Yes, there will be sweat……..

Week twelve is upon us in the rehab journey of 2013.  It’s a big week because the physical therapist is ready to start strengthening my shoulder.  We have been on the “no resistance” program until the rotator cuff surgery is “fully healed”.  Now the real work can begin.  It’s been pretty easy so far, mostly stretching and a little strength work, but not much.  The rebuilding phase is now in full motion, it’s time to……sweat.  I won’t mention here that I have actually been swimming full stroke for a couple weeks now, because the doctor would not approve of that maneuver.  Did I just confess that?  Oops, I need to reread the lesson on patience.

Talk is cheap.

It’s one thing to say you want to improve your life/work/marriage/habits/shoulder/etc, it’s an  entirely different thing to do something about it.  A belief I have about men is this:  men do what they WANT to do!  When a man really WANTS something he will make it happen.  If he doesn’t WANT to, he won’t.  My personal example:  for many years I was carrying 20 extra pounds of body weight.  I would whine and grumble about how fat I was and how terrible I looked.  I would wear baggy shirts and keep them untucked.  I squeezed into my pants and refused to move up in size.  It was awful, yet, I wasn’t willing to do what it would take to make the change.  Frequently,  Carol would look at me funny when I grabbed a bag of potato chips.  I knew what that look meant; “You can’t complain about your weight, and then eat like that!”.  She was right.  The fact was I didn’t WANT to lose the weight.  I wanted the weight to just “fall off” of me (and I may or may not have taken a lot of those “fat burning” supplements).  I didn’t WANT to pay the price that it takes to shed the unwanted pounds.

When I finally decided to lose the weight, I did.  Only because I WANTED to.   I had to work through the pain and embarrassment of being so out of shape.  I had to persevere past the aches of starting over.  We must take this same approach in our spiritual condition.  If we really WANT to experience more of God’s direction, hope and wisdom, we will have to go looking for it. Don’t be surprised if you have to sweat to get what you WANT.

“Call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”  Proverbs 2:3b-5

This proverb gives us instruction for finding the wisdom of God.  It tells us that it is up to us to discover it.  These are not passive instructions.  Just like anything else in our lives; it is there if we WANT it.  It will make us uncomfortable and we will have to labor to achieve our goal.  I think God designed it that way, because anything that has value comes at a price.  That which is precious is not easily attained.  God’s son was a free gift to mankind, there was nothing required of us.  His wisdom however is another thing altogether.  If we WANT that, we will have to work for it.

1.  Call out/cry aloud:  If we WANT to: find wisdom, get stronger, eat healthier, become more content, resolve conflicts, understand our wife, rebuild our marriage, etc.; we will have to get outside of our comfort zone and ask for help.  These instructions are obviously written because God knows us.  He knows that we are too proud and stubborn to get assistance.  He knows that if we WANT it, we will have to do something about it.  “Ask and it will be given unto you,” Matthew 7:7a.  If you have difficulty with your finances, then find someone you know who’s good at it and receive their input .  If you have marriage issues (most of us) find someone you trust to walk through life’s conflicts with.  There is always support available, it’s up to me to call for it.

2.  Look/search:    The analogy here is a picture of a treasure hunt.  What would you do if someone told you there was a million dollars hidden in your house?  Can you imagine the lengths you would go to hunting for that prize?  Jackhammering up the concrete?  Tearing out the walls/ceilings/flooring?  Hours would turn into days, days into weeks, weeks into months….. The amount of blood, sweat and tears would not matter if you could find it!  That is precisely what looking for wisdom should consist of.  We must be willing to get out of our recliner and seek Him out.

What makes you perspire spiritually?

  • One on one counseling?
  • Small group transparency?
  • Reading God’s word?
  • 10-15 minutes of just quiet?
  • Scripture memory?

Sometimes I sit for five minutes in quiet asking the Lord for understanding.  I get bored, tired and frustrated and then complain that, “He just doesn’t talk to me”.  On occasion I open my Bible and expect His wisdom to filter into my brain while I speed read.  The knowledge of God cannot be accessed like a fast food restaurant.  There is a price to pay:  time, energy, resources and ……..sweat.

