Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The greatest gift of all

(Originally published in Corsica Globe 12/21/10)

In high school in southern California, I worked many odd jobs to make a buck. Somehow, through a variety of connections, I landed a gig with a strip mall playing characters during promotional events. For St. Patrick’s Day, I was a leprechaun (a 6 foot 5 leprechaun), in the summer, I was a cowboy, for Chinese New Year, I was a dragon (lack of peripheral vision and a long uncontrollable tail landed to many stores asking us not to return in costume). I even played Santa Clause. This was a fun gig, playing Santa. People respected Santa. Even though you knew that there was a regular Joe under that fake (and very scratchy) beard, you still treated him with respect. Why? Because, somehow deep down, you really didn’t want to get put on ANY naughty list. Yes, kids cried when they saw you, but people in general treated you nicely. I sat around all day ho-ho-hoing, promising things I never could keep and all in all making people happy.

I also played the Easter Bunny. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I did so twice. Christmas time in Southern California is chilly, but nice. Think of it as how our November was this fall. That was winter. Spring on the other hand is a nice South Dakota summer. As the Easter Bunny, I was in a full polyester costume. Scratchy. Itchy. It didn’t breath. I so hoped that others didn’t realize just how ripe I thought I smelled. I had to wear a giant plastic bunny head, with a crown support that dug into my forehead. With the plastic bunny head in a hot sun it became a bunny head shaped oven set to 350. I was hot. I was tired. My feet hurt. My arms hurt from carrying that blasted basket filled with 700lbs of pathetic plastic eggs no one really wanted. To top it off, people didn’t treat me nicely. Unlike Santa, the Easter Bunny doesn’t have a naughty list (let alone a nice list). And so I was slapped, hit, tail pulled, kids ran away crying, and high school kids made fun of me. All the while being paid five bucks an hour. I hated it. I hated my life at that moment. But no one knew it. Because all they saw was the huge, gigantic moronic grin plastered on the face of the bunny. No matter what I was feeling inside the suit, everyone thought I was happy.

What does this have to do with Christmas? The gift of Christmas is fulfilled in Easter. Let me explain. Like that experience as the Easter bunny, there are many times when we’re hurting or cranky or upset or all the above. Everything’s a bubble off par. Our kids aren’t the least angelic, our marriage’s a wreck, the business is going down the tubes and no one knows. All they see is that grin on your face saying all’s okay in life. And then of course, you bump into someone who’s going through their own mess and they too have a big fake smile too plastered on their face. We’re all doing okay. No! That’s the problem. We’re not. As a human being, we do this, and sometimes we do it so well we believe ourselves that all’s okay.

This is the gift of Christmas fulfilled in Easter. On that first Christmas, Jesus was born. Why? The Christmas carols say it well “Hark! The Herald angels sing “Glory to the new born king; Peace on earth and mercy mild God and sinners reconciled." Jesus came to reconcile us with God. What does that mean? To tear down the walls we’ve built, to tear away the things we’ve hidden from each other, ourselves and even God. He came to restore relationships—our relationship with God, ourselves and each other. Jesus proclaimed peace, he cried when he was grieved, and he admitted to his closest circle when he was in need of praying to His Father in heaven.

So many times, we wear a mask like the Easter Bunny. We hide who we are. We hide our financial troubles; we hide how we feel about ourselves, about our family. We hide behind a gigantic fake grin. This Christmas, accept the greatest gift of all. It’s the gift of Christmas fulfilled Easter morning, when Jesus rose again from the grave, defeated death, and broke down the walls of sin, the walls that separated our relationship with God, and with one another. Take off the mask and accept the gift of love, of peace, of reconciliation, the freedom to be you before friends, loved ones and most importantly God Himself. This Christmas it is the best gift you can give yourself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spiritual ADD

I'm ADD. I really am. Though at times I like to call it ADHLAS (Attention Deficit...Hey, Look! A Squirrel!)The joking question in my family when I get distracted is "shiny object?"

I was diagnosed with it 6 years ago while in sem. It explained a lot to me. It was a no brainer to everyone who knows me. But I didn't go on meds. Why? Because I wanted to attempt behavioral modification instead. I have nothing against meds for ADD/ADHD. In fact, I know from experience doing youth group that is VERY helpful. But I personally didn't want to use it. But, seasons change, and so do I. I've recently went on a newish ADD/ADHD med that seems to be helping. We're still fiddling with it. Still trying to see what works best. It's a process we're working... squirrel! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes. ADD.

A few things about being ADD. It's not just having a hard time focusing. It's having a hard time sitting still, finishing tasks. You want to but in on everyone's conversation because you don't want to be left out. You can get distracted very.. shiny object.. easily.

But there's also the problem of hyper focusing. That's when for some reason or another, you just zone in on one thing and one thing only and spend eternity perfecting it, ignoring the world around you.

Why is this on a blog about being healthy and being spiritual? Because, I truly think that there's such a thing as Spiritual ADD. To be honest, I think it's a Biblical thing too. I truly think that Peter was the first documented case of ADD. He's jumping into boats, jumping out of boats, blurts out the wrong thing at the wrong time, brings a knife to a gun fight.

Yeah.

But he also was spiritually ADD. He couldn't always focus on what was happening spiritually. Jesus tried to explain what was going to happen, and Peter blurted out that it shouldn't happen. Peter thought he was doing right be defending Jesus but he was taking spiritual matters into his own hands. He was hyper focused why warming himself, not realizing what was fully going on with Jesus' trial until the rooster crowed.

We do that too. We can have spiritual ADD. This is most evident in prayer. We start to pray, and then we lose focus. We fidget.. we look at our watch, we start thinking about the tasks of the day, refocus on God, then loose track about what we were praying about.

This also happens in our daily faith walk as well. We're distracted by spiritual shiny things that get in the way. We focus on the spiritual squirrels of life and start to lose sight of the cross of Christ.

Other times, we can hyper focus just on one thing. We can become so hyper focused about being able to walk on the water that we forget the fact that it isn't about us walking on the water but more so about getting out of the boat and focusing on Jesus.

There are no meds for Spiritual ADD. There's only behavioral modification. And it does work, but it takes time and a conscious effort to move forward walking towards the cross. It takes effort to focus on Jesus and not be distracted by shiny objects of spiritual squirrels.

Where in your spiritual walk do you need to do behavioral modification in focusing on the cross of Christ? How can you do that?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trial, Error and following the Holy Spirit

It's been a little while now since I've sat down and written. I've been mulling a few things over. I've been hitting the weights, doing my cardio and keeping up with my friend about staying with it. Yet something has been getting at me.

Some weeks ago, while I was working out at the gym, a couple of high schoolers were there. They came in towards the end of my workout. I watched them for a little bit. I saw that they were doing stretches a bit awkward and some wrong. I then observed them try to do an incline press and were struggling with it. Their form was off and they obviously were using to much weight. The same was true with the bench press. As I finished working out, another member came in whom I have a small acquaintance with. Though tired, exhausted and wanting to go home and shower, I tried to nicely explain to the high schoolers that they needed to better work on form and how much weight to lift, as well as where to start. They looked at me blankly and I felt like a schlub. But I truly felt a nudge to talk to them. I truly did.

The next day, I bumped into the acquaintance who had watched the exchange. I explained to him that schlub feeling. But he gave me encouragement. He explained that they needed some guidance in working out.

