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logic. life. learner.

Give Legalism a Chance

Posted by jbharp on November 24, 2008

A few months ago I was dialoging with a group of men and I found myself verbally wishing Christian would give legalism a chance. I wish Christians would have respect for the Mosaic Law and New Testament Law. I wish Christians would find delight in the detailed specifics of God’s statutes. I wish Christians would appreciate how God reveals Himself in His words. Again, I wish Christians would give legalism a chance.


Legalism is strict conformity to a law or a moral code. With this in mind, I don’t understand why Christians feel the need to battle legalism…inasmuch to say that strictly following a moral code (God’s moral code) is a meaningless pursuit. Jesus did not come to destroy the law or to discourage conforming to the law. Yet many Christians seem eager to degrade and dismiss the law. This I don’t understand.


Generally, I think the “free-thinkers” (that’s what I’ll call them, even though neither word seems to be accurate in most cases) love to proclaim their freedom from the law. But I wonder if they even know the law of which they site they are free from. Here’s my confession…I don’t think I fully know or understand the laws in which I am free from.


Take for example the dietary laws described in the Old Testament. You may find a decent number of Christians who are familiar with them, but for the most part we eat as we please. Or the festival laws…many of which are simple commandments to remember what God has done for His people, but who even knows when these festivals occur?


Then consider the 10 laws, aka the 10 Commandments. Most Christians can recite these from memory and are glad to profess they are still relevant in their lives today. Although we Christian acknowledge that it is good to follow the 10 Commandments, we wouldn’t dare call such an act legalism. We couldn’t afford to make such a claim. I suspect due to the possibility of making such a statement would discourage Christians from following the 10. Yet many other laws are condemned as a proponent to a legalistic lifestyle.  


I hear the “L” word thrown around in the Christian world; bible studies, sermons, radio programs. And because it has been deemed as such an evil word, we all nod our head in agreement to whatever point is made (in my opinion, usually an invalid point).


I wonder if Christians (those living under the Grace of Jesus) would embrace God’s law, would we begin to share the thoughts expressed in Psalm 119? Why do we want to dismiss and run from the law? Shouldn’t we cling to God’s word and apply it to our life? Do we not see any value in conforming to a moral code? Please Christians…give legalism a chance.


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Yearly Comfort

Posted by jbharp on November 10, 2008

This week I have returned to one of my favorite running trails. It takes me just minutes to get there from my house. The trail is a perfect size loop to run one, two, or three laps depending on my mood. And best of all I can take my dogs without putting them on the leash. Although this is nearly the perfect trail, I don’t get to run on it all of the time. It’s my winter trail.

I’m not sure how I first stumbled across it a few winters ago, but I quickly grew fond of it for so many reasons. The hills are great! Usually suiting up between 8 and 11pm, I load up the dogs and we head off for a run in the winter night with the weather anywhere from a stiff chill to a crippling freeze.

The temperatures slowly lessened their brutality as spring approached. With the warmer weather the trail grew crowded. Not due to other people or dogs but dut to the semi-lush Colorado greenery. Tall weeds, deadly branches, and flesh eating shrubs consumed the path. They reached out for my legs, arms, or any part of me they could grab as I weaved my way across the vanishing trail.

Over the last few years, I reluctantly and sadly stop running on this trail around March. I seek out other familiar trails for the spring and summer running season. But I’ve come to realize the benefits of having only a short window to enjoy this trail. The winter months challenge to a runner to keep a consistent running schedule. Knowing this trail is only provided to me for just over four months, I’m more likely to go there on the bitter cold nights.

I can’t help but think that my enjoyment on this trail would not be as great if I were able to run it year round. The delight that comes this time of year is worth, and most likely enhanced, by the time I must spend away from this favorite path of mine. I wonder if the dogs feel the same way. Although Charlie may have other not so fond memories of this loop. Hopefully she won’t find another porcupine this year.

Posted in Running | 3 Comments »

I met Dennis Prager!

Posted by jbharp on October 27, 2008

A few years ago I began listening to talk radio. Initially the constant gold investment commercials and the cracking a.m. airwaves provided no enjoyment…well they still don’t. I really only tuned in to find interesting characters to imitate for improv. But the discussions began to deeply captivate me. The political conversation became more fascinating and I was learning about the significance of a host of issues.

But the one show that I tuned into regularly (and still do) is the Dennis Prager Show. I listen to Dennis for three hours a day nearly every daysoaking up his thoughtful insights and wisdom. On his show he talks about everything in life…politics, religion, happiness. He once had an hour long show discussing and taking calls about the etiquette on eating while others wait to receive their food.