Lessons From Rehab- Volume Six

The Value of Fellowship- Sharpening

It is now eleven weeks since I started this road to recovery.  The first six weeks I had to wear a sling.  I could not use my shoulder at all.  Once the sling came off, the fun began.  Going to the physical therapist has been my school room for spiritual education.  As I have opened my heart to the lessons the Lord has for me, an excitement has entered into my visits to the P.T..  It’s as though I am anticipating the next truth He is going to challenge me with.

This week’s lesson is an age old proverb that gets repeated over and over again and yet stands the test of time; “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17.  Three distinct principles regarding fellowship come to mind as I have been contemplating this verse.  This proverb assumes there are at least two men in relationship.  That can be a problem to begin with.  We have to be willing to enter into more than casual connection with other men.  Our dialogue must be deeper than fantasy football, stock markets and car parts.  We MUST open ourselves in vulnerable conversation and community.  The bottom line is WE NEED EACH OTHER and here are three reasons why:

1.  Fellowship reveals the jagged edges.  If iron needs to be sharpened, that means it has a dull edge which renders it as less effective.  The problem here is time and place.  Where do we get real fellowship?  Forgive me pastors, but deep fellowship does not usually happen on Sunday morning.  Sundays we put on our best face and try and act like we have  a lot of answers, not questions.  Rarely do we show our true selves in church.  In fact, being too honest can get you stuck in the prayer room with people laying hands on you and no real answers. We must deliberately engage with a small group of men or one on one.  The men’s group at my church is perhaps the most transparent group of men I have been around.  It is up to us to find a safe place for honest and deep conversation.  If I really want help, I have to find it.  Perhaps the most spiritual group in our churches are the recovery groups.  There are no pretensions, facades or posers. They create a “No b.s. zone” with authentic answers to real problems.  When it comes to getting help in marriage, it is imperative that you get help with your wife in attendance.  It’s not unusual that a man’s view of life’s events and his wife’s perspective differ greatly.  In our small group, it was common for me to say, “We had a great week”, only to have my wife reply, “What week were you living in?”  This process can be painful, embarrassing and profoundly life changing.

2.  Fellowship works out the weaknesses.  Once the issues/conflicts/sin are revealed, now we can begin to work on it.  When I go to see the physical therapist, he knows my weaknesses.  He understands what it’s going to take to get me stronger.  I have to trust him and the process to get to where I want to go. It’s the same spiritually.

“Everyone who competes in the 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.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”  1 Corinthians 9:25-27

I have specific exercise that help strengthen my shoulder and the muscles surrounding it.  We may need specific actions to work on in our relationships to each other and to the Lord.  Perhaps some new habits are needed.  For instance;  when I would get home  from work, I typically picked up the mail and fretted over the bills or whatever I found.  I had to learn to connect with Carol when I first got home to see if she or the kids needed my attention.  It was awkward a first, but I was able to create a healthy habit that allowed us to feel more like a team.  It helped to know that each week in our group, I would be asked about these new habits I was working on. We cannot underestimate the rough edges that require a good sharpening.  “All a man’s ways seem right to him.”  Proverbs 21:2.  We will need others to help us see those areas that we don’t.  The question may be “Who can I be honest with?”   Do you have friends that know you well enough to help you?  It’s risky to be honest with others and more precarious to ask for help.  The fact is; If I’m not seeking help or input, I won’t get any.

3.  Fellowship can help make us more useful.  The goal of my therapy is to have a functioning shoulder again.  It’s going to take work and it will be worth it.  That is also the value of fellowship.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:10

The Lord has work for us to do.  Our “rough edges” may be keeping us from the work He has intended for us.   That is why the “iron sharpening iron”  is so valuable.  He needs us to be razor-edged, honed, keen, accurate, acute, strong, crisp, defined, and precise.  The only way that can happen is through fellowship that is intentional, strengthening and consistent.   You can’t expect to go to the gym once a month and make any progress.  You have to consistently focus on the areas of weakness in your life and commit to exercising those areas so that they become assets instead of liabilities.

