Thursday, September 20, 2007

September 20, 2007

How shall I hold my soul, that it may not
be touching yours? How shall I lift it then
above you to where other things are waiting?
Ah, gladly would I lodge it, all-forgot,
with some lost thing the dark is isolating
on some remote and silent spot that, when
your depths vibrate, is not itself vibrating.
You and me - all that lights upon us, though,
brings us together like a fiddle-bow
drawing one voice from two strings it glides along
Across what instrument have we been spanned?
And what violinist holds us in His hand?
O sweetest song.

Rainer Maria Rilke
To my Beautiful Wife: Happy Anniversary. I love you.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Riddle Of Steel...

This is mainly for the guys. Maybe I'm wrong but women seem to have this down.

We are ever, family, birth, death, relationships end, new ones begin, attitudes and points of view alter. But for me weightlifting has always been an anchor. If I was away from steel for a season when I came back it was waiting. Oh, some of the machines may have changed over the years but at the heart was always steel. Steel never lied. If I was lacking the tale was told. No condemnation, no stern looks, no judgement. Just an honest report. If I was up to the task steel gave true witness. No sunshine up my skirt, no bonfires, no cheers. Just fact. Steel has always been a true benchmark. But men have perverted that.

Isn't that what the world expects? From the time guys are old enough to push a bar we eye each other: "Can you bench your weight?" "How much can you curl?" Over the years I've grown to hate that. It always seemed to come from pride and arrogance. Judging someone by what they can or can't do..."I'm stronger" "Mines bigger". Whose got the biggest house? nicest car? smartest kids? It took losing several people very close to me in a very short period of time before I asked myself "What does that stuff matter anyway?"

Answer: the stuff of this world doesn't matter. I realized there were more important things in life than the size of a bank account or who won on Sunday. The only living part I have left of the ones who have gone on are the memories...the way they touched my heart. I guess that's part of the reason I fell out of love with sports in general. It's all about beating someone else, putting them down, humiliating them. There's too much of that in daily life that we can't avoid...why occupy our leisure time with it? That's why I've retreated to weightlifting. I don't need others to measure myself against. If I never see another person lift a weight I can still participate to the fullest. I can train by myself - keep it private. It's my business, no one else's. Put on the headphones, lift a ton and hope the world never finds me. And, if I get tired and walk away, steel will be there waiting for my return. No questions, no complaints, no back talk. What a temptation a life of solitude can be.

But, that's the enigma of steel: it's not alive. It's dead. It can't move without us. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it? * That's where real power lives. As strong as steel is it takes imperfect 'me' to give it function. Also, a life of solitude isn't life. No matter how much we think we can do it on our own, no matter how much we try to be the lone wolf, we need others or we die. Even the lone wolf is an enigma. He can't survive in the wild for long. That makes relationships the most important thing we have...relationships with friends, coworkers, lovers, wives, God.

So, I continue to lift by interference from others. No opinions, no one telling me I'm right or wrong, just steel. But, outside of the world I've built in the weight room, I try to surround myself with a group of men who make me better and avoid ones that would lead me down a dark path. And I try to be a leaky vessel and spill out to others what's been poured into me. Steel can build strong muscle but relationships build strong men: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

Some of these men are from church, some from work, some online but all fall under the same heading: friends. As a dear friend once told me "when all of life is over all that matters is who we loved and who loved us."

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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Riddle of Steel?

I've never talked about it here but for as long as I can remember I have had a passion for weightlifting. Most all the other sports in my life have lost their luster and began to rust and tarnish but my love for raw steel and the art of moving immovable objects is as sharp and polished today as it was that first time I grunted under a bench press when I snuck a try at the Sears & Roebuck weight set my brother got for Christmas when I was 8. One of my heroes from those days was a body builder named Dave Draper (I know, I'm dating myself). I would see him in the movies and see his picture on the back of my comic books showing off what were, at the time, the world's largest biceps:

Compared to the generic-looking steroid-laced body builders of today he looked tame but Dave always did it naturally. I admired him and the hard work it took to develop the body he did. I wanted to have huge arms like that when I grew up. When I began playing football in Jr. High I discovered weights for real. Like everyone else I hated practice, especially the running, but I was nearly alone in my love for weight day. As I moved into High School I learned more about nutrition and building muscle and even though I wasn't the biggest guy on the team I was always in the top 3 on bench press and usually #1 on legs. When I went to college I was pretty bulked up. I was tops in the weight lifting portion of my walk on tests at Baylor. I suppose the only reason I stuck with football all those years was to be around the weights. None of the schools I ever attended had a weight lifting team and back then there wasn't a Bally/LA/24 Hour Fitness on every corner.

After college I started the busy part of life working and raising a family. Oh, I lifted off and on but by then, like a fool, I had started smoking and forgot anything I ever learned about good nutrition. Finally 13 years ago I kicked the death sticks and 6 years ago, after finding out I had diabetes, I got serious about fitness. That's when I rediscovered two old friends: weights and Dave. He was pushing 60 by this time but heck if it showed. Here he was at 50...every guy should look so bad at 50:

Seeing him, learning about his journey and the battles he'd fought, I realized I didn't have it so bad and there was hope for me too to be fit, healthy and look good as I grew older. Starting in '01 I was a faithful in the weight room. In the old days it was all about weights but this time around I made sure that at least 40% of what I did was cardio. Cycling mainly. I still hate running. There was a 12 month stretch from February '06 to February '07 where I lapsed and gained most of what I had lost/lost most of what I had gained by letting people and things in my personal life get to me and tear/wear me down (Psalm 73:2 feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold). Since March, though, I'm back. Back on my knees, back on the bike, back in the weight room and almost back to where I was before I slipped. Just proves it's never too late to change your heart and the body has an amazing ability to heal and grow stronger. (What was it Neitche said?)

So what is the riddle of steel? ...tell you next time.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Seasons change and so did I..."

The earth is ever so slowly moving towards Autumn around here. This week has been in the mid 80's in the day and upper 60's at night. I've been catching up on my riding...put in about 70 miles in the last week. I noticed the Ceder Elm trees are starting to shed a few leaves and the Pecan trees have dropped the extra pecans they carried through the summer. I know it's probably due to lack of moisture now compared to the wet summer we had. Funny, though, in July we were marveling at how laden the Pecan trees were with pecans yet how small they were. Now that they have shed half their fruit what remaines is almost four times the size...gotta' love mother nature! She's a smart cookie.