Monthly Archives: January 2012

Front Porch Living

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How many of us wake up in the morning,  go to work, come home,  sit on the couch, and turn on the T.V. just to start it over again the next day. I believe it is important for us to not sit idle and have time just pass us by. We have to get out there and get involved in life. Over time, we as a society have begun to isolate ourselves. An example of this is 50 years ago, when houses were built with  porches on the front of the house that enabled us to sit out there and interact with our neighbors. In the last 15 years, however, we find ourselves building decks on the back of our houses so we can have privacy so that nobody will disturb us. I am not implying decks are bad, but  implying that we are becoming an isolated society. We’re  living our own lives, not bothering anyone or anyone bothering us.

This post is going to contain a lot of words and names which may seem irrelevant at first and maybe even a little drawn out. But hang in there, and I promise I will pull it all together to sum up my point.

It all started last fall while sitting in a movie theater with a woman named Stephanie, watching the “Race Across the Sky”. It is a movie chronicling an annual, brutal 100 mile mountain bike race held in Leadville, CO. It was at this time when my buddy Mike and I decided we, too, would race in a 100 mile mountain bike race. Oh, how little I knew at that time.

Once we decided we were going to race a 100 mile race, we had to decide which race we would enter.  After a short time, we decided on the Shenandoah 100 due to locality, and it was late in the season to get in as much training as we could. We started training about a year out from the race, just putting in a lot of long, slow, boring rides to build up our endurance. During this time, we talked to many different people who attempted such a feat to see what we were in for. This included our bike mechanics and mountain bike racers Scott W and Kyle,  the“Wonderboy”. Not only did they keep my bike riding smooth and fast, but filled us with great riding wisdom. Then there was Stephanie S. Not only did she race and finish the Leadville 100, but she starred in the movie they made of it. Stephanie is a special woman who has used biking to overcome many adversities in life, including a mental illness she deals with and discusses in the movie. She was an incredible encouragement to me throughout the year, always keeping me motivated.  As time wore on and the weather warmed, Mike and I signed up for our first enduro race which was held at French Creek in Elverson, PA. The name of the race was appropriately called “On the Rocks at French Creek”, due to the rocky terrain. In the description of the race, it actually says that if you sign up for the enduro, you need to get your head examined. It wasn’t the most inviting words to sign up for this race, but we decided this would be a good test for us to see where our fitness level was. It was during this race where I got to ride with Stephanie for the first time, but not for long, as she passed me in the first couple of miles, and I never saw her again until the end. I did, however, ride with another great rider, Jill N. During this ride, I got to hear about all the other races she was in over the years, and a lot of her many accomplishments. Of course, the longer I rode with her, the more emasculated I felt do to her optimal fitness. Along with her was another elite rider that made me begin to wonder if I took up the wrong sport, Nicole S. I would have the pleasure of riding with these great women throughout the season, doing various enduro races. While riding for hours on end with someone, you get to know that person pretty well.  We celebrated as we achieved minor accomplishments like clearing a technical section of the trail, and encouraged each other as we suffered together and our bodies rebelled against us. Not only did Mike and I  use races to get tuned up for the big day, but countless hours riding on local trails with our friends. There were rides with teammates Rich, Arounkone, Kyle, a different Kevin, Mike, and others . During these rides, we pushed each other, encouraged each other, laughed and cried, and, well, I cried a lot anyway. I also did countless rides on the road, sometimes riding with my neighbor, Jim,  spending hours talking with him and getting to know him better. Finally, the big day has come and I race (survive) the mountainous terrain, barely. After crashing hard, not once, but twice. I got to ride with hundreds of other like-minded crazy people, where we all encouraged each other to finish the race.

So why do I bring this up, you ask? I realized that by setting a goal a year ago, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people. People who encouraged me, people that I encouraged. Friendships were formed, and friendships were nurtured, all this because I set a goal. If I decided to just continue to wake up, go to work, come home, and watch T.V., I would have missed getting to know all of these people and the great memories that were created.