Lessons From Rehab- Volume Five

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The Value of Fellowship: Healing

I am now ten weeks post op (torn rotator cuff surgery). My progress has been slow and steady. This little journey has provided for me an abundance of insight regarding my inner thought process and I have stumbled onto some wonderful spiritual truth along the way. Carol and I spent the first part of August in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We celebrated our 28th anniversary (8/3) in spectacular style. The mountain views were amazing and the Lord graciously provided rainbows just for us. The richest part of our adventure was the time we spent talking, laughing, and crying with our friends.
When we returned to Arizona I was anxious to see the physical therapist and have him appraise my shoulder’s condition. On our trip, I was deliberate about protecting my arm (no motorcycle riding, cliff jumping or handstands), yet doing the prescribed exercises. I was afraid that perhaps I didn’t do enough work, and that I had fallen behind in my recovery.
I would like to think of myself as a “positive person”. I try and spin things in a favorable direction looking for “the good in all things”. I wish this applied to how I view myself. There are times I feel that I’m chasing a ghost that I can not please. I am constantly pushing and pressing and I usually view myself as wanting, needy and inadequate. This tendency of mine has revealed itself again, during this rehab. I am deliberate about my exercises, yet I am always worried that I’m somehow failing or not making enough progress. As the therapist did his usual testing of my arm, it occurred to me how much we need each other. We need each other to help us have a healthier view of the world and ourselves.
In fact; our healing is a byproduct of fellowship. In the book of James, chapter 5 verse 16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” The idea that we can be totally honest with one another and still be accepted is healing. It gives us the grace that we need to continue forward. Fellowship allows for His mercy to be transferred. When my therapist told me I was “right on track”, I was so relieved. It was the same feeling I had meeting with our friends in Colorado.
The obstacle that’s more difficult than “confessing our sins”, is confessing our weakness, our pain, our horrible thought life, our faithlessness, and our needs. It’s difficult being honest because we are never sure how we will be received. We have all been vulnerable at one time or another and received the trite responses of; “I’ll pray for you brother”, or “here’s a scripture to help you with that”, or “you shouldn’t feel that way because of blah blah blah”. Not one of these encounters met the need of my spirit, which was “you are ok”, “I’ve felt that too”, “that is so painful”, or “let’s work on it together.”
Three things come to mind as I reminisce about our healing time in Colorado. They are cornerstones of deep relationship and true spirituality.
1. Honesty: We were able to be extremely vulnerable in all that we were thinking and feeling. It takes great courage to dig in your soul and share the darkest parts of ourselves. True fellowship is found in those spots that we are genuinely afraid of. You discover who your real friends are.
2. Freedom: There was no judgement regarding our thoughts or emotions. Even though we were brutally transparent, no one took offense or criticized our condition. Sometimes when we bare our hearts there are no answers, there is just empathy. Entering into another’s hurt is the essence of ministry, no words may be needed.
3. Confidentiality: We know that our hearts are precious to those that love us and we were never in fear of having our honesty used against us. Some of us have been burned from time to time when we let our true selves be known. It’s comforting to realize that unconditional love……has no conditions

Jesus said “Come to me all who a weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29. Jesus invites us to bring our baggage to him and he doesn’t shove it back in our face. He receives it, listens and brings peace to our soul. Amen!

Lessons From Rehab- Volume Four

Wait for it….wait for it…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in a hurry. I eat fast, I drive fast, I talk fast…. I’m not sure if I’m running away or running toward something. My favorite motto in the car is, “I’m not sure where we’re going, but we’re making great time”. I’m confident that it is a diagnosable disorder and perhaps there is medication for it. It does come in handy when things need to get done around the house, I can be super productive. It’s being productive that makes me feel alive, valuable and worthy. I’m in a hurry to prove myself. This can be counter productive in the healing process. Sometimes, you have to let the healing occur, you can’t “will” it to happen.
I am now six weeks post op from rotator cuff surgery. I am finally out of the ugly black suffocating shoulder sling that has plagued my existence for the last month and a half. The time has gone by quickly, yet it seems like this process is taking forever. I know I have a long ways to go in recovery and there is a “big picture” I must think about. Since my surgery I have had several people tell me that there is a 50/50 chance of re-tearing the rotator cuff in the first year. My physical therapist confirmed it, and admitted the failure rate is even higher in many cases. He explained that is why my doctor is being so cautious in my treatment, wanting the repair to attach to the bone sufficiently. So I guess I shouldn’t play water polo for a while? Oops.
I keep hearing words like “take it easy”, “take your time”, “don’t rush it” and my favorite of all, “be patient”. What is patience anyway? It seems so passive, cautious, and wimpy. However, patience as we know it, is a fruit of the spirit. I must grasp for it, moment by moment, day by day, every day. It seems to always be a little outside my grasp, I want to try and achieve it and that is not possible. I am forced to regularly step back, evaluate life, search my heart and…..wait. Deep down I know it’s good for me, it just makes me very uncomfortable. I have to do something that is unnatural to me….surrender.