I knew form experience what can happen with poor form and too much weight. And it hurts. I truly felt led to talk to these high schoolers though what I said I'm not sure stuck nor was accepted.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I learned that someone I knew in the Chicagoland area had died form a bad (and somewhat dumb) accident. I felt horrible. What is worse is the fact that I felt guilty for not talking to him about my faith. I wasn't sure where he was spiritually. For over a year, he and I shot the breeze. We talked sports, politics, and other guy stuff. Yet I never spoke to him about my faith, about Christ, or eternal life. And now he's dead. I don't know where he's at and it bothers me.

When I do evangelism training, I talk about following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I felt a nudge to speak to those high schoolers about weight lifting, which I truly believe was the prompting of the Spirit. Yet I never felt a nudge, a twitch or even a full kick to the bum to speak to my friend who now has passed. What gives? It bothers me and I don't know how to fully process it.

I speak of spiritual health and that we are fully human--mind body and soul. All three are connected. And I know it is not up to me who listens and who doesn't. And I know that it is up to the leading of the Holy Spirit to move in order to speak. Yet I wonder, why didn't I feel the leading of the Spirit for my friend who has passed yet I did for high schoolers whom I feel blew me off? Why, I don't know.

I will still listen, I will still follow. I will still lift and I will still try to talk when prompted. Yet I may never truly nor fully know why I'm not prompted to speak and other times I am.

Thoughts?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Early in the morning

I'm up early now. Last week my phone reset itself thinking it was daylight savings time. This time, even though I set it properly, it thought it knew better than I and reset itself.

I've been praying now, once an hour every waking hour for the last week. I haven't blogged as much mainly because for some reason, I've had a hard time uploading via blogger-droid on my so called "smart phone." I'm going to have some words with my phone, that's for sure.

But it also has my timer on it and it goes off at the oddest times. It has gone off while talking with the SD Highway Patrol (I wasn't in trouble, but at a football game). I said a quick prayer, but feel I should have said one for the backup quarter back, one of my church's kids. He's safe, he's fine, but I still feel bad that I didn't lift him up in prayer when the alarm kept going off. Why wasn't I paying attention?


And it went off a number of times while studying. It went off in the car while I was coming and going to hospital visits. A number of times while in the car. And, because I don't always bring my phone in with me, while I wasn't in the car.

When the Alarm goes off while on hospital visits, it seems that I'm already praying. There's something about the long car rides to and from Mitchell or Sioux Falls that gives me to time to ponder and pray.




And it goes off while I'm lifting. This one always gets me. It so far hasn't gone off while in the middle of a set, but always right before or right after



Regardless of when it happens, I stop and pray. Sometimes I even try to take a picture of where I'm at. There are those moments, in God's grandeur that I stop and look around and see how great he is, how lucky I am to be where I'm at and just how blessed I am. There are other times when the alarm goes off and I have to stop and take a few steps back and rememeber what is most important--it's not about me. It never has been.

So far this week, this alarm going off has helped my son pray, it has helped me learn to take a moment or two to focus, it has prevented a fight or two, it has made me appreciate my kids more.

God, I don't know what you're trying to teach me, but please, keep it up. But one more thing... I think I saw another gray hair.. I'm only 33, please wait a little while longer.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

the journey of prayer

I've been praying now for the last two weeks every 60 minutes. Sometimes I forget to set my alarm on my cell phone. Sometimes, I leave my cell in my car and forget to bring it in. But I've been praying. It's come at the oddest times, sometimes the most inopportune times. Sometimes at the right moment where I need to stop and take a step back and pray. What has really made me pay attention is how much my son is getting into it.

I've been on this journey for a while now. I've been focusing on growing spiritually. I've been focusing on how I can grow in my knowledge and wisdom of who God is, of who I am in his eyes. And it's been heavy lifting. I've had to see the fact that I've been lifting what I shouldn't be lifting--excessive baggage. And I need to lift properly--lifting it all up in prayer. And it's tough. It's hard. It's hard work to day by day decide to get up and follow Jesus. Sometimes I'd like to call "Mulligan" and have a free day. But that doesn't happen.

If I had my druthers, I'd druther do my own thing. But, honestly, if I am to stay healthy, I shouldn't follow my druthers, but the druthers of Christ. And that's heavy lifting--and I need to lift properly, in prayer.

And so, I trudge on. Every 60 minutes in my waking hours I'm going to pray, and focus on God. Two weeks down, more to go.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

frazzled prayers

I woke up late. My phone thought it was day light savings. I'm prepping for this morning's service--an hour behind. I feel like I'm off already. I'm frazzled but ready.

The alarm goes off just after my 2 year-old daughter came into my office, patting my arm begging for my attention. I stopped and gave it to her. I'm still behind. Still a bit frazzled. Praying for calm and peace to lead worship and be used to bring God's word.

6 minutes since I prayed and 54 until the alarm goes off. I'll probally be in church then, my cell in my office
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Saturday, October 30, 2010

driving prayers

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I'm driving home when I realize that the alarm had already gone off. I ran to the hospital to do a visit. Someone was in the hospital and I needed to see them. It's part of being a pastor. There's something about being invited in to someone's life during a time of struggling, suffering, worrying, pain, grief. I was invited in, shed tears with them, was with them.

I left my cell phone in my car. My alarm had gone off while I was in the hospital. Did it go off while I was praying with the family? When I was praying with the parishioner? Doe sit matter. When I saw that it had gone off, while driving down the dark South Dakota highway, I prayed for my parishioner, their family and God's will.

And I continue to pray even though the alarm hasn't gone off yet.

prayer time with the kiddos

I'm taking the kiddos in the church parking lot to ride their bikes. I'm tired and wanted to rest, but they so wanted to go. As they ride the alarm goes off. My son stops riding and prays. I'm teaching him something.

As he's riding his bike, a boy rides up on his bike. My son and the new kid start riding together and comparing bikes. Something tells me i better cherish this moment. Teaching him to pray and ride his bike. Soon he'll be taking off on his own. 34 minutes until the alarm goes off and to pray again. I so hope i can be a good father to my kids.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

lifting prayers

Alarm goes off while lifting. About to do squats. What should i do if it goes off in the middle of a rep? Prayers of safety and wisdom.

I also want to do some heavy lifting in prayer--for my church, for good friends, for those who just need some extra patience today

Back to lifting
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

prayer and coffee

The alarm has gone off. Making some coffee in the afternoon. I've been doing visitations today and taking a break for lunch. As the alarm goes off, Ruth and I are touching base with our day.

The alarm goes off and it is time to focus on my God. Shouldn't I be doing that all the time? When the alarm went off I was almost relieved. I'd been waiting for it, anticipating it.

Coffe is ready. 11 minutes since I last prayed, 49 to go
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prayer Comes at the oddest times

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The alarm for the prayer goes off at the oddest times. I know it goes off every hour, but sometimes the hours go by so fast and others I forget about them all together. Now, I'm playing what I call my "heathen mix" on my iPod while taking care of the dishes. Listening to Metallica, Alice in Chains, Beastie Boys and it is time to stop and focus on God.

The kiddos are asleep. It's been a long day. I'm thankful for a quiet house. I'm thankful for a wonderful wife and I'm thankful for a wonderful church to worship with. I thank God for the quiet times. I have 53 minutes until the alarm goes off, 7 since I last prayed. It's time to get back to the dishes. The hour will come soon enough

child like prayers

It's snowing out. In October. Im getiing used to living here. As i start up doing the 60/60 prayer thing again, i see a change in my son. The last time i did it, he would run and yell "time to pray!" We're in a new place now, in a new state, a new world ptetty much. And he now enjoys praying.

When the alarm goes off, he asks "is that the prayer alarm?" "Yes." And then he begins to pray "Dear, God..." I want my son to have a passion to pray. I want him to have a passion for Jesus, for God. Will it start here?

