Water and Stress

October 24, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Swimming | Leave a comment

I’ve read bits and pieces of a book I picked up at the library recently.  It was hard to read the entire thing because the author is way too wordy and more technical than I expected from the book’s description.  I picked the book up just because the subtitle caught my attention.  As a lifelong swimmer, one who loves being in the water, I couldn’t pass it up.  The book is Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols, but the subtitle is “The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do.”

Being around water is a stress relief, and it’s no wonder people like to go to the ocean, the beach, the riverside or the lake for a vacation.  I’ve always thought of the water as stress relief; to me it’s swimming; to my wife it’s the sound of a babbling brook.

The following quote is a great one on stress that I had to include here.  The author’s prescription for lessening stress is water.  I partly agree.  I would say Sabbath is the real answer, the answer God gave centuries ago but we tend to ignore, and water can be a big part of Sabbath.

Too many of us live overwhelmed—suffocated by work, personal conflicts, the intrusion of technology and media.  Trying to do everything, we end up stressed about almost anything.  We check our voice mail at midnight, our e-mail at dawn, and spend the time in between bouncing from website to website, viral video to viral video.  Perpetually exhausted, we make bad decisions at work, at home, on the playing field, and behind the wheel.  We get flabby because we decide we don’t have the time to take care of ourselves, a decision ratified by the fact that those “extra” hours are filled with e-mailing, doing reports, attending meetings, updating systems to stay current, repairing what’s broken.  We’re constantly trying to quit one habit just to start another.  We say the wrong things to people we love, and love the wrong things because expediency and proximity make it easier to embrace what’s passing right in front of us.  We make excuses about making excuses, but we still can’t seem to stop the avalanche.  All of this has a significant economic cost as “stress and its related comorbid diseases are responsible for a large proportion of disability worldwide.” (p22f)

Enough said; I’m going for a swim.

Some Recent Reads

July 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Eschatology, Swimming, Theology | 2 Comments

I haven’t posted any book reports for a long time now.  Here are some recent reads that I found interesting:

100 Cupboards

Since my wife and daughter were reading this series and discussing it, I had to read it for the second time to keep up with the conversation.  I enjoyed it just as much as the first time.  I reviewed it here.

Michael Phelps: The Untold Story of a Champion, by Bob Schaller with an Introduction by Rowdy Gaines and a Forward by Jason Lezak.

The swimmers who wrote the Introduction and Forward made this look like a great read, and being a life-long swimmer myself, I couldn’t resist picking it up a while back.  Since this is an Olympic year, with Phelps back in the spotlight, I thought this would be a great summer read.  The information was interesting and I enjoyed that, but the editing was poorly done.  I noticed that the book was published in 2008 right after the Beijing Games, and I assumed it was quickly mass produced to take advantage of Michael Phelps’ popularity at that time.  Bob Schaller had written numerous magazine articles on Phelps, and this book must have been a compilation of some of those along with hastily scribbled notes from the 2008 Games.  For instance, numerous introductions of some key people, like Michael’s sisters, leave the reader with the impression the author is senile or each chapter was intended to be a separate article.  It’s no wonder I found it at the dollar store.  Maybe subsequent editions are better done.

Louis L’Amour

I hadn’t read any books by Louis L’Amour for at least 20 years, but when another swimmer at the Recreation Center loaned me a copy of The Last of the Breed, I thought I should get it back to him in a timely manner.  It was a great book – an exciting page turner.  The last one L’Amour ever wrote, and I’m sure a sequel was in his head somewhere.  It is the story of U.S. Air Force Major Joe Mack, who escapes a Soviet prison camp after his experimental aircraft is forced down over Russia.  If you like adventure stories and remember the cold war, this is worth your time.  It inspired me to pick up another L’Amour for a quick weekend read when I had some time away last week.  Called Milo Talon, it wasn’t as good as the first book.  However, L’Amour is a good story teller, and I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, by John Gerstner

This one has been on my shelf for a longtime.  Gerstner’s thesis, that Dispnsational Theology is mutually exclusive of Calvinism, fascinated me, but I’d never taken time to read the book.  It made me think more than any I’ve read in quite some time.  Gerstner begins with a historical presentation of Dispensationalism, and though it’s clear he doesn’t believe what he is presenting, his presentation was fascinating and seemed fair enough.  The section where Gerstner claims to show that Dispensational theology contradicts all five points of Calvinism was overstated.  He does demonstrate that the most popular Dispensational authors have some Arminian tendencies and do not agree with his understanding of Calvinism, but he fails to make his point.  Nowhere does he demonstrate that the tenants of Calvinism are exclusive of Dispensationalism.  However, in a later chapter, when the author asks the definition of a dispensation, he makes a strong point that Dispensationalists have changed their definitions over the years to avoid valid challenges from other Evangelicals, yet they haven’t yet corrected the problem.  Any definition given to the word changes the basic message of the gospel and opens up other means of salvation beyond the grace of God.  That chapter is a powerful refutation of Dispensationalism from a Calvinistic point of view.  Definitely a thought-provoking book that made me question what I believe on some of these issues.

