Category Archives: Accountability

Running and winning my first and only 5K race

My children do not believe this story. They look at their “pleasantly plump” mother and cannot believe she ever played soccer in college. They don’t understand what multiple child births, along with a decade of caring for an elderly parent, does to one’s ability to exercise regularly! So, although it is true, I can understand why they have a hard time believing it. With this background, here goes.

My dear friend wanted to run a 5K race. She asked if I would be her accountability partner and train with her. I had no plans to run any race, but I liked my friend and figured it would be good exercise. We ran outside for most of the fall. However, when the weather was rainy or snowy, we headed to the campus indoor track. A friend of my older sister’s happened to run the student gym, so we would say hi and chat a bit while I was there. Training was fun for me because it kept me in good soccer shape and I got to chat with my friend while we ran.

Fast forward. My friend found a flyer on campus about an upcoming run put on by the Law School. The entrance fee was reasonable and the course was right around campus. She asked if I would enter with her. Of course, I said yes. We agreed right then that if during the race either one of us just couldn’t continue due to cramping or exhaustion, that the other one should keep running and we would just meet back at the finish line.

I don’t remember much about the morning of the race. I think I ate breakfast. We both showed up ready to run. When the race started, it was a huge pack of people. I remember thinking, “How in the world will this work? There are way too many racers to even fit on the street?” The two of us ran side by side and just kept moving with the pack. The pack was running fast, so we didn’t have the breath or energy to talk much. I am not sure how far we were into the race when my friend told me she needed to stop and would meet me at the finish line. After I made sure she was okay, I caught back up with the pack.

Just a little background to help you understand the humor in this story. I never ran track in high school. The thought of just running bored me to death. I played soccer because I liked being with all the people. The sport part of the game was fun, too. I didn’t mind running if I was actually thinking about scoring or having fun with friends. But running by itself was never something I would consider. I didn’t have the internal fortitude to stick with something as serious as running.

Back to the race. Okay, so as I am keeping up with this pack, I start to realize that I never even looked at that race brochure. I had no idea what the course was like. I had relied on my friend to know this, and she had to stop running. This meant two things: 1) I must keep with this pack or I will get lost; 2) I had no clue how far I had already run or how much of the race was left. These are two desperate things to be running through your head during a 5K race! So, in my usual fashion, I decided to just run with the pack and forget the rest. I didn’t pay attention to who was in the pack, I just ran. That’s funny because the pack was mostly men, however, I was behind a handful of women so that’s all I saw.

As the course winded back towards campus, I felt some relief because I at least knew I couldn’t get lost now. As we turned a corner, we faced a giant hill. I don’t know if it was really “giant” but at that moment it felt giant. I saw my friend sitting on the lawn next to the hill waving at me. I also saw about half of the campus standing on either side of the street watching the race. Suddenly, I am ashamed to admit, my vanity took hold. I thought to myself, “I’m dying here. I am exhausted. I want to stop and sit on the lawn with my friend. But I cannot do that. All these people are watching me. Okay. Fine. I will just beat that lady in front of me up this hill. I will kick it into high gear and ignore that it is a hill because I am so embarrassed at this moment.”

And that’s what I did. I ran my heart out up that hill and passed that lady and kept on running. Suddenly, I hear people saying, “Good race! Way to go!” followed by “Stop. Stop. The race is over. Come back!” Huh? So I stop running and am walking to catch my breath. The lady I passed comes over and shakes my hand with a disgusted look on her face. She says, “Congratulations,” but her body language says, “I hate you.” I am confused. Now, there’s laughter. One of the volunteers working to put on the race tells me, “Do you know that you won the race?” I think she is kidding because all these guys were in front of me. I must have looked confused. She says, “You are the winner of the women.” I think I said something like, “Oh, okay,” and started to walk and find my friend. The volunteer grabbed my arm and said, “You need to collect your prizes.” I think I was in shock. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I received a gift certificate for a Dinner for Two to a very nice restaurant. Sometime, I will have to tell you how I asked my husband out on our first date with the gift certificate!

