Hey all. Sorry for the long pause, but I was caught up in Christmas/New Years celebrations and then a week-long vacation that took me to Memphis, Tennessee, and Breckenridge, Colorado. I hope everyone out there had a fantastic Christmas celebration with friends and family and was filled with joy thinking about the gift God gave us on that day.
As for fitness goals, they really take a hit around the holidays, don’t they? I started back into my fitness regimen this week and it hurts. All those cookies, cakes, egg nog, and beer really take a toll. However, I was introduced to a new winter workout while in Breckenridge last week: skiing. While this probably isn’t new to most of you, I’m usually a winter-hater that refuses to go out in the cold and prays for April. Living in Iowa also limits your exposure to skiing: no mountains (or even hills) around here.
So that is why skiing was such a nice surprise in Colorado. Instead of sitting on the couch and watching football or re-runs, I was training my legs in a way they have never been trained. Skiing puts near constant pressure on your quads, as you are always leaning forward with bent knees. It also strengthens your knees, ankles, and hips, as you are constantly turning your body with your legs. As a bonus, your mid-section gets a great workout because it has to balance all of this effort and keep you upright as you go speeding down the mountain. All of this is one exercise!
Now, if you were working all of these body parts in a gym, you would get results but it wouldn’t be much fun. Skiing is fun. You are flying through the snow while going down a beautiful mountain, for Pete’s sake. There are huge pine trees rising up on either side of you and a gorgeous mountain landscape out in front of you. Now, if you’re from Colorado or Wyoming or Utah this probably isn’t as exciting, but it is rare and beautiful when you are from Iowa.
Besides a great physical workout, skiing in this scenic place also offered me a spiritual renewal. I was able to really connect with God (I always do better when I’m outside in His creation). I could look at the mountains, trees, streams, and animals he created in their natural setting and I felt so blessed to be healthy and active enough to be a part of it in those moments. Sometimes I forget just how big His creation is, but a trip into the mountain wilderness will quickly remind anyone. It’s a beautiful world, and if I can get some exercise and hang out with God in it at the same time, then I guess I’m a pretty lucky guy. Getting healthier in my body and mind is the goal of this journey, and my trip to Colorado did both at once.
The devastating tragedy of last Friday’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut is still being felt around the world. The senseless murder of 20 young schoolchildren and 8 adults is impossible to wrap our minds around. Details from the story are still becoming clear, but none of these details help us to understand what happened.
It is at dark times like these when people ask “Where was God?”. If He is all-powerful, loving, and gracious, how could He let something like this happen to innocent people?
These are difficult questions. While I’m not a pastor or a spiritual leader of any kind, I do have a relationship with God. And this relationship has shown me several things in my own life that I would like to share. These are just personal feelings, but I hope they can help.
1. Satan is real and is hard at work. Most people seem to write off Satan and hell as something you may or may not have to deal with after your life is over. I don’t think people truly acknowledge that Satan is real and is moving in this world every day, turning good people into bad people and attacking them in their weakest moments. The Bible even warns us of this, telling us that Satan is a lion looking to devour us at any moment:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
2. People have free will. This is one of the most beautiful things about God’s creation: he gave us free will. He wants us to enter into a loving relationship with Him, but he wants it to be authentic love. And how can you have authentic love if you are forced to love Him? You can’t. And you aren’t forced, because you were given free will to enter that loving relationship. The dark side of that free will, however, means that people are also free to choose to act against God, and those actions can affect a lot of people in a horrible way. Christian author John Eldredge talks about free will as it relates to hell in his book Epic:
“Hell was created not for mankind, but for Satan and his angels…. Hell is not God’s intention for mankind. But remember–he gave us free will. He gave us a choice.” – John Eldredge
3. God was and is still there. I know this may be hard to believe, but God was still very much present at Sandy Hook last Friday. He was there when first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig heroically hid her students in the bathroom and barricaded them in there to protect them from harm, all the while telling them that she loved them. God was there when Victoria Soto, another first grade teacher, hid her students in cabinets and told the gunman that they were in gym. She saved every single one of her student’s lives, but lost her own when the gunman shot her. And God is with the 27 victims right now. They are in a better, safer place than this world could ever be. They are at home with their Father and basking in the glow of His love.
