Thoughts on Signing a Death Waiver

After almost 90 days of training (3-4 times/week), the Tough Mudder is finally here!  The Tough Mudder is a 10 mile off-road race filled with 25 military grade obstacles.  It’s like a longer, more brutal Warrior Dash, with challenges like a 10,000 volt electric shock added in.

Because of the shock and other things like it, everyone has to sign a “Death Waiver” before they can race.  It is pretty standard stuff, and anyone who has done anything semi-dangerous has probably signed a similar release of liability, but calling it a “Death Waiver” does make it sound a lot more hardcore.

(A friend of mine went on a mission trip last year and he had to sign a waiver about what to do with his body in case of his death.  That’s hardcore.)

I go back and forth between thinking that the race will be easier than I think (being confident in my training) and thinking that it will be harder than I think.  A couple of things that have changed the game a bit:

1) The heat wave that is sweeping the Midwest has led to a heat advisory for the race.  Heat is a game-changer.  You can train all you want, but raise the temperature around 100 and who knows how your body will respond.

2) More obstacles have been added, including water obstacles.  I have this irrational fear about swimming and jumping into water that’s not clear.  Something about almost drowning as a kid (or at least thinking I was going to drown).  I consider myself a reasonably able swimmer in a pool, but put me in the middle of a dark lake where I can’t see the bottom and it starts to mess with my head.  Psychologically, one obstacle called “Walk the Plank” (jumping off a high platform and swimming to shore) will probably be the obstacle I fear the most as I run the race.

I read somewhere that the only fears that we are born with are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  That means all the other fears are learned – and thus can be unlearned.

I didn’t sign up for the challenge because I thought it would be easy or to stay away from my fears.  I wanted to embrace the mental and physical challenge and train myself to become someone worth being.  And danger and fear have a way of revealing your character in a way that comfort never will.

Incidentally, I just read this article which argues that today’s playgrounds are too safe.  As a father of two young children, I had a mixed response.  The overprotective dad thought, “no they need to be safer.”  The Christian and CrossFitter in me thought, “that’s right, we need more things that cultivate adventure and risk, because our society produces pansies.”

Here’s the thing.  I want my kids to be safe.  I don’t want anything bad or painful or dangerous to ever happen to them.  And yet I know that my character has been more shaped and stretched by my adventures, the bad, the painful, the dangerous the hard stuff than the safe and comfortable stuff.

Adversity forges strength of character, Peter the Apostle says.

Here’s to the Tough Mudder, strength of character and unlearning our fears!



A Link Between Church and Obesity?

Today I read a really interesting article on CNN entitled, “Frequent Church-Goers Frequently Fatter.” A great headline, by the way.  But the gist of the article is that a study has shown that people who attend church regularly are significantly more likely to have a higher body mass index than those who attend infrequently or not at all.

Researchers had a hard time, however, speculating why religion was associated with overeating:

“Churches pay more attention to obvious vices like smoking or drinking,” said Matthew Feinstein, lead author of the research and fourth-year medical student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our best guess about why is that…more frequent participation in church is associated with good works and people may be rewarding themselves with large meals that are more caloric in nature than we would like.”

A Chicago pastor pointed to a “church culture around eating” and the frequency of church potlucks.

There is indeed a church culture around eating.  For people who may not have a lot in common, food is something that people can connect over.  After all, everybody eats.  But it seems to me like a once-a-week potluck isn’t forcing anyone to poke an extra notch in their belt.  It’s the daily choices, the pattern, the lifestyle.

And so I am a bit baffled by the way that the modern church has gone after other vices like smoking, drinking, etc. but has turned a blind eye towards overeating. Many more people die from the diseases of affluence (heart disease, etc.) than from lung and liver cancer.

This is why I think that Christians need to figure out what it means to eat with intentionality.  This is why we need sermons on gluttony.  This is why we need to learn what it really means to feast (if every meal is a feast, there’s a problem) and to fast.  And this is why pastors (like myself) need to do some serious thought about how to address the deeper spiritual issues that lie underneath our gluttony.

Because ultimately being healthy is not about feeling good or looking good, although those are nice side effects.  We pursue physical health because God is honored when we take care of our bodies.

And when we take care of our bodies, we have a greater capacity to serve, more energy to love, more to offer the world.

In the spirit of this post, here’s a great spoken word piece on gluttony by P4CM poet Karness.  Worth your time:

Why Having Kids is Foolish

I just read an article entitled “Why Having Kids is Foolish”.