P.S. I have never run a 5K race again. Even though I won, I definitely did not enjoy running that race. I have no idea how many women entered the race, and honestly don’t care.

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The Repairman or the Homeowner?

I was talking with the HV/AC repairman while he was fixing our broken air conditioning system some years ago.  I was explaining that we had just moved, so our home looked a bit turned upside-down. He laughed and said that he had seen everything. He described how he went to an appointment at a million-dollar home  when he was new on the job. The landscaping was gorgeous and the building itself was awe-inspiring. The repairman rang the doorbell. When the homeowner let him inside, the repairman noticed that although there were gorgeous draperies across the front windows, the back windows had nothing covering them. Also, the only furniture he could see was a folding table, a folding chair and a mattress on the floor. The repairman said to the homeowner, “Wow, it looks like you are in the middle of moving.” The nicely dressed homeowner looked at him and said, “No, I have lived here for 5 years.” Oh my!

How deceived we are by outside appearances. From the repairman’s view, this home was a very expensive, well-appointed mansion. Once he was allowed inside, his view was abruptly changed. He was even willing to suspend belief and suggest that this person surely was just moving and that’s why there was such a big disconnect between the size of the home and the furnishings. When the repairman finally realized the ugly truth, there was no turning back. He said that he finished the appointment as quickly and quietly as possible and got out of there. The repairman felt so horrible for this homeowner who was appearing to be something that he was not.

I have been that repairman before. I have been totally sucked into believing an appearance to be reality. I have judged by the outside, and when allowed to see the “inside,” I have even chosen to suspend my belief thinking that surely this person would not be like that. I would call this concept a form of denial. When faced with the ugly truth, I was unwilling to see it for what it was, and this was compounded by the problem of my own naiveté.

Humbly, I must admit that I have also been that homeowner. I have been so comfortable with my own denial and keeping up appearances, that I have boldly stated the ugly truth, but not thought it was ugly because I believed my own lie! My conscience was so deadened that I truly did not see the ugly truth. I instead saw a “pretty lie.”

Both of these situations have taught me that we are easily duped. Many people who we perceive have possessions or wealth or any other outwardly appearance of success are really hollow inside. In fact, if we are invited “in,” we might be shocked by the hidden reality of their lives. Alcoholism, narcissism, addiction, depression, abuse and other bondage may lurk behind that perfect image. We need to stop comparing our insides with their outsides. Whichever person you can relate to–either the repairman or the homeowner–there is only one answer for how to overcome the lie/denial pattern. Make a decision to know and follow the Way, the Truth and the Light–also known as Jesus Christ!

 

 

 

Are You Building Up or Breaking Down?

Have you have ever watched a home or a building being constructed? It can seem to take forever to complete. Digging the foundation is a big job. Weather conditions have to be just right for many parts of the construction. There is an order that must be followed or you will end up with an unreliable structure. All of this to say that building or unifying is hard work. It is God’s work and it is often beyond what we are capable of doing on our own.

On the other hand, destroying is quick and easy. A couple of well-placed explosives and some front-loaders and dump trucks can clear a building or bridge rather quickly as we witnessed recently in our neighborhood. It is relatively easy to take down a building or a family. Divisiveness or destruction is the Devil’s work. He is completely thrilled when he sees us giving into this temptation. There is no need for help when it comes to sin. We are perfectly capable of doing this all on our own. The real lie we often believe is that our personal sin affects no one but ourselves. Ha, ha, ha. That is a really great “whopper” of a lie. Because when we sin, we separate ourselves even further from God. We separate ourselves from each other. Our sin can divide our friendships, our church, and ultimately our family.

Keeping a family together demands God’s help. We must practice forgiveness daily. We must serve each other, not use each other. We must practice charity when we would really like to “give them a piece of my mind.” We must keep God at the center of our family— not soccer, not television, not money. Unifying your family is a real challenge in today’s world. When the media is screaming that we should want more, do less, and live a life of vice, you wonder where the truth has gone. I say we must fight this good fight and not allow Satan to have his way with ourselves or our family. And it starts with visiting the church of two-knees!

