Wednesday, March 30, 2011

what I've learned from coffee--A lenten meditation

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love coffee. There's just something about it first thing in the morning that gets me going. And, no, it's not the caffeine. Okay, it's not just the caffeine. It's all the memories wrapped up into it. There's something about sitting around with friends drinking coffee and eating a slice of pie. There's something about standing around after church, coffee in hand, gabbing away with friends.

Recently, I've realized just how thankful I am for coffee.

We've all gone through hard ache and pain. We've all heard the cry of the catawampus. But what happens at the end of the tunnel? What's the outcome?

For me, it all boils down to coffee. Literally.

Take three items here--carrots, eggs and coffee beans. Carrots are hard, stiff. Eggs are fragile, coffee beans are hard and oily.

When problems hit, they can hit us hard and totally mess with us in ways we'd never like. It's a lot like boiling water. Hot, scalding, violent.

Carrots in boiling water become soft, floppy, and loose a lot of nutrients. So many times, we can run the risk of entering into a season of problems just like that and be beaten up so much we come out just floppy.

Eggs on the other hand get cooked. They look the same on the outside but on the inside they are hard...and that cooked yolk can be bitter. We can run the risk of looking the same on the outside, but be bitter and hard on the inside.

Coffee beans on the other hand are a different story. You put coffee beans in boiling water and you get coffee. Coffee beans change, they are still in boiling water, but the water now becomes coffee. Both change. And, in my open, are better for it.

Now, if life just down right stinks right now, don't become a carrot, don't become an egg. Allow it to stink but don't allow it to change you. Allow it to make you into something wonderful--let it turn you into coffee.

In fact, God promises to make you coffee

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God. Isaiah 43:2-3

Paul says something in Romans that helps me to remember that I will always be coffee because of the grace of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Looking at Easter, it's because of Jesus that we can truly be coffee by the grace of God.

Are you coffee?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rockin' out--a Lenten Meditation

I like to lift to music. Loud music. Very loud hard rock Christian music. Something abut it just gets me going. I have my own play list too called Lifting Music. On it, I have Flyleaf, Thousand Foot Krutch, Skillet, Pillar and many others. Each with a good solid base line, pounding drums, great guitar riffs. There's a couple of songs that just get me going when they come on.

Pillar has a song called Fireproof that just gets the blood flowing and the energy pumping. The guitar and base from Fireproof get me going, and then the words just spur it on even more.

Skillet has two songs from their Awake album that kick me into high gear. These two songs by Skillet are on the opposite thematic spectrum. Their song Hero is about the need for a savior, someone to help in times of trouble. On the other hand their song Monster is about our sinful nature wanting to come forth and how it feels like sometimes we have a monster inside of us, controlling us, moving us, leading us to where we don't want to go. Why do these get me going? I don't know to tell the truth. I think it's a combination of lyrics and music that pump my blood and I get that second wind.

At those moments, the world disappears, and it's just me, the weights and God. Nothing else but that.

I called this a Lenten meditation because these three songs are my favorite to work out to and they are amazing songs that exemplify what Lent is. Lent is the time looking forward to Easter, looking forward to celebrating Jesus' resurrection. But in order to get to the resurrection, we have to look at His death. Monster is the reason why Jesus died, because of that monster inside us all that just wants to rip out and destroy everything. That feeling you get when you hold it all back when someone says something just down right mean to you, yeah, that's the monster right there. Jesus died because of the Monster.

Hero talks about needing someone to fight for what's right, no one's going to die tonight. The monster is what causes the need for the Hero to save us so that we won't face death.

And then there's Fireproof. Because of our Hero defeating the Monster, we can't be touched, destroyed, hurt anymore by the Monster. Yes, the Monster will always be inside us, but it ain't got any control over us. Why? Because the Hero made us Fireproof against the Monster.

There's one more important part of my exercise routine and that's cool down. My cool downs are a lot different than my lifting. It's simple, quiet, slow. And my music matches that. I call it my Centering Playlist. It's soft, quiet praise music that settles me, calms me down. I walk around the gym for a bit or I peddle the bike very slowly, focusing, relaxing, calming my body down.

As we approach Easter, we have the Hero who fought the Monster and won. Because of Easter, we can slow down and be calm.

And yes, I actually think about these things while I'm lifting. It's just me, my music and God.

How do you see the coming of Easter through the eyes of Monster, Hero and Fireproof?