As I searched the scriptures I discovered another perspective about patience that I need to embrace.
Patience vs Pride
Ecclesiastes 7:8 “The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride”. I would not have placed pride as the antithesis to patience? Yet, here it is. Pride is having to have life my way. Pride is being self absorbed and consumed with what I want. Pride seems to be an issue that keeps coming up in my life. This rehabilitation is turning out to be more for my soul than my shoulder.
It seems that nothing in scripture happens very quickly. Jacob waited and worked 14 years for the father of his love Rachel before he married her (Genesis 29). Fourteen years, can you imagine that? I have a hard time waiting 14 seconds for someone to answer the phone. Joseph spent at least 2 years and possibly much more in prison before he became overseer in Egypt (Genesis 39-41) Two years….that’s a long time to be faithful, steadfast and consistent. How about the Exodus out of Egypt? Forty years wandering…..waiting….hoping (Exodus-Deuteronomy). By many estimations the apostle Paul spent over five years imprisoned. He wrote four epistles from behind bars…. and I get frustrated in line at Starbucks. It’s up to me to find perspective and seek Him in the process.
Learning to quiet myself in a hectic world has never been convenient for me. I liken myself to the dog (Dug) in the movie “Up”. Do you remember the one who was distracted all the time by “squirrel”. It requires an intentional act of discipline for me to stop. Just stop. Do nothing. Just listen…….
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” Psalm 37:7

Lesson From Rehab- Volume Three

Struggling with the F word……Fifty…the big 5 0

My 30th birthday was very painful. I’m not sure exactly why it hurt so bad. Probably the usual egocentric stuff like money, prestige and influence. In retrospect, we had a great life and we were really enjoying the kids. Our marriage was on the rebound and we were discovering a new love for each other that would carry us for the next twenty years. I know that I didn’t appreciate all that I had been given and all that God had done in our lives. I was not as grateful as I should have been and perhaps that enhanced my aging discomfort.
Turning 40 was amazing. My perspectives were changing and I thought I was just beginning to hit my stride. Peace and joy were a major focus of our family life. We traveled a lot for ministry and sporting events. Our time together was rich and rewarding. We loved opening our home for weddings and special events. We enjoyed the simple things and soaked up every moment that we could.
The last ten years seemed to have been more eventful than the first 40. We packed and moved my parents from Colorado to Arizona. We loved them deeply. The time with them was precious and way too short. We watched as they both took their last breaths. I’m not convinced that we have grieved that loss fully. Tiffani fell in love and got married at 18. She finished nursing school and started a career and a family. Our son, Buddy graduated from high school, went to USC on a swim scholarship, competed in the 2008 Olympic Trials, quit school and swimming…….then started swimming and school again….
The last two years have really been life changing: enduring two major surgeries (total knee replacement in 2011 and rotator cuff repair 2013), leaving the ministry that we served in for 25 years, and changing churches after two decades of faithful attendance. We watched our daughter and her husband pack up their life and move to a new job in Atlanta this past March with our precious little granddaughter in tow. Being a grandfather has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Having them leave the state was more than painful.
At 50, I’m not so certain I have all the answers to life that I once thought I did. It seems that most of the questions have changed. However, there are a couple of things that I know for sure:

1. Don’t waste another moment, life is shorter than you think. James describes life as a “mist or vapor”. It vanishes after a “little while” James 4:14. I can attest to this, as our years have truly evaporated before our eyes. Soak in every little bit of your life. Let the simple joys consume you. Allow yourself to appreciate every single second. We get to choose how we experience our life; choose to enjoy it. If you are sitting at a swim meet, and it’s 105 degrees in the shade, and you have to wait 2 hours to watch your kid swim, savor it! Make the most of it! This season of your life will not last very long. I wish I could do all of that again. I do not regret spending too much time with Carol or the kids.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life God has given you under the sun-all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.”

