Goals – A work in progress

I routinely find myself encouraging the people I train both in fitness and nutrition the importance of creating goals. There are countless books, articles, podcasts and other mediums on the power of setting goals. I often relay this information without hesitation, but as of late, I have begun to feel slightly hypocritical in my advice-giving. To have a season where you do not have a goal you are working toward is less than ideal. However, the true danger lies in allowing that solitary season to become routine and expand into months and even years. This is a familiar trap for many. Recently, I have felt myself in that very trap.

Goals are funny things. We can easily rattle off a few, without any true inclination toward pursuing them. It is normally paired with thoughts such as, “It would be nice if…” These are not goals. I would more classify them as vain ambitions. These grandiose ideas make us feel somewhat better – as if they are some momentary escape from the water-treading we have been doing. But they are nevertheless meaningless until we are ready to pursue them regardless of cost and sacrifice.

I just returned home from the Dominican Republic a couple of days a go. While there, I had quite a bit of time to reflect – where I am, where I am going, what I want, and so on. Reflection can be a good thing. Although, I often do better while focusing on minimal reflection. I have a tendency to over analyze most things. This causes great passion in the beginning pursuit of something until a few obstacles arise. These obstacles begin to feel more like warning signals rather than obstacles to overcome, so I find myself wavering on whether I made the correct decision in starting the journey. This sounds ridiculous, but many do the same thing without realizing their pattern until a lifetime of unfinished journeys has led them to a place they never wanted to be.

I love to read history, especially biographies. All of my favorite men and women in history were relentless with their goals. What impresses me most, I think, is how many never had moments where they sat wondering what they wanted or ought to do. They simply gave themselves over to a goal – any goal, often from a young age, and they tirelessly pursued it until completion. They never wondered whether they had it in them to complete it. It seems many of them were wildly insufficient when they began the journey, but through the process, they became the person necessary to complete it.

The power in a goal is not the goal or the completion of it. The power lies in the pursuit. This has led me to believe the goal itself almost does not matter. It is whether or not you are willing to give all you have over to its pursuit. Will you sacrifice what is needed? Do you simply dream of doing more – of being more than you presently are? Or have you truly committed? How much time we waste in trying to find the perfect plan or the perfect goal. Life has a fluidity that is hard to understand. When you truly live, life finds a way of unfolding before you. Life favors the bold and relentless. I believe God designed it that way.

In my circles, there is never a shortage of talk or ideas. There is rarely a shortage of prayer. I can speak only for myself, but I find the paucity in my life lies in the committing to a solitary idea. This is not something that improves over time on its own. It is a facet of self-discipline that must be addressed. And moreover, I believe each person must have a grave realization that life is not about pursuing or preserving comfort. This alone relegates ninety percent of the distractions around us. (I suppose this would be a good plug for Teddy Roosevelt’s book, “The Strenuous Life.” He may very well be my favorite person in history.)

This is where I am. Transition lies in heaps all about me and uncertainty with every step. However, the beginning of faith and hope is to trust God’s ability to pick me up when I fall and to clean up the messes I make along the way. My aim is to live a life in which I can readily say, “This one thing I do.” This naturally demands a great ability to say no to most other things. We live in a world where everything and everyone will place a steady stream of constraints upon you if allowed. But boundaries are easily set when you have committed to a thing.

I hope my meanderings may help someone in a similar place. To that, I leave you with this. The end game is not the completion of a goal, but whatever you do – see it through. Not for the sake of the goal but for the sake of your character and the person you hope to become.

AR

alp-studio-426760-unsplash

Éireann, táim ag teacht.

When I was around the age of five, my dad brought me to one of his bookcases in his study. He reached for the globe and pulled it down for me to see. He turned it and pointed to a relatively small island in the North Atlantic and explained this was where our family came from. He was pointing to Ireland, and I’ve dreamed of going since that day. I’ve studied the history, the culture, the language, and the music most all of my life.

On April 12, 2018, a life-long dream becomes reality. I will be flying to Dublin, Ireland, and then driving to Cork. I’ll be the first person in my family to return to Cork since they came to the States. It’s honestly still hard to believe the time has finally come. There aren’t really words.

I’m very excited and grateful. I am still working on the routes I’ll be taking, but it promises to be an adventure. So here’s to the journey ahead.

Éireann, táim ag teacht.