In the bible it says,  “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all”.  And in the book of Hebrews it says,  “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
And in 1Co 10:24  it says, “ Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor”.  We are encouraged in God’s word to get involved with others, to encourage others, and be patient with others. It does not say to hang out by yourself, look out for number one and mind your own business, and live in your isolated life with blinders on.

I have decided this year to live more intentionally and make thoughtful choices. I decided to set goals in order to bump into more people and get involved in their lives, and have them get involved in mine. This year I am learning the guitar, learning Spanish, started a blog, going on a missions trip to Nicaragua, read 10 chapters of the bible a night, and writing a life plan- just to name a few. I can’t wait to see who I run into and how they can encourage me and I, them. I urge you to get out on the  front porch and see who walks by.

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Is Religion a Dirty Word?

dirtywords

When you hear or see the word religion what comes to your mind?  What feelings, thoughts ideas, visions come to you?  And when these feelings and thoughts come to mind, what religion are you connecting it too?  My emotions and thoughts of religion come from my personal experience. Back in the summer between 7th and 8th grade my parents were notified that my brother and I were not welcomed back to the Christian school we were attending. This was based on the premise that my brother was suspected of smoking marijuana. So going on hearsay they not only kicked him out but me as well. This left a really bad taste in our mouths regarding the church and we separated ourselves from it for years. It wasn’t until  about 10 years later that I returned to it but that’s a whole other story My point is that a lot of us base our prejudices against religion based on our personal experiences and not what the faith teaches. So why am I talking about religion anyway? Well just this past week I got into an argument regarding religion. Although I don’t consider myself to be a “religious” person in the sense most think  religious to be. Nonetheless I was told by this person that all religion does is create war, steal money for it’s own gain and perpetuate lies for power. I thought to myself “wow” the word religion really stirs up a lot of hatred. I think there is premise for this due to what some in the church have done throughout the years. There have been wars in the name of religion, extortion, hypocrisy, molestation, quest for power etc. I think that there is a distinction that gets lost in translation. Most would say that Christianity=Religion. Therefore everyone who is associated with the Christian church is religious hence equating Christians to horrible people. But what I think we really hate is not true religion but false religion.  This same religion Jesus  is against as well, while talking to the religious leaders of the day said this  in Matthew 23:27–28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. This is the religion that most can’t stand and stirs up the hatred for the church. Recently there was a video put up about hatred toward religion and in 1 week has had over 15 million hits. This clearly demonstrates that there is a disdain for this false religion. The video in which I am referring to is below.

Why I hate religion but love Jesus

I think we need a better definition of religion  so we all understand what we mean when we use it. Do we mean a set of man made rules created by the church in which we must follow? Or is it just a set of beliefs agreed on by a group of people?  Maybe I am being a bit nit picky here and maybe it is just understood that people understand religion to be  hypocritical religion, but then again maybe not. Here is a great post on the differences between the Gospel vs. false religion

The Bible has some things to say on the matter of religion. One is found in the book of James, who was the brother of Jesus.  It says in James 1:26 –27 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  So our actions should match what we believe. Of course it is impossible to always do this, but this should be what we strive for.  John, one of Jesus’ disciples said it this way in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” One last passage that I want to share with you is this Isa 58:6 –8,10 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?   Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?  Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard…  if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”  In these verses it clearly demonstrates our actions should be where our faith (religion) is.

Although there is much animosity toward religion, and in most cases rightly so we need to judge our religion on the creator of the faith and what the faith teaches and not on the people who distort it. Even though there is much harm that has come in the name of Christianity over the years it is also the Christians who give more to charitable causes than their secular counterparts.They run countless shelters, pregnancy centers, rescue missions, and food pantries. Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS around the globe to name a few. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. There is also a lot of good that comes from religion, we need to hate the false religion but hold on and embrace true religion.

