Saturday

Exercise for fun and profit


I hate exercise ... or at least I thought I did. For years I allowed myself to be unfit and fluctuate in weight because of diets or lack thereof. Now I think I'm on to something and it feels good - exercise!

After several years of failed attempts I am finally on a regimen that works and I feel so much better and stronger. How did this happen and why do I consider it important? What were the road blocks to success?

First of all, success became possible when I decided that it was time for a life change. I couldn't stand it anymore. God had given me a perfectly healthy body and I was having trouble walking up stairs! I also realized that I would not be able to walk and carry on an active life in later years if I didn't do something. Twisting my knee and ending up on crutches for six weeks taught me that painful lesson, and there were also a number of other things telling me that I could be more useful in God's kingdom if I took better care of myself. I'm probably not going to run a marathon, mind you, but at least, Lord willing, I'll have more energy and be able to go where I need to go! And, perhaps I'll get to see my children's children and enjoy their company for a while.

A spiritual component

Exercise, believe it or not, has a spiritual component. Medical doctor Larry Hull and his twin brother Jerry , who is a professor at Northwest Nazarene University, wrote a book on spiritual formation called "Fully Alive." Larry, who writes about habits, exercise, fitness and weight control, says "Strong character and good habits are inseparable." It's true. People with strong character usually do not favor the easy way out. They know that good habits will benefit them and others in the end.

Please do not misunderstand me. One does not have to exercise in order to be strong believer. God loves each of us and works to form our characters in many ways. What I am saying is that exercise is one of those means by which God can build character. For example, the habit of perseverance that one learns in keeping up with an exercise regimen, is carried over into other areas of life. It builds confidence and shows the person exercising that suffering can have a useful end. I write that with a grin. As one who did not like to exercise, I was not so thrilled about sweating, aching muscles and heavy breathing. I used to consider that suffering. Now I find that sweating tells me that I'm doing well. I also found that getting in shape may take a while, but the end result is exciting. Exercise now feels good. Besides, if it is a well done exercise program, muscle pain is not an issue.

My roadblocks

As a young person I lacked self-confidence. And, not being particularly athletic, I dreaded P.E. classes. When other students would get mad at me for missing a ball or some other klutzy action, I just went further into myself thinking that I was a failure. As I became an adult, I left physical fitness out of the equation for my life because it had been painful. Now I look back on my life and realize that what I was missing was fun. Think about it. As a little kid, before junior high hit, didn't you like to go out and play? I did. My friends and I rollerskated and played Horse. We rode bikes all over the neighborhood and played hopscotch and foursquare on our driveways. We exercised, but we didn't know we were exercising because we were having fun. My challenge as a middle-aged adult has been to find something active that I enjoyed.

As fitness guru Richard Simmons says in one of his "Sweatin' to the Oldies" videos, "If it ain't fun, it ain't gonna get done."

And that is true. I have found now that I really enjoy bicycling on the country roads around our house and "Sweatin' to the Oldies" (Mike calls it "Dancin' with Dickie") on days when I can't go out. Walking is also fun, especially when you are with a friend or spouse or the dog.

Simmons says that there are six steps to self-esteem and permanent weight loss:
  • Think positive
  • Practice patience
  • Be forgiving
  • Shed the past
  • Have faith
  • Count your blessings
These steps have Biblical roots. In Philippians 4:8 Paul writes, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Isn't that what Simmons calls "positive thinking"? There's nothing wrong with patting ourselves on the back for succeeding in a good habit. The best thing to do is start small, as Larry Hull writes. Do a little at a time and congratulate yourself for succeeding in that one thing.

Simmons' second step, practice patience, is encouragement to develop one of the fruits of the spirit. It really does take patience to succeed in anything. In an exercise program, you won't realize overwhelming success all at once. It takes time. That's why you have to congratulate yourself for what you do right and then get back on the bandwagon if you fall off.

The last steps are self-evidently biblical and I may write more on them next time. However, right now in closing I want to share with you the steps that Larry Hull talks about. They are very helpful:
  • Start simple: one exercise
  • Do it consistently: five days a week (I'm not there yet)
  • Do it by cues: certain time of day, such as when you get up, when you get home or right before dinner (Now that I'm not working at an office I do it after I get up. I used to exercise about 30 minutes after dinner on nights when I didn't have to go out.)
  • Make it fun
  • When you forget or miss, do not quit
  • Get positive reinforcements by telling yourself you are in control and capable of changing your habits.
Hull writes, "Your long-term goal is to live better with less health problems, increased energy, more confidence and greater self-esteem. You might live longer as well."

Living longer? Living better? Sounds pretty good to me.

Thursday

A Blast from the Past

Yesterday I was in my kitchen scrubbing potatoes. Just before I began scrubbing I thought to myself that the house was really quiet. The boys were at school. Mike was at work. The dog was outside rejoicing in the elements. The heater was off because the temperature was in the 60s. It was just really quiet.

For a split second I considered turning on the tube for background noise but then decided against it. Quiet can be good, especially when there are five people living in the house along with a dog who thinks he's one of the children. So I left the television off and began scrubbing potatoes.

I was then aware of the sounds - the scrubbing, the water running - and I had a flashback to the 80s. An old song by Phil Keaggy from his "Getting Closer" album that I listened to for hours during the 80s on my little Emerson cassette recorder, popped into my head.

In the song, Keaggy sings about hearing the voice of the Lord everyday. In turn, he makes sounds that he hopes are pleasing to God.

I believe that God has a sense of humor.

There I was, scrubbing potatoes, and this song popped into my head. I realized then that the sounds that I was making were just as much for him as was Keaggy's wonderful guitar music. The potatoes were for my family and I was quite cheerful as I was scrubbing them. Weird, huh? But doesn't God want us to give our offerings cheerfully?

