Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So as not to keep you, dear reader, in suspense, a short report on the Half Ironman I volunteered for a week ago.We had ten men in all that started and completed the race without any injuries other than sore muscles and lots of cramps, which is completely normal when you keep moving intensely for 7 hours or so. They are amazing, my heroes, and I got to see them at different points in the race.

We started first below in the pantano (water reservoir) called Canales. They warmed up. lined up the HONK, the horn sounded and they were off. Beautifully off. It was like a piece of art. As they swam, we walked up a STEEP hill (where last year I felt like I almost died and realized I was too fat and started training much more in earnest) and stopped to take various pictures. Then the guys finished the run and started to walk up. We took a few pictures. This one is Juli, our team trainer as he runs up in 5th place after completing the 2.5 km swim.

Below is a video of the whole race as they take off from the finish line.

Then we went up to watch them do the transition. There they put on their shoes and helmets, grabbed their bikes and went off to the do the 90 km cycle. There was an accident, quite serious along the way, but fortunately our guys completed the ride without a problem.

Liz and I went and watched the guys come up the Purche, a very steep hill, one of two that they had to do before making it up the other steep part to the village where they would transition again, taking off bikes and helmets and clipless shoes in exchange for running shoes and usually hats.

But before we could see the guys make it to the village, we dashed up the mountain in the ski lifts to the highest part of the race, about 2600 meters, or close to 9000 feet above sea level.

The four men, decided that together they would do the race. They waited for each other at key points, and encouraged each other. Several times they had to stop and get off the bikes and massage out cramps or stretch out the tired legs. Dani, Iker, Nacho and Jesus are my heroes.

Gerard finished strong, with a constant smile.

And Manu, finished 6th in the general rice, 1st in the bike. He is a machine.

Liz and I didn't see them finish, but we saw them at one of the worst points, after having run uphill almost 14 km. They could barely speak, but there we were, cheering loudly and handing out a cup of water.

I don't know if I'll do the volunteer thing again that that race, I missed seeing them finish. But isn't that life, sometimes all we can do is give a cup of cold water. Jesus talks about that, and how important it is, the small things. Since you all know I follow Jesus, I hope that through my life and writing, I can give you a cup of cold water. Sometimes, that's all we can do, and sometimes we miss the glorious finish, but we are supposed to be part of the encouragement along the way.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

This weekend, almost 20 of my teammates from Triatomix will complete either the Olympic or the Half Ironman in our backyard, the imposing Sierra Nevada. Today, 7 of them completed the Olympic, 1500 meters swimming, 40km cycling and 10 km running, most of which is completed above 1500 meters or more above sea level. Just standing up there watching them finish I feel the lack of oxygen and my legs complained of little pressure and felt quite swollen.

This race is one of the most physically demanding in the world, and is incredible to watch, let alone participate in. I'm going to take pictures tomorrow with my husband, and with a bunch of the girlfriends/wives or other friends, hand out water at the halfway mark for the Half Ironman. They guys will already have swum 2.5 km, and cycled 93 km and run 11 km by the time they reach our water/fruit stand. They will have another 11 km to run before finally crossing the finish line.

The men in our team (this time we have no women competing) are amateurs. They do this for their hobby, their down time from jobs like IT, businesses, doctors, office workers, teachers and we have a few students, (both undergraduate and grad level)most of whom completed today's race. We have several that are at pro level, and could compete on a national level if they so choose. However, most of the time they compete with us mortals and encourage us to push harder, faster and better.

Maybe those of you who follow my blog are tired of me using this as a metaphor, I hope you are not, and can hang in there with me for just a few more minutes. :)

These men who have trained all year, have accomplished numerous races in the process, have trained for this very moment. For several hours, mostly like 8 or so, their bodies will be "on" and they will be in constant motion. They have cried, sweated, eaten pasta until they burst, swum hundreds of kms, cycled thousands of kms, and run again and again and again until their bodies are so finely tuned, you can see every vein and muscle even if they are wearing shorts and a tshirt.

Paul talks about this in I Corinthians, and one of the triathletes actually quoted the last two veres of the below passage to encourage the teammates this weekend. I would like to look at it and take a slightly different look at it.

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (I Cor 9:24ff NLT)

Disqualified. A horrible word. One you fear most as you compete in a race. In a tri, several things can happen in which can disqualify you. You can touch your bike before putting on your helmet, you can run off course (cheating) in an effort to try and finish sooner, etc, etc etc,

When was the last time you thought about how you could disqualify yourself from the race of life? In my personal reflection, how do I, as someone who has set my face to serve God, be declared disqualified?

I've watched it happen. I'm not that old yet, but I've watched people who have dedicated themselves to a task, and two, three, four or more years down the road, throw in the towel, quit, either physically or emotionally, and they are finished. They walk off of the race, and disappear.

I do believe in second chances. I do believe there is more than one race to win. And I recently have watched friends NOT complete a race, and have to try and supersede that barrier in the next race. It is painful, but can be done.

