Month: April 2014

Black and White decision part 3


I previously wrote about how I try and balance rules with practical considerations.  I believe my rules are 100% correct, if I thought otherwise I’d change the rule.  However, I try and balance my “perfect” rule with another principal I believe equally strongly in – independence.  I believe you should agree with me and be willingly to follow my rule, but I have no desire to force you.  If you disagree with me, it doesn’t really bother me.

But I run a household.  How can I balance my role as a leader in my home to all the crazy rules I like to come up with?  It actually hasn’t been challenging to come to an agreement with my wife, we have very similar personalities.  I simply state my case and my decision and let her make her own call.  She tends to respect my leadership in a decision and usually follows it, even if the rule seems (is?) crazy.

Where rules cause heart ache is with my kids.  I want my kids to have and do everything, but much of Las Vegas is centered around casinos.  Bowling, movies, restaurants, meeting rooms, even something as benign as a school field trip to an aquarium is centered around a casino.  I don’t want to force my rules on others, but I believe casinos are wrong and I’m supposed to train my child – even if my Church holds a less dramatic position.

My oldest child is now able to go to church “teen group” activities.  The signature event is a teen all-nighter with various activities, including bowling at a casino.  And it was really really important to my daughter to attend.  The event is chaperoned, and the group is filled with “good” church-kids.  Bowling has a separate non-casino entrance.  How important are my rules?  That was the challenge I was facing.

God can be funny.  The purpose of the law is that of a schoolmaster (Gal 3:24).  School works best when you think upon the rules.  While I was internally debating my rule, I heard the pastor that runs the event speak.  I don’t recall message, but he had 2 relevant illustrations.  He talked about an inappropriate incident that occurred while his family was watching the Bellagio fountains and another inappropriate incident that occurred at the bowling alley at a prior year’s teen event.  I believe the message was some sort of leadership message as both incidents ended safely because of strong leadership.

But those incidents confirmed my rule.  Consider this:  What do you think when you hear of a person placed in a bad situation that continues to stand for what is right?   That’s the type of child I want to raise – one that does right even in adversity.  But is that a biblically good situation to be in?  Aren’t you supposed to ask God to keep you away from temptation and evil (Matt 6:13)?  My child is not being blessed if they are being tempted, rather they are being blessed if they are not tempted.  A Christian should not unnecessarily place themselves in an evil situation.

Sometimes target fixation occurs.  I believe it was my wife that pointed out the solution.   I wasn’t opposed to the event in general, just the bowling portion, which occurred towards the end of the night.   Just leave early. Duh.

My daughter wasn’t pleased with that solution, but it was better than staying home.



Black and White decisions in Las Vegas – 2

One of my first attempts to apply my no-casino rule was during a convention at the Mirage.  I wanted to go to the convention, it was for work.  I decided I would enter the casino like normal but from the convention center area I would figure a way back to my car that avoided the casino.  Perhaps you know a better way, but I couldn’t find a direct route.  I ended up going through back alleys and walking around the backside of the building.

It was far from convenient and I while I could exit that way, I wasn’t sure I could enter the same way.  My ‘rule’ was facing a crisis.  I had a work obligation that conflicted with a personal conviction.  Out of a practical need I modified my “rule” from a blanket prohibition on casinos to a more flexible rule of “avoid casinos and never go when you don’t have to.”

At the time, I was making a practical compromise, but let me share with you a bible principal that supports this type of compromise. 2 King 5 tells the often told story of Elisha and Naamen.  Towards the end of the story Naamen is converted.  However he has a problem (2 King 5:18-19) – he is servant of his King, and when his King goes to the “false” church, Naamen is obligated to worship this false god.  Worshipping a false god is a grave sin – it’s as black and white of a religious rule as you can find in the Bible, you DO NOT EVER worship a false god.

God, through Elisha never tells Naamen that he can worship a false god.  Elisha simply acknowledges the problem and bids him to go in peace.

Where rules don’t work is the ‘user’ of the rule often forgets the principal of the rule, the heart and emotion that the rule is based on.  I am not satisfied with my compromise, but I can go into a casino with a pure conscience.  And by putting my rule under such direct fire and realizing that even though my ‘black and white’ position is correct, I’m still in a casino.  It is difficult to cast self-righteous stones at you when I’m in the same place you are.



Black and White decisions in Las Vegas

Black and White decisions in Las Vegas

I’m a person that believes in “optimal” solutions.  You might say I see things in “black and white”.  I’ll get into that subject some other time, but for now that description of my decision making style will work for this discussion.  People with this style can easily fall into a self-righteous trap: My way’s right, everyone making a different decision is horribly wrong.

It is easy to come up with theoretical rules to live by.  But I live and work in Las Vegas.  When I set a rule in my life, that rule will absolutely be tested.  At times it can be painful and emotional, but intellectually it is great.  It removes a lot of the self-righteousness from the equation.  I have to distill the principle that the rule is based on down to its core and then balance other principles that are equally important.

I’ve probably confused you.  This thought sounded very elegant while I composed it on my run, but no one ever accused me of being the most persuasive writer.  Perhaps some examples will clarify my point.  Even if you disagree with the rule I’m going to describe, I hope the way I describe balancing rules is helpful.

I decided I was going to avoid casinos – religiously avoid casinos.  Several events occurred that crystalized my position.  I can detail the events if you want, but it all came down to casinos are marketing a hedonistic lifestyle that mocks traditional values and ultimately is destructive to society.  So my decision is to stay out of casinos.  A good black/white rule if there ever was one.  But did I mention I live in Las Vegas?

