Friday, May 27, 2011

Browncoats and sloth

(Today’s Spiritual Sci-Fi Friday is a guest post from an old friend and colleague of mine, Mike Van Boom. He’s a pastor of a great church up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and a fellow sci-fi geek like me.)

The Firefly universe is an interesting one. It paints a picture of a future for humanity in a distant solar system. There, the central government exerts dictates its authority over each populated system. Interestingly, a major project the government undertakes there is to eliminate sin in humankind. It dreams of eliminating evil impulses and aggressive behavior within humanity. So it settles a planet on which to work its great experiment. The Government then releases a drug designed to reduce the aggressive impulses of people.

What happened?

The drug worked for the most part. For 95% of the population, all will to fight or pursue violence ceased. Unfortunately, that meant that people stopped “fighting” altogether. They stopped coming to work. They stopped caring. They stopped fighting for life to the point where they even stopped breathing. They just laid down and died.

The other 5% of the population… Well let’s just say they became a living nightmare. All their aggressive tendencies were magnified to the point of a reckless horror.

Consider the lesson in this Science Fiction parable.

God created people with the ability to “fight,” and that “fight” is a requirement to go on living. The opposite you might say is sloth. Sloth is considered one of the seven deadly sins; and it points in the direction of surrender; the loss of ability to fight for what is important. The corresponding virtue is Diligence; Hard work; Effort.

God wants to raise His people to new life; and one aspect of that is the ability to fight; to work hard; to be diligent; and to persevere in the face of challenges. Ask God to do that work in you!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Everyone who competes in games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


So many times we have fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being chased around a table by timber wolves dressed as circus clowns and all your wearing are socks and you're on a linoleum floor...okay, that's not my fear but I think it's a Far Side cartoon.

Fear can hold us back. Fear can make it possible for us not to take that step forward, not to try something, not to push ourselves a bit harder. I know for me, in weight lifting, I have a fear of hurting myself. It's a good solid fear, but I let it take too much out of me sometimes. I don't push as hard because I'm worried "what if." You know, what if I strain myself and my body's wrecked forever? What if I drop this weight on my foot and I have to lose a tow?

For me personally, fear has held me back in working out. Sometimes it's a good thing. It's not the smartest idea to try to bench press your body weight when 1)you weigh over 300lbs and b) you don't have a spotter around. That's a good fear. But at times, there's fear of not trying. Fear of not even trying a new exercise because of the what if.

don't let the what if take over. Instead, take it over yourself.

I think in many ways we're spiritually like that as well. We let our fear take over us and we're not willing to grow, we're not willing to live and we stay where we're at not moving forward at all.

I like this verse

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

So, my question is this. Will you stay with the fear, or will you allow God to work in you to let you have this spirit of power over your life, a power to love yourself and others, this power of a sound mind, a power of self discipline.

Are you willing to step forward into the unknown or are you going to stay where you're at and not let yourself grow?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eah-mond joy

There's a place in central California that pronounce the word "almond" very interestingly. The call it eah-mond. As in the eah of "Yeah" and sounding a lot like salmon. There's a reason why they call almonds eah-monds. It's based upon the way they harvest them. Almonds grow on trees, very beautiful trees, with very beautiful blossoms that create not so beautiful allergies in the month of March. They have a machine that comes up to the tree, grasps it and then shakes the "L" out of it. Hence, eah-monds. (Is it me, or do you hear crickets too?)

So, why this bad joke about a delicious nut? A little while back, I had written about my own struggle with food, especially snacking. Of course, I received much feedback about how it's important to snack and it's not being overweight that makes you sinful. I understand that. Snacking can (and actually is in many ways) good for you. And just because you're overweight doesn't mean you have committed the heinous sin of gluttony. But what I am talking about is grazing. That's when you're eating a bag of chips, looking in the fridge for something to snack and then all of a sudden a can of frosting appears in your hand and the spoon filled with that rich frostingly goodness winds up in your mouth.

That being said, I've worked hard at fighting against this vice, this temptation of filling the void with food. And it's hard. But I also realized that my body needs food and needs some snacks. Just not like all the time and stuff. So, after reading up on a few things, I started eating almonds and them Fiber 1 bars (which are good for as much fiber as they say they have).

So, what have I to show for it? Well, not so much weight loss but no weight gain. And a curbed appetite to boot. I'm really digging these great Blue Diamond smokehouse eah-monds and Emerald makes these chocolate dusted ones which are good too.