I have 20 minutes to go until the end of the hour. My son is at Bible study with my wife. I will be praying for him as well as for me
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

i really do what i say

(Originally posted @ 8:45am) waiting to pray 3 minutes to go biking at the gym listening to a podcast...trying to be patient.. hard to bike and text at the same time. Cant hurry the time to pray...want to but need to wait...why am i impatient? Really want to pray or just get it over with?
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how much time

I was realizing. I don't sit down with my friends and say, I'm going to spend 5 minutes talking with you today and then I'm going to leave. I never say to my wife, for 1/2 hour I'm going to sit and talk with you. I never say to my older brother or sister or mom or whomever, I'm going to spend 10 minutes a day talking with you. No. I talk with them off and on. I listen to them. I process what they say and I respond.

How often do we then say "I'm going to spend 10 minutes a day in prayer." or "I'm going to spend 10 minutes a day reading the Bible." If I said that to ANY of my friends they'd laugh at me. If I said that to my wife, she'd get a bit upset. And yet, the one whom loves us the most, the one who moved heaven and earth to make it possible for us to be with him for eternity, will only (ONLY!) get 10 minutes of your day tops! I chat with my brother on Facebook more than that.

I've started doing something called The 60/60 Experiment. It's from a book called Soul Revolution by John Burke. Check out the website http://www.soulrevolution.net/about.php (sorry, having issues with the link thingy)

I'm working on continually talking with God. And it's harder than I thought it'd be. For the last week I've been doing this. For every 60 minutes of my waking time, I pray to God. I seek His wisdom. I say a short prayer, and continue on. In the first week, I'm amazed at when the alarm has gone off for me to pray. Even while working out it's made me pause and think.

I'm working on my spiritual journey, and I'm coming to my God in prayer. I'm hoping to post more of my reflections on here as the weeks go by.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

But it's mine

Why do I force myself to do this alone? I mean, really? Why? I plug away at it. I work hard at it. I work out with fear and trembling.

A new friend offered to work out with me. Something that I miss doing. And then, I held back. But that's my time. That's Josh time. That's where I'm at, that's where I hide, that's where I'm in control. You can't join my little bit of the universe. Now, if this person had said "I'd like to check out your church." I'd've been right on board with that. Here's how you get there. This is the best place to sit. This is what I'm preaching on Sunday. That's not a problem. But to invade my sanctum, to invade what I hold so dear and true.

Why did I hold back?

Because it's part of my spiritual journey. My health, my lifting is part of my spiritual journey...and why would I want to share that with anyone... but that's the point. We are. We need to. I'm not in this alone. They eye needs the brain, the brain needs the hands, the hands need the nose...even the appendix is part of the body...

So...I need to break down my own walls. My own worries, and allow someone in on my spiritual journey... lifting weights, walking with God, seeing deeper into my own soul and my walk with God

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Being Accountable

The other day, my phone rang (Main theme from Star Wars). It was my good friend.

"Hello?"
"Hey, Josh. I went jogging this morning."
"Dude! way to go, I lifted yesterday and hope to go tomorrow."
"yeah, I lifted yesterday and did outside jogging today, the weather was great."
"Thanks for calling."
"Yeah, I like the idea of us being accountable to one another. It's good to have someone to connect with and make sure we're doing this."
"I know what you mean. How're you with staying in the word?"
"As in personal devotions? I'm doing good. Been going through a good devotional series right now. You?"
"I've been so busy and struggling with it. I've been going through the Today daily devotional and working on doing it. Keep in me in prayer about that. I keep falling behind and don't like it."

And then the conversation went in different directions.

My friend's been my friend since college. We used to lift together. He was my spotter and I his. A spotter is someone there to help you lift the weights, make sure you can lift it, encourage you and if you can't handle the weight, help you lift it up so you can finish the rep safely.

Do you have someone you're accountable with with your physical and spiritual health? Do you have a spotter?

There's something about having a spotter keep you accountable to what you're doing. When we do so physically with our health, it helps us know that yeah, I'm going to have to admit to the fact that I didn't do what I said I would this week, or yeah, I ate that twinkie when I shouldn't have. But also spiritually. Do you have someone who can pray with you? Pray for you? Help make sure you're staying in the word? Help make sure you're walking the walk you profess in Jesus?

If not, I highly suggest you find one.

A few suggestions:
1. Your spiritual spotter should NOT be a spouse. That can cause more harm that good.

2. Your spiritual spotter should be the same gender as you. I don't think I even need to explain why.

3. You and your spotter should agree to connect if not by phone then by person at least once a week.

4. It only works if you are truly honest with your spotter, with yourself and with God.

5. Don't be mean, but don't be soft.

Find a spotter and begin work on your spiritual health!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Old School Feel

It's been a bit, but I finally started hitting the gym again. It's strange, really. I got so used to the gym back in the Chicago area. The equipment was newish, and was about to be upgraded to brand-spankin new shortly after I left. The free weight station was good, solid new equipment. The machines were in good shape, a bit worn, but up to date. I had my groove in place. I knew what to use, how to use it and what I could handle.

But now I'm at a new gym. It's an old school style. The equipment is good and solid but olderish. And it's not as crowded and so I've done most my workouts alone. Now, I'm a big advocate for having a spotter and workout partner, or at least having someone around. But I also know what I'm doing and have the safeties in place.

It's not that the gym is bad, it's different from what I'm used to. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Old School gyms in the least. Some of the greatest body builders of all time and some celebrity body builders too (Hulk Hogan, Arnold "The Govenator" Schwarzeneggner to name two) have come from the Old School style of lifting. And there've been many greats who have come from a new method of working out.

But the problem comes when you lift Old School over New School and vice versa. There are many lifting books out that are touting that we need to go back to Old School lifting. And there are other books out that bring forth the latest in exercise science in weight training. Both have their merits and their problems. Somewhere a good balance can be found and used to be effective in lifting and weight training.

Recently, I've started pastoring a church here in South Dakota. To be honest (and I'm not putting anything down at all, I love the place) it has that Old School feel. Old School isn't bad. It's different. I'm trying to get used to it. I'm trying to get used to how it works, how it functions, what's available to be done and what I need to improvise on. The church here in Corsica is a good solid body of belivers who have a solid foundation--Old School and good. I came from a different area. Not cutting edge but different. And it was also good.

I do know this--since moving out to South Dakota, I've placed 3 inches around my waist and 20 lbs on me. That I don't like. I'm trying to get my self motivated again to hit the weights. I miss it. I need it. I don't want to gain weight spiritually. And I know that there is strength in the Old School I am at. Good. Solid. Strong. And I like that.

This is all new to me. But I'm looking forward to building up with them, Old School style and finding our way in Serving God and doing his kingdom work here in Corsica, SD.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Confession Time

I'm pastoring a great church right now--Corsica CRC and Grace Reformed. Two denominations (CRC and RCA) but one congregation. When we worship at Grace, we have a time called God's Guide for Living. Two weeks ago, I read from 1 John where it says, if we confess our sins, he will forgive us. I have a confession to make. I haven't been as healthy as I should be as of late. I haven't been eating the way I know I should be, I haven't been working out--at all! And I'm feeling it. I'm feeling bogged down, I'm feeling frustrated, I'm feeling, I don't know, bleh. I know I don't like how I'm feeling, yet I don't do anything about it.

I wonder if this is how it feels when we don't confess. My wife took out the garbage from the kitchen this morning because I (again) forgot to take it out. I'm wondering, is it the same thing as not working out or not confessing. If you don't take out the garbage, after a while it builds up and stinks. You know it's not good to have it out all the time, you know you need to get rid of it, you know you need to dispose of it and give it over to the garbage man, but you still don't.