2. Our generosity is a reflection of our gratefulness to Him. 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” Our heavenly father has given His life for us to experience “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). The greatest way for us to express this fullness is to pass it on. There are many ways to express generosity:
A. Giving of your time. Our most precious resource is our availability. Where do you give your time? Who do you give your time to? Are you generous with your kids regarding “your time”? What happens to your attitude when your wife calls you during the day? Are you generous with her? Or, are you put off by the interruption?
B. Giving of your talent. Every man I know has been given a gift or a skill that others can benefit from. Are you passing on these gifts? Who are you blessing with your skill? Maybe it’s plumbing, roofing, carpentry, pool cleaning, yard work, organization, marketing or a thousand other talents. Your heritage will be passed along through your willingness to be generous.
C. Giving of your treasure. This is not limited to your cash. Your treasure is also your “stuff” (your home, your car, your motorcycle, your trailer, etc.); except it’s not really yours is it? It is His. He has generously allowed you to be steward over it. How generous are you when those in your care have needs? Do you fret over finances? Do you blame God when things are tight? Do you tip well? Stewarding our resources is an area that most couples typically have trouble. I think it is part of God’s design to make us surrender to him, together. We must pray together, we must save together, we must plan together, we must budget together.

3. “Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6. One thing I know for without a doubt; God wants to do a work in all of us. That work will never, ever looks like we want it to look. Sometimes the work is painful. Sometimes the work is glorious. The work always takes longer than we want. Yet, He is faithful. He is kind. He is patient. He never leaves me or forsakes me. He promises that work will get completed. Amen

Lessons From Rehab- Volume 2

The value of pain…

July 1, 2013, almost three weeks post-op. I have been back in the pool for a week now, just kicking. The shoulder feels great…maybe too good. I want to push it so bad and I know I’m suppose to ‘be patient’. I hate being ‘patient’, it slows me down.

I was reflecting about the injury and how I got to this place. The first thing that came to my mind was, “You didn’t listen to the pain.” Back in November, my shoulder was getting sore. I didn’t pay it a lot of attention, in fact I just worked a little harder. “Push through it,” I thought. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do if you are a man, “Push though it,” act like it’s not there, overcome the constant nagging and “Man up”? Men don’t hurt, right?

There is the problem. Pride! It tells you to push when you should stop. It tells you it doesn’t hurt, when it does. It tells you to act like everything is fine, when it’s not. It tells you not to admit your weakness, not to confess your struggle. It tells you not to let anyone know you are vulnerable. What a pack of lies! Boy, I sure believe those lies a lot! When I believe those lies, I always pay the price. That price has never been worth the pride that caused them.

The fact is: we can be hurt. We are fragile, and it’s really ok. Pain is the body’s way of telling us, “Stop what you are doing and figure this out,” and “There is something wrong here, you need to look into it.” If we don’t do this, it’s just going to get worse and the damage will increase. It really relates to reaping and sowing. You will reap the grief if you don’t manage the pain. First, I have to admit that it hurts.

If this is true physically, and I believe it is, wouldn’t it also be true spiritually? If we do not honor and value our spiritual/emotional pain, we will reap destruction. Proverbs 14:12 “There’s a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death.” I have lived this so many times in my life that I have lost count. If I don’t discover the value of emotions, the pain will always turn to anger. Then my anger will spill over to everyone who is close to me. For me, this is the death that Proverbs talks about. It seems right to ‘suck it up’ and act like everything is ok, but in the end it inevitably leads to more pain.