I Came across this verse recently

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

And so, I do my best to submit to discipline. And it's hard right now. And to tell the truth, if I like discipline, I'd be weird. Well, more weird than I am now. And so, I try hard to discipline myself to eat almonds..eah-monds...and Fiber 1 snack bars instead of cookies and frosting.

Discipline tastes good.

How can you work on discipline?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Zombies and Mayans and the Rapture! Oh My!

The zombies are coming! The zombies are coming!...well, maybe not. According to a recent CDC blog, if you prepare for a zombie apocalypse then you'll be prepared for real emergencies too. There's been a number of Zombie jokes as of late (please no Zombie Jesus jokes). Which is interesting because there's also the news of the end of the world as we know it (insert REM song here). Apparently there is a church in California stating that the Rapture will be happening on May 21, which, by the way, is tomorrow.

According to this particular lay pastor, the rapture will happen tomorrow sometime and all those who've been Christians before 1988 will be raptured and taken up to heaven. So, in essence, I'm out of luck because I became a Christian in 1992.

What I find really funny is that there are many now melding the two together in some twistedly sarcastic synchronistic fashion. The believers before 1988 will be raptured and everyone else who is left over (apparently including yours truly)will face a zombiepocalypse and will have to follow the CDC rules of preparedness. I've never seen the movie Zombieland, but now I'm starting to think I probably should.

What gets me, is the fact that I thought just months ago, people were all worried about the Mayan calendar and the year 2012. There was even a movie about it. And it starred John Cusack...say it with me: John Cusack

So, what does this all mean? Well, to tell the truth, Jesus gives us a very definitive answer on this

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows." Mark 13:32 NLT

“The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know." Acts 1:7 NLT

So, in others words, them guys out in California can't say for certain that it is tomorrow. Nope. Sorry. And the zombiepocalypse? That's a great way to get a point across. And the Mayan Calendar and 2012...didn't see the movie actually.

But, we do know this: be prepared. Be very prepared.

Jesus is coming back, we just don't know when. Neither do they in California. But Jesus does say this to us

"And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!" Mark 13:33

Even Jesus told us to watch out for things like the people in California (the church, not the whole state). Test it. Does it match with the Bible? Nope. Does it glorify God? Not really. Does it strengthen the church? I think it does the opposite.

So, what should we take from this?

Trust in God. Keep your eyes on Jesus. And keeping moving forward, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. When he comes, he comes. Until then, serve and live for Christ.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Early in the morning

For some reason as of late, I've been waking up, pretty much of my own accord, early each morning. For the last two weeks I've woken up usually between 5-6:30 in the morning. At first I was annoyed. Scratch that...very annoyed. I was tired. I needed my rest. If I was going to get beauty rest I needed at least 23 hours a day to sleep. Well, maybe not that much.

But still.

Have you had this? It's that frustrating moment when you wake up, check your cell phone for the time and the want to curse the night because it's way stinking early and you're wide awake. It's at that moment where I pause and wonder "Do I attempt to go back to sleep and most likely toss and turn and finally fall asleep only to have to wake up or just make a pot of coffee?" I've started opting for the coffee.

It's turned out to be a blessing for me. I've started having that quiet time for myself. I've found it easier to focus in my prayers and devotions (though I still think my new ADD meds are helping too). I've also found it easier to go to the gym. In fact, I've been going on a more regular basis since coming out this way.

In fact, the picture above was taken one morning as I was going to the gym. I had woken up early and it was one of the earlier days where I wondered if I should go back to bed or make coffee. I had made coffee, read my Bible, prayed and then left for the gym. As I was getting into the pick-up, I saw this and had to take a picture.

The words from that old hymn came to my mind

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.

What was thought to be a frustration and I was about to even call it a blasted curse, has become helpful.

(Warning: gonna get all spiritual here) Once I stopped fighting my body and listened to it, I think I actually started more so listening to the Holy Spirit moving me to wake up early. Now, if you are waking up a lot in the night, it might be insomnia. And I know I can get fits of insomnia. But I know that right now, God is even using that for his glory to help me draw closer to him and to work on my own health--spiritually, emotionally and physically.

What about you? What is a frustration (or even a curse) that you might ask how God might be able to use it for His glory and to help you grow?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Maquis 6

I still find it interesting that a German TV news program actually some how mistook a Photoshopped picture of a Star Trek emblem of a fictional terrorist group for the real Navy SEAL emblem. It used to be "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." But in this case it's "fool me once and-it's-posted-all-over-the-internet-and-shown-on-the-FOX-news-website" Of course, you can tell that it's pretty menacing with the bat'leths surrounding the skull of a Klingon. Totally looks like a Navy SEAL emblem of the 21st Century and not of the 23rd.