AR

050fd79cc8f80bfbba1141a8d277af8c.jpg

The typewriter

I sat down at my old Smith-Corona late last night and began to write for the first time in a while. It’s a 50+ year old typewriter in a strange shade of green. Some of the keys show a bit of wear, but it’s actually in remarkable condition considering. Around the time I first got it, I was asked by many why I would want an antiquated machine most are all too eager to dispose of in a garage sale.

It’s clunky and a bit worn in places, but there’s a beauty to it. What first drew me to it was the thought of limiting distraction. When you sit down to a typewriter, they’re a bit of a one trick pony. They type. That’s about it. When using a computer, distractions are readily available. I appreciate the simplicity of it.

There’s something about the rhythmic striking of the keys. The ebb and flow seems to tell a story of its own. At the very least, it accentuates the story being told. Its typeface also has quite a lot of character. Each typewriter has its own individual fingerprint of sorts. I’ve heard detectives of the past used typeface to sometimes lead them to perpetrators. Perhaps, that’s why criminals began using letters cut from newspapers instead of typing or writing their messages by hand.

Typewriters have recently experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity. I suppose Tom Hanks and hipsters are to thank for this. I prefer to thank Tom Hanks. Nevertheless, it’s the literary greats that inspired my acquisition. Quotes from Ernest Hemingway for instance, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

My fingers have yet to bleed. Although, I believe that was mostly meant as a metaphorical expression. With Hemingway, it’s a little hard to tell. Regardless, I’ve found my typing speed is improving quite a lot. My hope is to one day write something of substance using it — a book maybe. A short book. Ha.

There is an arcane draw to archaic machines. It is not shared by all, but if you’ve ever seen the beauty of a well-preserved WWII airplane, a sextant, or even a typewriter – perhaps you understand. These old machines may be considered antiquated technology with little to no purpose today, but they serve as reminders of eras gone by. They were built during a time when things were built to last.

AR

IMG_2711

Wine is supposed to be sophisticated.

In 2011, I was a missionary in Europe. I wrote about my experiences on a blog I had at the time. Considering most of you have not read those stories, I’d like to post them here from time to time. Here is one from Bad Münder, Germany, on October 19, 2011. Enjoy.

I had my first glass of wine the other day. I was at the pastor’s house in Bad Muender, and we were eating lunch. He asked if I’d like a glass of his favorite wine with my soup. Billy quickly interjected with the agreed upon response, “He’s too young to drink.” The pastor, however, was not deterred. He continued to look me in the eye eagerly awaiting my response. I stirred uneasily in my chair and muttered, “I don’t know.” He quickly added, “It’s very good. I’d like to know what you think.” Feeling a bit pressured, I replied, “Alright.”

He quickly poured the contents of the bottle into the dainty glass. I looked at it placed on the table in front of me just looking like a sin. Everyone grabbed their glasses and partook in a timeless toast of raised clanging glasses. I largely was oblivious to what was going on, so I just began clanging my glass on all surfaces and in all directions as its burned amber liquid rolled about like a slithering something. I was somewhat nervous and on the verge of perspiration. There was no turning back.

Wine is a funny thing. It seems to bring sophistication out of even the simplest of folk. You know what I’m talking about. You get a guy named Bob that can barely pronounce sophisticated and give him a glass of wine and his vernacular suddenly changes. He begins to spout out strange descriptive ramblings that lead to nowhere.

“What a robust flavor; yet with a gentle subtly that is really quite nice. I like the nutty taste in the end as well. A very nice full-bodied wine, indeed. Rather austere wouldn’t you say?” Everyone around really has no idea what he’s talking about, but in unison, they all nod their heads in agreement as they take an equally absurd stab at describing the concoction that’s kicking about amongst their innards.

Then there’s me. I took a sip and thought, “What the heck is that?” The pastor looked on with anxious eyes for a response. Sadly, the first thing in my head came out my mouth, “That was weird.” He grinned – thankfully, despite the fact I somewhat insulted his favorite wine.

The thing I didn’t say was, “I can’t believe people make this stuff and think it’s good!” It tasted like a mixed brew of gasoline and pecans. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the glass. Perhaps, that somewhat takes away from the story, but honesty is important.