Remembering Lot’s Wife

December 7, 2010 at 9:47 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Swimming | 1 Comment

I’m writing this while sitting on a school bus for the first time in many years, going with the high school swim team to a meet.  My volunteering for the team has taken up more and more of my time.  With two days of practice and two meets this week, I’ve been busy, and busy minded.  I have spent a lot of mental energy on swimming.  So my mind has been occupied with temporal things.  In the midst of this I read Luke 17:32, where Jesus said “Remember Lot’s wife.”  The Old Testament character Lot was told to flee from the wrath coming upon the city without looking back, but his wife did gaze back and, famously, became a pillar of salt.  Jesus’ words seem like a funny quote in their context.  But it struck me this week that one of the things Jesus is telling his followers is not to gaze back at temporal things – things that will eventually be destroyed – from which we should flee.  I so easily get caught up with things that don’t really matter.  But how do I keep from doing that?  I can’t totally remove myself from temporal things without removing myself from life as I know it.  So I take it to mean that I must not find my life in such things.  Yet when my entire metal energy is given to temporal things rather than eternal things, then I am close to that line.  How can I encourage young swimmers and still invest in the eternal.  I am asking God to help me use this opportunity for eternal things and not just temporal swimming skills.  I don’t know how to do that in a context where I can’t openly share Christ, but I trust he will open the doors.


Disciplines and Drills, Swimming and Life

October 21, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Posted in Swimming, Wisdom | 2 Comments

I started helping with my daughter’s high school swim team today.  Her coach found out I’ve read Total Immersion, one of the definitive textbooks on modern swimming – the text he uses, and that I know the drills given in it, so he put me to work helping the slowest swimmers with those drills.  I watched the four girls in my lane swim during warmup, explained to them what I saw that needed improvement, how I thought Coach Luke’s drills would help them improve, and how I would instruct them through the process.  We spent the next 40-45 minutes doing drills that, to the untrained eye, would seem to have nothing to do with swimming faster or better.  With a few minutes left in our session, I told the girls we would take a break from drills and just swim freestyle to other end of the pool.  Not only did they already look way better than at the beginning of the session, but when I asked them what they felt while swimming, they commented on things they’d been doing wrong, and that they realized when they did those things.

It occurred to me that spiritual disciplines are to life like those drills are to swimming.  To the untrained spirit, the disciplines may seem to have little to do with real life, even appear to be a waste of time.  But the more one does them, the better that person becomes at living real life.  The more time you spend reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on God’s Word, the more you will see how it’s principles relate to living life.  It won’t take long, once a pattern of spiritual disciplines is established, to see the difference.

At the end of practice the Coach Luke got all the girls together and put them into relay teams.  During the ensuing race, it looked like my girls lost everything they’d seemed to gain in the hour I’d spent with them.  They hadn’t learned the techniques well enough to imprint them in their brains, and the stress of the situation made them go right back to old habits.  The goal of the drills is to learn the best stroke technique well enough that it becomes natural even under the stress of a race.  Also, if those girls never do those drills again, they would not show any improvement, they would go back to their old habits even when they are not in the stress of a race.  This too parallels spiritual discipline, we must practice the disciplines so well that the principles of God’s word work in our lives, even under stress.  And we must continue them so that we never go back to the old way of living.

Spiritual discipline is practice for real life.  Practice well and you will live well.  Practice poorly and . . . well, let’s not go there.

Swimming to Antarctica

February 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, Swimming | Leave a comment

The book we’ve been reading together as a family is called Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox.  It has been a fun journey so far, though we are only 1/3 the way through.  It’s the autobiography of a girl who was on swim teams all her early life, but never was very fast; however, she learned that she could go forever, and even seemed to get stronger the farther she swam.  So she began doing long open-water swims.  At fifteen, she swam the English Channel, not only to become the youngest to accomplish the feat, but she beat the old record (both men’s and women’s!) in the process.

There have been some good life lessons along the way.  One of the more memorable lessons had to do with Lynne’s first channel swimming experience.  She swam from Catalina Island to California with a group of teenagers who were training together.  They would be the youngest team to complete the swim, and they had agreed to finish together.  As the others got weaker, she just kept going.  Three times she got a half mile ahead of the others and had to wait for them.  Then:

We pulled a couple of miles ahead of the team and Stockwell shouted, “Lynne, you’re more than an hour ahead of the world-record pace.  Not just the women’s world record, but also the men’s.  I just spoke with Ron,” he added (Ron was the team coach).  “He said you don’t have to wait for the others.  You can go ahead.”

More than anything, I wanted to attempt it, and I was confident I could succeed.  We were only three miles from shore.  It was so possible.  But it didn’t feel right; I had agreed to stay with the team.  .  .  .  How would they feel if I left them to break the record?  Wouldn’t that diminish the attention they deserved for their success?  .  .  .