But, hey, it's what they were looking for, wasn't it? I mean, they were looking for a menacing emblem that showed the strength, veracity and honor that the Navy SEALS are known for. So, some geek with Photoshop know-how put this together and while looking for something, they found this. It was what they were looking for. And they found it.

The same is true in health. I'm struggling with this myself. If I'm looking for it, I'll find it eventually. If I'm looking for nothing, if I'm looking for a no guidance, if I'm looking for no reason to lift, then I'll find it each time. If I'm looking for something that'll make me loose ten pounds in a week and will make me look like those people on the TV and I find the miracle product that does it all, of course I'm going to get it. It's the answer to what I'm looking for.

Paul says it really nicely

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 1 Timothy 4:3

Are you turning towards the things that'll answer what you want to hear? Or are you seeking answers from somewhere that'll tell you the truth even if you don't want to hear it? What's your goal? Where do you want to go form here?

I like how Craig Groeschel says it in his book Chawzon, "Everyone will wind up somewhere but not everyone will get there on purpose."

What are you seeking? Is it to get ripped and look all cool this summer? Then forget it. Go to a different blog. Are you looking to be healthy because it's important to you? Then keep reading. I'm going to fail. I have failed at times. But I keep getting back up and moving forward. How's that Cake song go?

Because he's racing and pacing and plotting the course, He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse. He's going the distance.

Where are you going? What are you searching for? Don't just listen to anyone, especially those who tell you what you want to hear. Listen to what the truth is and follow the Truth towards what is right and healthy. I'm still working on it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

My own worst frenemy

To tell the truth, I'm my own worst critic. I'm too hard on myself. And when I start saying that, I start to reassure myself saying platitudes like "It's okay, you're doing your best" or "things are tough right, chillax and don't be too hard on yourself." And then I hit back, "Yeah, well, I was much thinner a year ago right now and even four months ago I was curling more and benching more than I am now." This conversation usually happens in my head at the wrong times. Like when I'm trying to sleep and I just want to yell out "Will you two just knock it off!" Of course, when that third voice pops up, I start to worry about my own sanity.

I've been beating myself up lately to tell the truth. And some of it is good and some of it isn't. Last week, I took an honest look at myself and saw how my faith walk was being affected by how I was coping with stress. But I also resolved to fight against it. It was becoming a stumbling block for me and that ain't good at all.

My resolve has picked up and I’ve been once again faithful to hitting the weights and doing cardio. I’ve been fighting the urge to snack and that is so hard. I’ve learned to ask myself “Am I really hungry or am I just wanting to fill that void that’s there right now because I’m stressed?” And that’s a hard question to ask mainly because I know the answer. It’s hard.

And so, this morning, I decided to once again take an honest assessment of myself. I hadn’t measured myself since March 25. I was frustrated with myself. My gut gained 2 inches as did the rest of me. My biceps were good but other than that, I wasn’t where I had been in January or February. So I stopped checking in on myself to see my progress. So, this morning, I bit the bullet and did a reality check. Where was I? I had been struggling and enjoying too much Easter candy. I was worried I’d bloated out more Marlon Brando. I was shocked. I was roughly where I had been in March. Either I had been maintaining or I’ve dropped back down to where I was.

I was beating myself up negatively. In my honest assessment of myself, I realized that there were things to change and so I began working on that. But I also saw that I had to stop being my own worst frenemy. It was hurting me. I’m rubber you’re glue just doesn’t work when you’re picking on yourself.

What about you? Where have you been beating yourself up and where do you need to do an honest assessment of yourself—physically, emotionally spiritually?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fighting snacking like a Klingon

Since my last post, I've been working on at not snacking. Now many dietitians and health experts state that having some snacks in between meals is a good thing. Yes, it is when you eat healthy, low calorie food once at a small intervals. On the other hand, you shouldn't graze the cupboards and pantries of your house like a cow escaped from the stockyards.

My last post about gluttony brought some interesting responses on Facebook. There was a reaction that I was connecting being overweight with gluttony. Let me be very direct. I wasn't. There. I said it. But what I should have stated previously is that being overweight isn't the problem, it is a symptom. It is a symptom of a health issue, an emotional issue or a spiritual issue. If you are overweight, please see a doctor and work through this as I did. I've had numerous physicals and each time I've been told that I'm perfectly healthy save for that gigantic Santa sized spare tire around my gut. The culprit? I've narrowed it down to snacking.