These are a few of my personal thoughts. I’m sure you have several of your own and I’d welcome you to share them in the comments or by reaching out to me on Twitter. I’ll leave you with a video I recently saw of Mike Huckabee speaking about this tragedy. He discusses how we question where God is after we repeatedly ask Him to leave us alone. It is well worth 3 minutes of your time to take a peek:
“Motherf***** b**** coming at you strong, let’s go p****!”
That is my iPod as I work out. Do you listen to a similar “song” as you’re exercising? If you’re a young guy that has spent years lifting with his high school football team and then with other college guys, then you might. I know I have a lot of “lifting” music on my iPod that contains explicit language and vulgar lyrics. I also know it isn’t good for my mind or for my relationship with God. Your eyes and ears are the gateway to your heart, and stuffing those with explicit lyrics certainly can’t help.
But I also don’t want to work out to classical Bach, ya know? There is something in that rap music and rock music that gets me going. It’s aggressive and it gets my blood pumping, fueling me to get the most out of my body. What are we supposed to do?
Luckily, I’ve accumulated some “clean” lifting songs over the years. Now, I don’t claim to listen to these every time I work out, but I’m getting better. They get me pumped up and they also don’t pollute my mind. So here are 5 artists (with 5 songs) you may recognize and that you can use to get pumped up:
Skillet is an American Christian rock band. They’re from Memphis, TN, and have been around since 1996. If you like rock, then you will like these guys. They have a ton of good songs to choose from; they go hard and their lyrics are meaningful. Song: “Hero”.
Mase is an American rapper who burst onto the scene under P. Diddy’s label “Bad Boy Records”. Mase left the rap industry in 1999 to pursue “a calling from God”. This led to him eventually leading an international ministry. He made a comeback in 2004 and he has a lot of great, clean tracks if you are a rap fan. Song: “Breathe Stretch Shake”.
I’m guessing you’ve heard of these guys. Foo Fighters is an American rock band from Seattle, formed by Nirvana’s former drummer after Kurt Cobain’s death. These guys don’t mess around and they will scream at you until you are in a full sweat. Song: “Pretender”.
Another American rock group that you are probably familiar with. I saw Trapt in concert and they play a great show. Everyone probably remembers their single “Headstrong” from 2002, so I’ll go a different direction with my recommendation. But these guys also have a lot to choose from. Song: “Contagious”.
Lecrae is an American Christian rapper and ministry leader. If you haven’t heard of him, check him out. The man knows how to rhyme, and he chooses to use this gift to rap about God instead of drugs, money, cars, sex, and the other stuff that every other rapper covers ad nauseum. Song: “Don’t Waste Your Life”.
Not all of these artists are the best role models and they don’t produce 100% clean music, but they have given me the above songs that I’ve used for several years now. Try them out! And I’d also love to hear your suggestions of what music works for you. I’m always looking for new songs to mix up my routine so leave a comment or tweet me your favorites!
Oh boy. The music is on the radio. The family schedules are being planned. The specials are on TV (seriously, did anyone else notice that the SNL Christmas Special aired Wednesday? On November 28th?). This all adds up to one thing…
Christmas is here!
Every year, people around the world wait in line for hours for $1.50 off a neck tie, stretch their credit limits buying gifts, and eat themselves sick with treats and egg nog. This adds up to enough mental stress to literally hear those “sweet silver bells” in your ears throughout the night. The holiday buffet is notorious for ruining healthy eating habits the world over. And this year, the season lasts even longer due to Thanksgiving being about as early as it can be.
And yet…Christmas is special. This time of year is different than any other, and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside every time the calendar turns to December. Why is that?