 

The One-Two Punch of Forgiveness

I’ve decided that a relationship is like a bank account. You must make deposits to be able to draw anything out. And trust is one of the crucial factors that hold a relationship in tact. When a friend or family member does something which is totally untrustworthy, they bankrupt the account. And “sorry” isn’t enough to fill it back up.

A wise friend of mine counsels married couples. Usually he finds that they are struggling because of an affair or gambling or some behavior which has broken trust entirely. The person who made the offense will say they are sorry to their spouse and expect that their relationship should be back where it was before. This offender does not understand the relationship bank account system! When they broke trust, they bankrupted their account. They are basically starting over as a couple, having to build the trust back up in the account. And that always takes time.

I am amazed when I hear others who know about these type of situations saying things like, “Well, if she had really forgiven him, she wouldn’t be treating him that way.” Or “If you really forgave her, you wouldn’t mind if she came to the family event. Let’s just all get along.” But what they won’t say is the rest of the sentence, “… even if she hasn’t ever acknowledged she stole $100,000 from you or that she did anything wrong.”

People want forgiveness without reparation, especially if they were not the ones who were offended. But forgiveness, although merciful, also requires reparation. For example, if your son breaks the neighbor’s window, marching him over to the neighbor’s house to ask forgiveness is just step one. Step two is the neighbor saying, “You are forgiven.” Step three is having your son mow the lawn for the summer to pay off the cost of replacing that window.

Somehow, in today’s world, we let go of step three. We just expect others to forgive and call on God’s mercy as the reason why. Yes, God is all merciful, but He is all just, too! The justice part is overlooked when we don’t make reparation. Scripture tells us that we are called to forgive our neighbor over and over and over. However, we are also told to pay back any debts owed and right any wrongs. Mercy and justice go hand in hand. They are the one-two punch of forgiveness. Without these two together, I think you end up at that lukewarm notion called tolerance.

 

 

Imagination and Reality

Have you ever had a dream that was so real that when you woke up you were still feeling the intense emotions you had during the dream? This is the power of imagination. Our imaginations are a huge gift from God. It’s where we can create and discover, just like our Creator. Afterall, we are made in His image!

Lots of famous inventions came about because of dreams, for example the design of the needle that would make a sewing machine actually work. Mothers and grandmothers across the world felt a load lifted from their shoulders when this machine was invented. Making the family’s clothing became a much easier task. Today we don’t even think about sewing out of necessity. Everything comes ready-made. Clothing the family is as easy as choosing the style you like and can afford. All because of one man’s imagination taking a creative idea and making it a reality.

As amazing and wonderful as our imaginations are, we can misuse our free will with our imaginations which can create some serious dilemmas for us. One clear example is that we can let fear overtake us in our imagination. When something difficult happens in our lives, we tend to imagine all types of outcomes or ways to respond to the difficulty. The “what ifs” can overwhelm us and rob of us any real peace. Or we can decide that life is supposed to be a certain way, and to keep it that way, we simply ignore the reality staring us in the face. You can call this a game of pretend, but let’s be honest–that’s Satan’s territory.  He has a lot of freedom in the realm of our imaginations, and many times we willingly or unknowingly allow him in.

On the other hand, God is all about reality. He owns it because it is true. When we are faced with difficulty and suffering, we sometimes avoid facing reality. It seems so easy to rename what we are seeing or experiencing. If we pretend or ignore reality enough, we start believing that our pretend is real. That’s when Satan starts having a field day. The longer we keep up the pretense, the stronger hold Satan has on our lives. We even are willing to limit our view of God and His love for us, just to keep our “pretend” game going.

All of this to say that we are called to use the gift of our imaginations for good. We are also asked to accept our lives as they really are. When we suffer or face a difficulty, we are told to give thanks: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) And remember that God isn’t the one behind suffering, pain or death! To quote Saturday Night Live’s Church Lady character, “Can you say Satan?”

As for me, I will consider myself much farther down the road of spiritual growth when I can embrace these three things fully. When my thoughts and imagination are only focused on good things. When I can accept my life and all of its circumstances as it really is. And when I can face serious suffering and/or difficulty and my first response is “Thank you, God!” instead of my current response which is more like “Why me?” 

