday. The longest I’ve ever run at one time is 31 miles, and I turn 34 next month. Any ideas? I’m guessing around 22-25…
The other day I was running with a close friend of mine and we were talking about running, training, and racing. As we talked about strenuous training plans and how to stay focused even when we begin to lose steam, she paid me one of the biggest compliments I could receive. She said, “Jane you actually enjoy running. You really love it.” She confessed that sometimes she did not like it and did not want to go, but that in talking to me, reading my blog, etc. she could see someone who actually liked running just for the sake of running.
This is true. I absolutely love running. When I don’t run first thing in the morning, I find myself looking forward to the moment when I can sneak out of the office and get in some miles. I stare at the clock until it says 5:00pm and then I am out the door, impatient to get home and hit the streets. And then when I am running…I cannot explain with the words in our language how much joy it brings to me.
I love the feeling of my muscles working as I pick up my pace or run up a hill. I love feeling my heart and lungs work to take in oxygen and send it to my limbs. I love a good sweat. I love being outside with the cold air of winter whipping past my ears or the thick morning heat of summer as I race the rising temperatures. And the sunrises… I have witnessed a thousand and each one is unique and gorgeous, almost causing me to pause just so I can stare at it…almost.
Not only do I love the activity itself, but I love what it does for the rest of my life. Let’s talk about blood pressure, cholesterol, sickness, disease, metabolism rate, body image and energy levels. My mom has been a runner since the age of 36. She is now 61 years old and when she goes to the doctor for her regular checkup, he is amazed at her blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He claims to have never seen anyone with such low bad cholesterol levels and high good cholesterol levels. He is blown away by her numbers.
Out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, 5 of them are nutrition related with heart disease, cancer and stroke being in the top 3, followed by diabetes at number 6 and kidney disease at 9. This means that by simply leading a healthy life of exercise and eating right, you can avoid some horrible diseases, not to mention enjoy an amazing quality of life while you are here on this earth.
Being strong, healthy and fit not only provides for a wonderful physical existence, it affects your mental and spiritual state as well. The endorphins released during exercises like running can be used to fight depression and other psychological disorders. So what do you suppose they do for someone without these? The idea of going for a run when feeling stressed or anxious is not without good cause. These endorphins (sometimes referred to as “runner’s high”) can affect your overall mood throughout the day, which will affect how you view yourself, others, and anything you may face throughout your day.
For me, I find that it makes it easier to look beyond the little things in this life or even the bigger things that seem to overwhelm and to see the joy and the peace that often get pushed aside for the worries of this world. It may sound silly, but I’ve always felt that being a runner has drawn me closer to my Creator and King. Not only does it clear the mind of thoughts that don’t belong there, allowing it to be filled with thoughts from Him, but I like to think He takes joy in seeing me use what He has given me to the fullest. Sure, a lot of it is simply for me and maybe selfishly so. But there is rarely a run completed that I don’t feel truly and humbly grateful for the experience. As long as I am able, I will continue to run and to thank my God for all the joy it brings to my life.
Jane Reneau is a friend of mine from Camp Wiregrass (the church camp I went to every summer from 1st grade until after college). But she’s not guest posting on my blog because of Camp Wiregrass (as wonderful a place as it is); she’s posting because she’s a runner. A passionate one at that. And I believe running is good for people. I want you to be a runner (or a better one, if you already are one). And Janie’s just the gal to convince you. [Though her words here today will be beneficial to anyone seeking discipline in any area of life.]
Janie’s first marathon was in Los Angeles in 2003; she was 23-years old at the time. She’s now run 22 marathons in 19 states. She completed that first marathon in 5:26, and her current personal record is 3:58 (but I believe she’ll set a new record this month). Janie runs between 40 and 55 miles a week, and has run two 40-plus mile trail runs. She dabbles in triathlons and lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband (a 2:38 marathoner) and her dog (who prefers short sprints). Janie blogs here.
When Brett asked me to write about running, he brought up the topic of discipline and how it comes into play. I had to chuckle a little bit. While many runners are, in fact, disciplined athletes with resolve of stone, I am not one of these people. Disciplined I am not. I eat too many sweets. I don’t read my Bible as much as I should. I don’t send out the birthday cards I vow to send each year, I don’t mop the floors regularly, and I’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV than do the dishes.
When it comes to the sport of running, however, I am up at 5:00 a.m. to pound the pavement. I run almost every day no matter how tired I might be, how cold it is, or how much my body may complain (within reason, of course). Some call this discipline. Some call this obsession. I call it pure enjoyment.
I absolutely love to run. It brings me great joy and fulfillment, makes me feel strong, fit, and healthy, draws me closer to my Creator, and makes me an overall better person. I love to run races and I prefer to run them well. This makes the commitment to a rigorous training plan possible. It is, simply put, what I love to do.
Despite how much I enjoy it, however, there are still days when I don’t want to go. Days when I have to cajole and berate and force myself to lace up my tennis shoes and get out the door. I have to dig deep and rummage around for any hint of discipline there might be, dust it off and take it with me.
So how does that work, exactly? How do you find the discipline to do something you don’t want to do, but know you should?
I’m going to tell you what works for me. I’m also going to say that these tips can apply to any type of fitness goal, not just running. Running is not for everyone, but I do believe health and fitness is.
- Find something you love. This is key. Like I said with running, I LOVE it. So it is not so difficult to be disciplined on days when I am not feeling it. If you hate running and are forcing yourself to do it anyway…and failing, you might want to find something else. Swimming. Racquetball. Cycling. Jump roping. Dog walking. Find what you enjoy. That is the first step.