If we confess, he will forgive. So, I'm confessing. I'm not working out the way I should and I'm I think I'm feeling it physically, emotionally and spiritually. I'd lift, do devotions, focus, clear out my self, and give to God and be ready for the day, the week... now, not so much. And yet I don't do ANYTHING with it. It just sits there. I haven't even gone into the weight room I set up because I just feel guilty about not doing anything. So, I think about trying it again, and then I hear Yoda in my mind "there is do and do not, there is not try." So, yeah.. well.. still gotta do it before the garbage piles up too high

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Golden Silence

Yesterday I finally had a chance to work out. It'd been a few days and I was missing it. As I've said a number of times, It's part of how I recharge and how I refocus. And I hadn't lifted in about a week and I was feeling it. So, finally, work done, house empty save for me and my bench. I went to the basement with my iPod, portable speakers, water bottle and a whole lot of lifting to do.

As I started lifting, my portable speakers stopped. I had a choice: stop the rhythm I had gotten into and get my headphones or exercise in silence. I opted for silence. I noticed something, Time stopped. It was just me. Nothing else. Just me. I'm not used to that. I'm used to noise--weights dropping, people talking, music blasting. But now, nothing.

I took that a step forward later that evening. I stopped. I remained quiet. The words "Be still and know that I am God." started flowing through my mind.

In our spiritual walk, we need times of just silence. I'm not talking about emptying out yourself. We need time to just stop, listen, think. Allow time to stop and just exist in the presence of God. Focus on him. Listen to him.

I gotta do both again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spiritual Exercises

For the longest time, I'd go hit the gym and then come back and maybe read a little bit of the Bible, maybe a short devotional and maybe even pray. Maybe. I wanted to make sure I hit the gym before I did anything else. Recently, I've changed that. I've been instead, taking time in the morning to exercise spiritually before exercising physically. It is a different experience.

I've learned that in weight lifting, and in any and all exercise routines you have, you get out of it what you put into it. You cannot gain muscle mass without working out. You can't get better at running if you do not keep it up. And you can struggle spiritually if you do not constantly come to God in prayer.

Now, when it comes to constantly being in prayer, I'm not saying that this means all will be okay, that all your problems will be fixed. I'm saying is how you deal with things will be different. A lot different. How you deal with setbacks, how you deal with joys, how you deal with God will be different. But you get out of it what you put into it. If you just give a quick short prayer and that's it, then you're not getting out much. If you just do a long prayer once a week, you're not getting out much.

Try this, work on your spiritual muscles and health the same way you might work on your physical health. Set aside time and come to God in prayer. Start out slowly as you would in weight lifting or running. Then progress further. You can do short times of prayer mixed in with longer times in prayer. Short times trying to understand God through reading the Bible, and long times. But start small and work your way up. And if you've been away from it for an extended amount of time, don't start off where you were last time, go back to the basics and move forward from there again.

I truly think that our spiritual health is just as important as our physical and emotional health. All three need to be worked on, maintained and continued to move forward.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Be Still

I do one of four things when I get anxious or nervous. I lift weights, I hit the punching bag, I go for a walk or I munch on junk food. Since May 25, I have been anxious. I interviewed for a position as pastor for two churches in Corsica, SD. An amazing place. But I became anxious. What if they didn't like me? What if I did something to blow the interview? What if? What if? What if? And so I hit the gym, I lifted weights. I hit the bag and worked on my "boxing" skills. I went for walks and contemplated what God might have in store. But I also ate. Too much. I was able to compensate with my exercise but after a while I realized I was just making excuses for myself. And then my bag and weight bench were packed and moved...and I munched.

On June 27, I was offered the position. On July 3, I accepted. I wish I could say that my anxiety calmed. It didn't. I think it got worse. I wish there was a way to say that I found the perfect answer to calm my anxiety. I don't. Not in the least. But I have learned something.

Since we've arrived here in town, I've been praying a lot more. A lot lot more. And one line from Psalm 46 has been going through my head "Be still and know that I am God, I will be honored amongst the nations." I still have my anxiety, but I also need to stay still. Be still, listen to God's voice, his caring touch on the shoulder, leading and guiding.

There is something bigger than myself out there. And he is in charge. Be still, I hear him tell me, and I will take care of it. Be still, and understand that there are bigger things.

Health is so important to me both physical and spiritual. I've learned over the last few years that my physical health is tied into my spiritual health and vice versa. And so, I must be still. Come to my Father in prayer and listen to him, not just gab but truly, completely, listen and be still.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

while on a break

A little while back, I saw a quick add for an article on Yahoo! while I was about to log onto my e-mail. It said "Don't take a vacation from your health while on vacation." Now I'm wishing I had read it. I tried to find it but to no avail. At first I thought, I've worked hard, I can take a break... and then proceeded to spend from Memorial Day to the 4th of July eating burgers, brats and hot dogs, potato salads, ice cream and all the fun summer fair...and gained about 10 lbs. Yikes! And I was still exercising at the same time...and gained a 1/2 inch around my gut...

Now, I know this is just me. And I know that everyone is different. But I'm begging you all, don't take a break while on a break! Maybe it's more to myself than anyone else. That voice that's pleading inside my head to be healthy. And that pull by the Holy Spirit to continue on my spiritual journey. What was it? Eat and Drink for tomorrow we die? No.

God has called us to be good stewards of what he has given us--including our bodies. Paul writes "Don't you know that your body is a temple." And he also talks about how he works at controlling his own body so that he is the master of it and not the other way around.

Relax and rest. By all means. If you're working hard on all ends, rest. Enjoy God's eternal rest found in Jesus. Don't push to hard on the diet and exercise and break down. But also, when on a break, don't over indulge...well, not too much. Again, this is probably more to myself than anyone else...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Teaching each other

Yesterday at the gym I saw something interesting.

As I was lifting, I looked over and saw a couple of teens lifting. One of the teens was struggling on the bench press, trying to lift too much. His friends either didn't know what to do or didn't have the strength to help him, for they were just standing around frozen. I started to head that way to help when an older gentleman came to his aide. (I say older, as in he was balding and looked older than me..real age unknown). I paused my music and listened in on his conversation with the teen. He began telling him how he needed to not over estimate how much he could bench but also encouraged him to keep trying to bench more. He then walked the teen through the proper steps of benching and how to gauge how much he could and could not bench.

I remember back in my weight training classes back in high school Mr. Festerling doing the same thing. He very patiently walked me and the others through weight lifting and proper form. What he taught me has stuck over the last 16+ years since. What was taught to me then has helped me in my pursuit of being healthy now.

I also started thinking of Eddie, Doyle, Merle and Bob, all older gentleman at church who walked me through my faith. They taught me what it meant to be a man of God. Through their actions, conversations and even instruction, they taught me what it meant to be a person of integrity, to be honest, to be loving, to be like Jesus in all I do.

This is what is commonly called in Christian circles discipleship. And it is important in the formation and development of our physical and spiritual health. In his book The New High Intensity Training, Ellington Darden laments how this type of discipleship has gone to the wayside in weight lifting. And I think it has gone to the wayside in our churches as well.

In my own pursuit of spiritual and physical health, I realize that I need to take the time to help others learn and grow in their own health but more importantly in their own spiritual journey. I think this is a charge to us all to do so.

As we work on getting healthy and as we grow in our spiritual journey and faith walk, we need to help others do the same.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Importance of place

I used to always say "If I had more time I'd exercise more" or "if I had more time I'd read my Bible more." And honestly, from time to time, I still do. But the other day, as I for some odd reason woke up to be at the gym by 6:30 am (got there at 7am), I was realizing that I was making time. That was something else someone one time told me. They said, "Well, if you want to do it, make the time." I always responded "I don't have the time to make the time." What that person was saying to me was more to the point of "If it's important to you then you'll find the time."