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Karma is a B**ch

  Karma

I often hear after someone has gotten their version of justice that karma is a b**ch. We secretly like that feeling when someone gets their comeuppance, (always wanted to use that in a sentence) when we think justice needs to be served. But what if the justice we want isn’t served and someone seems to be getting away with it day after day and year after year? Of course it makes us feel better to think that some cosmic force is going get them one day, but what if it doesn’t? What if that rich CEO gets his million dollar bonus while lower level employees are getting laid off? He  then continues to live to the ripe old age of 90 and dies in his sleep. Of course it makes us feel better to think that  in their next life there are going to come back as a worm or something. But what evidence do we have of this? Or conversely, what do we say about the 6-year-old girl who has brain cancer, or the pregnant woman who just lost her baby in the womb, or the teenage hockey player who was just paralyzed? What on earth could they have done to deserve such a punishment from a cosmic reaction to their actions? And what about all the millions of people who are born into poverty; were they all that evil in some past life? What of the ruling class who seem to control and lord their power over so many? Were they so great in their past life that they came back in the next life with power just to abuse it and start all over again?  And who or what decides what is right or wrong to deserve such justice? Doesn’t there need to be some sort of absolute truth to determine what is right and wrong? What are the rules that govern Karma; how do we know how to live? Are we just subject to the whims of the universe to decide when and how we are to be punished for something we may or may not have done wrong? The Bible, on the other hand, is very clear on how we should live. There is a standard set to know the difference of what is expected of us to do or not to do. The very basic principle of this is the 10 commandments. This is loosely called “the Law”. There is more to it than this, but for arguments sake we’ll go with it. We are given 10 rules in which God wants us to live. This is the standard in which we know what is expected of us. So the next logical question is what happens when we break  God’s law. This is what the Bible calls a sin. In the Bible it says, “For the wages of sin is death.” This sounds pretty bad; maybe karma isn’t so bad after all? But if we continue with the second half of that verse it  says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So we have a standard in which to live by, which is really, really hard or impossible, you could say. And if we don’t get it right the one who makes the rules tells us specifically what our punishment is, but then gives us an out. It says in Gal3:13  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” Redeemed simply means to pay our debt.  (Sometimes I wish that were my credit card debt too,) but I digress. Another way of saying this is 2Co 5:21, “For our sake he made him(Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness(Perfectness) of God.” The next question should be to ask: “how do we get this get out of jail free card?” I’m glad you asked, in 1Jn 1:9 it says  “If we confess(admit) our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” yep, it’s that easy. I know I may have lost some of you here and if you want to know more about this just ask me, either through comment or email: ksine84@gmail.com.
Whether or not we believe in Karma, many of us live our lives according to those standards. That if we do good we get good, and if we do bad then we will get bad. This idea is not contrary of what the bible teaches. There are verses that speak about this (Gal 6:7-9) one being, “we sow what we reap,” meaning there are consequences to our actions. Obviously if you stick your hand in fire, it will get burned. So there is some basis for the belief in a karma, like system in that it seems to make sense sometimes. But the problems with it is the lack of  absolute moral standards, the ambiguity of what is the exact punishment to a particular misdeed, and who or what decides your punishment.

I believe that there is a God who answers all of these questions. That period of  time when we think it is taking too long for someone to get their judgement, is when God is displaying patience with us. Psa 145:8  “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”  He gives us time to repent before serving us and others justice. This is seen in 2Pe 3:9  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

I know there is much more to say on this topic, but these are just some of my thoughts on it and would love to hear your thoughts are on it, and why you believe what you believe.