- Incorporate the buddy system. It may sound silly, but when I know I’m meeting a friend or two, I will be there. It is harder to back out on someone else than it is to back out on yourself. Make a gym date. Find a running partner. Walk with a co-worker at lunch. Get a dog or borrow your neighbor’s.
- Plan ahead and be prepared. When I know I’m getting up early in the morning to run (which is most days), I set my clothes out the night before. All I have to do at 5:00 in the morning is put them on. If I know I might want to go the gym after work, I pack my bag the night before and stick it in the car. My yoga mat lives in my car, so if the notion to attend a yoga class occurs to me, I’m ready to go. Make it easy on yourself to be disciplined. Don’t predict backing out. Predict going. You will live up to what you predict.
- Keep motivation around. Magazine articles. Motivational quotes on sticky notes. A picture of the goal you are trying to reach. Music that gets you going. The internet provides a plethora of this stuff. When I’m feeling unmotivated, all I have to do is go to Runnersworld.com or a running blog and read for a minute. Sometimes while I’m getting dressed to run, I put on a pump-me-up song to help me get going. I also have these songs on my ipod shuffle to accompany me on a run to keep me going. Surround yourself with positive motivators that remind you of what you want and what you like to do.
- Fake it ‘til you make it. Sometimes just going through the motions is all you’ve got. There have been days when I have gotten dressed, walked outside, stood in the driveway for a minute and gone back inside. Sometimes you just don’t have it. Believe it or not, that is okay. So, your buddy couldn’t meet you at yoga and you didn’t go either. That does not mean you should give it up. That simply means tomorrow is a new day. It doesn’t have to be January 1 for you to start anew. It can be a Monday in March. Don’t give up on yourself for one bad day or even a bad week.
These tips aren’t for the die-hard disciplined. They are for average Jane’s like me (pun sort of intended there) and like you. These bodies we have are amazing and can do amazing things. Just as with everything we have in this life, I believe we are to be good stewards of our bodies as well. They are one of the many gifts God has given us, and taking care of them is important. Everything you desire to do in life is made easier if you are healthy. Whether it is being a missionary in a foreign country, tutoring kids after work each day, raising good kids of your own, working hard at your current career – it is all made easier by a strong, healthy body.
So get out there and get after it. You won’t ever regret it.
photo by todd van emst — courtesy of jay g. tate
Auburn defeats Oregon, 22-19. War Eagle!
Just as predicted the Auburn Tigers are your BCS national champions. I listened to the game on the internet (at 4:30 am) while drinking coffee and making (and eating) pancakes. I wish I could have watched it, but our internet connection just won’t do it (I was booted off-line at least 20 times during the first half — only 3 in the second). The game wasn’t any closer than I thought it would be — but it was a LOT lower scoring. I expected to see it come down to the last possession, but I never ever would have guessed that neither team would break 30 points. I was envisioning something like 48-45.
A few interesting stats and whatnot:
- This is Auburn’s first national championship since 1957. [But they were shafted in 2004.]
- Auburn finished the season as the only team to beat more than five teams ranked in the top 25. They beat seven. ONE-HALF of the teams on Auburn’s schedule finished their seasons ranked in the top 25.
- Gene Chizik is 7-0 in bowl games, and 2-0 in national championships. [But he was shafted in 2004.]
- Heisman Trophy winner Cameron Newton ate three Oregon players while throwing for 265 yards and rushing for 64.
- Freshman running back Michael Dyer rushed for 144 yards and was named offensive MVP.
- Wes Byrum ended his Auburn career by kicking yet another game-winning field goal for the Tigers. He’s the highest point-scorer in school history.
- Defensive lineman Nick Fairley had 5 tackles, 3 for a loss, and won defensive MVP. Also, it’s been reported that he will, for the next few weeks, be visiting at least three of the Ducks in their nightmares.
- Speaking of Nick Fairley, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas rushed for -6 yards on the night. [Yes, that is a minus sign.]
- This is the first season in which Auburn has won 14 games in a season. And they came from behind in 9 of them.
- Auburn is the 5th consecutive SEC team to win the national championship. But this was a down year in the SEC, you know.
Nike designed some super awesome uniforms for Oregon to lose in. And I use those words super and awesome to mean it looked like 5th graders were given charcoal and highlighters and asked to draw football uniforms with feathers on the shoulders. I know Nike gave the feathers-on-the-shoulder order, because not even 5th graders would think that looks good. Here’s a photo of an “athlete” in the uniform:
And here’s a photo of a scared athlete in the same uniform:
I kind of hesitate to make fun of these Oregon uniforms, though. Because the last time I did, I was told it was bad of me. I think the exact words were, “This blog drips with the hypocrisy of Christianity.“
Odds and Ends
I have only one friend who is an Oregon fan. His name is Charlie. You ought to head over to his blog and say hello. But don’t be rude; I’m sure he’s already pretty upset. As a matter of fact, if his comment on my post yesterday was any sign, I’m not sure he’ll even get out of bed today. Anyway, a simple “sorry for your loss” should suffice.
And to close it out today, would you guys do me this one small favor? [Of course, as usual, everyone is welcome -- encouraged even -- to comment below.] But just out of curiosity I’d like to know how many Auburn fans regularly read my blog. Would you guys let me know? You don’t have to type anything more than “war eagle” (though you’re welcome to type more if you like). Now, I’m talking actual Auburn FANS, though, not just those of you who were cheering for us last night. Though we do sincerely appreciate your support and thank you for your encouragement.
War Eagle! The SEC rules.