Learning to honor my spiritual condition has been a very long process. For instance; if finances were tight and we received an unexpected bill, I would start to worry. My spirit would get anxious and I would get really uptight. I’m feeling like a loser who can’t handle money. Before long I’m agitated, impatient, cranky and not very nice to be around. Typically, I’d get upset with one of the kids for no real reason. Carol steps in to protect the kids, and now it’s on! She and I would argue, and before you know it, I’m walking out the door in a rage. Now I really feel like a failure, I’m a terrible husband and father who can’t provide for his family. This is death…..all because I didn’t honor the pain that I was experiencing regarding the bills. Insecurity is painful, fear is painful, distress is painful, doubt is painful. If the pain goes unchecked it will create more damage. That damage will affect everyone that is close to us.

I see this as all part of God’s grand design for us to surrender to him. He created the pain; Genesis 3:17b “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Painful toil is our lot. The Lord knows it. The question for us is, “What are you going to do with it?” In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me, all that are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
This is our opportunity to take Him at His word. Will we ‘come to Him’? Or, will we do ‘what seems right’? Jesus is the only one who can offer rest. He is the only one who can offer peace. He is the only one who can offer joy.

Today’s question: How do you manage your pain? Do you medicate with: television, alcohol, sports, hobbies or pornography? Or do you take your burdens to the One who really cares? Matthew 11:29-30 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Amen.

Lessons From Rehab-Volume One

Lessons From Rehab
Volume One

I have to admit that I don’t always follow my own advice. Just recently someone was telling me an amazing life story. I immediately recommended that he should write his story for others to enjoy and gain strength from. This is something I challenge people with all the time. Write it down, tell your story, people need to hear it! I love telling others what they should do, it’s easy. Allowing myself to be convicted by my owns words doesn’t always happen. So, here I am in the middle of another life lesson with an opportunity to share its value. It’s time for me to put up or shut up. I am committed to writing my discoveries and sharing them. If you don’t get an email each week feel free to call me and let me know I’m slipping.

I recently had my second major surgery in 26 months. Two years ago I had a total knee replacement. When I was recovering I read several blogs from others who had gone through this same procedure. It was encouraging to read the day to day progress that others experienced. It gave me peace and hope. I wish I had documented my own journey. There were many amazing revelations in the midst of the misery. They are now a distant memory.

So I get another chance to share my post operative revelations. This time it was my left shoulder. It started bugging me in November 2012. For the past four years I have been swimming four days a week and playing water polo on Fridays. I had finally started lifting weights again since my knee surgery. I was in my best shape in over 20 years. I was making progress and feeling really great. I was getting so strong on the bench press that I was beginning to think I could reach my old college goal of 300 lbs.. I was a long way from it, but it seemed possible now. Then, the shoulder started to “tweak” on me. Without prolonging the details, I tore the rotator cuff and bicep tendon. After six months and four cortisone injections, it was time for surgery.
“Perseverance must finish its work,” James 1:4

Surgery was June 11th, 2013. After 11 days I was sick and tired of laying around. My body was still recovering from the anesthesia and pain killers, but I was feeling much better. I decided it was time for a little work out. The words “be patient” have been thrown around a lot during this process, so I knew I should not push it. I just needed to feel human again. I borrowed our son’s gym membership and headed out the door. I got a little leg work in (I will forever be rehabbing the knee) and went to the pool.