Think about that for a second--finding the time verses making the time. What is the difference? It's the importance of it.

How important is my health to me? I thought about this as I etched out an hour and a half to catch up on some TV shows that were on the DVR. I was willing to set aside time to watch some TV shows. Why can't I be willing to etch out time to exercise? Or more importantly, why can't I etch out time to spend it with God.

I decided to look at what was important to me. How important was my health to me? Being at over 400lbs six years ago, it was very important to me. After some time I realized that if setting aside time to be healthy was important to me, then how much more important should spending time with God be to me?

Now here's the thing--there's no magic bullet. There's no special plan or trick. It boils down to a shear act of will. Not an act of will to find time or make time, but an act of will to make it important. Where does spending time with God, with praying, with reading, with working on your own spiritual walk, place as importance to you? If it's not where you think it should be, then work on making it important. When it becomes important then it becomes a priority to make sure you place it first on your to-do list for that day, week, month.

Same thing with health. Do you want to be healthy? How important is that to you? There's no easy answer, there's no magic trick, there's nothing but a shear act of will to make it important. I'm not saying that you can't use programs that are out there, some are very helpful.

In the end, it is a matter of a thought change. How you think of things matters in how you place them in importance of what you do.

Now here comes the easy answer--Pray. Pray that God helps you with making Him important in your life. Pray that God helps you being healthy in your life--physically, emotionally and physically. And then allow God to work in your life. If you're not a believer, try it out anyway and see what happens. But allow God to work if you ask Him for His help.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Being guided

Yesterday morning, as I sat and drank my coffee, I was doing my devotions. That is, I was taking time, reading through the book of Mark in the Bible and then reading through a book with daily thoughts on Scripture called Today (www.thisistoday.net). The small reflection on how to live my life in a way that is good and pleasing to God. It was about living in God's grace found in Jesus. As I have been reading through the Today booklet and through the Book of Mark, I've been reflecting on how I need to live my life and how I HAVE been living my life. In my own personal readings, I've been seeing how I need to strive to be more like Jesus in my day to day living. In the Today booklet, there's advice on how to do this. Not much, just a few words here and there, but enough to be helpful.

When I was done with my devotions, I realized that there was a weightlifting exercise I wanted to take another look at in one of my books. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right and I wanted to also reexamine exactly which muscle groups I was working. I have a book called Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavir which I have found helpful in better understanding how the muscles work and how to do the exercises properly.

And then it hit me. I was doing something similar with exercising as I was doing with my own spiritual walk.

In our spiritual walk, we can't do it alone. We need guidance and direction. In trying to be healthy, we can't do it alone. We need guidance and direction. I was flipping through the Today devotional to see who had written it, two pastors for the months of May and June. Both pastors were had been in the ministry for a number of years. Looking at Strength Training Anatomy, the author is a long time weight lifter, editor of a European lifting magazine and award winning artist.

Guidance and direction in our spiritual journey as well in our journey for better health comes from those who have gone before us. It comes from those who encourage us and lead us and guide us. We need people to help cheer us on and help us know where to go in our spiritual journey.

IN the Book of Hebrews, there's this great section that speaks of a Great Cloud of Witnesses (http://read.ly/Heb12.1.NIV). This Great Cloud is cheering us on as we keep our eyes upon Jesus, the one who we strive to be like in all that we do.

Who is cheering you on? Who is part of your Great Cloud of Witnesses? What books can you read that will help foster a healthy spiritual walk with God? What books can you read that will help you foster a healthy lifestyle? Who can you talk with to help guide you along your personal spiritual journey?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm not a runner

I remember back in high school and junior high we had to run. A lot. In junior high, we had to run a two mile run once a month. In high school, we had to do a mile and a half once a week. And if we didn't meet a certain time limit, then we lost the grade for that day. Back in high school I was pretty healthy (though I think a lot people say that) but I was highly active. I was walking or biking to school almost every day--a three mile journey one way. But I wasn't a runner. Honestly, I'm not built for running. I have some good friends who are built for running. And they can run. Me? I'm built for lifting heavy things. I'm good at that. I like doing that.

So what does this mean for exercising and being spiritual?

Because I do run. I'm not good at it, but I'm getting better. I really am. I've actually done a mile and a half in 15:45 (this doesn't beat the time limit for back in high school but a lot better than I used to do).

As I've been working on becoming healthier, I've learned that I shouldn't just stick to something I'm built for. In doing my cardio as running verses riding a bike which I like to do I've improved in an area I wasn't as god at. And I've learned something about myself too. I may not be built for it and I may not always be good at it, but I can make a personal best.

I think sometimes in our spiritual walk we don't go past what we think we're gifted in. Sometimes we don't even look at some of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gives to us who are in Jesus Christ. We just simply walk along the way thinking "I'm not good at this, I'm not good at that. I'm a better follower than a leader." We can sometimes get stuck in our ways and not allow ourselves to grow spiritually. What I find interesting is the fact that when a child is born, we don't expect them to stay a child. We expect them to grow and try new things, to grow and learn and become who they are mean to be. For those of us in Jesus Christ, we have been reborn through the power of the Holy Spirit, and are expected to grow into who God wants us to be. How can we if we don't step forward and try new things? How can we if we don't listen to the Holy Spirit in moving forward?

Part of our health is following and listening to the Holy Spirit as He guides us in our daily life. Part of that guiding is working on my health physically and maturing spiritually.

Food, Fitness, Faith: Learn and Grow

Food: Don't get stuck on just one type of diet. Try other ways of eating and dieting. It is a lifestyle not a quick fix, allow yourself to grow in understanding what types of foods work best for you to be healthy and fit.

Fitness: Don't always stick to the same exercise routine. Studies have shown that this makes your body actually go into maintenance rather than into weight loss and muscle growth. It can also become boring and even discouraging. Mix it up, see how you can find ways to change what you're doing and see how you react to it.

Faith: Don't get stuck in a spiritual rut. Trust in the Holy Spirit and his guiding. Step forward in faith in trying new things in your faith walk and in reading God's word. Try to find ways to do something new in church or in a bible study or small group.. find new ways to stay true to His Word and learning more about Him and His will for your life.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Know thyself

So, I'm paying for it now. I pushed really hard yesterday and I think a number of my muscles are hurting.. but hopefully in a good way.

Last night, sometime after my workout, as I sat on the couch, muscles hurting a bit, I thought of the line from Hamlet. In the beginning of Hamlet, the adviser to the King named Polonius is giving fatherly advise to his son. He tells him a number of good solid proverbial lines and then says to him "Above all else, to thine own self be true." Why was that going through my mind? Well, first of all, I'm a weirdo and have read Shakespeare's Hamlet about 8 times.. but also because I was wondering if I was really being true to myself.. did I really know myself in my exercising... in other words, did I overestimate what I could do or did I do right by pushing myself.. right now, my muscles are picking the first one over the second one, but I won't really know until a few days down the road.

I think a lot times when we exercise, especially when we're first starting out, we don't know our limitations and we don't know how hard we can push past them. I honestly think that when someone firsts starts exercising (and from what I've read on Yahoo! health, this is correct) you need to start slow and work your way up. If you push hard and not know your limitations, you can burn out quickly and become discouraged or worse, you can seriously hurt yourself in the process. Start small, build yourself up, do short tests to see what you can do, step back, review and then push forward again.

