Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.” I read that on Facebook the other day. Today I spoke to an old friend that lived it.
Like me and you, she has made some poor choices in her life. Unlike me and you, she has lost everything because of those choices. In case you are wondering if I am exaggerating by everything, I’ll be more specific. She has lost her only son, her mom, her house, her job, her friends, her car, and her freedom. Out of the above she was able to get her car back and after 13 months behind bars, she recently regained her freedom, but she needs help with the rest of it.
More than anything, she wants to see her son again. The reality is that no judge is going to allow that until she can prove she can be a fit mother again. Speaking of judges, she has enough of them in her life already and they come in the form of official looking folks that wear long black robes. Unfortunately she has about a thousand other people that will judge her because she has among other things: a criminal record, an extremely abusive ex-boyfriend, a stalker ex-girlfriend, a past that included drug use, and more ink on her than the constitution.
Even with all of that, she isn’t looking for a handout. She is very smart and a hard worker and needs someone to just believe in her enough to say, “I am willing to give you a chance.”. She is in the N. OC area but does have reliable transportation. If you know of someone that can help her, I can get you her resume. Even if you know someone that has some professional clothes taking up space in their closet that they would want to donate, that would be a huge help (if I had to guess she is about 5’2 and maybe 115 lbs).
If you can’t help with clothes or a job opportunity, I just ask that you pray for her. That brings me back to that quote on Facebook. I thought of that while talking to my friend today. She was telling me about being in her cell and just asking God to give her the strength to go on. “And he would!” she said in a surprised voice. She is now getting plugged into a great church, joining a new ministry, and even as low as her life has hit, hopefully she will be encouraged as she learns the truths like Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Open response to a friend

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

You can get offended if you want, but I am going to just say it: we Christians suck.  I know, that is pretty deep, but it is what I came up with after hearing from a friend today.  Instead of responding to just  her, I figured there might be others with similar questions, so I would just post this.   Here was our dialogue:

“How is it going chubster (can’t you already feel the love)? Hey, church question for you.  So, I sent Noah (her son) to Bible School for a week to see if he had any interest in learning about God and attending church.  After the week ended, I asked him what he learned about the Bible and he said, ‘What is a Bible?’ ouch.   Not a good start.  Anyway, since we have no religious affiliation, how do I know what church to go to? This one was Presbyterian… my sister-in-law is Baptist. I am clueless.”

To which I responded:

“I would recommend a non-denominational Christian church.  These religious folks love to major in the minors (ie. crap like are you supposed to be fully immersed when baptized or just sprinkled- which is funny because it rhymes with tinkles (yeah, I’m mature like that).  Just learn about Jesus and tell all the folks that want to peg you into a certain denomination to go sprinkle  themselves.”

Her:

“Ha ha.  So what is a non-D church?  Is that what it is called?  I wonder if they have them here.  Everyone is die-hard set on something. ‘Hi, it’s nice to meet you. Where do you worship?”

Me:

“I kneel at the porcelain bowl, you?”

So we were going back and forth while I was at work, so I couldn’t tell her what I really felt.  When I was an agnostic  (dude who is not really sure if there is a God or not) living like an atheist (dude who believes there is no God), I LOVED all the different denominations.  It basically meant that I could take two people who both believed in Jesus, and get them arguing about their religion in about two minutes.  Better than that, I would just point out that at any given time there are wars going on where people are killing each other over their God.  Makes a lot of sense, right?  Basically if you believe in God, you are an idiot.

Even as a believer today, I hate that Sunday is the most segregated day of the week. Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, and ________ (insert whatever religion your neighbor is) all go there separate ways and even though their Bibles clearly tell them NOT to… they all judge each other. We argue about that only we could possibly care about… and meanwhile we turn off anyone that might actually be curious to learn about our God.    Why?  Because, like I said, we suck.

So, my advice to my friend, would simply be: find a church that teaches about Jesus, Where you can ask questions, and can use logic and reason to research the claims of Jesus and the Bible, and where the people are going to accept you not judge you (this one is the tough one because we Christians are experts at judging).  What you may be surprised to learn is that God has a habit of using people who are far from perfect.  If you find a church or pastor that thinks they are perfect, move along little doggy.  That is just one of the many awesome things about this whole Christianity thing, through his grace, God allows us to spend eternity with him.  The really good news is that God wants us to get to know HIM.  Don’t let idiot Christians, like me, prevent you from getting to know God.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart– 

Jeremiah 29:13.

Play #$%@ Ball!!!

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

It started out simple enough.  A guy at work was selling 4 tickets to the baseball game.  They were supposedly great seats and he was selling them for half price, so me and a couple of guys from work bought them.  If you do the math, 3 guys bought 4 tickets….so we had an extra ticket.   Luckily, I had the perfect solution.  I knew my Pastor liked baseball, so I brought him.  That’s when the fun began!

I knew that neither of my co-workers were church going types, so I pondered the introduction for a little bit, and then finally just broke down and asked,  “Should I introduce you as my Pastor Ken or just my friend Ken?” Considering his chosen line of work, my Pastor has a surprisingly devilish side to him because he replied, “Let’s just go with friend because I kind of like the light bulb moment when people realize what I do for a living.”  Alrighty then, you asked for it!