The lead boat pulled alongside us while, while the crew on board was urging me to go for it.  My father was standing quietly near the railing.  “You look very good,” he said, and smiled.  .  .  .

“Dad, do you think I should go for the record?”

“It’s your decision, sweet.”

“You’ll be the youngest person to hold the record for the Catalina Channel,” Stockwell urged.

Johnson added, “If you wait for the others, you could be in the water another three or four extra hours.”

As I treaded water, others shouted encouragement.  “Go for the record!”

“I want to so badly, but I can’t.  I agreed to stick with the team.”  I was disappointed, but I knew it was the right decision.  (page 53)

Later on shore, with the news reporting that this was the youngest group to ever swim the Catalina Channel, the boys of the team who sprinted that last few hundred yards, boasted that they swam ten minutes faster than the girls.  “That made me angry,” Lynne confesses, “but I didn’t say anything.  I decided I was going to swim the English Channel and I wasn’t going to wait for anyone.” (page 55)  Needless to say, that led us to a great discussion of integrity.




Interesting Books of 2008

December 27, 2008 at 10:27 am | Posted in Books and Movies, Swimming | Leave a comment

Some interesting books I read in 2008.

Furious Pursuit, Tim King and Frank Martin.  Though I don’t completely agree with their theology, the reminder that we don’t pursue God so much as he pursues us made a good read.  The subtitle is God Will Never Let You Go. “You’re not defined by what you’ve done.  You’re defined by Who pursues you.”

Tom Horn, Blood on the Moon, Chip Carlson.  This is a well-researched biography of an infamous hero/villain from my home town, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Horn was a scout for Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba, a detective for the big cattle companies who made huge drives through Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming, a rodeo cowboy and a ranch hand.  Though finally convicted for murder and hung, it was probably the one crime he didn’t commit.

Total Immersion, Terry Laughlin.  No, it’s not about baptism.  This is a book about swimming, and it reveals the most recent theories about moving through the water.  The things that have been learned in recent years about how to propel through water, and the way swimming is taught, have totally changed since I was a kid taking lessons.  As a lap swimmer with a swim-team daughter, I found it absolutely fascinating.

Men Are Like Waffles; Women Are Like Spaghetti, Bill and Pam Farrel.  Cathy and I have read many marriage books together in our 26 years.  This is one of the best on communication differences between men and women.  The subtitle is “Undersdstanding and Delighting in Your Differences.”

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, John Piper.   I have already commented a few times about this book in the blog.  Probably the best I read this year.  I thought it would be a “quick read” from a favorite author of mine; instead it turned out to be one of those very slow “have-to-ponder-every-paragraph” kind of books, but what it made me pondered is great stuff.

That is quite a variety of topics and styles.  Happy reading in 2009!  And thanks for reading some of these ramblings in 2008.

Olympic Swimming and God’s Love

August 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love, Swimming | Leave a comment

Since we are a family of swimmers, watching the swimming events in the Olympics is a great occasion in our home.  We watch very little TV.  Other than renting a video movie occasionally and my watching a Sunday afternoon sporting event, the television in our house is never on.  But when the Olympics come around all that changes.  We love to watch; the TV is on every night we’re home and we record some events when we’re away.  We even rearrange the furniture to see the TV better.  Of course the swimming events are the highlight for us.  What a joy to watch the American Swimmers take so many medals!  The men’s 4 x 100 free relay was the most exciting event of the week for us; Dara Torres is an inspiration to us older swimmers; and Michael Phelps is simply unbelievable.

However, something caught my attention last week; it was the number of times I heard an announcer say “the greatest ever.”  Twice I heard that “Kitajima is the greatest breastroker ever,” and numerous times I heard someone say, “Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer ever.”  I began to think about that phrase and wondered, “Are they really?”  I believe we have kept swimming records for the past 120 years or so.  If the Bible dates are literal, then people have been here for 6,000-8,000 years, so we’ve been keeping track of swimming speeds for at most 2% of our history.  Yet we say that these men are the “greatest ever.”  Without taking anything away from what they have accomplished (I stand amazed at it), it seems to me that calling them the greatest ever is both arrogant and short sided.  Maybe in that other 98% of our history there was a cave man who, while escaping from alligators, moved faster in the water than Michael Phelps could even dream.

After pondering this matter one evening, I was struck by the word of Psalm 103 the next morning:  God “knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are but dust.  As for mortals, their days are like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (v.14-15) We make such a big deal about someone being the “greatest ever” or the “fastest ever,” but they too will pass on and be forgotten.  These words are sandwiched between expressions of God’s great love.  The very next verse of the poem says “But from everlasting to ever lasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.”

Let’s enjoy and celebrate the feats of greatness we see in the Olympics, but let’s remember that in light of eternity they mean nothing.  In comparison, God’s love endures forever. They do it for a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” That’s a true gold-medal thought.



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