AR

Wine

Cowboys and Indians

There is a story often told when my family comes together. It seems to be the kind of story that grows new laughs with every telling. Perhaps, the animation and exaggeration grow a bit each time, too.

I believe it was the summer of 1995. I was no more than five years old. It was a day like most all others. The days were hot and long, but no one seemed to mind. The daily routine consisted of riding horses, watching a bit of cartoons, and drinking my weight in root beer.

I was staying with my grandparents, Mima and PawPaw. The day was venturing into early afternoon when I asked Mima if she’d like to play a game. I don’t remember her ever turning down any suggestion I made, so I fully expected her compliance. I was not disappointed. We settled on most every little boy’s favorite, Cowboys and Indians. Considering I was already wearing my cowboy hat and boots, my part in the skirmish was already settled. By process of elimination, that left her as the lone Indian.

I was looking for more authenticity than our normal games provided, so I suggested she wear war paint. We were not readily stocked in face paint, so we settled on her makeup. She handed her lipstick to me, and I went to work on her face. It’s too bad there isn’t a picture. I believe Bonanza would’ve proudly admitted her as an extra.

With cap guns loaded and holstered, we headed outside. I remember wanting to incorporate my horse, Little Britches, in the action, but Mima thought better of it. I eventually conceded. That left us standing in her front yard in Rio Vista, Texas. The battle began. It mainly consisted of wildly shooting my cap guns as we chased each other. There was little plot or strategy, if any, but it didn’t matter.

At some point, I came across a few feet of rope. I stuffed it in my pocket as we kept running. We were both tiring fast, and I was looking for a way to secure victory. That’s when inspiration struck. The flagpole. I continued chasing her to the end of the driveway. The flagpole was now just a few feet away. She was beginning to offer bribes to get the game to end as she slowly backed away from me. I wasn’t yet ready to relent.

Her back was now against the pole. I grabbed for the rope in my pocket and holstered my cap guns. I quickly took her hands. She started to pull away, but I explained I wanted to tie her up. For some reason, she consented – under the stipulation that I would quickly untie her. I nodded my head in half-hearted agreement to her conditions and went about recalling the knots PawPaw had recently taught me.

Once done, I gave a good tug. It seemed tight enough, so I took a couple of steps back. I watched as she began to pull at the rope. It didn’t budge. A smile spread across my face. We continued the Cowboys and Indians charade for a while longer, and then I took a few more steps back toward the house. She broke character, “Andrew! Don’t you leave me out here!” Such barbarous tactics hadn’t yet entered my head, but I began to laugh at the thought. Her voice took a more serious tone.

At that, I began making my way back to the house. I was laughing hard enough now every few steps I fell to the ground as I looked back at her. She didn’t appear to be in good humor any longer, but I found it hilarious. My grandmother was tied to the flagpole in front of her house – right by the busiest road in all of Rio Vista. All while she was fantastically adorned in makeshift war-paint. Needless to say, she was not happy.

I made my way inside and quickly realized how thirsty I was. I poured myself a glass of root beer and sat down. I briefly wondered if I would get in trouble, but I quickly dismissed it. It was only a game – innocent enough. I turned on the tv to a favorite cartoon. Before I knew it, I had forgotten Mima was still tied to the pole.

No less than thirty minutes had passed when PawPaw walked into the room. He asked, “Have you seen Mima? I haven’t seen her in a long while.” Immediately, I remembered! I jumped up and ran out the front door to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she did not look happy. I slowly approached as if I was approaching a dangerous situation. By this point in my life, I had learned if I could get a grown-up to laugh – it was almost certain I would not get in trouble. I began to work my magic.

I could tell she was conflicted. There was a part of her which saw the humor in it all, but there was another part that was slightly sunburned and annoyed. She began to recount her time at the pole – how countless people had driven by as they gawked at her attire and predicament. She seemed particularly upset about a school bus that drove by while kids draped from the windows as they antagonized her. Around this point, I began to detect I wasn’t in trouble, so I no longer stifled my laughter. We made our way inside as she called me a “little brat.”

We were met by PawPaw at the door. I remember the look on his face as he first saw her and simply asked, “What happened?” She then explained the entire game and story from her perspective. I only looked on waiting for his approval. He chuckled, shook his head, and walked to his office. I learned two things that day. I’m really good at tying knots, and my grandmother is a saint.

AR

41fa258d065f403b73adb22304afbfad