As it turned out, we all had to take separate cars to the stadium, so we needed a convenient place to meet.  What better place that a rooftop bar, right?  My co-workers and I beat Ken down so by the time I got Ken’s text that he was parking, I felt I had to at least let him know what he was getting into so I texted, “Hurry up… You have already missed 26 F-Bombs!”  Ken’s return text came quickly, “Mere batting practice for me,” and I knew this was going to be good.

When the waitress noticed we had another person join us, she came over to ask Ken if he would like a drink.  “Yes, I’ll have a water please” he told her as my co-worker shot me a look that said, “Did he just order WATER??? What’s wrong with this guy?”  Luckily though, Ken’s sissy order didn’t phase him too long, because my single co-worker went right into a very detailed description of what he would like to do to the new woman at our office (because this is a G-rated blog let’s just say that although he apparently wants to get to know her in the biblical sense… there was nothing biblical about it).  I was in my own world for about a minute while I tried to recall if Ken said he liked the light bulb moment or the flame thrower moment?  I figured it couln’t get any worse,  when my co-worker says, “It’s like in Bangkok!”  What!??!?    Apparently he had recently watched The Hangover II and retold only “the best” part of the movie and then added his own personal “knowledge” to it.  Ding! The F-Bomb meter just hit triple digits!

My other co-worker happened to actually be a baseball fan, and was ready to go to the game.  The first guy finally agreed but only after letting us know that he hired strippers to come to our seats.  “Nahhh…. just kidding!”  he told us as we could tell the beers were starting to affect him.  I’m  glad he let us know that he was joking because you know how there are always ALL those strippers at the baseball game, boy he really had us going.

We made it to the game and realized that the guy who sold the tickets to us wasn’t exaggerating about them being great seats: six rows behind the dugout centered between home plate and first base.  We weren’t there but 10 minutes before I looked up and saw some goofy guy on the jumbo tron.  Wait, that’s me!  Here was my chance to be discovered a la Pamela Anderson so I jumped up to do my best “I may be fat but I can do the white man’s overbite like nobody’s business” dance only to realize that the camera man had moved on, and I was no longer on the jumbo tron.  Probably 45 minutes later, one of the players tossed a ball into the crowd and I successfully ripped it out of the kid’s hand next to me (I really shouldn’t call my Pastor a kid considering he is older than me).  I hadn’t even been there an hour and I already was on the jumbo tron and caught a baseball: Abe Froman had nothing on me.

Back to the good seats, we were so close to the action that not only could everyone around us hear what we had to say, but the players could too.  That didn’t stop my inebriated co-worker from telling the world about what he thought of the players, the game, etc.:

“You can tell that guy (our star player) is just waiting for next year to start!?  (Huh? Didn’t THIS year just start???)

I could get a hit off our pitcher, he sucks!”

“You (to the attractive woman in front of us) need sunscreen on your back and I’m gonna HICCUP! rub it all over you!”

Ken was doing a great job and they still obviously had no idea, because when he got up to use the restroom, the inebriated one said, “I don’t know about your buddy Tom.  He’s all trippy!  He could be our Alan from The Hangover (please don’t bring up Bangkok again as there are  women and children around).  What could I do, but agree?  “Oh yeah… he is one ‘trippy’ dude!”  (While thinking: In fact, if you want to come see him this weekend he’ll be tripping about the Holy Spirit).

If you have even read one of my blog posts, you know I don’t like to be left out of the action.  I wasn’t going to jump in on the F-bomb tirade or join him on the restraining order the attractive woman was sure to file, but I had to do something.  I looked at the batter from the other team and see a mullett on him that I haven’t seen since I attended the Billy Ray Cyrus concert in college (true story but it was free so don’t judge me!).  So, even though the crowd was eerily quiet with disgust about how our team was doing, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Hey batter, great job BRINGING THE MULLETT BACK!!!”  Ha ha.  I could tell I was “on” the way the crowd was laughing and high-fiving me, until… what I think might have been the very next pitch… SMACK!   If I said he just hit a homerun, I’d almost be lying.  He CRUSHED it! It went deep into the 2nd deck.  As his long locks bounced freely (just the party in the back locks) while he circled third base he shot a look over in my direction as to say, “hey fat boy, you got anything else to say?”  Which, of course, I did,  “I WAS ONLY KIDDING ABOUT THE MULLETT!!!”  I looked around the surrounding crowd that only moments before were going to give me the “Funniest Heckler EVER” award, were now making a noose out of their licorice rope.  That was my signal to get out of dodge.  As I left my poor pastor sitting there I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t thinking, “What in the #$@% (heck) just happened here today?”

Me so…

Posted: May 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I’ve got a non-urgent prayer request. In fact, it is so non-urgent that the publishing of this post has been conveniently delayed until my wife is on a plane. I have found that the chances of her killing me diminish (slightly) when she is three states away. Anyway, I’m not sure exactly what to ask you to pray for, but maybe common sense for me would be a good start. Or possibly I shouldn’t be so selfish, and I should be asking you to pray that my 8-year-old doesn’t get expelled with less than one week left in the third grade. I guess I better risk my own life, and explain what in the heck I am talking about.