He is a religious Jew and was the primary reason for my interest in learning about Judaism. He has a great deal of respect toward Christians.

After missing him on visits he made to the state, last month I finally was able to meet Dennis in person. I was tipped off that he was speaking at Focus on the Family. Many of the things I heard him say that day I’ve heard before. But his main point was made in new way. God has called for separation. On the third day God separated the land and the water. It is good that everything is not mixed together into one, God intended it that way. In addition, God has called us to be holy just as He is holy (set apart, separated).

It was a thrill to hear Dennis in person and to shake his hand afterwards. Here are just a few things he has said over the years that are wise words: Seek clarity before agreement; A key to happiness is being grateful; and “So what? Jesus never ate a pretzel?” (His point being, just because Jesus didn’t do something doesn’t mean we can’t do it. That’s why God gave us reason and intellect).

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Back from the Dead

Posted by jbharp on October 13, 2008

About five months ago I was preparing to have a group of close friends over for a meal. It was a special meal that I have yet to write about but will…soon. Because it was a special occasion I decided to begin cleaning a few days prior, especially since I was running a race in Pueblothat morning. In the midst of cleaning I began one of my favorite chores…loading the dishwasher. This chore can be a unique, mind-challenging puzzle I call Dishwasher Tetris.


I gathered all the dishes I could find and begin. Every dirty dish sits in front of me so I can see what I’m up against. Then I go to work wedging in each plate, glass, and fork. ‘There’s too much on top…move some of the bowls to the bottom rack. Put the small plates nearly on top of each other. Turn half of the utensils up and half down.’ These are a few strategies I enact when cramming in the dishes. Most of the time I manage to fit everything in the dishwasher AND get the door closed. This time was no exception. Job complete as I dumped in the detergent, closed the door, pressed the start button, and heard hot water start to flow.


As I turned around to attend another chore, I spotted a lonely cup in the corner next to the refrigerator. I couldn’t believe I missed it, but I knew there was still room in the top rack…the plastic cups weren’t even squeezed together. So I managed it between the prongs for an overtime win against the dishwasher. Again I closed the door and pressed the start button, but this time there was no response. My dishwasher quit.


Over the last five months I’ve done a lot of washing dishes by hand. So has my roommate #1, my roommate #2, friends in my improv troupe, my mom, and my roommate’s mom. I kept debating whether I should call a repair main or just own up and replace the thing. I really had no idea why it quite. I just know that many hours were being spent over my sink.


It all changed this weekend. A friend asked me if my dishwasher was still broken but before I replied with a quick affirmative, I decide to check. I made sure the door was closed and pressed the button. JUBILATION! The dishwasher started. I don’t know why or how, but I’m grateful.


My dishwasher was dead, but now it is alive. At this moment, it is getting an extensive clean from a jetdry clean pack (costly little thing, but after five months of stagnant water the inside needed it). So a big…Welcome Back!!! More Tetris fun to be had.

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Trail Running

Posted by jbharp on May 27, 2008

I ran the Oklahoma City Marathon a few weeks ago. Now that I have taken some time off for recovery, I’m moving on to the summer running season. I’ve been holding steady to some pretty light and easy running since OKC. The experts recommend one day of rest and recovery for every mile in a race. I endured about 20 days of minimal running and what little I did was at a jogging pace. But last week I jumped back into a routine. Even better though, I’m transitioning to trail running for the summer season.

I’ll be participating in the Pikes Peak Marathon for the third time on August 17. It’s my goal this year to place in my age group. It’ll be tough but I’m thrilled to be spending hours of my weeks on the trails, instead of on flat roads. Last week I climbed the Manitou Incline with a new record: 28 minutes and 56 seconds (that’s 26 seconds better than my previous record).

I’ve added a new page on my blog site (still working on it). It’s more for my use and benefit, but feel free to tab over and check it out. It’s a running page to show some of my biggest races and best times. Certainly nothing in the elite field. However, I’ve been breaking the top ten percent of the field in the last few races.

My most recent race was at a relaxed pace to enjoy the bands, beer and cupcakes along the course. I ran the Bolder Boulder yesterday with a fellow Stick Horse, Suz [here’s her story and more pics]. The Bolder Boulder is a race that should be ran purly for entertainment, that’s why we sported our own Horse Headbands. But now my running summer schedule is off to the races, which means I won’t be carrying a stick horse with me.

Here’s me and Suz with our horse headbands waiting for the official start. I carried a stick horse and rode him as I came into Folsom Stadium. I was on the big screen as I crossed the finish line.