My initial goal was just to get in the water and see if I could sufficiently strap down my arm and do some kicking. At this point I can only do passive movement with the left arm. I tied a theraband around my body to hold the left arm snug against my ribs. It seemed to work fine. I barely got my goggles on (try that with one arm). I decided that I should do 1000 yards kicking. It seemed like a legitimate goal and not too lofty. I had only been out of the water for three weeks so I can’t be in that bad of shape, can I?
I started pretty slow. It seemed awkward not extending my arm, but I made the most out of it. Then it happened. I got to 200 yards, and I was spent, done, finished. ‘I’m in terrible shape’ I thought. No one was there to push me. Nobody cared what I did at this point. It was just me and my arbitrary goal of 1000 yards. It didn’t matter if I finished or not. It wasn’t going to make the paper or worse facebook. Just as I was about to get out of the pool, I decided to do one more lap. Then another, and another. I was gaining momentum. I was starting to feel pretty good. I kept going and I got stronger and stronger. I finished the 1000 yards with anticipation of getting back to my normal practices.
When I was getting dressed I realized that there was a lesson here:
In almost everything that we do that has value, there will be a moment early in the endeavor that will be difficult or even painful. At that time everything in you will want to quit. This is the moment of truth. How committed are you? Will you persevere?
If we persevere, we will gain strength to continue. If we get past that initial urge to quit, He will give us “wings to soar like eagles” Isaiah 40:31. The problem is always getting past the initial discomfort, discouragement, distraction and doubt. Even before writing this I battled with thoughts of “who do you think you are?, That’s a stupid story and no one wants to hear it!, You won’t do it, you never do.” The Lord wants us to tell our stories, that’s what the Bible really is. It is HIS story. His work in the lives of men and women since the beginning of time.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

If perseverance must finish its work, that means it must start its work, which means I must face trials, I must face adversity, I must be confronted with doubt and anxiety. The work will continue in my life and the benefit is maturity. That is why we are to consider it with joy, he is equipping us so we are prepared for anything. Amen!

No More Resolutions, This Year We Indulge!

I love new beginnings. Nothing beats New Years. It’s a fresh start; wipe out the old, and bring in the new stuff. Yes, I love it. It’s like a mulligan in golf – second chances. We serve a God of second and third chances, right? We get to make new promises, pledges of change, and this time we will get it right. The motivational guys tell us to set goals. So, we create a few objectives, nothing crazy, we got this! Awesome!

Please!?

Why do I do this every single year? Ok, reality check. It never works the way I want it to. It’s the same story over and over year after year: start strong, great ideas, revelation, inspiration, plans, promises…..only to flame out….again.
Here’s a list of simple pledges that I have made over the years:

  • I’m going to lose 20 pounds (this time I’ll do it!).   Seems easy enough…measurable, obtainable, not too lofty. Yea right! I put on 5 lbs. by Valentine’s Day. Why not add 5 more by Easter?
  • Eating better: reduce my carb intake, no soda, no sugar, and no milk… NO CHANCE! I love bread, I love soda, candy is dandy, and what would I put on my 10 pm cereal? I think Carol found the Oreo cookie box in my truck. I can destroy one of those bags in a few minutes.
  • Pray for 1 hour every morning = very spiritual.  Surely God will help me make this happen? Does falling asleep mid- prayer on the couch count? How about on my recliner with Bible on my lap? Was that the sound of tongues or a snore? Oh well, we are suppose to pray unceasingly anyway.
  • Read the Bible through in one year.  This will make me a spiritual giant. How many guys can do this? Pretty sure I could be Apostle Travis, if I finish. I remember getting stuck in Leviticus somewhere between grain offerings and the Day of Atonement. I’ll start again next year.
  • Create a solid financial budget and stick to it.  I bought a great book, calculator, and software. Put it all on a credit card, found it in March under my one year bible, oops…

You get the idea. Can any of you relate? Ok, I’m sick of it. No more promises, pledges, goals, expectations, and no more resolutions. It’s defeating, really. It is all or nothing with me. As soon as I fall off the wagon, I stay off. Or was I suppose to stay on the wagon? Anyway…..

This year I’ve got a new plan. Instead of cutting back on all the things we enjoy, let’s indulge ourselves!  Let’s go hog wild and crazy. Why not invest wholeheartedly in a few things that may enhance our lives? Let us feast on all that is before us. Let us not restrain ourselves and then be defeated. Let’s lift off the shackles and be gratified by the very things that we love the most. Here are a few considerations to indulge on:

Wife: Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun.” It’s time to date her again. Pursue her again. Remember how you couldn’t wait to see her when you were dating? You obsessed over her. You spent all your free time with her. You enjoyed her! Why not try that again? Invest in her, and you may be surprised by the return.