It began really early in the year. My daughter’s teacher kept sending out emails. They were actually pretty benign, you know the type,” This has got to be the best class ever, thanks for trusting me with your little angels, don’t forget that when it comes to teacher appreciation gifts, the recession is over!” Things like that, but they kept coming. Just when I started to assume that she was one of those sicko teachers who had a crush on her student’s chubby dad, I got another email. This one was of a much more apologetic nature and she explained that she was having issues with her email account and she didn’t know who was getting what emails so she felt bad about the duplicates etc. No harm no foul, right? Well, I’m sure that would have been the case if I wasn’t feeling witty that day.

Instead, I had to reply. I asked her to refrain from sending me numerous emails and explained that I liked to keep my email account free for the offers of Viagra and the news of rich uncles that I never even knew I had passing away in South Africa. It wasn’t until after I clicked the send button, that it even crossed my mind that maybe, just maybe sending emails that had the word “Viagra” in it to my daughter’s third grade teacher who I really didn’t know (which means she didn’t know my sense of humor… or lack thereof), wasn’t such a great idea. This all happened the day before back to school night…which I would be attending alone.

I went in and squirmed in the chair that is probably too small for even my daughter. The last thing I wanted to do was make a scene but since she never responded to my email, I wanted to make sure she got the obvious joke that I get too much darn spam. Well I never got the chance to really say anything without 30 other parents around, so I just let it go and was glad to put the whole thing behind me. Or so I thought.

Probably a full month later, I got a response that explained that she “gasped” when she read my email. So much time passed in fact that I had to ask myself, “WHAT email?” Oh. Crap. THAT email. To make matters worse, she replied about two days before parent teacher conferences… which I would not be attending alone. I was terrified but decided to use the age-old logic of not saying anything to my wife and praying that my kid’s teacher wouldn’t bring it up either. Needless to say, the tiny chairs were the least of my worries this time. The teacher didn’t say anything, so my wife didn’t kill me.

Enough of me being an idiot. Fast forward about 4 months, to my wife, my daughter, and I meeting with the teacher, the principal, the counselor and a bunch of other women that had impressive titles. To make a long blog shorter, the end result was they were going to move my daughter up one year in math class. After her first day in the new class, we asked our daughter how it went. “Good.” Well…good is… good, I thought. That is, until we heard back from her new 4th grade math teacher that informed us that after everyone bent over backwards to get her moved up a year, on her very first day instead of doing math, she played some game on the iPad. Not “good.” Okay, so I secretly laughed, because that IS my daughter. They are trying to challenge her, she is playing some game. To her, of course, I gave her my best stern lecture of the importance of taking it seriously and how she shouldn’t be playing around during math, blah, blah, blah. Math class was for math only. She could goof around on the iPad during iPad time (yes, they actually have that).

So when I put it that way, it was probably my fault. Earlier this week, my wife forwarded me a creation my daughter made on her iPad and just commented, “Great!” When you see it below, keep in mind it doesn’t have the same meaning for an 8-year-old as it does to your perverted mind. If that was the case, I don’t think she would have sent it to her Mom, her teacher, and about 6 other students. I tried to call my wife to discuss it, but we were both laughing so hard, neither of us could even get a word out. “Great!,” indeed.

 

I did it for my little nephew. Truth be told, my “little nephew” is now bigger than me. He’s almost 17 and I’m pretty sure he drinks, swears, and does a bunch of other dumb stuff that I did when I was his age, but I’m proud of him. No, I’m not proud that he does any of that stuff, but I am proud of the man he is becoming.

We live in different states and see each other maybe once a year.  It’s not like we talk on the phone either, but through the wonders of facebook I can kind of keep abreast with what is happening in his life.  I was thinking about how different high school must be for kids these days because of peer pressure.  It’s not like peer pressure didn’t exist when I was a kid, but it was more the type from my dad, “Before you go to school, why don’t you try to go find a snow-covered hill that is uphill in both directions so you know what I had to walk to school in.”  Peer pressure for today’s youth, would seem much different due to facebook and the requirement that every status update give the illusion that you are cooler than you really are.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see an update from my nephew that said something along the lines of, “I don’t care who you are what the reason is, it is NEVER okay to treat a girl like that!”  Wow!  I don’t know what happened, but I surmised that some guy at his high school did something that wasn’t to nice to a girl.  Instead of looking the other way, or doing something cowardly like giving the guy a high-five or otherwise encouraging it, my nephew was publicly calling out the guy and letting him know that his behavior was wrong.  It made me proud to be his uncle.  Here was a young man who saw something not right and said, “that is not okay and I’m not going to stand for it.”

Probably two weeks later, I first heard about Joseph Kony from that same nephew via his status updates.  I honestly had no idea who Kony was, but it was quickly the hottest topic on facebook. After seeing my nephew’s third post about him, I finally found the time to watch one of the links about the former Ugandan dictator.  After doing so, it made me realize that my little nephew doesn’t just care about some girl at his school, he is passionate for kids on the other side of the world that he’ll never meet.

So yesterday morning, as it often happens, I had what I believed to be a witty comment pop up in my head.  I did what I do… which is log on to facebook to share my sick sense of humor with the world.  I won’t repeat it, but just so you can follow me here, it referenced Obama and Kony and in doing so made my own political preferences very clear.   It was a dumb joke (like just about all of mine are) so I posted it and didn’t give it a second thought… at least that’s what I thought. My immediate thought was that people with opposite viewpoints aren’t going to like it, but it was all in good fun.  Once I saw that it posted, I turned off my computer and went for a run.