What do I do when there is a convention in town at the Mirage?  What about when I go out to dinner with a business colleague?  What about when the company banquet is at a casino, and I’m an officer of that company?  Those are the easy questions.  Harder ones involve my family.  How do I go to a movie when most of the theaters are in a Casino?  How do I go bowling?  What about when my Church goes bowling at a Casino? (Nothing feels more self-righteous that telling your Church friends that “we don’t go to a church sponsored event because it is a sin. 🙂 ” )

I never want to force you to follow one of my rules.  I believe in independence, if you disagree with me then don’t follow my rule.  But how do I apply those rules to my Wife or my Children?  How do you tell your child that they can’t go to the movie with their friends because we don’t go to casinos?

Again, the balancing of the rule caused a lot of tears and emotional stress.  But intellectually I love taking the broad rule and figuring out the details on how to apply that rule to life.

I’ll follow up with the story next week.



Zion 100 2014 (50k)

Zion 100 (50k) 2014 The Zion 100 (50k) was my 3rd 50k Race.  The 50k had a Saturday 6am (Mountain) starting time – or from my perspective a 5am (Pacific) starting time.

I drove up from Vegas on Friday and stayed about 30 minutes away in St George.  After tossing and turning for a bit I was able to get to sleep – something I always find tough to do before a big race.  I was startled awake from an alarm in my room — race time?  The alarm fully woke me up, I had a tight schedule if I was to make it to the starting line in time after my alarm went off.  Turns out the power went out in the hotel, which set the smoke alarm warning off – 2 AM.  Argh.  So after calming down I laid back down only to have the power come back on, which set the smoke alarm off again.   Oh well, who needs sleep?

This was my first race that actually started in the dark so I got to run with a flash light which added extra fun to the race.  Race day weather was perfect, High 40s-low 50s at the start and maybe barely touching 70 later in the day.  The 50k race included two primary trails – Guacamole and Flying Monkey. The race started through the small town park and into the neighborhood.  I kinda wonder what the people of Virgin think of these early AM events that run through their town – there’s gotta be a lot of them with all of the trail heads in the area.

The first 9-10 miles of the course had us heading into runners completing the 100 Mile race.  I’ve never experienced the end of a 100 mile race, I was expecting zombies.  A few of the 100 milers were just barely hanging on but most of them looked like they were having a blast!

There was a water crossing early on, wasn’t expecting that.  I was concerned about running 30 miles in wet socks.  Fortunately I had a change of socks in my drop bag at the Guacamole aid station.  Guacamole was rolling concrete.  Interesting terrain, but not very soft.  Glad I didn’t trip  :-).

When I got to the aid station I went to my drop bag, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to get out of the bag so I just dropped off my light and grabbed gels.  As I left the station I remembered what I needed: socks and a knee strap (the ‘concrete’ was killing my IT band).  Fortunately it was a loop so I’d be back in 9 miles.

I had read about the famous bean and cheese burritos served at the aid stations so I grab some on the way out.  They tasted good and were easy to eat on the run.  After I was half done with the food, I began to doubt the wisdom of running on refried beans.  But I didn’t want to toss a burrito on the ground so I threw caution to the wind and finished it. Surprisingly, I survived with no unanticipated emergencies.

The loop part was a crazy meandering ‘trail’ through this concrete-bouldery rock terrain.  At one point the course markers tricked me and I ended up running back the wrong way.  Many of the 100 milers did this portion in the dark and after running 80-90 miles — how in the world did they stay on course?  I couldn’t stay on course during the day.   The race director did mostly a good job getting the course marked, I can only imagine how much work it takes to mark 100+ miles of course, but a little more course markings on Guac would have been nice.  I ended up running about an extra mile up there and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

I got back to the aid station and went straight to my drop bag.  I couldn’t remember why I needed my drop bag so I just grabbed a few gels.  It wasn’t until I got back on the trail that I remembered what I needed from the bag — socks and knee strap – ack forgot twice.  Note: Gotta work on my drop bag strategy.

Next up was the flying monkey trail.  How can you not love a trail with a name like that.  Apparently monkeys were launched off of the top of the mesa to test ejection seats or something like that.  I was a bit concerned about this trail because there was a rope climbing section plus all of the mountain bike youtube videos made this trail seem pretty intense. The ascent turned out to be way easier than the ascents during the Mt Taylor 50k and the Leona Divide 50/50 trails, my two previous ultras.  However, this trail would be very unforgiving if you slipped.  You would fall a long ways down.

With my burning IT band, I had limited stability so I had to be a little extra cautious. I was a little concerned as I approached the rope climb.  27 ish miles of running, burning knees, and a steep mountain side — what possibly could go wrong?  Fortunately it was easy and fun.  The rest of the climb was uneventful and eventually I crested into a typical Southern Utah desert dirt road. One thing to keep in mind if you are considering this trail, the weather was perfect.  If it was hotter I’d have been short water on this section.  These rocks can bake and there is no shade. The rest of the trail was downhill.  Down the paved road that leads to the runway and then across the desert and back to the town park.

Finished in 6 hours 99 minutes :-).

The race had the best looking finisher medals of any race I’ve done – it is nice jewelry.

A little bit before the Guacamole Aid station.

A little bit before the Guacamole Aid station.

Sign indicates the start of the loop.  Was a bit confusing to figure out which way to go after you were finished.

Sign indicates the start of the Guacamole loop. Was a bit confusing to figure out which way to go after you were finished.

Runners climbing the Flying Monkey rope

Runners climbing the Flying Monkey rope

Looking down the trail

Looking down the trail