This year I am truly realizing how much joy and love were wrapped up in that precious gift about 2,012 years ago. Some things that have come to my mind this week:
– God created all of us for a relationship with Him. He loved us and wanted a loving relationship with us, but we constantly turned away and chased after our own invented desires, creating a roller coaster of ignoring Him or demanding miracles from Him for centuries. Could I put up with that behavior in the relationships in my life?
– Instead of giving up on His creation, He decided to love us even more. He gave his one and only son and sent him to Earth to save the very people who were ignoring and mocking Him. Think about that. Have I ever even heard of an unconditional love like this?
– The King of the World should have announced his arrival with trumpets, lightning, earthquakes, and booming voices. There should have been shiny gifts and angels presenting Him from heaven. Instead, He was born to a virgin teenager and her nervous fiance in a dirty barn with a bunch of smelly animals. This was the gift to save the human race, and they didn’t even get invited into a house. Hollywood couldn’t even write this story. If I was a king, would I have entered like this? Is that fair?
So instead of stressing about what to buy your nephew or how many cookies you need to bake for your party, take a second for a deep breath. Think about that gift we all were given. Isn’t that incredible?! That’s an amount of love that is hard to imagine. And it’s meant for you. And your family and friends. So before you get stressed or frustrated about gifts or diets this season, think of that gift of love.
No wonder this time of year is different. No wonder there is so much joy and love in houses all over the world during this season. There is a reason for that. And that reason is Jesus. God sent Him to save an unworthy people, and we were given the gift of love and forgiveness and eternal life. Rejoice! Celebrate! Be happy during this time of year, because it is truly the best gift ever given! And make sure to say a prayer of thanks before pouring another cup of egg nog.
Isn’t it nice when you start the work week on a Wednesday? I’m thankful for that. Since today is basically Thursday (and therefore almost the weekend), I’m in a good mood. And I’m thankful for that.
Thanksgiving is only 2 days away. That means I have 48 hours until I am passed out on my couch drooling because I ate too much turkey, too many rolls, and a few too many spoonfuls of mashed potatoes. I’m thankful and excited about that! Some of you may have seen or participated in the Facebook “thankful” movement. It included posting a different status every day about something/someone you are “thankful for” for the 22 days leading up to Turkey Day. It was a cool idea and I’m sad I didn’t get in on it. So I’m making up for lost time before it’s too late! Here’s 22 things I’m thankful for, in no particular order:
I am thankful for Christmas music. Although I won’t allow myself to listen to it until after Thanksgiving.
I am thankful for God. He has done some amazing things in my life this past year and has opened my eyes to incredible relationships and exciting future opportunities. We’ve grown closer this past year and I’m so thankful for that.
I am thankful for Google. Remember when you had to read books or ask experts when you wanted to learn how to do something? Ha.
I am thankful for my Christian girlfriend. She is such a strong woman and a true inspiration to me. She has brought an unbelievable amount of joy, laughter, and love into my life.
I am thankful for Twinkies….damn.
I am thankful for my health. This year I’ve seen people around me lose their good health, and it’s sad. Even if you don’t have the body you want or that “ideal weight” you have in your mind, be thankful that you are healthy enough to use your body and mind on a daily basis. I am.
I am thankful to have a job. Being a recent college graduate, I see many of my friends looking for work and I’m praying for them. They’re talented, and I’m confident they will all find jobs. But I am thankful to be employed and to be making money when so many haven’t been as fortunate.
I am thankful for football. I can’t imagine fall without it. Procrastinating work and “to do” lists is never easier than when football is on TV.
I am thankful for kids. They keep everyone young and they bring their energy and happiness to family gatherings all over the world this time of year.
I am thankful for memories. The holidays always bring back memories of my childhood around this time, and I think that happens for a lot of people. That is one reason that this time of year is so special!
I am thankful for beer. Who isn’t?