I didn’t get too far before I started thinking about my post.   It wasn’t anything too terrible, but it definitely wasn’t going to help me win anyone to Christ.  I mean… that is supposed to be my goal, right?  I’m not saying it really is on a daily basis, but it should be.  I thought of my nephew and wondered what he would think if he saw it.  Would he think I was making light of something he cared very deeply about?  I don’t know where he is with his personal relationship with Jesus, because after all, it is his personal relationship.  However, I do know he is doing what Jesus commanded in loving others and standing up for those that cannot stand up for themselves.  So what if my nephew saw my dumb joke about something that he feels passionately and got so upset about that he didn’t want anything to do with me or anything I believe in and feel passionately about?  Would my dumb joke be funny then?  So I decided that this was so important that it couldn’t even wait until my run was finished.  I pulled out my phone, logged onto facebook, and deleted my stupid joke.  I then continued on with my run and made it the rest of the way without even stumbling… or causing others to stumble.

1 Corinthians 8:9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to others.”

XYZ

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

It usually starts with some giggling… te he he.  It happens at schools, dorms, and businesses across the country every week.  In the corporate world, it looks like this: the woman from the training department that almost certainly stirs her 8 cups of coffee with pixie stix, gushes those dreaded words,

“Let’s do an ICE-BREAKER!”

What she actually means is, “I only have about 3 minutes of useful information to share with you over the next three days that you are stuck with me, so we have A LOT of time to kill with fluff.”   She then continues,

“Let’s go around the room and everyone can state their name, age, and… te he he… their most embarrassing moment.   Te he he.”

At that moment, you have to make a crucial decision: You can either take your pen and swiftly but surely shove it into your eyeball in hopes that it will put you out of your misery right there and not just make you a pirate, or you can put on your big boy pants and play their stupid game.  So you stand up and do your introduction:

“Umm… My name is Tom, my age is way too old for this, and I guess my most embarrassing moment came the last time I had to do something like this. I stood up and gave my whole introduction and didn’t realize my fly was open the whole time.”

Lots of giggles… te he he.  Before the trainer that you just met, but already hate, says,

“Ummm… Tom, I’m not sure if this is a good time to tell you, but… XYZ.”

The giggles then turn into full-blown laughter at my expense.

What they don’t realize though, is the joke is on them.  I didn’t really share my most embarrassing moment with them.  I shared something that was cute enough to be counted as passable so they could move on to the next victim. If I shared the things that I was really the most embarrassed about, there still might be a little bit of giggling… in the beginning.  It would be more of an uncomfortable, “your kidding, RIGHT???” giggle, but then once they realized that I was dead serious, the giggles would turn to tears or outrage.  You see, I’ve done some pretty bad stuff.  Wait, let me correct that, WE’VE ALL done some pretty bad stuff.

Those things occasionally come to the forefront of our mind and when they do, we feel small, ashamed, guilty, and worthless.  It’s not just a random event when these things pop into your mind.  The enemy wants you to remember all the sins you have done, and feel like you have no value.  In 1 Peter 5 it says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Jesus called him the father of lies.  But if you really did those things, where is the lie?  The lie follows the accusation:  “You’ve done drugs, had a child out-of-wedlock, been arrested,  had an abortion, had sex with some guy or girl you don’t even know, cheated on your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, lied, stolen, lost your temper and have done terrible things you regret and are deeply ashamed of, God can’t love you.  Nobody can love you.  If there really is a God, he certainly wouldn’t care for YOU.  Nobody cares about you especially not God.”  Those are some bad things, maybe the devil has a point.

I remember a sociology class I took in college, which was long before I believed in God.  We were studying the effects of a low self-esteem, and all of the things it contributed to including: gangs, suicide, eating disorders, drugs, sexual promiscuity,domestic violence, and the list went on an on.  I have to admit, it was kind of eye-opening for me.   Prior to that class, I always thought, “what’s the big deal about how someone views themself?” Suicide, eating disorders, drugs… apparently it is a VERY big deal.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was sitting in church, and my Pastor made this comment, “When you get the book of Romans, Romans gets you.”  “Hmmm… maybe it was time for me to re-read Romans,” I thought.  So I did.  I didn’t have to get very far before I came across this in Romans 8:1, “There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Wait a minute, I’m pretty sure I just missed the exception that included all the terrible things that I had done.  No condemnation.  Zilch, zippo, nada.  Hmmm… seems pretty clear to me.

Wait, I found it!  It says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  I knew it! There was a catch.  It only meant for those perfect do-gooders that never seemed to sin or do anything wrong. That’s got to be it… except… Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This doesn’t seem to say after we become perfect, or after we start going to church, or even after we say some special prayer.  While we were still sinners, Christ DIED for us.

Okay, so maybe God loved me at one time, but I’m sure by now I’ve blown it.  Back to Romans? Why not.  Romans 8:38-39 says, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  That about sums it up then.  The creator of the entire universe loves me… and you.  I guess nothing else needs to be said.  Well, except maybe to the devil, “XYZ”… te he he.

For the love of my father

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

My dad has been dead for over 10 years now. I didn’t do that great of a job honoring him while he was alive, so I thought I would try to do so now.