Honesty is such a lonely word

“Honesty is such a lonely word/ Everyone is so untrue/ Honesty is hardly ever heard/
And mostly what I need from you” – Billy Joel

This morning I am pondering honesty and deceit. I’m struggling with this because both myself and people I know and love are dealing with people who strongly feel a lie is true and the truth is a lie. I have many questions about this:

1) How did they come to believe the lie so thoroughly? I think because it conveniently allows them to do whatever they want to do without consideration for anyone else but themselves. By believing the lie, they can continue to get what they want at all costs. Or they can continue to ignore a huge problem in their lives by blaming others around them.

2) How can they continue to believe the lie when all reality tells them otherwise? I guess that they are blind to all reality. Just like a horse in the races, their blinders are keeping them free and clear from facing the truth that may hurt or cause them to change course.

I think it’s like what Father Abraham said to the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31, where the Rich Man said: ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house,28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”

There was nothing which would open their eyes to the truth, even someone rising from the dead!

3) How will they ever see the truth if they really like the lie? This is where I turn them over in prayer to the Holy Trinity. I ask for unilateral forgiveness for them every day. I ask the Holy Trinity to surround them with love. I pray for clarity in my own life to see where I am blind to the truth in my life. I know that I do not have the power by myself to remove the blinders because I have tried to no avail. I have been humbled and must let our good God find a way into their hearts.

Responsibility and Authority Belong Together

My son turned 16 years old a few months ago and has been asking about possible jobs he could pursue. His buddies have jobs and now also have money. I think he likes the idea of having cash flow in his life. My husband and I have been discussing with him all the possibilities, and the pros and cons of each.

We have explained that his current vocation is “Student.” And this means that his top priority is learning how to think and growing in wisdom. If he fails at this, it will be a big problem in his life. It would be very easy to let jobs and activities crowd out study time and thought time. He’s a pretty thoughtful teenager already and he recognizes this could be true, but he still wants a job.

Having been in the workplace since I was 16 years old, I have experienced all kinds of jobs under all types of management. I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. Mostly, I have worked for Baby Boomers. I have listened and learned from some of them, but I also have been surprised by some of their “blindness.” As an example, many of them would share how they were hired for their “potential” and given tremendous amounts of training paid for by the company. How they were mentored by so-and-so and taught the ropes with a lot of hand-holding along the way. Yet, they saw their trajectory “up the ladder” as a result of their own hard work and talent.

When these same folks interviewed me, it was all about “What can you bring to the table? What skills do you already have that we can use?” And when I showed them I was willing to work hard, many of them dumped a lot of responsibility right onto my plate while giving me no additional authority or wage increase or promotion. Responsiblity without authority simply does not work. It is a nightmare to be in this type of disordered situation.  However, it was a beautiful thing for my supervisors. It freed them up to spend lots of face time with the important people, offering to work on special projects that helped their own supervisors look good. I never understood why those people at the top didn’t stop and consider that this person sure has a lot of spare time on their hands and wonder who was doing all of their work? It was this responsibility without authority that pushed me out of the employee mindset and into business for myself. I figured if I was going to carry that heavy of a load, I might as well be on my own. That way, if something went wrong, I only had myself to blame. I am okay with accountability.

The thought of my son working for people without integrity who use those around them for their own personal gain is a bit gut-wrenching. I would like to interview his future boss and see just what kind of person he is. Actually, I have been doing that without them knowing it. So far, I am liking what I see. Now, if only he will offer my son his first job!

Sitting at Table or Serving?

I sat in the most amazing meeting this morning. I was invited to attend because I help coordinate a program that is held at this church on a weekly basis. The meeting was the “Leadership Forum” which included one person representing each church ministry and one person representing each oversight responsibility for running the church facility. I didn’t quite know what to expect since I am not a member of this specific congregation.

However, I did come with a lot of baggage about meetings because I have worked in corporations, not-for-profits, health care, small business and consulting. I generally cannot stand meetings because often there is no agenda and no accountability or the people running the meeting have a different agenda than what is listed on the agenda which becomes apparent during the meeting. I basically dread attending a large group “meeting.”