I am thankful for movies. This time of year always seems to bring out all the “Oscar-quality” movies, and I love going to the theater on snowy weekends. I am also thankful for all the classic Christmas movies we will watch over the next month. A couple favorites:
I am thankful for social media. I love seeing pictures of cousins from Colorado and Montana. I have friends that went to college in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, but I can harass them from right here in Iowa. This technology has allowed us to keep in touch with people all over the world within seconds, and I love it.
I am thankful for good friends. I have always been blessed with a great circle of friends, and as we are entering the “real world”, it is fun to have such great people in the same boat with me.
I am thankful for fantasy football. If you can make games between the Chiefs and Browns intriguing to me, you are onto something. Good work!
I’m thankful to live in Iowa. Don’t laugh! Iowa has it going on lately. I’ve been here my whole life, but just recently have I started realizing what a blessing it is to live here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else.
I am thankful for my family. They are always there for me, and they have been so supportive of me in this time of “transition” after college.
I am thankful to be an American. I know the election caused divisions and disagreements all over the country, but isn’t it amazing that we actually have an election? We are free when so many are not, and that is a blessing.
I am thankful for no snow yet. I’m cool with snow from December 24th-January 1st. After that, it better melt and leave me alone for the rest of the year.
I am thankful for football coach Paul Rhoads. I am an Iowa State graduate, so naturally I love the Cyclones. Paul Rhoads has done it again at ISU, and is taking the Cyclones to their 3rd bowl game in 4 years. For a program that has never had any consistent success, this guy is leading us in the right direction and it’s freakin’ awesome.
I am thankful for a long weekend.
I am thankful for a short work week. Are those the same thing?
What are you thankful for? Leave a comment or tweet me @HolyHappyHealth!
Whew, Friday. Let the weekend begin! Letting go! The title of this post relates to tossing back copious amounts of beer and letting go of all inhibitions!!!
That wouldn’t be very good for my fitness goals or my productivity on Monday morning. Also, it isn’t what has been working on my mind and heart lately. This month, this week, right now, I’m struggling with something I’ve always struggled with: letting go. I like control; I like to imagine that I have it all figured out, and I like to plan/scheme/organize my life. But every day something I never expected happens and my plan changes. And I get upset because now I have to re-plan or re-schedule and re-think my approach. This happens all the time to me, including this week and today. Do you have similar experiences with your life plans? Does it add stress to your day? What’s the deal?
It turns out, I can’t control everything. In fact, I do a pretty poor job of controlling anything. And I just stress myself out worrying about how to plan for my future. Or even just planning for what I’m doing after work!
Today, I’ve felt God working on me with this. And this isn’t a new development: He has been talking to me my whole life about letting go of all of these worries and stresses and leaving them up to Him. The thing is, I push Him off and ignore Him because I’m too busy planning my own path. Dumb, right? If I was going to ascend Mt. Everest and a local Sherpa with years of experience came to me with a proven climbing plan and offered to carry all of my equipment, I should shout “HELL YES” shouldn’t I? But instead I shoo him away because I’m Googling “beginner hiking techniques”. Smart.
The point is: I need to let go of this stuff. It weighs on me and it brings me down if I think about it too much. God is in control, and that is a truly reassuring thought if you let it sink in. No matter how hard you plan, or how much you try, God created all of this and it will end up how He wants it to. I need to do a better job of laying my problems, worries, and goals at His feet and saying “Take them. Do with them and with me what You will.” I’m sure it would free up my mind and my soul if I did this on a daily basis.
This is freeing, but it is also a scary thought if you’re like me. I don’t like the idea of letting go. But I am confident that anything I could have planned for my life is laughable when compared to what God has in store for me. He keeps telling me this, and I’m finally going to do something about it. I’m going to completely lean on Him and trust in Him to lead me where it is best for me. Scary…sure, but I found some proof that it may put my mind at ease:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” (Matthew 6:25-29, NLT)
All of my worries can’t add a single moment to my life. So why waste my time worrying? God has me covered, and His plan is awesome.