I’m currently reading a book called, “Let Justice Roll Down” by John M. Perkins.  I’m not going to do a book report or anything, but I’ll tell you that it is a great book and you should read it.  The author’s brother was killed basically because he was black.  The author overcame bitterness through his faith in Jesus and eventually just exuded love. However, what he found during that time (in the 60’s) was that although many whites were okay worshipping across the aisle from him, they weren’t okay with his skin color outside the church.

I don’t think my dad EVER had a challenge with skin color.   His wedding photos show an African American in his wedding party.  Keep in mind that this would have been when restaurants were still displaying signs that said, “whites only.”  When I was 14, my dad took our family on a trip to Washington D.C. to visit some family back east.   I remember visiting the relatives, I remember seeing the various monuments and the Smithsonian, and I remember a homeless black man visibly shivering from the cold in the street.  My dad walked up behind him, took off his favorite jacket, put it around the man’s shoulders, and walked on.

Race didn’t matter and wasn’t the issue, injustice of any kind, didn’t sit right with my dad.  He lost his own father to alcoholism, which may have contributed to him driving to East Los Angeles every week to volunteer with the homeless and the alcoholics in Skid Row.  Later, he would drive to a church almost 30 minutes away in Westminister once a week, fill up his truck with cheese, bread, milk, and meat, and then drive South for about 2.5 hours and deliver the food and blankets to the poor in Mexico.  Heck, 30 years later, I still cannot eat an egg roll without thinking of the family we took in that successfully escaped a war-torn Vietnam.  Keep in mind we had 10 people in our own family, and my Dad invited an entire other family to come live with us.  Every year after that, they would come by and drop off fresh homemade egg rolls as a token of their gratitude to this man who only saw that they were in need and did what he could to help.

The title of that book I am reading comes from Amos 5:23: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Martin Luther King Jr. put it like this, “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”  Not coincidentally, he also said, “No, no, we are not satisfied, and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness and  like a mighty stream.”

I am proud to say that is how my father lived his life.  I’m a little slow, but I just realized that writing a blog isn’t going to honor my father.  Heck, my Dad was a humble man, for all I know he would prefer I didn’t write this.  No, if I truly want to honor my Father in Heaven, I need to follow his example.  Being the selfish guy that I am, I don’t go out of my way to help anyone.  My church is very active in a square mile of Denver that would be the equivalent of Skid Row.  At least once a month, they ask for volunteers to go down there and help with various things.  I’m always busy.   A co-worker that had cancer commented that when he was receiving radiation it was always cold so he was going to bring some blankets down there for the other patients.  I could have volunteered to go with him, but I was busy.  Now it is so bad that when I see my neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar, I close the blinds and silence the kids.   The last time he came, I realized that I accidentally left the “Blessings” sign on our door so I had to sneak out and tear it down only to realize that he was now standing at my doorstep.  This of course, left me no option but to fake a hamstring injury, start mumbling about “el perro grande y yo muy preocupado” while falling back into my house and slamming the door behind me.  Seriously though, I’ve got to put aside my selfish nature and start thinking of others before myself… AND showing it through my actions.   Only then, can I do my part to help Justice roll down.

                                                                     ~ Beware the barrenness of a  busy life. ~
                                                                                       Socrates

Race Report: Ironman Arizona

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized




Swim 2.4 miles +
Bike 112 miles  +
Run 26.2 miles  =
Ironman 140.6 miles






 

For those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. 

They will soar like on the wings of eagles. 

They will run and not grow weary. 

They will walk, and not grow faint.

Isaiah 40:31

 

Cast of Characters:

Ed– Friend from the hood.  Competitive as all get out.  Good athlete.  Ironman Arizona goal: 12:30

Dean– One of Ed’s best friends.  Became my friend while training with him. Ironman Arizona goal: 13:00

Me (Fat Tom)- You probably know me or you wouldn’t be reading this, but just in case… portly, blogger,and slower than both Ed and Dean in all 3 disciplines. Goal for Ironman Arizona: Beat my last Ironman time of 14:03.  If I was REALLY moving, I was going to try to hit 13:30 or less.

Derek (aka Frank)-  Great friend of mine who has done several marathons and also completed Ironman Canada

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      “Holy Sh*+!!!” I heard a woman scream within about 2 minutes of the start of the race and then she made a beeline to the closest lifeguard’s kayak.  Over 2600 athletes were punching, kicking, and doing their best to swim over each other at the mass start.  I heard one guy after the race describe it as, “Boy that swim start was like trying to rip a cub out of a mama bear’s arms… but more violent.”  As for me, I did okay this time.  I didn’t immediately put my head down and go for it because I learned from my last race that getting pushed down when it was time to go up for a breath, was a great way to start a mild panic attack.  So I was patient, waited to find a semi-open spot, and then went for it.  I somehow managed to even swim semi-straight this time and didn’t have about a million people shout, “Go LEFT!!!” as I ventured my way off course.  All was good… so I just kept swimming.  

      The swim for Ironman Arizona is an out and back.  On the way out I caught a beautiful sunrise.  On the way back, I caught something even more beautiful.  I looked up on the bridge above me and saw a vision in tie-dye: there was my family all wearing their tie-dye shirts that read, “Team Fat Tom.”  I knew they couldn’t make me out in the crowd of swimmers so I shouted, “Team Fat Tom Rocks!!!” and waved as I heard my daughter Mackenzie point at me and say, “Look, there’s Dad!”  I had a swim to finish so I gave one more shout of, “I love you!” and then put my head back down and rejoined the battle for the last mile.   