I think this happens a lot in our spiritual walk too. For some just starting out, they go overboard and get involved in so much, get into so much and then get burnt out or worse yet, get hurt spiritually and walk away. In our spiritual walk, we need to understand our own personal limits. The Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us. That is His job, that is what He does. Listen to the Holy Spirit, let Him tell you when to push hard and when to back off. Pray that God helps you see where you need to move forward... and allow God to push you past your limits, don't do it yourself. When we allow God to push us past our limits, then we know we're safe.. but if we push ourselves.. we can get burnt out or worse, spiritual hurt and walk away.

Where in your life does God need to push you past your limits and where in your life do you need to take a step back and review what you're doing and how you can keep things in pace with how much you can do.. but physically in exercise and working out.. but more importantly in your spiritual walk

Monday, May 17, 2010

Encouraging each other on

Today at the gym, I bumped into someone from church. We started talking and catching up a bit (hadn't had time to talk and connect for a little while). Then he said something. He said that I'm looking better than I was a year ago. That compliment felt good. In fact, I've had a couple of people in the last five months tell me that they can tell I've lost weight and am looking healthier than I have in the past. And you know what, this has given me energy to keep going. I know I'm doing well. I know I'm on track in staying healthy and being active. And also, each time someone tells me that they think I'm doing well, it makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something.

There's a verse in the letter to the Hebrews that says just that. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (http://read.ly/Heb10.24.NIV)

But this doesn't apply to telling someone that their exercise routine is doing them well. It's more than that. When we spur each other on in love and good deeds, we're encouraging one another to keep doing what' their doing for God and His church. It's encouraging each other to keep doing what we're doing.

I think sometimes we forget that it's hard work at times to help and serve others. We can get burnt out. Sometimes we get so focused on what we're doing that we forget why we're doing it.

For me personally, I'm lifting weights because 1) I enjoy it and it's a good way for me to recharge but most importantly 2) for me to be healthy and in good working order so I can be there for my wife, kids, and others. There are times when I just focus on getting the routine done and get going home. Which is kind of where I was this afternoon until someone reminded me why I was doing what I was doing.

Why are you doing what you are doing? Don't forget it. Where are you serving in church, helping someone out, being there for a friend or a family member, don't forget why you're doing it. And encourage one another on in love and good deeds.

Food, Fitness, Faith--Spur each other on!

Food--if you are dieting with someone else, encourage them to keep at it. Tell them what they're doing well and where they're succeeding.

Fitness--If you're exercising with a friend encouraging each other to keep at it especially when it's tough or tiring to keep on going. (as Tony Little says)You can do it!

Faith--the author of Hebrews says it best really "Consider how you may spur each other on in love and good deeds. How can you encourage others in church, in your faith walk to keep doing what they're doing. Build each other up, help each other serve and love others.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Serving with Joy

video

This is video from the Bethel CRC Spring Break Mission Trip to Biloxi, MS I wrote about back in March. It's more promotional and more fun. There is still a great need for work to be done down there. Check out www.hopecda.org, www.crwrc.org and www.discoverbethel.org for more information

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Refresh, Refocus, Renew

Refresh. Refocus. Renew. I came across these words this last Sunday morning at church and it struck me. These words come from the daily devotional called Today (http://thisistoday.net). As I looked at these words, I started thinking about how I can do just that--refresh, refocus, renew. And then I realized, I'm working on that right now. When I first started exercising, I did so for my health. When I first started lifting again, I did so for my health. But then I started realizing that lifting did something for me. It helped me recharge, it helped me take a step back and allow myself some time away from everything else. It gives me the opportunity to refresh, refocus and renew.

After looking at these words, I started thinking about other ways I take time to refresh, refocus and renew. Lately, I've been doing devotions from the Today devotional but also from reading through the book of Matthew in the Bible. It's been a time to step back and focus on who God is. To focus on what God is doing in my life. To refresh and refocus on what Jesus has done for me and how I want to be more like Him in every way.

One of the things I'm starting to see is this: God takes care of me. He takes care of His people. I know in my heart and deep in my soul that God has called me to be a follower of Jesus, to be one who preaches His word. To be one to live my life in a way that helps others live more like Jesus as well. But He won't let me do this alone and he won't let me burn out. He has given support through people I know and through a small daily devotional called Today. He also helps me find a way to stay healthy and to help me refresh, refocus, renew.

How are ways you can take time during your week to refresh, refocus and renew?

Monday, April 12, 2010

How much is too much?

Recently, I've been having people come up to me and ask "How much do you bench?" I then usually rattle off a number based upon what I've been doing lately in reps and sets. They then (without fail) respond: "No, what's your max?" And to tell the truth, I don't know. Many people want to know what you max out on. Honestly, I don't max out. I don't want to max out. What gets me is how much people want to max out. I watch people at the gym put a huge amount of weight on the bar and become gathered with two or three people around the bench. They are helped picking up the bar, and then attempt with all their might to push the bar filled with a ginormous amount of weight up into the air above their head. The whole time, the two or three gathered around the bench are yelling out "you can do!" "Push it hard!" And when the person is done maxing out, I look and their face is drained and you can tell they are tired.

Now, don't get me wrong, I push hard when I work out. I want to do my best. But I won't max out. Instead, I push hard and then I rest. I also don't do a large number of exercises. I'd rather push hard on a few and rest and in a few weeks switch things up a bit than max out hard and then be tired or worse yet, hurt myself badly.

There are a lot of places in life where we max out. At work, in our social settings, at church. We want to do as much as possible and as hard as possible. The problem is, is that there is no rest. We max out on time--shuttling from one sports program to another or from one lesson to another, from one job to another, from one event to another, fitting in work, fitting in (fill in the blank). We max out on spending--we want so much and we have so little, we have to have what everyone else is having and have it better and greater. We max out spiritually as well. We push hard to serve at church, we push hard to be good spiritually, we push hard to be that perfect person that is loved by all and hopefully God.

But maxing out leads to burning out. We are a people who were created for rest. We were made to be able to work hard but we are also made to rest. When God finished creating the heavens and the earth, he took a day of rest. He was there, he was alive, he was active, but he rested. He instituted what is called the sabbath--a day of rest (literally means "seven" in Hebrew). On that day no one was to do work. And on that day, you took time to thank God for what He has given you and for what He has done in your life.

When we push hard and don't rest, we burn out. Maxing out leads to burning out. Where in your life are you maxing out? Where in your life are you pushing things to the limit. What do you need to do to rest, regroup, recharge? Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened, for my yoke is easy and my burden light and I will give you rest." Are you maxing out? Come to Jesus, come for rest. Make Him the priority and all things will look different along the way. Yes, you can push hard, but come to His rest for He is here for you.

Food, Fitness, Faith--don't max out

Food--Don't max out in dieting. A lot of times we go overboard and cut so much out of our diet that we burn out. And then we taste that one Snickers bar and we over indulge. It is okay to have a solid strong diet, but don't burn yourself out in dieting. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Fitness--Don't max out in exercising. Yes, it's good to see what your personal best is. Yes, it's good to push hard. But you can actually do more bad than good to your body, your muscles, when you max out. Push hard if you need to, but then rest, take time to step back and rest for a bit. Don't work out till you puke, it's not good, healthy or anything else for that matter.

Faith--Don't max out spiritually. Yes, this is possible. Don't over extend yourself. When we max out spiritually we feel it physically and emotionally too. Instead, focus. Add focus to what you are doing, whittle it down to just a few things, be focused in your prayer. You don't have to do everything. Come to God in prayer and ask for His rest, ask for Jesus to give you that rest. Ask for God to give you the focus you need in following Jesus and doing God's will and kingdomwork.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Biloxi--Thursday

Today we continued working on the demolition/deconstruction on the house. I did realize I had made a slight mistake. I stated that they were going to completely destroy the house to rebuild it on the same spot. Yes and no. We have been gutting it so that the mold could be removed and the wood treated so that they they could rebuild the house on the inside so it would be a healthy home.