And even more so in the race of life, I believe in a God that wants to show me and you what it is to run the race with Him as our trainer, leading, guiding, encouraging, and running with us. I'm so happy He doesn't just watch and cheer from the sidelines, but He too ran this race, and runs it with us daily. Come, let Him run with you, and see the difference in how you run this race.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

For Jody

Portions of my thesis to wet your appetite. Perhaps what we spoke of yesterday will make more sense. Everyone else can listen in. :)

Culturally, Shame in this paper is  defined within the context of Judeo Christian values but we can also see the values of the definition of shame within the Asian cultures to expand our understanding of shame, although it is obvious within the Spanish culture, there is a combination of both shame and guilt cultures. It would appear there is a combination of both due to Judeo Christian values as well as shame culture. This is why in the Med this looks differently than in the Middle East or the Asian world. It is a moral obligation and not a cultural obligation as in Asian cultures. It would appear from the literature that shame in the Med looks more like Shame in the Middle East as both major cultures have had a lot of cultural contact, linguistically, socially, culturally and even politically.
We can see from the literature review in psychology that we sense and experience anxiety and/or motivation as a result of our shame. Anxiety in second language acquisition has been studied in depth, and we are well aware of its causes and effects on the brain, emotions and learning abilities. However, anxiety is one of the result of shame, and a narrow aspect. Shame can also be a positive aspect in second language learning as we will see. If one is ashamed that he or she cannot communicate, one of two possible outcomes may occur. 1. A person will be afraid to make a mistake in language and will be overwhelmed and cease trying.2. A person will be afraid to not be able to communication and will be motivated by lack of ability to hone his or hers ability in language. However, what seems to be more likely than not is that shame is a barrier to second language acquisition and most students, when confronted by this barrier actually are impeded by it, and do not advance in their language studies, specifically in the area of speaking. Many will continue to study, but without self awareness in this area, they will not become advanced speakers in their second language.

Definition of Shame from an Eastern Viewpoint
Although shame is still shame in either a Western or Eastern context, the intensity is quite different. Everything that I have discussed and will continue to discuss is Shame from a Westernized context, but it is noteworthy to briefly discuss shame within an Eastern context.
In order to be thorough in research on shame, one cannot ignore that the the society in which shame is most powerful used and felt is Japan.  Ruth Benedict’s anthropological work on Japan is not new, but is still one of the foremorst ethnograpical sketchs still refered to by many. Even though some view her ideas on shame in Japanese culture biased, her thoughts are still quite thorough and for my purposes, adequate to help define shame in general.
In the forward in Benedict’s definitive work, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ian Buruma summarizes Benedict’s ideas on shame culture by stating, “Shame comes from not living up to social obligations…Shame depends on the observations of others.” (Buruma 2005 p. x) Previously he discusses the author’s personal struggle of trying to make sure that there was a definingly line between a guilt culture (like in the United States) and a shame culture (like in Japan). Benedict distinctly shows that these are stereotypes and that not every person in these cultures falls into one or the other categories, but that these categories aid one to  understand culture.[1]
                Benedict’s main ideas about shame state that shame cannot be absolved as guilt can by confession and forgiveness and so it’s feeling of chagrin is very powerful and unbearable. She believes that shame is caused by an exterior force, that produced by societies expectations placed upon the individual by stating that,  “true shame cultures rely on external for good behavior…Shame is a reaction to other people’s criticism.”(Benedict 2001 p. 222-223)  She believes guilt to be produced as a result of an internal action that “may be relieved by confessing …sin.” (Benedict p. 223). She further elaborates on shame stating that the Japanese equate shame to virtue and that a man without shame does not possess virtue and that a man with shame is a “man of honor”. (Benedict p. 224)

[1] Benedict was commissioned by the US government in order to write a defining work on the Japanese culture in 1944. She tried to do so as objectively as possible. Her previous counterparts, including ambassadors, had nothing positive to say about the Japanese culture, calling them “barbarians”  and “savages”. Her definitive work changed the way the West thought and still thinks about the Japanese culture. (Buruma 2005 p. vii-viii)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

I've written a lot lately about our journey to become triathletes, and I've realized that there are so many parellels to life as you work through things physically. Today, I'm laid up at home from church with a sprained ankle and a torn up knee, and I didn't even do those training! I merely slipped and fell walking with some girlfriends this week and boy has it hurt! I did two triathlons and hundreds of kms of training this year, and I hurt myself walking. Sigh.

However, this has given me time to reflect and think and stop and be still, which is still a very important part of life, one that's really easy to bypass as we think "being productive" is the only way to do live.

Last weekend I was in England with Andrew, and we went to our friend's ordination service. I'm not an Anglican, but I can very much appreciate its form and traditions, and staying power, even through the midst of war, crisis, plagues and you fill in the rest of the blanks.

This service was powerful, as we watched a good friend who has gone through his own personal hell, see a miracle realized, and become ordained as a deacon (the first part before becoming a priest) in the glorious Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. I imagine he is still pinching himself a week later.

What can be easy for us in the midst of a miracle however, is to think that all is solved, and that there will be no more hardship. But, the parking tickets, and the sprained ankles and the frustrating moments, and the atm card not working still continue and sometimes overshadow the incredible miracles God has permitted to occur in our lives. We see this in the Gospel of John when suddenly a man can walk, and all anyone can focus on is why he was lame in the first place. Darnit! He can walk, and they were still focused on the past.

I'm just as guilty. I've had an incredible year, full of blessings beyond my imagination. Seeing our friend ordained was another one of those blessings. But when I sprain my ankle, and my bank account is dry and I can't go to church cause I'm hobbling around like a horse with no knees and I throw a party and 30 people can't come, its easy for me to forget about things like I've done two triathlons this year, I'm stronger and fitter than ever. I've come to the almost end of a MA and am looking forward to a PH.D. Andrew has found his niche in so many ways, and we have amazing students and new friends and new adventures...

So. Stop with me today as I continue my wanderings, but in quiet reflection of all of the good things that "overflow my cup". And that I continue to feast even in "the presence of my enemies" and that my God is the King of Glory that humbled himself to perform miracles, not to erase our past, but to bring Glory to the Future Kingdom. Amen.