       Before I knew it, I was out of the water and on my bike.  My last Ironman was Couer d’Alene in Idaho and it was hilly and scenic (if you want to read the report on that race after this one, click here, but I’ll warn you it is long) .  Tempe Arizona is anything but scenic.  I had asked a fellow competitor the day before about the bike course and her response was, “It’s nothing but cacti and tumbleweeds.”  It turns out, that wasn’t too far from the truth.  It is a very spectator friendly course in that it offers three loops on both the run and the bike.  About the first 10 miles of the bike course are flat and then you hit Beeline Highway which is a long gradual uphill.  The last 3-4 miles get a little more steep, but nothing too terrible.

       Within about 5 minutes of the start of the bike, I saw Dean riding in front of me.  I rode right past him which was odd as in our training he was always faster than me.  At that time I didn’t know if Ed was in front of me or behind me, but it turned out that I actually beat him out of the water and he was still behind me.  I was feeling good, so I wished Dean luck, and rode like the wind.  The first loop was pretty uneventful, but on the second loop the wind picked up.  Almost half way into the second loop I saw some familiar tie-dye shirts and realized my buddy Derek had taken my two oldest daughers and drove out on Beeline Highway to cheer for me.  Their encouragement gave me a little boost to fight the winds and finish the second loop.  At the very end of loop number two (about mile 75), I heard a familiar voice say, “I finally caught you!”  It was Dean and he was doing great so I wished him good luck and kept going.

        The loop turnarounds are where the crowds really gather and cheer on the athletes.  At the beginning of loop three I pulled over with the part of Team Fat Tom that wasn’t out on Beeline Highway.  Ironman has some very strict rules including no help or support from anyone outside the race.  My wife is one of those people that actually follows rules.  So much so, that she wouldn’t hand me the frozen snickers bar I asked her to bring for me.  It was at her feet and I finally had to beg my 8 year old to hand it to me.  I’m not sure if it was her or my 5 year old who said, “Really Dad??? You pulled over for candy in the middle of your race?” “Actually…” I replied, “I pulled over to give my little love bugs kisses.”  They gave me kisses but I could tell they didn’t get it. 

      My four daughters, along with my wife, are my secret weapon.  If I had to guess the average triathlete at an Ironman spent about $4k on buying a new bike within the past 2-3 years.  On top of that, many drop thousands on coaching, nutritional supplements, and whatever else is considered the latest and greatest.  As for me, I ride a bike that cost me less than a $1k over 10 years ago and was probably about 4 lbs. heavier than most of the bikes out there.  My “latest and greatest” is a Multisport Ministries jersey and cycling gloves that both have holes in them from a crash I had about four years ago. 

      I may not have fancy, but I have one heck of a family.  They were out there all day for me.  They made signs that that were as individual as they are.  They read: “I bet Darth Vader was an Ironman” (my 5 year old), one with a picture of me and a pig with me saying “I’m an Ironman” and the pig saying, “I’m bacon” (drawn by my pig-loving 8 year old), another one had a picture of me sporting a six-pack with the caption of “You are our HERO!” and another one that simply said, “Soar like on the wings of eagles!”  I was so grateful to have them out there and hoped they understood when I had told them the night before that I was dedicating this race to them.  More than I cared about my finishing time for the race, I wanted my daughters to know that ALL things are possible with Christ and to follow their dreams and to never give up.  So I promised them that no matter how tired I got or how much I hurt, I was going to give Ironman Arizona my all… and I was going to do it for them.