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Why I am blogging

It is the start of a new year, and like all new years we resolve to try new things, lose weight, or quit some bad habit. I decided, “Well, blogging is something new, so what the heck.” The reason I want to do this is to create conversations or thoughts that lead us a little deeper than the common “water cooler” talk we have at work and our social gatherings. I have resolved this year to live more intentionally instead of letting life just pass me by. I am not sure where this will lead, if it leads anywhere, but you cannot fail at something you never tried. I was first intrigued by this idea from a friend at church, Mark Mcintyre, who has a blog called Attempts at Honesty which is appropriatly titled. I like the idea of having open, honest conversations about life, and what we believe and why we believe it. I think if we are honest we would all agree that at times our faith systems can be challenged but we are afraid to talk about it. We carry on with life with a smile on our face and telling everyone we are fine when our world is falling down around us. What is it with us that we think we need to portray to everyone that we have everything under control and our lives, marriages, and jobs are all going great? So, over the next couple of weeks, months, or years, I would like to talk about life; how do we get through the good times and the bad times? Why do we believe in whatever we believe to be truth? So I hope that you would live more intentionally with me and interact with me so we can dig a little deeper and tear down this facade we put up.  I will try to put up a post about once a week and may post it a couple of times during the week to get greater exposure since we aren’t always on Facebook, Twitter and checking our blog at the same time. I hope that you would leave comments on whether you agree or disagree to open up a conversation. Also check out my about page to learn more. I know I need to add a picture of me somewher, evidently the only pictures I have of myself is on my mountain bike.

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From fan to fanatic

When does our passion for a sport cross the line? And why do we feel so connected to the team that we root for? How many times when describing the game you are watching do you throw in the words “we” or “us” when referring to the team as if we are a part of it?

I grew up in north Jersey until I was about 9 years old and my dad took me to my first football game. It was the New York Giants Vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. My dad got these great tickets through work that placed us on the 50 yard line only a few rows off the field. It was from there that I was hooked, and I officially became a New York Giants fan. It was also during these years that I went to my first baseball game, which was the New York Yankees including players like Reggie Jackson, Bucky Dent, Thurman Munsen, and Ron “Louisiana Lightning” Guidry. Needless to say I became a Yankees fan because of it. It wasn’t until years later after moving to Pennsylvania that I became a hockey fan. Naturally, I became a Flyers fan because they were the home team. So that was it, my loyalties were set. These were the teams I would cheer for, go to the games, and buy all the merchandise, etc. I would say for the majority of us this is how we determine who our teams are, usually by location when we started liking a particular sport.

I think many of us, including me, get too involved in a particular sport and our moods, temperament, and actions are dictated by the outcomes of the games. I have broken remotes (flyers, game 7 after being up 3-0 in the series Vs. Devils) punched walls, and said things I regretted from my team losing. I believe we the fans need to put professional sports into perspective and remember it is just a game. We are not on the team, we are not getting paid and win or lose our lives are not changing; we still get up the next morning and go to work.

A friend of mine, who grew up in New Jersey playing hockey consequently became a New York Rangers fan. He was a volunteer fireman, an EMT and a Marine who recently became a police officer. He is also a recipient of a purple heart that he received because he was shot by a sniper while serving our country over in Iraq. He recently went to a hockey game with tickets his wife got him for Christmas.   After attending the game he decided to get some food at a nearby cheese steak restaurant with his friend. This is when 3 men jumped him and proceeded to knock him to the ground, then kick him while he was down and when he tried to get up, they punched him in the face and knocked him down again. He received a concussion, a broken orbital bone, and he needed stitches. Why would someone do this to another human being you ask? Because he was wearing a jersey from the visiting team of course. So because he grew up in a different location then the team he went to see, that gives one the right to beat him up?  You can read the full story here if you want to know more about him.

We need to incorporate a bigger world view than local sports determining how we treat our fellow man. I am reminded of the golden rule in Luke 6:32 “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you,” and Galations 5:14 “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  These are simple rules to follow in treating others whether they root for the same team you do or not. This, in my opinion, is when we cross the line in sports- when we are not able to follow these simple rules. If you cannot achieve this or don’t want to because you hate the other fans who root for other teams is when your passion for sports have become too great in your life.

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