Friday, March 25, 2011

The Gospel in Klingon--a Lenten Meditation

I was one time asked if I believed in Aliens. My response: I'm looking forward to the day where I could bring the Gospel message to a Klingon. I've stated many a time that the book Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof would be a great evangelism tract for Vulcans (that right there should tell you about the book). And then what about the Klingon concept of Spirituality. Does that even jive with the Gospel. Jesus was about peace, about forgiveness, and most importantly salvation and forgiveness of sins. The Klingons on the other hand revere Kahless, a mighty warrior who said that killing was for battle and to enrich the spirit.

So, if aliens did arrive on planet Earth, many questions would be raised. But those I'm not getting into right now. If the God of all creation could create one planet containing life, couldn't he create more?

But what I do wonder about is how acceptable would a Klingon be to the Gospel message. According to Star, the Klingons are a warrior people. To die honorably is held in high esteem. To die at one's own hands instead of being killed by an enemy is held in high esteem as well.

As we come towards Easter, one thing I've always found interesting is that Jesus went willingly to the cross to die a painful death. He willingly allowed himself to be arrested. He willingly allowed himself to be beaten and tortured. He willingly allowed himself to have nails driven into him, nailing him to the cross. And he did so for all who call on his name to find salvation from sin. To a Klingon, to die in such a way shows honor and valor. It is not weakness to die for another or even to die to defend what you hold to be true. This is honor to a Klingon, not weakness.

But I wonder if even greater though is the ultimate victory to a Klingon to defeat death itself, the greatest enemy. The Klingons have a saying "Today is a good day to die." It is not that they are afraid of death, but that it is a part of life and an honor to die. But to die and then come back from even that is seen as an amazing feat. Their revered Kahless was thought to have come back but only turned out to be a clone. Even so, this was seen as a great feat for Kahless to have done.

And so, we have the most powerful words of victory over the greatest enemy of all

Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin...But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Easter isn't about weakness. It is about victory. A victory even a Klingon can appreciate.

I'm starting to wonder if I should start calling these Spiritual Sci-Fi Fridays?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

That blasted cat in the cradle song

My 5 year-old son has been begging me for some "boy time." Just time with him and daddy. And I so want to. I really do. But I've been busy. Real busy. Since my wife's car accident, I've been trying hard to do double duty. I hardly have enough time to go to the gym. And I struggle with it. I so want to spend time with my son. And I know he desperately wants to spend time with me. Even coming into my office, grabbing my arm and pleading with me to do something with him. To help him ride his bike, to play lightsabers with him, to race Hot Wheels, something.

Then, the other day, he wanted to play. I was busy. He started playing with a neighbor boy. And then he and the neighbor boy went to play. As I watched my son walk down the street, he kept looking back at me with a smile that said he was afraid of going away from me but excited to play with a new friend. As he walked away, the song The Cats in the Cradle started playing in my mind (not the one from the 60's but Ugly Kid Joe's version)

Yesterday again, he wanted boy time. So, he and I cleaned up the kitchen. He helped unload the dishwasher and helped wipe off the kitchen table. We then split an apple fritter. I sat there, with my coffee and my half of the fritter and we talked, at least, the best type of conversation a dad can have with his 5 year-old.

During our conversation, he told me how it was interesting that a his skin moved by his eyes when he chewed. I told him it was his muscles in his face moving. "Muscles?" his eyes lit up. So we went on Google and looked up facial muscles. He wanted to know more. So I pulled out Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier and showed my son the other muscles in the body. He was enthralled. I showed him the different muscles in the body, how the moved, how they worked. It was the most amazing thing to him. A whole new way of looking at things.

Part of my health journey, and part of his as well, is that we are healthy emotionally. That healthy emotional father/son bond that's so needed for him (and I know for me). That father/son bond that helps my son know what it means to be accepted, valued and most of all to be a man of God. And I so want to teach my son how to be a good solid man of God, a devout follower of Jesus Christ. And I know I'm going to fail, I know it's going to be hard. But I'm trying to teach him and show him what's important in life. I'm trying to help develop his own interests whether he's growin up geek or falls in love with rebuilding cars (maybe he can work on my pick-up).

Whatever he chooses, I'll support him. I just hope he remembers and cherishes what "boy time" we do have together like I do.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The cry of the catawampus

I'm a Christian. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. And I learned a song as a kid that went "I got the joy joy joy down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart." And as a child, I was taught that we were to be happy. If we were happy, then that meant Jesus was with us. If I wasn't happy, then something was wrong with me. I didn't have enough faith, I wasn't praying right. And then my parents separated. I prayed and prayed and prayed. And nothing. No Hollywood ending. No remorse and reconciliation. And so I endured a time of rebellion, of anger, of tears, or struggles and down right mad at all things including God himself.