Posted in Running | 7 Comments »

All Natural Tan

Posted by jbharp on May 19, 2008

Last week and yet again today at work a heard this phrase;”Looks like you’ve been getting a little sun.” My coworkers were referring to the mild darkening, slightly red tone of my skin complexion. Today I could easily excuse it because I spent a fair amount of time outside yesterday in a relay race. But caught off guard by the observation last week, I lumpishly affirmed the statement and nothing more; “Uhhh…yeah. I’ve been getting ready for summer.” And then I awkwardly slipped away from the conversation like a normal engineer.

Why was it awkward and what am I trying to excuse? Tanning. Yep. I fake bake approximately eight minutes a few times throughout the week. But I’m not going to hide it anymore.

Some may scoff or laugh at tanning simply due to the reason that it’s not natural. If natural, in terms of tanning, means skin tone that is a result of only the sun, then it is true that fake baking is not natural. But so what? There are many unnatural things we do in our everyday life. Isn’t wearing clothes unnatural? Isn’t brushing your teeth unnatural? Isn’t getting from one point to another by means other than your own two feet unnatural?

We as humans have the intellect and volition to make improvements in our lives and ourselves.  We have the ability to take what is natural and alter it. Being natural isn’t good or bad and neither is unnatural. Making such an assessment would be a flaw in thinking.

So, I’ll keep on tanning for the time being. Just because I converse awkwardly like an engineer, doesn’t mean I should have pasty white skin like an engineer, (but maybe that makes me an unnatural engineer).

Posted in Outdoor | 4 Comments »

The Results of Consistency

Posted by jbharp on May 12, 2008

Yesterday I had a few opportunities to observe the usefulness of consistency and repetitiveness, of which I’m becoming more of a fan and fully advocate. Changing for the sake of change, a popular mantra it seems, really has no legitimacy. But on with my small stories…

1) A friend and I have been going to the gym three times a week for nearly a month. I don’t have much wiggle room in my schedule these days, so the only time available is early morning. I set my alarm for 10 minutes before six o’clock, which gives me enough time to dress and make a quick drive to be there by the top of the hour (save for once when I completely missed my alarm).

But yesterday, a Sunday morning, I didn’t have to wake until eight o’clock. However my internal clock has slowly been adjusted to sound at 6. Fortunately, I am blessed (sometimes is a curse though) with the ability to roll over and fall right back to sleep. The consistent early morning rises are becoming much easier and just in time for the summer. There’s nothing like a morning run as the sun is coming up (which I’ll be doing in the morning).

2) It is funny how much my dogs share my personality. While I’m getting ready in the morning, Charlie enjoys as much time of coziness as possibly on her old sleeping bag bed. Just like me she’s hitting the snooze as long as possible.

She distinctly knows the sound of my keys as it’s the last thing I grab before I leave. It’s her final alarm signaling her to get up and go outside. As long as I’m in normal clothes, and not running gear, she is aware of the routine (don’t let the doggie door hit you on the way out).

3) Finally, yesterday morning I taught in children’s church reviewing the Hebrew names of God and their meanings. We’ve been learning them for the entire semester covering 12 different names of God. During the review it was obvious the kids had been soaking it in. They knew when they were lonely there is Jehovah Shammah, God is always there. They knew when a bully was threatening them there is Jehovah Nissa, God is our Battle. And they knew that even when they stressed about math tests there is Jehovah Shalom, God is our Peace.

Now repetition can lead to good things as long as the disciplines themselves are good ones, like those above. Counter example…when my roommate decides to feed my dogs at 3 in the morning, they eventually come barking at me for food. We changed that habit.

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Oklahoma City Marathon

Posted by jbharp on May 5, 2008


Flat land, strong wind, and Christian hospitality describes my memories from the 8th running of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon last weekend (4/27/08).

Obviously OKC is a flat area. The elevation varied through only a 140′ range. In Colorado, I can’t get something that mild unless it’s on a treadmill. So I enjoyed a nice steady pace throughout, no need to power up anything. But I did have to power against the wind, another attribute of OK. It was a power to reckon with, until reaching the turn around point.

What I enjoyed most about the marathon was the tasty pancakes and sausage I ate about 20 minutes before the race even began. Downtown OKC is the start and finish points for race and is also the location of a Methodist Church. The start line is just to the east of the church’s front doors. But thousands of runners and spectators filling the streets can be a hindrance to a church’s normal Sunday operations. So the kind people at the Methodist Church open their doors from 5:30 to 11:00 am and serve. I think these pancakes were a special touch to give me the boost for the race.

I ran a new personal record – 3:24:32. It was my goal to qualify for Boston (needed a 3:10), but I’m still pleased with the race. I felt good nearly the entire race. In fact I had enough energy after the race to walk around downtown with my brother and his family. I even gave Hayden a ride around on my shoulders.