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9: 7, NIV.

I admit that I'm taking this verse a little out of context. In the surrounding chapter Paul was referring to a monetary gift that he was encouraging the Corinthians to make, but the idea of the chapter is good counsel for anything we do.

So remember today - whether you're scrubbing potatoes, sick in bed, working hard; whether you are with people or alone - what you do matters. Whether or not anyone sees what you do is not as important as remembering that God does, and he will bless accordingly. It's all in our attitude.

By the way, the potatoes were pretty good. The kids and Mike said so. We didn't feed any to the dog, much to his chagrin. And even though the meal was pretty simple, their compliments were "music to my ears." I was glad to do it for them. I hope that attitude was a good sound in God's ear.


Wednesday

Finding my way

Tomorrow, February 24, marks the two month anniversary of my last day at the newspaper. Crazy, huh? Quit an established job, in this economy - especially when I was managing editor.

It's not so crazy if not losing your way is your highest priority.

I recently watched the movie Insomnia, starring Al Pacino and Robin Williams. The story reaffirmed again my decision to quit. At the end of the movie, Pacino, a highly respected detective, advises a young cop who is about to throw away evidence that would implicate Pacino's character in a crime: "Don't lose your way." The movies relates how Pacino's character had lost his way and had become morally corrupt, and how he came to regret it.

Don't lose your way

Keep walking in the light that you've been given. It's all the same. And hopefully one day we will all hear the Good Lord say, "Well done."

Building frustration

While working at the paper, especially during the last of my three and a half years, I was continually frustrated by the long hours. They really took advantage of salaried employees, who often worked from early morning to late night finding and writing the news. During the last year I was especially frustrated by an unreasonable boss and because of him, a shrinking staff. By the time I left there were eight people on the editorial staff writing for four papers. One paper was a Monday through Friday rag and the others were weekly. We could not write enough content to really keep up, and it became increasingly difficult to write anything meaningful for the community.

The clincher

I had been managing editor for seven months when La Junta Mill, a local business, tried to get taxpayer money from the Urban Renewal Authority to bail them out. They were being fined by OSHA for matters of worker safety that were clearly the responsibility of management, and not an inadequate physical plant as they represented to Urban Renewal. We discovered the truth of this through a Freedom of Information Act request made not by the paper - which should have filed that request - but by Mike and I as individuals. This business wanted the taxpayers to buy their old mill for $500,000 so that they could build a new $3 million facility. They claimed that they had no money. To me it seemed like a sham pure and simple so, in order to protect the taxpayers, I published articles about the situation that had been reviewed by and approved by the publisher. Shortly thereafter, the owners of the mill came in and pulled their advertising - $10,000 worth - thus hurting the family of their ad rep and bullying the paper through economic means. Attempts at economic bullying probably happen a lot in the world of journalism. It happened twice during my last year at this paper. However, the second time the paper gave in to the bullying and I was told that I was not to publish anything related to the La Junta Mill story. It was because of this that I quit. If the free press allows people to push it around, it is no longer a free press. It becomes a public relations firm.

In the newspaper business, I was constantly reminded that there are many people who cannot speak up or stand up for themselves. Those were the people for whom I tried to write - people like the La Junta taxpayers who might have paid for an employer's outright negligence or drivers on U.S. Highway 50 who were endangered by a company that refused to follow the law and repeatedly caused a road hazard when their gravel trucks entered a two-lane highway without access lanes. As editor I tried to encourage my reporter to write for these people as well.

Help along the way

Not only have I received encouragement for my decision from those closest to me, but Cameron Strang, editor and publisher of Relevant magazine wrote an editorial for the January issue that was quite timely indeed. You can read it here, but basically, Strang told his readers that editorial content was already decided for an issue before his crew sought advertising. He told readers that he wouldn't allow content to be influenced by advertising, which is good because Relevant often covers issues that are controversial in order to encourage its readers to to live like Christ in a world gone mad. As it turns out, God seems to be blessing Strang's decision. The magazine, which is geared toward 20 somethings and older people like me who are recovering fundamentalists, seems to have a variety of advertisers, including some that are well known throughout Christendom.

What I'm doing now ...

Now that I am not working 12 to 14 hour days, for the last two months I have been tossing around ideas about what to do and trying to find my way. Although at times I felt like I was lost, I had not been, not really. I have been at a fork in the road. I stopped writing on the blog for a while because I had no idea what to say. I was cooling off. I have kept myself busy though. I have written six articles for Suite101.com and I am working on starting a business. There will be more on the business as it develops, but here are links to my articles:

Cinema classics provide inspiration before and during Lent

Bernard of Clairvaux Described Stages of Christian Love

Francis de Sales on the Devout Life

Rural Colorado School Implements Prevention Program

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Resonates with History

Is Being Green Wrong for Christians?

I hope to develop this blog more closely now. I want to use it as a help for people who are trying to find their way. By doing this, I hope that the blog will be more personal and useful. Here are some books that I am reading that I plan to comment on in the near future:

Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me. A good read for Black History Month during February.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

The Resurrection of the Son of God (Along with the bibliography, this book is more than 800 pages. We'll see if I finish it!)

And my Sunday Discussion Group is reading Devotional Classics: Selected Reading for Individuals and Groups.

I also like to read hobby books and magazines. Right now I am thumbing through:

The Complete Guide to Rubber Stamping

Green Craft Magazine" Vol. 4

so the blog will cover a little more than religious topics since my business will be centered on freelancing and crafting.

Other magazines I read regularly and that may induce comment from time to time are:

National Geographic

Taste of Home

Relevant

My goal is to review as I read for your benefit and for mine. I've always loved to read. Who knew that one day I'd blog about it? Well, enough for today. God bless!