And then I found Christ. I gave my life to him. I made him ruler of my life. And did I become happy? Nope. My life still stank at times. It was still a struggle. And then things got better. Now I was happy. Now I could see the blessings of God. Now I knew he was active. Then, in 2000 I started getting depressed. I ballooned up to over 400lbs. The scale at the college health center couldn't even weigh me. It stopped at 400lbs.

I came across Psalm 13

How long, O Lord, will you forget me? Forever?
(my translation)

And Psalm 6

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint

And Psalm 88

O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you.

These are not the happy words of the Bible I was told I had to believe. These were words of pain, of agony, of worry. These were the words I was screaming. I screamed them as my parents separated and divorced. I screamed them as I was angry at the world for the lot I was given.

We are connected mind body and soul. We are connected physically, emotionally and spiritually. When one hurts, they all hurts. Part of being healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually is to be honest with who we are. With what we feel. So many times we sing that song "I've got the joy joy joy down in my heart" so many times, trying to force our selves to truly believe it when instead our whole life at that moment is catawampus and we don't know which end is up. And so many times when this happens we can lose focus.

I know for me when my wife was in her car accident, I started to loose focus on my health. I've prayed more than ever, I've pushed harder than ever and I've eaten more chocolate Pillsbury frosting than ever. By the spoon full. And this ain't good. Not good at all.

A year ago or so, I came across this song. I stopped the car and cried.

I keep thinking of these words from the prophet Habbakkuk. Back in November, I did a series from the book. I took the idea from Lifechurch.TV. You can see their version here.

With all that was going on for Habakkuk, he declares

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, and though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET will I rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

And so, in the thick of it all, in my desire to get back on track. In my desire to get into the groove once again of being healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I strive forward. Knowing that despite it all, I will rejoice in the Lord.

Nehemiah 8:10

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength

And I push on towards the goal. I dray my strength from the Joy of the Lord, not my own joy, not my own happiness, but the joy knowing that I have a faithful savior who purchased me with his precious blood saving me from the tyranny of the Devil. I know for certain that I can rest in him.

It's tough. But I know I can do it.

Oh, and I gave up frosting for Lent.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One year and 20lbs later

It's been a year. I've been attempting this blogging thing for a year. You'd think that the progress I had made at this time last year, I'd be all covered with muscles by now. Or at least that's what I had thought. Last year around this time I was within moments of reaching my weight loss goal. In fact, I surpassed it by May.

And then I gained 30lbs.

Lost 10lbs...then gained some back.


But along the way, I learned much about myself, about what I don't know, and the importance of being healthy regardless of the awesomeness that would have been my biceps.

Last year, around this time, people had noticed my weight loss and how much healthier I was looking. I kept getting asked how I did it. So, I finally decided to write a blog about it. Oh, I thought I was the bees-knees on this one.

And so I wrote my first blog post. I had great dreams about what this blog would be like. And I was wrong. I struggled with what to say, how to say it, how I wold come across. Then I found the blog Stuff Christians Like. Reading it helped me see that I needed to be honest with myself in my blog, explore my own failures as well as my own successes and to look at what all made up being a Spiritual Musclehead.

I was focusing too much on the exercise part, not enough on the rest. Sometimes I look too much at the spiritual and not at the physical nor emotional. But each needs some time. Each needs attention paid to it to be healthy.

And now, a year later, there are 8 official followers (thank you all) and readership from around the world--Thank you to those in Russia, Hungary, China, Germany and US and Canada who read.

But one thing I do stick by, and I'll say it again. There is no quick fix. My secret is a simple 4 step process
1. Hard work
2. Prayer
3. Perseverance
4. Patience

I still have to remind myself of these from time to time.

How's your life going as a Spiritual Musclehead?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Finding meaning in it all

I one time reviewed my renter’s insurance. My State Farm renter’s insurance does not cover war, nuclear holocaust nor Acts of God. I’m not trying to be flippant, but I’m hoping no one in Japan has State Farm renter’s insurance.

I remember after the December 26, 2004 Indonesian Tsunami. In the aftermath, there were some Christian leaders calling the disaster God’s judgment upon an Islamic nation, God’s judgment upon those who were committing sins against God and each other. I’m thanking each of them for not saying anything so far about Japan.