On Tuesday, I did something interesting. I fasted. I didn't eat for a chunk of the day. I wanted to see what the problem was. I figured, eliminate the base and see where the craving develop. It was so stinking hard! I so just wanted to snack. I wasn't hungry. I didn't have that rumbly in my tumbly. I just wanted to snack.

And so, I've decided fight against snacking like a Klingon! Yes, that wonderful fictional alien race from Star Trek renowned for their love of battle and honor. I’ve never really fought off snacking before. Back two years ago when I really started dropping weight. I was still snacking. I loved me some beef jerky and peanut butter Twix. Yet, I was also at a different place in my life. My job and responsibilities had me more active. I was moving around more. I didn’t need to fight it off. But now I do.

So, I figured I’d take my example from the Klingons. They fight with honor (or at least supposed to) so should I. For a Klingon, Honor is more important than life. For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain. If I'm putting snacking ahead of Jesus, then I'm in trouble. So, if I’m going to fight off snacking, I need to stick to my guns. Not this, well, just this once. I’ve tried that. It backfired. And then I beat myself up. I know for myself that what works is a conscious decisions to move forward in the war against snacking. And so I must do so with honor.

Klingons are also known for their toughness. So, when fighting against snacking like a Klingon, I know I need to be tough. I need to endure. I need to push through it. When others are snacking, I need to hold back. I need to also watch how much I eat and of what. Eating a nice healthy sandwich like that BBQ Turkey Burger (460 calories) from Hardee's is much better than eating their Monster Burger. I mean, who can resist 2 patties of pure meat with each level glued together with bacon. With 1,320 calories I’m gonna need try. (Finding out the calories to one of my favorite sandwiches was like seeing Jar Jar for the first time in Phantom Menace.) I gotta be tough. I gotta be strong.

And so I think of these words

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

And so I pray to God that Christ gives me the strength of a Klingon, the honor and toughness of a Klingon to wage this war against snacking. I didn’t start it, but by golly, with the help of Christ at my side, I’m gonna end this bugger.

Now I just gotta figure out how to stay loyal to my exercise routine like a Wookie.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Being a Glue-Tawn

I recently read a blog post about the Seven Deadly Dwarfs...I mean Sins. To sum it up (spoiler alert) the blogger stated that the sin of gluttony is usually ranked last while lust is usually ranked first. To tell the truth, usually when we might begin discussing the sin of gluttony it's usually over dinner at The Cheesecake Factory and not after reading one of those blog posts on Yahoo! health of Eat This, Not That.

At the gym today, I came to the realization that I needed to confess to God my sin of gluttony. It's been a hard last few months. Back in March, I wrote about my struggle with anxiety and stress and how I dealt with it. This was especially so because of the circumstances that I was in. (You can check out that post here). I had been covering up the cracks of pain with Pilsbury Chocolate Frosting, using it as a mortar to try to build something substantial to hold me together. 10lbs later, I'm realizing that's not a good idea. It started innocently enough, but now that my stomach hurts from my pants cutting into it as I sit down to write this, I realize how vicious gluttony truly is.

The pictures above, to the left and below are from the manga inspired Anime show called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. (warning: The show does have violence, serious topics and language in it)Part of the premise of the show is that the seven deadly sins are personified in creatures called homunculi. Way too much backstory to get into right now. But suffice it to say that the Seven Deadly Sins live up to their names. The character Gluttony is a tragic figure.

He is so innocently evil. He has an all consuming never ending hunger and just wishes to eat. He is vicious but is so innocent at the same time. (Spoiler alert) It's hard not to feel sorry for him later on in the series when he dies. He is evil and is all consuming and in the end, he is consumed by a fellow homunculus. His final cries stick with you. He is so trusting of his fellow sins and is shocked when he is destroyed. It is a sad ending to a vicious sin.

The problem I've found with gluttony in my life is that it truly is innocently evil. It truly is all consuming. I've learned that I am a compulsive eater. But why is that considered a deadly sin? Each of the Seven Deadly Dwarfs...I mean Sins deals with something that in moderation and with limitations generally fuels our base instincts. Yet when it becomes the center piece of our very existence, it pushes Christ from our center and forces us to focus on something else instead for our only comfort in life and in death. For me, it became food. And it is still all consuming. It still is a struggle.

Is food itself bad? No. Is loving delicious foods and enjoying their flavor bad? No. But allowing it become my comfort in times of need isn't good and that is shown in my waist line as of yet.

So I push on. The last two weeks I've done straight cardio and am once again hitting the weights. Slowly but surely I will consume gluttony with health. I hope I might be able to create newer habits of dealing with my stress.

How about you? Has a coping method become something more consuming that it ought? How have you dealt with it?