Each morning before we went off to the work sites, we would have our host, Mr. Ken, come and talk briefly with us. This morning, he talked about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a few loves and fish. He talked about how Philip only saw the impossible. Jesus asked Philip where they should eat and Philip said, "we can't afford to feed them all." Andrew then suggested that they could maybe use a sack lunch of a few loaves of bread and some fish. Mr. Ken stated that a lot of times when God asks us to act, we either see the impossible and don't want to do it or we might think of the answer that God wants to hear from us but then not act. But then Mr. Ken stated that the boy gave his food away. He acted. And in him acting on faith, Jesus used his sack lunch to feed 5,000+.

Mr. Ken told us to go out and do the same. Give what we have, it may be small but it's all we have, and allow God to use it. He then ended with a simple prayer. "God, take my bread, take my fish, take my life, do with it as you wish."

In living my life for Christ, that is something I pray. It is something I hope you pray as well.

This has been an amazing trip and I wish I didn't have to leave early for other commitments. My prayers are with the rest of the team as they are heading back to the Chicago area tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Biloxi--Wednesday

As I've been reflecting on today's activities, I've been thinking about the demolition work site we were on today. We are in the process of tearing down a house on a lot so a new house can be built on the same lot. To tell the truth, it was a lot of fun. There's just something about taking a sledge hammer to a wall and smacking it HARD! But as we were knocking down the walls, we began to see what was behind the walls. Mold. Lots of mold. Looking at all of the mold, you could see roughly how far up the water got during Hurricane Katrina, or as they call it The Storm. When they say The Storm, it means only one storm. This man has lived in a FEMA trailer for a number of years now while his house just sat. But it is finally being taken down to have a new one built in its place.

And this is where I began thinking. There's been hurt, pain, problems and storms in my life, that's for sure. And I know that there have been many in the lives of others too. And when the storm hits, mold grows. If it's not dealt with it over takes us. Sometimes we can see it growing and act, but I was learning that mold doesn't work that way. As I looked around the house, I saw that the mold was behind the walls and in the ceiling. The mold was in places the naked eye could see. You had to know what to look for to find it.

We read in the Psalms a paraphrase of "Search me and know me" God searches us. He knows the mold we have in our lives. He knows what's wrong. We might put up a good front, but he sees the mold.

As I've been working out and exercising and working on my eating habits, every so often I cheat. That's fine. But when it gets to the point where I say, just one more, it's okay, no one will know.. then I've started to grow mold.

But, just like this house, God is in the process of tearing down and rebuilding. God promises us through Jesus that he will no only get rid of the mold, but he will rebuild us brand new.

What in your life does God need to tear down and rebuild? Will you give it over to Him? Will you allow Him to rebuild in your life?

Fitness, Food, Faith--rebuilding

Fitness--many times we get the idea that we can't do this or that. Sometimes we remember something that made us feel embarrassed when doing an exercise. Sometimes we just feel embarrassed in our own skin as we exercise. Ask God to tear down those feelings and rebuild a solid self confidence that is filled with love for yourself as God loves you. Ask that God help you see you as he sees you.

Food--I'll be honest, I have emotional attachments to eating. I am constantly battling with it. What are you attached to in eating? Ask God to tear down those feelings and emotional attachments to food and rebuild a solid understanding of how He blesses us with food to sustain us.

Faith--Ask God to tear down walls that we have put up in our lives that limit us. Ask God to tear down walls that prevent you from moving forward in your faith. Ask God to daily rebuild you to be more and more like Christ in all you do.

Biloxi--Tuesday

For both Monday and Tuesday we worked at two different sites. The first site was with Mr. Floyd as we called him. He was a 79 year old retired pastor who was a cancer survivor. We had a few things we had to repair in his home, mainly mold damage. As we talked, he told me about how the people in the area had been helped by constant volunteers who came down from all over the US to help them and others out with recovery and relief work. As Mr. Floyd and I talked, he told me that a church recently approached him and asked him to come out of retirement to start a new church. He was leaning towards doing it. His reason: There are so many people who need it. As we drive around the area, we see countless sidewalks that lead nowhere. We see steps and mail boxes to once existing houses. Mr. Floyd is right, there is still a need out here. He didn't want people to forget about him and all the others that needed help.

Our second site was working with Robert. He is an unemployed shipwright/steel worker who deeply desires to work, but can't--no jobs available. He told me that after the storm hit, he had to use a chain saw just to get to his property. They lived in a tent for three months before they were able to move back into their mobile home. Robert said that he was lucky--he lived right near the helicopter landing zone where they would drop off supplies for everyone. He also said he never again wants to eat an MRE! What struck me was that Robert was working along side of us repairing his home. In fact after we left on Monday, he continued some of the work because we had left the supplies there. He told me that when he was first approached by the government to have his home repaired he told them to first help those living in their cars.

Looking at what this means to be a Spiritual Muscle Head, I began to think about what Jesus said to the rich young man who asked what he had to do to go to heaven. He was told to sell everything and give it to the poor. Could I do that? What else can I do to help out here besides one week of vacation time being used.

Fitness, Food, Faith--Be thankful.

Fitness--be thankful for a body that works. Appreciate it. Take care of it.

Food--be thankful for what you have. Appreciate what you eat and what you have. Eat wisely.

Faith--Be thankful. Find things where you can in even the darkest moments to thank God for.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Biloxi, MS--Monday

Today was our firs "work" day. I say "work" because not everyone really worked. It wasn't for a lack of trying. We wanted to. But for some, they were told to wait. This morning we met Brian, the leader of Hope CDA. We are partnering with Hope CDA in helping with the recovery from Katrina. It is weird to say that things still aren't fully recovered. But it's true.. it's not. It's sad. It's heart breaking really.

We were given rules that we needed to adhere by.. the first: Blessed are the flexible, for they won't be bent out of shape. This is what I've been saying for years.. and once again I'm putting it into practice. I think for many of us, it's hard to be flexible.We know how it should be done. We know how it needs to be done. But sometimes we need to take a step back and allow God to do what needs to be done.

Tomorrow is another day. A day that will be filled with flexibility and resisting the urge to throw stones.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 3--second day in Biloxi

I've been thinking about the whole concept of being a Spiritual Muscle Head. It's weird. When you look at being a follower of Jesus, it actually means something. As a follower of Jesus, I want to be like him to everyone I meet. I do. And that's why I'm down here. I find it interesting that we are doing service work during the Christian Holy Week... what better time to be Christ to others than by being Christ during the time we spend reflecting on his sacrifice for us.

This Sunday was a needed day of rest. It was a day of rest before the work begins. A day of worship, a time of rest and relaxation at the beach (and a sun burn for many of us to boot).

I am looking forward to getting to work. We haven't received our assignments yet, but we're told we will tomorrow..

During this holy week, I want to take the time to reflect on Jesus' sacrifice for me and why I truly am here... not because it's a great thing to do but because I truly want to reflect who he is and what it means to be to be a follower of him.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 2

We made it in to Biloxi this afternoon. We're at a church where their ministry is in hosting other groups who come down to do work in the area for hurricane relief work. When I was getting ready to come down, many people asked me what work was left. It had been 5 years since Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast area. Our host, Mr. Ken, informed us that after the hurricanes there was roughly 70,000-80,000 homes lost. Lost. Gone. Destroyed. Families displaced. Homes gone. Memories only remained. Mr. Ken stated that at the highest housing boom in the Mississippi area the number of homes built in a year was 2,500. It would take roughly 30 years to rebuild all the homes lost. Not only that, but many people don't have the money or resources to rebuild or to even tear down so that they can rebuild. So that's why we're here.