So now I’m up to three completed flatland marathons (St Louis, NYC, and OKC). And I’m changing gears toward my third marathon on Pikes Peak in August. No chance of qualifying for Boston on that run…I’ll shoot for it again later this fall.

Posted in Running | 1 Comment »

Pace Setter

Posted by jbharp on April 22, 2008

I met a friend yesterday evening for a slow paced easy run. I’ve given her on a plan for a 10k run on Memorial Day, so I met her in the middle of my weekly long run to offer some running companionship and keep her at a beneficial pace. She’s into the second week and has experienced all three types of training runs: long, tempo and speed. We were discussing the first week of runs when she confessed that inside of her existed a ‘sprinter that wants to come out on every run.’ But when running a 10k (not to mention a marathon), sprinting isn’t the best strategy. It makes sense to distribute your energy evenly throughout the entire race and settle in for the long haul.

Fortunately, I don’t suffer from the sprinter syndrome. I prefer setting aside most of a summer Saturday morning and spending a few hours hitting the trails. A methodical, rhythmic crunching of gravel and dirt under my shoes for hours gives me delight. I realize that others have to fight the urge to truck through a slow, steady pace. But there are other urges within me that I have to fight.

There are times when nearing the end of a run, I get the urge to keep on running past my determined distance. And some days when I don’t even plan on running, I’ll crave to lace up my shoes. On the contrary, and a more frequent occurrence, I’ll be tempted to cut a run short or cut out a run completely. Although I sometimes give in, I do my best to adhere to the plan I have in place.

After we parted ways and I continued on the second half of my run, I was reminded of a line in the Jewish Passover Seder (since it was fresh on my mind from the night before – more on this later). It says ‘The key to freedom is to anticipate the future and make it real. The definition of maturity is the ability to trade a lower pleasure now for a higher pleasure later.’

This applies for all areas of life not just running. Freedom is often displayed in the ability to say ‘no.’ Freedom does not mean we can indulge in anything and everything we want, as our culure would sometimes lead us to believe. But it proves to be challenging (at least for me) to keep our lives on a daily course we have planned.

At times I try to go through life alone. I think I can do it better or I don’t want to bother anyone with my choppy pace and heavy breathing (sticking to the running metaphore). When I help someone out with their running (the few requests I’ve had) I am thrilled and not burdened in any way. Without a doubt, I have greatly benefited from people who run along with me in life to keep me at an appropriate pace. Afterall, life is a marathon and includes various types of training runs.

Posted in Religion, Running | 5 Comments »

Unending Adventures

Posted by jbharp on April 14, 2008

When I first moved to Colorado in early 2003, I found myself in a conversation with a group of people about everyone’s favorite season. Here in the Centennial State we are fortunate to have all four season throughout the year. Sometimes we have them all within a few days or even hours. In fact, the weather changed so much last week that I think that a fifth and possibly a sixth season were in there somewhere.

Back to the conversation…I was shocked and completely blown away when everyone said they enjoyed the summer months in Colorado more than the winter months. Nobody waffled. It was unanimous. Even though I had just moved here, I thought I knew the greatness this state has to offer during winter and these people didn’t have a clue. How could they be saying such anti-Rocky Mountain drivel?!?

I don’t know when it happened (most likely by the end of my first summer here), but I too converted to a Colorado summer enthusiast. Don’t doubt my love for winter though. With skiing and my latest passion for snowboarding winter is certainly a time for excitement and enjoyment. But the opportunities during the summer months are nearly endless. I quickly recognized I would need to live multiple lives (or not work) to enjoy all Colorado has to offer between April and September.

Last night I took the first steps to my next summer time hobby – kayaking. A friend and I will be participating in a short adventure race next Sunday in Pueblo. A portion of the race will be kayaking which I’ve never done before. I figured it was a good idea to practice before I get out in the middle of a reservoir (see mom I’m not completely reckless). A local kayak club has been opening a High School pool on Sunday evenings to allow new comers to practice. Perfect opportunity.

Fortunately, I found an instructor to teach me some of the basics of kayaking. Within 1.5 hours I was able to do a roll – I flip my kayak upside down then using my paddle and a ‘hip snap’ turn myself back upright. My instructor shouted with excitement and the entire pool (full of other kayakers practicing their techniques) erupted with cheers when I emerged from my first successful roll.

It was only a matter of time before kayaking became a new (expensive) hobby for me. But it is finally here. And so is summer…almost. The forecast calls for 1″-3″ of snow on Wednesday following a beautiful 77 deg Tuesday.

Posted in Outdoor | 2 Comments »