Kids: Psalm 127: 3-5, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Since we are now empty nesters, I can speak of this from a different prospective. I miss parenting. I envy those of you who still have children at home. Enjoy it! It goes really, really fast. You will never regret spending too much time playing games, reading, playing catch or a zillion other activities. Soak it up, the time will go faster than you can possibly imagine. Invest in them, you will enjoy the rewards.

Wisdom: Proverbs 2:1-5, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Let’s feast on some wisdom, let’s get all we can. You can’t do it all in one sitting, but you can work on it all year long. There are a lot of verbs in this scripture to help in discovering what it takes to find wisdom: Accept, Turn, Apply, Call out, Cry aloud, Look, and Search. Men, we love treasure hunts. This is it! Let’s go searching this year and savor every morsel we can find. Invest in Him and we will never be disappointed.

May your indulgences fulfill your wildest imaginations.

Avoiding the Holiday Blues Tip #5

Rejoice

“Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”                                                                            Luke 2:10

  No sweeter words have been spoken to men by a celestial being.  The angels appeared to the shepherds while they worked.  These were ordinary men.  Why would an angel go to these guys?  Because, they were just like you and me.  Working stiffs, who need to know that God loves them.  That is the good news.  God is for us.  God is on our side.  God is not mad at us.  God cares about us.  God wants a relationship with us.

Here is the problem for us men: Jesus is a gift from God.  He is a present that must be received.  We can not earn this.  We must simply believe.  This is difficult for us guys….  because we want to be worthy of it.  There is something in us that drives us to create, grasp, obtain and merit all that we have.  We are workers.  We were made for that.  We want to deserve the house we live in, the car we drive, the watch we wear, the shoes we get, the jewelry we enjoy, and all the goodness that our hard work brings.

This little boy in a manger; a miraculous expression of the Almighty’s true affection for us, can not be obtained.  He must be received.  No strings.  No expectations.  That is so hard for us to wrap our arms around, that we often miss it.  The good news….He loves you, and this Son of His is proof.  It doesn’t matter what you have done, what you are going to do, or what you think you might do.  He still wants a relationship with you.

“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 (NIV)

Emanuel- God is with us.

Avoiding the Holiday Blues Tip #4

Protect and Serve

  Family.  Got to love them; or not.  Really?  This is the time of year when we have to deal with so many members of our family that we don’t normally relate to.  Now, we are thrown together for and extended period of time and that can really drive us all batty.  You know what I mean. Everyone has an “uncle” that’s a little “off”, a niece that’s not so nice, a brother that’s “finally clean”, an in-law that is more outlaw and of course you….the only normal one in the family..lol.

Here’s the problem in a lot of these circumstances; the wife sees it coming.  She knows the women are going to be stuck in the kitchen and she is going to have to deal with every family “dirty secret” there is. This is embarrassing to her and she hates to be around it.  She starts to fear the attitudes that are being exhibited and she can’t stand being there.   When she walks out of the room, she’s not sure if she will be the butt of the next joke or snide remark.  The only way for you to help her is: deliberately engage.  Your mere presence can set a better tone regarding conversation.  If you hear something that seems a little unkind, you can interject and redirect the chatter.  This is a skill that you can practice all season long.  This is how you protect your wife from any unwanted backhanded cracks that leave a mark/wound/scar every year.  It is up to you to make a difference.  Get away from the television and get in the kitchen, she needs you!

Wait, there’s more!  Your wife has told you she doesn’t trust “so and so” around your kids.  Thus far, you have never taken her seriously.  You thinks she’s overreacting and exaggerating her concerns.  Wake up!  It’s time to keep an eye on what’s going on.  How bad will you feel later if you find out that one of your kids was introduced to porn, pot, beer or sex at a family get together?  Sadly, I have heard that very story from several of my clients.  It is really hard to recover from those kinds of mishaps, especially when you get warned.  You don’t have to be a cop to act like one:

  • Stay alert
  • Know where your kids are at and who they are with.
  • Watch your wife, make sure she is safe.
  • You are the Spiritual Leader.

The hope is: you will choose to honor your wife and family.  These are precious moments that you can cherish or regret for a lifetime.  Spend some time preparing to be one with your wife, instead of catering to those that may or may not share your DNA.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me. 2 Samuel 22:2b-3