The first paragraph:

All parents know that having kids is a blessing — except when it’s a nightmare of screaming fits, diapers, runny noses, wars over bedtimes and homework and clothes. To say nothing of bills too numerous to list. Some economists have argued that having kids is an economically silly investment; after all, it’s cheaper to hire end-of-life care than to raise a child. Now comes new research showing that having kids is not only financially foolish but that kids literally make parents delusional.

The article goes on argue that parents delude themselves into idealizing the emotional rewards of parenthood to rationalize the financial cost.  It explains how parents tend to be angrier, more depressed and more stressed out than non-parents.

And I’m thinking, lovers are that way too.  Love anyone deeply and there will be regular episodes of anger, depression and stress.  Love complicates things.  I guess by the logic of this article it could also be argued that love of any kind is a delusion (except self-love).

My children are still very young, but it is not difficult to see how having kids requires significant sacrifice and self-denial.  My daughter was colicky and cried almost non-stop during her second month.  It was stressful: my wife and I argued more during that month than the rest of our seven years of marriage combined.

According to the article, the stress isn’t worth it.  We only tell ourselves that it is – it’s nature’s trick to keep us propagating our genes.  If we sane and clear-headed, we would realize that kids cramp our style.

Or is it love that cramps our style?  As a pastor, I’ve watched plenty of young people who I’ve invested in make foolish, self-destructive decisions. Watching students I love hurt themselves and those around them can make me angry and depressed like nothing else.

I’m sure there are any number of occupations that would allow me to avoid this kind of personal investment and heartbreak.

But I don’t want them.

Why? Because the very act of self-giving enlarges the soul in a way that can’t be quantified in a psychological study.

I’m not saying that a person can’t be fully alive without having kids.  But if you avoid the things that cost you blood, sweat and tears, if you avoid anyone who could break your heart?  Your life will be empty.

The bottom line: if your goal is to live a comfortable life with little risk, few inconveniences and maximum self-gratification, then yes, having children is foolish.

So is getting married. And having deep friendships. And following Jesus. And serving the poor.  And fighting against injustice.

All of these things will profoundly complicate and inconvenience your life.

But luckily, you won’t pass on your genes.

Because the world needs people who know that life isn’t about all about them.


I decided to take a break from the CrossFit series to write about something that’s been bothering me for awhile.

Back in the days of XSport, I was walking from my car into the gym.  As I neared the entrance, a Porsche sped by me and came to a screeching halt in a handicap space.  The guy inside hung a handicap sign on his rear-view mirror before jogging into the gym ahead of me.  Maybe he thought that I was going to get his treadmill.

But what got my attention was his license plate: FMYLIFE.

I don’t have to tell you what the “F” stands for.  This phrase usually gets abbreviated to “FML”.  The acronym got traction when someone started a website for people to share stories of their everyday failures.  Every post ends with the letters FML.

I see it in Facebook statuses all the time.  I know it’s not meant to be taken literally.  According to Urban Dictionary, it is “an easier, faster way of saying something when nothings going your way.” I usually read it as, “here’s another reason why my life is the worst.”

Seems harmless, right?  But what happens to us when our primary reaction to everyday failures is not to learn from them, but instead to say, “FML”?

Maybe what happens is that we become people who buy Porsches and still write FMYLIFE on the license plate.

In other words, we are blind to our blessings.  We focus on our deficiencies rather than our abundance.

If you have ever been to an impoverished country, then perhaps you have had the visceral experience of realizing that the people have so much less than you do and yet seem so much happier.  Why are they so happy?  Is it because they don’t know what they’re missing?  Is it because they have killed their desire, taught themselves not to want anything anymore?  Maybe it is because they approach life with an attitude of thankfulness instead of entitlement.

I read about a study involving Olympic medalists. Its findings: bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists.  Why?  Because the silver medalists tended to focus on the fact that they could have won a gold medal and it produced feelings of disappointment. The bronze medalists tended to focus on the fact they almost didn’t win any medal and it produced feelings of gratitude.

Where is your focus?  Is it on the stuff you aren’t, the stuff that you don’t have?  If you compare yourself to other people, there will always be people with more, and you will always feel empty and incomplete.

But if you realize that everything is a gift, you will approach your life with a grateful joy, a holy greed to take the years that are given to you and to spend them well.

Think of the life that you have been entrusted with.  You don’t have to be here.  You are.  It is a gift that you are here.  Be thankful.

The other day I listened to a story about a blind dad who tried to take his newborn baby on a walk.  It made me thankful for my eyes.

Here’s to eliminating FML from our vocabulary.

Question: What’s a good acronym to replace FML?