But that does make me wonder. What’s up? What’s going on with all these earthquakes? Is it the “supermoon” effect? I doubt it. For one thing, everything’s been happening around the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean.

One thing I do know is that the earth is doing what the earth does. The earth is in flux, it is in turmoil.

Paul writes in Romans

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:22-25

The whole creation is groaning. What imagery of pains of childbirth. Being a guy, I’m so not going to touch that one, but for women who’ve given birth I’ll let you describe what that pain feels like. The earth is doing what it does. It is in pain and looking forward to a time where it is no longer in pain. Like us, it is looking forward to Christ’s return. Until then, creation itself is feeling the effects of Sin.

So, how should we understand the earthquake and subsequent tsunami?

Jesus was asked a question like this. His answer:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?" Luke 12:55-56

These are the signs of the time. I’m not getting all apocalyptic here. This is 2011 not 2012 and the Mayans have nothing to do with this. The earth is broken as I am, as we all are. And as the earth is groaning, so are we. We are groaning for a day where all things will be made new again. Where there will be no more earthquakes, no more tsunami’s no more destruction. But until then, we live out the kingdom of God here and now by helping and serving those in need.

For more information on how to help please check out

As we serve God in his kingdom, we say at the same time “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giving up

Some time back I wrote a post about what I do when I get anxious--I work out, I go at it with my punching bag, I walk or I munch junk food. It's too blasted cold out right now to go for a walk, my bag is still not up and so that leaves me with two alternatives--munch or work out. Guess what I've been doing? Yeah. Not good.

Why anxiety? Well, a week and a half back my wife was in a bad car accident. God was with her. His hand kept her safe. She rear ended a snow plow going 75 miles an hour and didn't hit the breaks, at all. The car is totaled. And my wife literally got out and walked away. No bones broken. Only shaken up a bit and sore. He hands are pretty cut up right now from the glass. This last Sunday she made an observation. She said that she realized that at that moment, in between her seeing the plow and hitting it, she envisioned God's hand going between her and the snow plow. She said that she looked at her hands. The backs of her hands are cut up from the glass. She realized that God's hands were cut for her. She then thought of the nails that pierced Jesus' hands. The nails pounded into his flesh that hung him upon the cross to die for her sins. And she started crying. She was saved.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of a season called Lent. Lent is a time to focus and ponder on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, his dying so that we may live. During this time people give things up. Why? So that they can set aside those things that entangle them and that they can focus on Christ's sacrifice for them. On those hands that were pounded through with nails, cut to save a life--the life of my wife.

And for that, I'm eternally thankful.

What will I give up so that I may focus on the great thing that was done for my wife and for myself and for my children? I haven't thought about it yet.

Maybe I should.

Monday, March 7, 2011

FORD Tough-- Part 4 Daily dying and rising

For some reason, my pickup keeps dying and rising. Almost daily it felt like. It'd die on my. I'd bring it into Grant, my mechanic, and then it's get back to working again. Only to die and rise again. Grant is an amazing mechanic and honestly, I want to see if I can take lessons from him on how to take care of my pick up.

Each time people ask me about my pick up, I keep having to admit that the blasted thing is younger than me and in need of repair. The engine's good. Don't get me wrong. The engine itself is in good working order, it's the seals and gaskets that are breaking down. Looking at the engine, it looks amazing, but it's what's on the inside I can't always see.

I've been talking about being FORD tough with FORD standing for "Fix or Repair Daily." (you can check out parts 1,2,and 3 if you'd like)Part of being FORD tough is acknowledging the need to constantly be fixed or repaired daily. Now here is how we can be fixed and repaired daily.

Step 1: Know that you can't do it yourself. Unless you're like the most perfect mechanic in the world and can just wave your hand and make it all fixed, then there's no way you can fix it yourself. No Haynes book in the world will help you. You need to rely on something else.

Step 2: Ask for help. There is the perfect mechanic (and no, it's not Grant, though he's good). Only the perfect healer can heal, only the one True Mechanic can fix and repair you. Come to Him for help. And be willing to receive his help.

Step 3: Be willing and ready to be repaired daily.