      I gave my family smooches, and got going again.  At about mile 87, my buddy Dean was on the side of the road with a flat tire.  For about 2 seconds I thought about pulling over to try to help him, but then I remembered a couple of things: 1. No support is allowed and  more importantly 2. I am so unhandy that I probably would have left him with two flat tires.  So I kept on going and at about mile 90, I saw my buddy Ed for the first time that day.  We rode together for a couple of miles and then he wished me luck and took off.  Usually that would be the last time I would see him on a ride, but not on this day.  I stayed with semi-close to him and about a mile later caught him again.  That would be the last time I saw him on the bike as he quickly took off for good.  That was okay, because I was racing my race, and continued to ride hard until mile 110 and then switched to a high gear where I just spun out the last couple of miles to get my legs back.   I knew that I was going to need them… because once I was done on the bike, I had a little 26.2 mile run to do.  
      I entered the changing tent as Ed was leaving to start his run.  That was okay with me as I still had to powder my nose and check my make-up.  Not really, but you would think that because my transition times were so darn long.  Dean entered shortly after me and was ready about the same time.  I offered to wait while he hit the bathroom, but he said for me to go… so I did.  I thought for sure that he would pass me within that first mile, but he never did.
       I started off on the run, and I felt good… actually, I felt real good.  I made like Forrest and just kept on running.  At about mile 8, there was a bridge where a big dude was walking and seemed to be really struggling.   “Wait a minute…” I thought, “I know that guy.”  It was my good buddy Derek who made the drive all the way from Southern California to cheer me on.  I noticed he was wearing an official race number that said “Fred” on it.  Apparently the real Fred had enough of Ironman and quit.  Derek saw him walking off so he just told him that his son was a huge fan of Ironman, and asked if he could have Fred’s bib since he was obviously done.  Fred obliged which lead to me getting a good laugh everytime I heard a, “Go Fred!”
      Fred and I were old running buddies that went back about 8 years.  We used to have a trail run that was essentially “our” run.  We’d use that run to catch up on what was going in our lives, bounce ideas off of each other, and just share good times.   It was probably four years since we had been able to do one of those runs together, but that day in Arizona, we picked up right where we left off.
      He also let me know that my buddy Ed was about 8 minutes ahead of me.  The part of him struggling was obviously just an act as he ran like the wind while I broke wind (mexican food the night before the race wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done).  Next thing you know, we were at about mile 12 and we saw my kids and wife who informed me that Ed was probably only about 3 minutes ahead of me. About 2 miles after that, I was on a bridge and I saw a familiar face on the turnaround right below me.  At about mile 16 I said hello as I slowly pulled away.  I told Fred that Ed’s ego was way too big for him to let me beat him.  At about mile 17 I slowed down through the aid station while I grabbed some water and soup broth (aka the best thing ever when doing an Ironman) and saw someone skip the station and pick up his pace a little bit.  Again, I reminded myself, run my race. 
       I was having fun.  I was getting to catch up with one of my best friends, I had caught both a beautiful sunrise and sunset, and I was going to complete my 2nd Ironman.  I felt great, and was running strong.  I don’t know if it was the Bible Verse that I kept reciting to myself (Isaiah 40:31 above), the altitude, or just adrenaline, but I just kept going strong even when I hit the point that was longer than any training run I did.  You see the night before I was supposed to do a 20+ miler was our Halloween party and someone snuck some al-key-hol in my jello shots.  I woke up hurting and I had a long run to do and then I was taking my daughter to the Bronco’s game.  I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to take my daughter to the game unless I was actually dead so since I just felt like death, I never quite got my long run in.  It didn’t matter on this day, because I made my girls a promise that I was going to give it my all and I wasn’t about to make any excuses.
      At mile 18 I passed Ed again, but not so slowly this time.  He congratulated me on a great race and I reminded him that there was still a longgg way to go.  I wasn’t really cognizant of the time, but I started thinking about it at mile 20 when Fred pointed out that there was just a 10k left to go.  Hmmm… I was pretty sure that my 13:30 goal was well within reach, but I was starting to wonder if even 13 hours was possible.  I ran right by my kids and wife who was slightly befuddled that I didn’t stop and say hello.  I was moving at a pretty decent pace for me and I didn’t want to risk stopping.  I shouted something like “see you at the finish line” and kept running.  At mile 23 Ed went blowing by me.  Derek saw me laughing and I asked if I wanted to go run him down.  “Nope.”  I was having a fantastic personal race and it wouldn’t matter who I beat, as long as I beat the clock of my personal goal.  Conversely though, if I beat Ed, his day would have been ruined and he worked too long and hard for this day to be ruined.  The day you do an Ironman (especially your first) lives in your memory forever… and I wanted everyone to look back on their day and be proud of what they accomplished.
      Starting at about mile 25, the crowds started lining up along the route.  I’m not going to lie, at that point, I was getting tired.  The cheering of the crowds drowned out any fatigue I was feeling so I picked up my pace.  At about mile 25.5, I thanked Fred for being there again and told him I’d see him on the other side.   Even all the way up to that point, I had no idea what my time was.  About 50 yards before the finish line, there was one final turn.  I made that turn and it was there that I not only saw the finish line for the first time, but I saw the clock.   I know I was tired but I was hoping my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me… 12:39.   I heard cheering off to the right and saw my beautiful family screaming for me.  I gave my wife a quick, “Holy smokes, 12:39!!!”, raised my arms to heaven, and crossed the finish line a full 1 hour and 24 minutes faster than my last Ironman.
      Ed finished two minutes faster than me and Dean was only a minute behind me.  140.6 miles… 3 training partners and friends… separated by only 3 minutes.  What a day… what a race… what a memory!    
    

                                                    


      Did I ever tell you I went to mass in Vietnamese?  “Mass” is a Catholic Church service, and no, I don’t understand Vietnamese.  According to my Dad, it didn’t matter whether or not I could understand what the priest was saying because I got “special graces” just by being there.  That might also explain why I have been to mass in Latin and Spanish.  Apparently, special graces are universal (however their powers must have been limited to Catholic churches because I was forbidden to go into any places of worship from other religions).  One of the more memorable of these Catholic masses, actually took place in a foreign country.
     I think (hope) I was at least in high school.  My family and I would go down to Mexico for a vacation on a condo by the beach.  I was at the age where I desperately wanted to hang with my cooler older brothers, and NOT be stuck with my little brother and my parents.  So, when my brothers went to go party by the pool, I snuck along with them.   I don’t really remember what we were drinking, but I think it was called, MUCHO!  Let’s put it this way… I already had knelt down once to the porcelain god before my dad yanked me out of there and informed me we were going to mass.  Even in my very drunk state, I knew resistance would have been futile.
     There I was… sitting when the others sat… standing when the others stood… and kneeling when the others kneeled, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I looked over at her through my very bloodshot eyes and noticed she was trying to hand me something.  I stuck out my hand and she opened up hers, and gave me a whole handful of breath mints.  Oh no, she knew I was drunk!  I knew I wasn’t too old for a spanking from my dad, so I had to ask, “Do you think dad knows I’ve been drinking?”  “No…” she responded, “but everyone else in this church does!”  I’m not sure if I got any special graces that day. 