This evening, after dinner, while relaxing. I played basket ball... something I haven't done in years. I was shocked at how well I could play without stopping and wheezing and having to rest. I was also amazed at how much I remembered from Mr. R in Jr High back in the day. I could play basket ball!! Exercising is paying off...

Tomorrow is church then a tour of what still remains to be repaired and rebuilt in the area. Pray that work gets done... that the work of the Holy Spirit is done.. that we can all do His will while we're here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The first leg

We left this afternoon around 4ish. We split up into cars and got on the road. It's interesting really, stuck in a car, no where to go but the direcition you're going. You're cooped up with a bunch of people and sooner or later you need to talk. You have the chit chat, you have the small talk, but sooner or later, you have the real conversation. You know, that conversation you have when you start actually being real, when the facade drops and the real person begins to peak out..

We're in MO right now. Stopped for the night. Tired, exahusted from the ride and the long day.. looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

The 7th Day

We read in the book of Genesis that after spending six days to create the universe, on the 7th day He rested. Further along in the Bible in the book of Exodus, God tells the children of Israel to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, on that day no one should do any work. God was instituting rest. Rest is important. In fact, we were made for rest. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night. In fact sleep deprivation is considered torture to some people. We need rest.

When it comes to me getting healthy, I've come to realize that I need rest. About a year ago, I came across a book on weightlifting by Ellington Darden, PhD. In his book he emphasized rest. He said that in weightlifting, you should push hard with the weights, but then make sure you take time off to rest. I found this interesting. He suggested that after about 6 months of working out three days a week, one should take 9 days off to rest. I did things a bit different. Every 6 weeks, I took the 7th week off to rest. I found that during that time, my gut got smaller and I lost more weight by not exercising. Weird, I know.

It shows to me that our bodies need rest. So do our minds. And so does our spirit. I have come to realize that the best times I have had in reading the Bible have been times when I can rest and relax with God's Word in front of me. When we have rest, we can recharge. We can keep going forward. Sometimes when we push real hard, we burn out. We we toss in some rest from time to time, we can have the strength to keep going on.

During this next week I will be taking some time to rest from work, from exercsiign and maybe even my diet and will be going down to Billoxi, Mississippi, to do some releif work. It is a time for me to rest from what I have been doing and help others. I will be doing some short blogs while I'm there.

Take time this week to rest--to rest form your work out, to rest from the daily grind and relax in God's Word and allow yourself to recharge.

Fitness, food, faith--Rest.

Fitness--as I said above, take time off and rest from your workouts, especially if you work out every day. Take a week off and rest. Trust in God to do what he needs to do during this time.

Food--every so often, rest from your diet. A lot of us push real hard in dietign and trying to lose weight. And then we cheat and binge on junk food. Instead, take a short rest. Don't go hog wild, but indulge once in a while.

Faith--take time to rest and listen to God. A lot of time we're working hard to serve Him and don't take the time to rest and listen to Him.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spot on

Today at the gym, a total stranger asked me to spot him. I was in the middle of my work out, focused, blasting Skillet into my ear drums and making myself deaf while I lifted weights. I think that there must be some unwritten but fully understood code at the gym that when someone asks you to spot them, you do. By the way, to spot someone means to help them in their lifting weights. This could be an extreme amount of weight where someone is maxing out, it could be the fact that they are unsure if they can lift the weight, or they just need someone along side helping them with a particularly hard exercise that requires someone to spot you. Either way, if someone asks you to spot, you're expected to say yes. Spotting also requires a lot of encouragement. You yell words like "Push it out!" "It's all you!" "I'm barley even touching the bar!" "You can do it!"

When this dude asked me to spot him, I hesitated. I don't know why, but I did. Me spot you, I thought. You're biceps are bigger than my head. You have more weights on there than I thought possible. And if I leave the T-bar row machine to help, I might lose the machine. But I stopped what I was doing. I went over and I spotted him. I yelled the words of encouragement to him. "Push it out!" "You can do it!" "It's all you! I'm barley even touching the bar!" (I was holding it tightly and helping him lift it). The dude thanked me and did the respectful fist bump after wards. He then went to a lower weight and continued to bench. I kept my eye on him for a bit just in case. I went back to my workout.

In life, I think, we need spotters. Whether we're going through an extereme situation, or doing something difficult, or just need someone to yell words of encouragement, we need a spotter. We need a spiritual spotter in our lives as well. Someone who can come along side of us, help us with God's Word. Help us in our walk with Christ. Give us those words of encouragement and help us lift those heavy burdens.

Do you have a spotter??

Fitness, Food, Faith

Fitness--Get a spotter. You may not need one for every exercise, but for some of the more complicated things, you need one. But also find someone to help you and encourage you in you work outs and exercises. Someone who can give you those words of encouragement but can also encourage you to keep going with it.

Food--Find a food spotter. We all need someone who can encourage us to eat well, to encourage us to not eat what we shouldn't. We all need someone to give us those words of encouragement in continuing to eat well and to keep at it.

Faith--We need a spiritual spotter. That's for sure. Find someone who is the same Gender and not your spouse/significant other (trust me on this one.. it's for the best of your marriage/relationship) pray for each other. Encourage one another in the faith. Carry each others burdens and help each other home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The secret to my weight loss (or How I lost 100lbs in 6 years)

For the last month, I've had a large number of people stop me and ask what my secret was. You see, I've lost weight. A lot of weight. And I've built muscle. Some muscle. Because so many people have stopped and asked me about my secret, I've decided to start a blog. You see, when I've started telling people my secret, they get disappointed. The secret is, is that there is no secret. There is no quick fix. Instead, it is a journey of health, understanding and growth--physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I decided to call my blog "Spiritual Muscle Head." Why? Well, when I'm at the gym, I see a lot of muscle heads. Nothing wrong with being one, but I'm not really one. A muscle head is one who spends a lot of time talking about their muscles and what they can lift more so that actually lifting weights with their muscles. Muscle heads spend a lot of time at the gym. They spend time reading up on weight lifting, on nutrition, and so forth.

But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to be a spiritual muscle head. I want to be one who spends time talking about Christ but also following in His footsteps. I want to spend my time reading about Him, living like Him.

So what is my secret. I've listed it down to 4 things. Ready?
1. Hard work
2. Prayer
3. Perseverance
4. Patience

In this blog, I will talk about my own journey, how I strive to live my life loving my God with all of my heart, with all of my soul and with all of my mind and how i try really really really hard to love my neighbor as myself. Each blog will have three quick sections of advice on how to help with being healthy. They will be looking at Food, Fitness and Faith.

Today's 3 tips are--Write it down.

1. Food--as you eat, write it down. Keep a food log. How much are you eating? What are you eating, when are you eating it? Why are you eating it? Take time at the end of the week and look at it and see where you can improve in your habits.

2. Fitness--write down your exercises. I fail at this, to tell the truth. But it is very helpful. How much weight can you lift in each exercise? How far are you running/biking/walking? What is your heart weight? What is your weight? What are you inches? Are they going up or down?

3. Faith--do devotions. Get into God's word. Keep a journal and write down what you've learned from the scripture passage or devotional you are reading. Write down your prayers and pray them out loud.

Remember: This takes time. It involves hard work, prayer, patience and perseverance.

Good luck and may you become a spiritual muscle head.