So, how can we do step 3? Stop hanging on, loose your life to gain it.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
Matthew 16:24-25

This is where some might get mad at me. It's more than just being good. It's more than just being strong willed, more than just standing firm against all odds, more than just having true grit, more than just being willing to take a beating. It's one thing to lay your life down for a cause for the greater good. Commendable, yes, but that's not being FORD tough. To be FORD tough is to not hang onto your life, but to give it up to Jesus instead to use it. And that is the hardest thing.

To be FORD tough, to live a life of being fixed or repaired daily means giving yourself completely and fully over to the One True Mechanic, the One True Physician, Jesus (yes, I said it) and then and only then can you truly be fixed or repaired daily.

If you've done this, given yourself over then be willing to daily stop hanging on to your old self, the past mistakes, the mess-ups, the cracking seals and gaskets, and daily allow the One True Mechanic to repair you.

If you haven't...come, be repaired daily...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Star Wars parenting tips

There are times at the end of the day where you just want to hang your head and cry. I mean just sob. Not out of pain, not out of agony, but purely out of stress. Can't I just have five seconds to myself in the bathroom, please? Can't I make one phone call without you guys headbutting each other (okay, I did teach them that one, so it is kind of my fault).

In an earlier post, I made reference to wanting some sort of spiritual advice in raising my kids. Of all the people in all of Geekdom, the one person thought of as the ultimate wise mentor and advisory is Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was a strong mentor and trainer for Luke. I wish I had someone like that to give me advice. And then I (once again) have to remind myself that this is the same guy who raised Darth Vader. Though, in watching all 6 (4 good) Star Wars movies, I being to wonder if it really wasn't his fault. I mean, he did his best to teach Anakin how to be a good person, how to listen to the flow of the force. But in the end, it was the influence of Emperor Palpitine that led him to the Dark Side....

...well... it was also his insecurities too.

I want to be a good father. I want to be a good example of what a man of God is supposed to be like. And boy do I slip up! I try to show them what it means to pray and read the Bible and instead he mimics me when I get upset and frustrated. I try to teach him how to be good, nice, gentile, Christlike, and he mimics my bad habits. And I want to know, who taught my daughter to put her hands on her hips when she's being defiant...And maybe it wasn't the best idea to teach my son the awesomeness of burping into a wrapping paper tube and having it broadcast around the house...

We're doing our best to teach our kiddos healthy living both in eating habits and in physical exercise. Why do I feel like a failure when trying to teach them how to be spiritually healthy as well...

I hear these words

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Okay, so, yes, Yoda sensed in Anakin much fear, but Obi-Wan still did his best. I think my kids sense in me much fear..but I'm going to do my best.. by the grace of God, I'll do my best...and I need a lot of grace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FORD tough--Part 3 Picking it up

You ever have it where you're just so blasted tired. I am right now. Been a busy few weeks. I haven't been to the gym since Thursday. I've had WAY too much pizza (of course, can you ever have TOO much pizza?) and way too many sweets (and yes, you CAN have way too many sweets). For me, being healthy is a daily thing. It's a daily choice I have to make. Some days I'm better at it than others. Recently, I've been pretty bad at it (ate half a container of Pillsbury Cream Chocolate frosting..good yes, but went straight to my thighs). But it's a daily thing. Some days are better than others, but you have to move forward each time at it. Each day get up and move forward. Each day pick yourself up out of bed, lift up your body, and take those steps forward to be healthy. And it's so stinkin' hard!

On days like this, I so don't want to be FORD tough. On days like this, I so don't want to even think about being fixed or repaired daily. Just give me a root beer, a chili dog, and some football or even the Blackhawks and I'll be okay. Let me watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or even some cool Jackie Chan flick, (I'd even go for Bulletproof Monk right now) and just peal me off the couch at the end of the day. That'd be so great..right?

I mean, I try. I try hard. I do my best.

And then I think of these words:

There is do or do not, there is no try.

Thank. You. Yoda.Spiritually (and yes, this is Spiritual Musclehead) I think it's the same thing. No, I know it's the same thing. We need to be fixed and repaired daily. Part 1 and Part 2 looked at the reasons why. And it ain't pretty to say the least. But it's true.

Now, this is where you might disagree with me, and feel free to, but just listen anyway:

Jesus is the way to be repaired. Jesus says that if we want to be repaired daily, we need to follow him. What does this look like?

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever looses his life for me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:34-35

Duuuuuuuuuddde... that's some tough stuff.

So, do you really want to be repaired daily? It's a daily commitment to do this. There is do or do not, there is no try. Do you want to be repaired daily and made closer to God in the process?

What do you think it looks like to do this daily?