      Fast forward approximately 25 years.  My four year old daughter got a cut on her chest.  It was far from life-threatening, but it was open and bleeding.  I put some triple antibiotic ointment on a band-aid for her and was about to apply it to her wound.  “No, no, NOOOOO!!!!” she screamed.   “But sweety, it will help you heal and get all better.” Again, “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!” but this time she added, “not Phineas and Ferb, I want a Cars band-aid.”  Apparently I went with the wrong animated character.   It seems she didn’t have a problem with receiving what she really needed, she had a problem with how I was delivering it.  

     So here’s my question for you: Which one applies to you: does your church have any type of special graces or a special monopoly on the truth?  Or are you not realizing that maybe it isn’t the message that people don’t want to receive, but how it is being delivered?  OR are you just too drunk to realize that people are no longer laughing with you, but at you?


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Homer lives!

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

     D’oh!  We both love beer.  We both were tipping the scales at 239lbs.  We both admired Ned Flanders wife’s boobies… before she passed away of course. However,  last week, the Homer/Fat Tom coincidences got a little downright eerie.  
      When I found out one of my kid’s had a high IQ (a la Lisa Simpson), I immediately wanted to scream, “NERD!” and then have the mailman take a paternity test.  Instead, we went the hoity-toity route and checked out some private schools.  Maybe it was being in public schools my whole life that made me agree with Homer when he ditched English class and said, “Pffftt… English…I’m never going to England.”  But our child had been chosen for a school voucher, and who was I to not maximize her future income potential… in the hopes she would put me in a nice rest home when I am drooling on myself… next year.
     Our appointment at the private school didn’t get off to the best start because I could swear that while stressing the importance of being on time for once in my life, “blah blah blah,” “are you even listening?””11:30” “Hello, can you beer me?” Mmm… beer.  So I took that if I ever wanted to see my precious beer again, I better be there by 11:30.  Luckily, when she called at 10 minutes after 11, I was only 5 minutes away but that didn’t prevent her from yelling at me, “I told you it was at 11 and how important it was, why don’t you ever glisten?”  I just assumed she was having her Mr. Clean fantasy again and stepped on the gas pedal to ensure I wasn’t even later than I already was.
      The clock said 11:15 when Fat Tom Andretti burned rubber the wrong way up the 1 way exit.  Unfortunately, the principal waited for me instead of starting the boring stuff without me.  Like I usually am at 11:15  (or any other :15 for that matter), I was starving.  “Do you have ANYTHING I can eat, I’m withering away over here” I whined to my wife.  She dug through her purse and offered me a female hygiene product (which I passed on) and a chocolate chewy dip (which I wolfed down in about .02 seconds).  Perfect timing too, because it was our turn to shine for the principal.
     As we sat down in her furnace/office, I: 1. sweated profusely and 2: thought of ways I could impress her.  I was a little confused when she started by handing me a napkin.  I knew it had to be some sort of IQ test, so I immediately made an origami dragon/ kitty-cat  that could pass as a scrunched up ball.  When my wife shot me a look that said, “All of my relatives EVER were right about you,” I knew she wasn’t impressed with my work of art.  “Uhhmm.. honey, I think you might have a tiny little bit of that melted chocolate chewy dip ALL OVER your ENTIRE face.”  I still didn’t get that my origami art was just supposed to be used to clean my face… and nose… and ears.   So instead of completely wasting my napkin, I went the smart route and used the now saturated armpits of my shirt.  So after mumbling something about feeling sick, the principal just stared at me. She may or may not have had the hots for me.
      She started with a seemingly benign question like, “Can you tell me about your little gifted kid?”
I’ve never been one to pass on the opportunity to tell a funny, so I let her know that I would tell her all about my kids, if I hadn’t just dropped them at the pool.  It quickly became apparent that this woman had no sense of humor and I better impress her with how smart I is.  I thought she was just having trouble reading my chicken scratch when she pushed the application back to me and asked what a word said.  Maybe it wasn’t my best writing, but I thought any idiot should have been able to tell that I wrote, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” on the application next to where it said, “Sex.”  At that point, she looked at me and said, “Do you mind if just the adults talk?  I told my daughter to beat it, but the principal didn’t say anything and just kept looking at me like she was waiting for me to do something.  I didn’t know if she was looking for weakness, so I just kept staring back at her.  When I started to feel that familiar droopy eye feeling, I stood up but still didn’t back down in the staring contest.  My wife whispered, “XYZ!!!” and I corrected her to the principal, “She means E=MC sextupled… our little nerd discovered that Einstein made a mistake with that whole squared stuff.”  I slowly walked out backwards with my head held high… and my zipper stuck low.
      The good news was that they accepted my daughter anyway.  The bad news is that we just got an email on Friday stating that the voucher program was revoked.  And after I worked so dang hard to get her in!  There was only one thing that could help…. Duff… or its equivalent.  Luckily my town had a Scottish festival this weekend that offered plenty of beer.  It allowed me to get drunk, lift up men’s kilts,  and ask in my best Scottish rogue, “Where’s Willy?!?!”