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.
Today we bring you a special message to help you live healthier and stronger. This message is particularly for our male readers, and it comes from a couple guys that know them well: their own legs.
Right leg: Hey there. It’s me, your right leg. Thank you for sitting down right now; I was getting so tired that my ankle was sweating through the sock.
Left leg: No joke, bro. I felt like I was carrying you around all day. Maybe if I had some regular exercise over here, I wouldn’t be so wiped…
RL: And that is why we are here to talk to you. We think it is great that you are going to the gym, working up a sweat, and trying to get into better shape. This will definitely improve your energy levels and your overall health.
LL: It’s also gonna clear your mind, dude.
RL: Correct. It will also help you to de-stress. But why are you letting your arms and chest have all the fun in the gym? What? We get 5 minutes on a treadmill and we’re done for the day?
LL: Right on. Running is legit, but I need more than that. I look like a drinking straw down here while your left arm keeps giving me smack talk and punching me in the thigh.
RL: Running is great for cardiovascular help and it will burn off fat as well. Which is great! But we need some weight training, just like the upper body. Don’t be afraid to do a few squats, or leg extensions, or calf raises, or…
LL: Or some left-legged curls. I heard the ladies love those.
RL: Shut up, Leftie. The point is, you need to dedicate some fitness time to your legs. Nobody (ladies included) likes a guy with a huge upper body on top of a pair of wet noodles. In fact, your legs should be stronger than your arms, as you will use your leg muscles for far more practical purposes throughout the day. We see a lot of guys at the gym neglecting their legs and focusing on the “glamour” muscles in the arms and chest. Don’t be that guy! We are going for full-body health and fitness here, not just pretty arms.
LL: And if you have weak legs, you put a lot of stress on your back during exercises, bro. And we all know what a whiner that guy is.
RL: Weak legs can lead to poor exercise form, and this leads to injuries. We don’t want you getting hurt! God gave you legs, so take care of us and use us properly, and we will support the rest of that body you are working on.
LL: Dude, you like sports right? Well a good solid foundation of strong legs is crucial in just about any sport out there. Give us some love and we will return the favor on the court or field. And sports can even help you to make us stronger. Think of fun stuff like biking, surfing, and hiking.
RL: I think you see our point. So, next time you head to the gym, make sure you give us a “legs day”, instead of reserving all of your energy for your biceps, chest, and back. We even have a day dedicated to legs in our own workout plan on this site!
LL: And bro, stop looking at your triceps in the mirror so often. It’s creeping me out.
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.