Now, I’m not going to stop planning everything. I’m not going to throw on sweats, lay in a pile of Fritos, and stop going to work because “God will provide”. That’s irresponsible. But I will stop acting like my plan is the end-all-be-all of my day. I am going to admit when I don’t have the answers and I’m going to ask God to guide me. I am going to let go of my vice grip on my life’s goals and simply trust in His will. (I wrote about trust a bit right here.) I hope this leads to a more stress-free, worry-free daily life. And a happier end goal than I could ever imagine.
Are there certain things in your life that you are holding onto? Are there areas where you push God away? For me, it’s planning for my future. But it could be anything, and I’m curious to know what it is for you.
Happy Friday everyone! As I begin this journey towards becoming healthier in my body, mind, and spirit, I want to share part of my day that really helps me to slow down and see the big picture.
I work 40 hours a week in a sales/business environment. I work in a gray cubicle surrounded by slightly less-gray walls. We don’t even have a window nearby, so a small glass side door provides my only evidence of day or night, rain or shine. (I like my job, but I’m considering bringing a sledgehammer to knock a gaping hole in the wall next to me. A guy needs fresh air.) This all leads to minimal distraction and ultimate focus on work, which is good to an extent. But it can also make it seem like my job is all I have going on in my life, so if it is a bad day at the office or I have a stressful meeting, my whole day blowsup like a marshmallow in a microwave.
That used to happen a lot more than it does now. Thankfully, I learned a little trick that helps me to keep a nice balance in my day and focus on the things that are truly important: health, relationships, and my faith. It allows me to take a deep breath and relax. The secret? Time with God.
I’m not talking about talking through the Lord’s Prayer like a drone. Or reading a paragraph of the Bible so I can feel good about myself. I’m talking about talking. And listening.
I take 20-30 minutes right after work and I pray. I thank God for the good things going on in my life, and I get really honest with Him about the struggles I’m having. I also ask Him what He would like to say to me. This is a relationship, after all. How many successful relationships do you know that include one person talking 100% of the time for 22 years, and the other person just sitting and listening without ever responding? God doesn’t want that either. You need good communication in any relationship, and we can have that with God too.
He will actually speak to us if we ask Him to. Not like in the movies when the “wind” magically blows the leaves to spell out the exact words you were searching for. He will speak real words. The trick is getting in that quiet place and listening for them. After I ask for His thoughts, I also ask Him to quiet my heart, my mind, and get rid of distractions. This really helps clear my mind of all the needless daily junk that is rattling around in there. God quiets that, puts it in its place, and speaks right to me. This is amazing!
Think about it. You are spending time with the person who created you! He knows everything about you and He loves you more than you can ever imagine. And you are getting one-on-one time with this person, just you and Him. You can bring up any topic, any question, any worries, and He will talk with you. That is truly a miracle, and it can be yours whenever you want it. Don’t just skim over that. That is powerful.
After the prayer, I usually ask God to reveal Himself to me in the Bible. I’m no Bible scholar and I don’t always understand how to apply the teaching of the Bible to my life, but God certainly does. I try to read 4 chapters of the Bible each weekday. The reading takes me about 15 minutes, but if you read 3 or 4 chapters you are bound to see something jump out at you.
You will find there are people in that book that are just like you, just generations earlier. They had the same struggles and the same problems and God talked to them in their daily lives. You can read about it! They were regular sinners and broken people just like we are. Why would He talk with them and not with us? He is eagerly waiting to talk with you. And it will absolutely change your day around if you let Him.
So there is my trick. Talk with God for a half hour each day. Go some place quiet where you can be alone, whether that is your bedroom, your porch, under a tree in a park, or wherever. You will be surprised how it can improve your day and your attitude.
And this afternoon I’ll be praying for him to create a window next to my cubicle…
The video below is from author John Eldredge. He wrote a book entitled Walking With God, and this book is what changed the way I pray. I started listening for God and talking with Him thanks to John’s work. I’m certainly not trying to sell books, but if you’re interested it is well worth the read. Leave a comment or tweet me and I’ll send you my copy.