That’s why I was so thrilled by this meeting with this group of people. First of all, they stuck to their agenda. What was listed, they discussed. Second of all, they actually knew how to dialogue with each other. If someone brought up a problem or situation, everyone truly listened and then made helpful suggestions or offered ideas. If one person had not thought of that perspective, he thanked the other person for bringing that to the group’s attention. No comment was ignored. No eyes rolled. No undertones or hidden agendas that I could perceive (and I am pretty good at hearing/seeing/feeling those things.)

Also, there was an amazing amount of humility on the part of each person in the room. When they shared their results, it was never about themselves. They mentioned all the people who helped make this happen. But their results were tremendous! Remember, I was an “outsider” at this meeting, but they made it a point to help me see that my input was just as important since I used their facility.

It is no surprise that this church is growing in membership each month. If you spend time with their leadership, you see that they are truly servants.  “For who is the greater: the one at table or the one who serves? The one at table, surely? Yet here am I among you as one who serves!” (Luke 22:27) It’s almost like they take the Gospel seriously and live it each day, even in meetings! What a novel idea.

Carving Out Sacred Time

If you saw my family calendar for April, you might just throw up your hands and walk away. Each family member’s activities are highlighted in a different color, and anything that is for the entire family is highlighted green. From a distant, it looks like a collage of pinks, blues, purples, yellows, and oranges. When I glance at the calendar, I can see by the amount of green, just how often we get to do things together as a family. I would like to say that the calendar is mostly green. But it’s not. Yet, to be fair, we are together all day long unlike most families today. That makes the crazy collage a little easier to stomach.

All of this brings to mind the need for me to carve out sacred time, family time, or as Matthew Kelly says, “carefree timelessness.” With all of our activities that flow over into the weekend, and with technology making us available to anyone and everyone at a moment’s notice, carving out time for God or for our families has become a real battle. As a Christian living in America, I struggle with God’s commandment to “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.”

I long for a return to the days when stores were closed on Sundays. A time when families and friends gathered or visited each other on that day. I do make sure to attend Mass on the Lord’s Day, as Christ requested. But I do not believe that is enough. I want true rest and true peace and true community. I long for a return to holiness as a people of God. I do speak of my hope and desire for this to the people who plan these busy activities on Sundays, but mostly I am ignored. It is terribly sad to know that we have given up so much to gain so little. I wonder when I stand before God just how He will see all of this. I wonder how to impact change if I cannot change my own family in this regard. I wonder.

 

The Difference Between Good and Nice

This has been bothering me lately–the difference between “good” and “nice.” The other day, my husband was telling me about a situation at work. He kept referring to a certain co-worker as a “nice guy” but then would go on to tell me of some awful things this “nice guy” was doing. After about the third time my husband called him “nice,” I just couldn’t take it any longer. I stopped him and asked, “Why is he a “nice” person if he is doing all of these things?”

Like I have mentioned, I have been listening more this Lent. I have come to realize that people use the term “nice” to mean that the person they are referring to is willing to tolerate just about anything so as not to rock the boat. Yes, they are peacemakers in a sense, but they also choose to overlook some very key issues. Their ability to deny the reality of the situation is a bit astounding to me. In fact, I would argue that at times they are participating in the evil around them simply by keeping their mouth shut because they are so “nice!”

I have been rolling these two descriptive adjectives around in my head for a couple of weeks. I have decided that I prefer people who are “good” to people who are “nice.” Good people are the ones who speak up when something wrong is happening. They are the ones who call their friend to accountability on an issue that their friend has been dodging or denying. They are sometimes called “mean” by the “nice” people. But I don’t think they are mean. They have courage. They have integrity. They are accountable to God and their neighbor. They love, so they suffer.

My closest friends are “good” people and true friends. They don’t always just tell me what I want to hear. They tell me what I need to hear. I do not think they are mean. I think they love me and want the best for me. I do the same for the them.

So, if you are nice, and you are reading this, I am sorry because you probably think I am mean. That’s easier to believe and makes you have to do absolutely nothing. If you are good, you know what I am referring to in this post. Keep up the good work!